All Creatures Great and Call the Midwife
February 3, 2017 5:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books that have a similar kind of feel to the James Herriot/Jennifer Worth books, that is, non - fiction (mostly), based around a profession (or hobby), interesting, humorously told anecdotes and recollections.

I would prefer women to feature as much as possible. Not necessarily set in the past, and not necessarily British. I'm not so into stories about madcap or bohemian families. Thanks!
posted by threetwentytwo to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson. They're slightly bohemian in the sense that they're two writers raising a family, but really pretty run-of-the-mill. Here's the most famous story, if you'd like a taste.
posted by veery at 5:55 AM on February 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Fact Checker’s Bible by Sarah Harrison Smith about being a face checker.
Working Stiff by Judy Melinek about being new at the medical examiner's after 911. (not exactly funny, but very interesting)
Bag Balm and Duct Tape by Beach Conger about rural doctoring.
Vermont Wild: Adventures of Vermont Fish and Game Wardens by Megan Price, very amusing but locally published book about being a rural game warden.
Yes, My Accent is Real by Kunal Nayyar (Raj from the Big Bang Theory)

That Shirley Jackson book is great!
posted by jessamyn at 6:04 AM on February 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Monica Dickens' (past and British but female) (yes relation) memoirs One Pair of Hands, One Pair of Feet, and My Turn to Make the Tea, about being in service, nursing and journalism, respectively
posted by runincircles at 6:12 AM on February 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Clare Balding's memoirs have a similar feel and have cute animals and British eccentrics.
Also David Attenborough's Life On Air (and the audiobooks of both are great if that's relevant).
posted by Erasmouse at 6:15 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Peggy Vincent's books about being a midwife in Berkeley, California would fit the bill, I think! I like the first two, Babycatcher and Midwife: A Calling the most, it's a little bit of diminishing returns as the books go on, but not that much. They're still enjoyable stories about women having babies (and sometimes other situations). And she's pretty funny sometimes. These are comfort reading for me, I can read them over and over and still cry at some of the birth stories. (I am a dork.)
posted by Aquifer at 6:21 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Lark Rise to Candleford" is a BBC television series often mentioned here on the green and rightfully so.

Less well known is the trilogy of books by Flora Thompson on which the series is based. Quite informative and enjoyable. Both the BBC series and the book trilogy are worth a look:

Lark Rise to Candleford
posted by Ginesthoi at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

In belatedly getting the link to Balding's books (My Animals and Other Family, you might start with Walking Home which is more about her career than family life), I thought you might try Gerald Durrell- My Family and Other Animals is probably too madcap and bohemian family, but the later ones are mostly naturalist anecdotes, like Beasts in My Belfry.
posted by Erasmouse at 7:28 AM on February 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also you might try the works of Gavin Maxwell.
posted by Ginesthoi at 7:43 AM on February 3, 2017

Gervase Phinn would probably be your cup of tea.
posted by Grunyon at 7:52 AM on February 3, 2017

Seconding Life Among the Savages.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:59 AM on February 3, 2017

Catherine Friend's Hit by a Farm and Sheepish should fit the bill. I haven't read the first one yet, but Sheepish is excellent and felt very similar to James Herriot's work - short, funny and/or poignant anecdotes about farming.
posted by sibilatorix at 8:13 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty was a funny, but also thoughtful memoir of her experience working as a crematory assistant in San Fransisco, which helped her to define her new career path as a new school mortician (side note: if you haven't watched the Ask A Mortician videos on YouTube, they are worth a watch!)

I also read Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole last year and remember it being a pretty amusing tell-all about what life as a flight attendant can be like. It wasn't as funny as some other tell-alls I've read, but it made up for it in the novelty of being able to peek behind the scenes in the airline industry.

And this book isn't by a woman, but A Fly for the Prosecution by Dr. Lee Goff (the guy Gil Grissom from the CSI TV show was loosely based off of) wrote a book about some of his most interesting cases in his career as a forensic entomologist. A little science-y, but quite readable, and it was also unexpectedly funny in a very deadpan way and crazy interesting.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:15 AM on February 3, 2017

There's No Justice, Just Court Costs is by a small town general practice attorney in Pennsylvania and his many misadventures.

Sleeping with Your Gynecologist is by a Seinfeld writer who's married to a gynecologist (about gynecology) and it's one of those books that's so funny you shouldn't read it on public transit because people will wonder what's wrong with you as you giggle until you're crying.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:28 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Farley Mowat was known for these kinds of works. Try Never Cry Wolf.
posted by angiep at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am rereading for about the 20th time The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West.
posted by JanetLand at 8:48 AM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also! Julia Child's autobiography My Life in France is wonderful. Definitely reminiscent of Herriot in evoking a professional life during a specific time and place.
posted by veery at 9:07 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Margaret Powell - autobiographical books about her life as a servant in the 1920s onwards (British, past, female).

Betty MacDonald's Anybody Can Do Anything (America, past, female).

Seconding Gervase Phinn (British, contemporary-ish / recent past, male).
posted by paduasoy at 10:07 AM on February 3, 2017

Kate Braestrup is chaplain to the Maine Warden Service. I've read and recommend Here If You Need Me.
posted by theora55 at 10:21 AM on February 3, 2017

Not as good as Herriot, but I enjoyed While You're Here, Doc: Farmyard Adventures of a Maine Veterinarian by Bradford B. Brown (amazon uk link) . There is also Call the Nurse (nurse in the Scottish Hebrides).
posted by gudrun at 11:20 AM on February 3, 2017

Betty MacDonald's memoirs, most notably The Egg and I, are classics.

Emily Carr's The House of All Sorts is by a woman, later famous in Canada for her art, who tries to make ends meet by owning and managing a small apartment building/boarding house in Victoria, B.C. (I find it's now considered a heritage property there.)

Some travel books may have the flavour you're looking for. A Year in Provence maybe?
posted by zadcat at 11:33 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might like The Yorkshire Shepardess by Amanda Owen.
posted by janepanic at 2:16 PM on February 3, 2017

You'd probably like Woodswoman, one of my favorite books, and also Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary, for a very different milieu but similar voice.
posted by Miko at 10:05 PM on February 3, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks all for great suggestions - looking forward to giving all of these a go!
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:24 AM on February 4, 2017

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