If you love non-fiction, but have read all the NYT bestsellers, it might be time to explore more unconventional forms of narrative and life stories. The following books and sites tell stories through ephemera—the notes, scribbles, and bits we leave behind—of regular lives.
On Your Kindle
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Rosenthal is a well-known children’s book author, but this interesting project is her unconventional autobiography—written as a kind of encyclopedia of memories, A-Z. Proclaiming it a story of an “ordinary” life, she focuses on the small details that most of us forget. Filled with humorous notes and self-deprecating stories about being stymied by bibliography assignments in college, wanting her name to be spelled “Aimee,” and her inability to remember people’s names, you’ll be charmed by Krouse Rosenthal’s wacky encyclopedia.
On a Smartphone
Forgotten Bookmarks, by Michael Popek
Popek, a used bookseller, has compiled a blog full of interesting items left in used books. On “Forgotten Bookmarks,” you’ll find old letters, postcards, grocery store lists, and a host of interesting mislaid treasures.
On a Podcast
The City Reliquary, NPR
The NPR interview focuses on Dave Herman, an NYC firefighter who operates the City Reliquary—a collection of ephemera from the five boroughs of NYC. Free and open to the public, the museum contains donated items from the city’s history that range from the odd to the compelling, including newsreels of Coney Island, postcards from the Statue of Liberty, and even pieces of trolley tracks.
When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put, by Vivian Swift
When Swift, a longtime expat and Peace Corps volunteer, settled on the Long Island Sound, she turned her keen eye for nature observation into this gorgeously illustrated memoir-meets-journal. Organized around a year of memories and vistas, all of the book’s pages were hand-drawn by Swift herself. Engaging, beautiful, and oddly touching, When Wanderers Cease to Roam will remind you of all the winter gloves and loves you have lost over the years.