Joe Cottonwood

Selected Works

Books for grown-ups
A carpenter can fix the house. But how do you repair a broken home? With each job, Joe enters somebody’s private world. Revealing a life. Or changing it.
"It's funny, very tender, and enormously, tremendously human." —Colleen Mondor, Bookslut
Books for children
"Cottonwood presents a terrifying geological phenomenon in accessible you-are-there terms." —Publishers Weekly
Babcock, for reasons he can't explain, wants to be friends with a girl who is his complete opposite, as different as black and white. "Full of humor, hope, and bravery." —School Library Journal
"A finely crafted story. The characters are enormously appealing." — School Library Journal
"A book that is resplendent with humor, irony, thoughtful introspection, and well-paced plotting." —School Library Journal
Novels for grown-ups
"An engaging picaresque novel of a young man on the run. A warm, well-told story of a likable character with a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time." —Publisher's Weekly
Young Adult
Four smart kids. One beat-up guitar. Stolen waterfalls. The end of a millennium. The birth of Google.

Now available as an audiobook.

Narrated by the warm, scratchy voice of the author himself, 99 Jobs can be purchased as an audiobook with this link to

99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses

A carpenter can fix the house. But how do you repair a broken home? With each job, Joe enters somebody’s private world. Revealing a life. Or changing it.

"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 - great gift."

First Place! "Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year."
—IndieReader Discovery Award, 2014

"This is a delightful book, full of engaging stories about work and working life. It is humane and warmly funny."
—Mike Rose, author of The Mind at Work.

"With an Ian Frazier-like sense of humor, general contractor and author Joe Cottonwood reveals a lot about human nature via the sometimes short-lived, sometimes years-long relationships he forms with those who hire him. Each tale about walking into someone’s house, negotiating a price, completing the job, obtaining payment, reveals another world. Flooded with detail of Cottonwood’s work (noting the durability of a spider web, getting a face full of sewage, falling off a roof), it’s a well-written voyeur’s delight."
—Karen Schechner, judge's comment for IndieReader Discovery Award

“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.

Print edition available now from Clear Heart Books (fulfilled by Amazon). Order the paperback on-line with this link to Amazon. Or order the good old-fashioned way — through your local bookstore.

E-book editions:
Order the Kindle edition with this link to Kindle.
Order the iBook with this link to Apple iBooks.
Order for Nook with this link to Barnes and Noble.
Order for Kobo with this link to Kobobooks.
Or order any format of the e-book (Sony, Nook, Kobo, PDF, etc) with this link to Smashwords.

If you're in the UK:
Order the Kindle UK edition with this link to Kindle UK.
Order for Nook UK with this link to Nook UK.