Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days

An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days by Susan Wittig Albert is an extraordinary book. At its base, it is her journal for the year 2008. You can open it to almost any page and be captivated….
January 2, 2008, Coyote Lodge, New Mexico
Yesterday was the beginning of the new year. Today is the beginning of my personal new year: my birthday….

March 23
Breathtakingly beautiful spring day, daffodils massed along the woods, redbuds clouded in purple, Chickasaw plum, its blossoms as frilly as the finest lace….

June 4
Having lunch with your editor: a prime privilege of the writing life….

November 3
Everything in the country seems to be on hold, all eyes, all thoughts focused on the election. On television, it’s all politics, all the time.
But not for me….
I was hooked from the first page. In the sidebar, she puts quotes from the news of the day and relevant quotes from other writers, actors, politicians or people who had something to say. Right off, I decided I would read her journal, then come back and read the sidebar items. I soon realized how important those “extras” were. They added to her words, her thoughts. I found myself amazed at Susan’s intellect and wide-spread knowledge.

Each chapter is a month in that year. At the end of each chapter is a listing of the books she read that month. She reads more in a month than I do in a year. She reads anywhere from 8 to 13 books every month.

This is in addition to her writing, which she talks about in the book. Occasionally, she throws in delicious sounding recipes and how-tos, including how to cook in a solar oven.

Here’s part of the back cover blurb:
Albert’s journal provides an engaging account of how the business of being a successful working writer blends with her rural life in the Texas Hill Country and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico. As her eclectic daily reading ranges across topics from economics, food production, and oil and energy policy to poetry, place, and the writing life, Albert becomes increasingly concerned about the natural world and the threats facing it, especially climate change and resource depletion. …
I was fascinated by not just her life, but her writing. I have known Susan Wittig Albert for many years, but until reading this book I did not know her. And this is only a glimpse into her thoughts and life. This is a book for writers. A book for those who want to do something to better the environment. A book for those who want to hear the silence as often as they hear the noise. A book for those who want to stand in the shadows and witness a life well-lived. An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days is a captivating book.

An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days
Barnes & Noble
University of Texas Press

Susan Wittig Albert writes mystery, young adult, and books for women on work and life writing. Not counting the books she has written alone, she and her husband, Bill, have written more than 70 books together. She’s the founder of Story Circle Network. She is not a new-to-me writer, but I still give An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Susan a rating of Hel-of-a-Writer.
FTC Disclaimer: At the request of Susan Wittig Albert, University of Texas Press sent me a copy of An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days. This did not influence my decision to review this book. This book has a fitting title. Susan’s days are ordinary. They’re unlike mine - I don’t pack up the dogs and drive to New Mexico to stay in a cabin, nor do I have meetings with editors or a husband who acts as my agent, nor do I know how to discern edible weeds from non-edible ones. But for Susan, these are ordinary things in her life. Put them all together, along with all that was going on in the world in 2008, and you have a most extraordinary year and book. And that is what influenced me to write this review.


  1. Added this to my To Buy list. It sounds very interesting, and I enjoy reading about another's lifestyle.

    Thanks for the review, Helen.

  2. Interesting title. Looks like a book worth checking out >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  3. This sounds wonderful. Thanks for pointing it out!

  4. Hi Helen .. what a wonderful recommendation - I'll definitely add it to my list! That really is what life's about .. all the minutiae of life. Great post - and information about a writer you obviously so respect .. cheers - Hilary

  5. This book felt very personal to me, like getting to see someone's life.

  6. How refreshing to come across a book that's not a big-time celebrity memoir. It's the ordinary in life that is filled with such recognizable beauty to the reader.

  7. This sounds like just the type of book I love. I'm going to look for it right away. Thanks, Helen, for recommending.

  8. I've enjoyed all of Susan Wittig Albert's books so I'll definitely have to pick this one up.

    Thoughts in Progress

  9. Wonderful review ~ as a member and sometimes faculty of Story Circle Network I'm thankful to Susan for her vision and can't wait to read this book!

  10. I kept trying to think of one word to describe it, but as soon as I think of one, another comes to mind: warm, intimate, personal, intriguing... I finally gave up on a "defining" word.

  11. It sounds like an interesting book!

    Thank you for the review!

  12. You're welcome, everyone. I hope you enjoy it.

  13. We've just chosen our book club books for the year - I'm wondering if I can suggest this in place of one of the others. (I'm a bit over angsty novels!)

  14. I hope you enjoyed seeing THE KING'S SPEECH. I was sitting right behind you. No, just joking. Have a great weekend, Roland

  15. Roland, we did enjoy The King's Speech. I can see why it's nominated for so many awards. I hope Firth wins the academy.

  16. The title alone is eye-catching enough to make me curious. Thanks for the review and another fab disclaimer.

  17. I am adding Susan to my "to be read" list.

  18. Susan Wittig Albert is probably best known for her mysteries, but this was the first nonfiction of hers that I have read.

  19. Sounds like a great book - thanks for the tip :)

  20. Thanks for sharing about this book, Helen. Sounds interesting and unique!

  21. That book sounds fascinating. I like the idea of tidbits on the side.

  22. I like the name of the book. I can’t imagine taking a year of my life and making it into material interesting enough for others to want to read about it. Susan must be a talented writer!

  23. Thanks for this review. The book does sound fascinating and extraordinary!

  24. Wonderful review. I'll be adding this book to my list. I love Susan Wittig Albert's mysteries about an herbalist. I learn while enjoying a fun read.
    She is prolific and talented.


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