I'm reading Kristi Coulter's book of personal essays Nothing Good Can Come From This and I recommend it with only one caveat.
First the recommendation. Coulter is a good writer who can make serious and humorous work within the same essay, often within the same paragraph, sometimes she pulls it off in the same sentence. Her voice is honest and strong. She does not preach. If anything, she might be a bit too self-deprecating but uses it to good humorous effect. The pieces are of varying lengths and that turns out to be one of my favorite attributes of a good book of essays. David Sedaris's Calypso had some of that, but I'm especially fond of Coulter's use of the short essay within this book. Her pacing and storytelling are spot on. It's a good, good read that she has crafted.
Now the caveat: you may come to think you're an alcoholic. Or maybe that's just me. Often when reading stories of alcoholics — and for all sorts of reasons I love to read stories of alcoholics — I become convinced that I am one of them and consider getting myself to a meeting. Then I come to the conclusion that I'm not an alcoholic and that mostly I want to observe an AA meeting because they fascinate me. Using imagined alcoholism to get into a meeting sounds even more pathetic than I'm usually willing to be so I dismiss the idea.
Dismissing it gets me thinking that I'm probably just rationalizing my own alcoholism or trying to imagine it away. Then I think that's ridiculous and I'm fine, but there's no way to say "I don't have a drinking problem" that doesn't lead everyone to scrunch up their faces and say, "yeah, you do." This gets me wanting to go into excruciating detail about my drinking and explain every bit of it. Not that that sounds defensive. No, not at all. Don't worry, I'll spare you all that.
I suppose just thinking about this is good for me in the same way that I think about depression while still believing that if I suffer from real depression it is of the mildest kind. Writing about whether I may or may not be alcoholic here in public feels like a mistake, but as Neko Case sings, "I do my best, but I'm made of mistakes." Besides, much of the appeal of Coulter's book (and most any good memoir) is reading about someone's mistakes. It makes me feel as though I'm in a bigger club than the one I often feel I'm in and which has only a single member.
Nothing Good Can From This applies to me trying to explain how I do or don't suffer from alcoholic tendencies, but it might be a misnomer for the book from which flows a fountain of good things. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to reading it and drinking a cup of black coffee. I may wonder if the coffee is so I can feel like I'm at a meeting, but that will only last a few moments into the reading because, like I said, this book is good.
Go to your local bookstore right now and buy it.