Winner! First place!
IndieReader Discovery Award
"Best Indie Nonfiction Book of 2014"
"A general contractor and author looks back on a 35-year career contending with a variety of houses and people—most in disrepair. The many blue-collar jobs that Cottonwood wonderfully describes in his latest offering may involve worm-gear saws, ladders, lighting fixtures and the like, but they’re really all about people. Some are wealthy, some poor, but all are frail in some way and in need of some proper shoring—that includes the ace carpenter himself. Each vignette confidently stands on its own, whether several pages long or only a few paragraphs. The robust snapshots of the carpenter’s working life toiling in crawl spaces and basements play on important themes of mortality, class and personal fulfillment. Elegant entries ... touch on the often ephemeral nature of close human relationships. Expertly crafted narrative nonfiction that reveals the framework of people’s lives." —Kirkus starred review.
"A gritty and entertaining memoir. Colorful characters and situations. Cottonwood’s prose is lively and his stories often charming. Readers will find it easy to relate to the author and his experiences, which are likely to appeal to anyone who has worked a less-than-perfect job."—Publishers Weekly
"An intelligent, well-rounded and thoughtful man who’s worked with his hands, his brain and his heart for decades. The essays are almost prose poems in a few deftly chosen words with a master’s skill. He has a gift for those little details that make a scene intensely vivid – his descriptions, whether of a person or a landscape, are brilliant. Essay-writing at its best - a great gift."—IndieReader.com
Joe Cottonwood has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life. He is the author of nine published novels. This is his first work of nonfiction.
“A house is alive. It breathes. It expands and contracts. It ages. Sometimes it falls sick, and then I’m a doctor of houses. I probe intimate cavities. I study the bones, the nerves, the flesh of an old house where generations of remodels have built upon themselves. The structure tells a story: tragedy, comedy, or heartwarming family drama as day-to-day life slowly, inexorably leaves an imprint over the attic, on the walls, under the sink—or in the crawlspace.”
—From 99 Jobs
Ninety-nine stories that are gritty, funny, wise. And always deeply humane.
In this gritty and entertaining memoir, Cottonwood presents readers with a collection of anecdotes some more serious than others about his experiences working odd jobs as a contractor, carpenter, plumber, and electrician. As the titles suggests, the work wasn't always easy, but it brought Cottonwood into contact with a variety of colorful characters and situations e.g., when the author takes a job rewiring an illegal rental for a "crazy man"; when he gets a job changing light bulbs on a college campus; and when he salvages a clawfoot bathtub from a wrecking yard in San Jose, Calif., only to let it sit unused on his unfinished bathroom floor for six years. Cottonwood's prose is lively and his stories often charming. Readers will find it easy to relate to the author and his experiences, which are likely to appeal to anyone who has worked a less-than-perfect job.