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  • Ross Johnson 8:00 pm on 2018/10/01 Permalink
    Tags: Biography, ,   

    October’s Best Biographies and Memoirs 

    The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created, by Jane Leavy
    Everyone knows his name, but the specifics of the life and legacy of the 20th century’s biggest baseball star have begun to fade. This new biography comes just in time: Ruth almost singlehandedly invented celebrity culture, particularly with regard to athletes, and it’s impossible to understand much of our modern world without considering Ruth, and the very large life he lead. As a means of capturing the excitement and appeal that surrounded the complex figure, Leavy centers her book around the three-week barnstorming victory tour that Ruth undertook with Lou Gehrig in 1927.

    The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: American Icon, by Antonia Felix with Mimi Leder
    Our unlikeliest pop culture icon, Supreme Court Justice RBG’s face adorns T-shirts, coffee mugs, and even action figures. In celebration of her quarter-century on the Court, as well as of a forthcoming biopic, this pictorial overview covers the entirety of her life and career, from her youth, to her education, to her continuing judicial legacy. In addition to the pictures and illustrations, the book includes quotes, excerpts of speeches and opinions, and commentary.

    This Will Only Hurt a Little, by Busy Philipps
    Actress and Instagram star Phillips shares the deeply candid story of her life and career in a book that’s both deeply funny and straight-talking in its assessment of the challenges of making it in a sexist system (she recounts instances of on-set bullying and body shaming). As she does in her acting and in her social media, Phillips holds back nothing on the page, neither triumphs or stumbles.

    All the Way: Football, Fame, and Redemption, by Joe Namath with Don Yaeger
    Fifty years after Namath lead the New York Jets to a Super Bowl victory against the Baltimore Colts, the icon tells the story of his journey from small-town Pennsylvania kid to sports legend. Across half a century, Namath spent time at the height of celebrity, but also dealt with debilitating injuries that saw him addicted to painkillers and alcohol. Here, he reveals that the charmed life he appeared to lead masked real challenges.

    Reagan: An American Journey, by Bob Spitz
    One of the most fascinating people to have ever sat in the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan has remained an elusive figure, notoriously challenging biographers who have struggled to separate the human from the actor. Bob Spitz promises a post-partisan look at the beloved but divisive president, covering the entire scope of his life with information gathered from hundreds of interviews as well as newly available documents. He covers not just the success in politics, but also the impoverished and bookish upbringing that somehow paved the way for a career in Hollywood and beyond. Fully reckoning with Reagan’s strengths and weaknesses, Spitz’s book represents our most complete picture to date of a complicated figure.

    Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography, by Eric Idle
    Next year marks a half-century since Monty Python first appeared on television, and this new autobiography from one of the leading lights of the surrealist comedy troupe seems a fitting way to kick off the celebration. In the ’60s, Eric Idle was at the forefront of Britain’s cultural revolution, rubbing shoulders with the Beatles and Bowie, before becoming a mainstream star through work on films like Life of Brian and, more recently, Broadway’s musical sensation Spamalot. It’s a fascinating and funny look behind the scenes of a fascinating life.

    Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon
    Essayist, novelist, and English professor Laymon describes his long road from a hard-headed, troubled youth in Mississippi, to world-class educator. It’s the story of his own life—and struggles with abuse, sexual violence, obesity, gambling, and anorexia—but it’s also about the nation writ large, and about the black experience in a country desperately determined to avoid reckoning with its past.

    Grant, by Ron Chernow
    Our view of Ulysses S. Grant is frequently framed around a well-meaning presidency marred by scandals that occurred on his watch but outside his view. He’s frequently characterized as either a failed businessman who chanced into the top job in the Union army, or as a brutal general. Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Chernow, one of our most important popular historians, paints a fuller picture of Grant’s life, with ups and downs that make for great drama. His efforts to destroy the KKK and advocate for equal justice are among the many elements that make his story important even today.

    Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
    Writing biographies of geniuses Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin was just a warm-up for Walter Isaacson, who here takes on one of history’s most towering intellectual figures: the polymath Leonardo, whose talents combined art and science in a way that’s never quite been replicated in the centuries since he lived. Isaacson’s biography looks not just at Leonardo’s life, but also attempts to unravel the unique combination of talent and ambition that drove him.

    Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, by Chris Matthews
    Following up on his JFK biography Jack Kennedy, MSNBC anchor Matthews turns his eye on younger brother Bobby, whose impact on the 1960s was almost as great. In Matthews’ extensively researched book, it becomes clear that Bobby had the potential to go even further than Jack; eschewing a career as a naval officer in favor of a joining on as a common sailor, Bobby developed skills that Matthews suggests led him to connect with voters from all walks of life. It’s a revealing portrait of a man who never really got a chance to show us all he was made of.

    Whose story inspires you?

    The post October’s Best Biographies and Memoirs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 8:00 pm on 2018/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: Biography, , in pieces, maxwell king, sally field, the good neighbor,   

    September’s Best Biographies and Memoirs 

    In Pieces, by Sally Field
    For the first time, and with impressive literary style, Field reflects on a career that began with sitcoms in the ’60s and developed in movies like Sybil, Norma Rae, and Lincoln. She talks of the highs and lows of her impressive career, as well as about the troubled relationships and insecurities that have challenged her even as they helped to make her into the inspiring figure she has become.

    Every Day Is Extra, by John Kerry
    John Kerry appeared on the American stage more than 50 years ago, returning from Vietnam to testify before Congress about the state of affairs for soldiers on the ground. Since then, he’s been a prosecutor, a lieutenant governor, a senator, a presidential nominee, and secretary of state. Kerry’s memoir covers the entirety of his public life, offering reminiscences of some of the figures he’s worked with and his own feelings about our our modern way of politics.

    Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, by Sarah Smarsh
    Who better to tell the story of America’s working poor than a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer whose childhood during the 1980s didn’t see her family break a cycle of generations of poverty, but instead saw forces beyond their control lock them into their social class and economic status? Sarah Smarsh approaches the topic of poverty in America as both memoir and astute analysis, bringing her own experience to bear on an incisive cultural commentary.

    The Truth About Aaron: My Journey to Understand My Brother, by Jonathan Hernandez
    Just two seasons into what looked to be an incredibly promising football career, Aaron Hernandez was arrested for the murder of linebacker Odin Lloyd and subsequently sentenced to life in prison without parole. Just two years after that, he was found dead by his own hand in his prison cell. Aaron’s brother has penned this unvarnished memoir of his life with his infamous sibling, presenting Aaron as neither a victim nor a tragic figure, but as one who succumbed to rage and violence.

    The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee, by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
    Decades after her death, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis continues to fascinate, but the story of the Bouvier family as a whole is as interesting as that of the Kennedys, if less well known. Drawing on new interviews with Jackie’s still-living younger sister, Lee Radziwill, Kashner and Schoenberger chronicle the close, complicated, and sometimes rocky legacy of the glamorous socialite siblings.

    The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King
    Mr. Rogers is having a moment, and is it any wonder? His lessons about the virtues of curiosity, honesty, play, and simple compassion are evergreen, and we seem to need them now more than ever. Arriving in the wake of the blockbuster documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? King’s new work is the first full-length print biography of the icon, and it’s no shocking tell-all: by all accounts, the Mr. Rogers we saw on TV wasn’t that far removed from the real-life figure. What does come to light are the struggles of his own childhood, as well as the savvy behind-the-scenes decision making that made his show a beloved staple for generations of kids.

    Whose story inspires you?

    The post September’s Best Biographies and Memoirs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 3:00 pm on 2018/08/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Biography, , , , , , , , paul kalanithi, , , , , ,   

    Go Behind the Scenes with Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher, and More Iconic Personalities 

    Icons come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. Some are fascinating because of unique challenges and life stories, others by rising to the tops of their fields with style. They inspire and teach us, but there’s always much more to their lives than their public personas. These books go behind the scenes with intriguing personalities to reveal stories that are funny, heartbreaking, or edifying—and often all three.

    Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, by Zora Neale Hurston, with Alice Walker and Deborah G. Plant
    Though best known as one of the preeminent novelists of the black American south during the early 20th century, Hurston’s work was informed by her background in anthropology. Her work on Barracoon began in 1927 and included her interviews with Cudjo Lewis, the last known then-living survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. The work failed to find a publisher at the time, and remained locked away until this year. Thus, this powerful book is essential for two reasons: it’s the story of one of the key figures in the history of American slavery, and it also serves as an epilogue to the work of Hurston, who writes from her own perspective.

    Robin, by Dave Itzkoff
    Robin Williams was one of the towering figures in American pop culture during the last half-century, and his untimely death at only 63 is still hard to process. With almost unfathomable energy, he conquered the worlds of stand-up comedy and sitcoms before going on to star in critically acclaimed films and earning an Academy Award. As we’ve all learned since, he was much more than a lovable firecracker: his work often came from a more complex place, and he struggled with self-doubt, depression, and addiction, as well as a crippling condition that he kept secret near the end of his days. With original interviews and research, biographer Itzkoff digs deep into the life of the iconic talent.

    My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie, by Todd Fisher
    In December of 2016, millions mourned the unexpected deaths of both Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, within a day of each other. For their fans and admirers, it was deeply sad. But for the family of these two Hollywood legends, the pain was far more intimate. In this memoir, Todd Fisher, the only surviving child of Debbie and singer Eddie Fisher, relates the story of his glamorous childhood with an unconventional mother and his lifelong bond with his sister. The book is part personal memoir and part tribute to Debbie and Carrie, as funny as it is poignant as it charts their glamorous, often very weird lives all the way through their final days together.

    Eat Cake. Be Brave., by Melissa Radke
    Melissa Radke became a social media star largely by following her own advice: eat the cake and ignore the haters. Radke had been dismissed as a student who’d never amount to anything, as too fat to be worthy of love before she learned that her attitude, street smarts, and southern-style sense of humor were more than enough to carry her through all of life’s trials. Her message is simple, but powerful: forget about the past and fight to become the person you want to be.

    Wanna Bet?: A Degenerate Gambler’s Guide to Living on the Edge, by Artie Lange and Anthony Bozza
    Though his road has been bumpy, Artie Lange has managed to survive and thrive as an actor, comedian, and radio host. In his third book, the comedian dives into the lifestyle and subculture of one of his favorite risky pastimes: gambling. Funny and confessional, Lange explores his own addiction alongside that of a few famous and less-famous friends who share his obsession with the risky nature of betting—on anything. He provides an insider’s view into a world that few of us could ever hope to glimpse, full of bookies, mobsters, athletes, and celebrities.

    Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah
    When The Daily Show host Trevor Noah was born in apartheid South Africa, his existence was literally a crime: the union of his white father and black Xhosa mother would have, had it been discovered, been punishable by five years in prison. As a result, Noah was hidden away for much of his young life before liberation saw his mother embark with him on an adventurous existence to try to make up for the years of privation. It would be a fascinating story even if he hadn’t gone on to take over as host of the venerable political comedy show, but Noah’s anecdotes and stories covering the breadth of his life take on extra weight given its unlikely trajectory.

    When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi with Abraham Verghese
    Fascinating figures aren’t always celebrities: Paul Kalanithi wrote this extraordinary memoir while in the final stages of a battle with stage IV lung cancer. At the time he was diagnosed at only 36, he was just about to complete his education as a neurosurgeon and was soon to be a new father. Suddenly, the doctor was also a patient, confronting his own mortality at a time when he expected his life to be beginning. That dual view gives him a unique perspective as he explores his own illness in a way that manages to be both poignant and life-affirming.

    Which iconic personality most inspires you?

    The post Go Behind the Scenes with Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher, and More Iconic Personalities appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 2:00 pm on 2018/08/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Biography, , , , , , , , paul kalanithi, robin, , , , , ,   

    Go Behind the Scenes with Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher, and More Iconic Personalities 

    Icons come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. Some are fascinating because of unique challenges and life stories, others by rising to the tops of their fields with style. They inspire and teach us, but there’s always much more to their lives than their public personas. These books go behind the scenes with intriguing personalities to reveal stories that are funny, heartbreaking, or edifying—and often all three.

    And for just one week, you can get them all for 50% off as part of Barnes & Noble’s first annual book haul blowout! Today through September 3, shop in stores and online to get half off of 150 select titles, across genres, for all ages, and including bestsellers, new releases, and more. And when you shop in stores, you’ll get a free tote with purchase of three books, while supplies last.

    Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, by Zora Neale Hurston, with Alice Walker and Deborah G. Plant
    Though best known as one of the preeminent novelists of the black American south during the early 20th century, Hurston’s work was informed by her background in anthropology. Her work on Barracoon began in 1927 and included her interviews with Cudjo Lewis, the last known then-living survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. The work failed to find a publisher at the time, and remained locked away until this year. Thus, this powerful book is essential for two reasons: it’s the story of one of the key figures in the history of American slavery, and it also serves as an epilogue to the work of Hurston, who writes from her own perspective.

    Robin, by Dave Itzkoff
    Robin Williams was one of the towering figures in American pop culture during the last half-century, and his untimely death at only 63 is still hard to process. With almost unfathomable energy, he conquered the worlds of stand-up comedy and sitcoms before going on to star in critically acclaimed films and earning an Academy Award. As we’ve all learned since, he was much more than a lovable firecracker: his work often came from a more complex place, and he struggled with self-doubt, depression, and addiction, as well as a crippling condition that he kept secret near the end of his days. With original interviews and research, biographer Itzkoff digs deep into the life of the iconic talent.

    My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie, by Todd Fisher
    In December of 2016, millions mourned the unexpected deaths of both Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, within a day of each other. For their fans and admirers, it was deeply sad. But for the family of these two Hollywood legends, the pain was far more intimate. In this memoir, Todd Fisher, the only surviving child of Debbie and singer Eddie Fisher, relates the story of his glamorous childhood with an unconventional mother and his lifelong bond with his sister. The book is part personal memoir and part tribute to Debbie and Carrie, as funny as it is poignant as it charts their glamorous, often very weird lives all the way through their final days together.

    Eat Cake. Be Brave., by Melissa Radke
    Melissa Radke became a social media star largely by following her own advice: eat the cake and ignore the haters. Radke had been dismissed as a student who’d never amount to anything, as too fat to be worthy of love before she learned that her attitude, street smarts, and southern-style sense of humor were more than enough to carry her through all of life’s trials. Her message is simple, but powerful: forget about the past and fight to become the person you want to be.

    Wanna Bet?: A Degenerate Gambler’s Guide to Living on the Edge, by Artie Lange and Anthony Bozza
    Though his road has been bumpy, Artie Lange has managed to survive and thrive as an actor, comedian, and radio host. In his third book, the comedian dives into the lifestyle and subculture of one of his favorite risky pastimes: gambling. Funny and confessional, Lange explores his own addiction alongside that of a few famous and less-famous friends who share his obsession with the risky nature of betting—on anything. He provides an insider’s view into a world that few of us could ever hope to glimpse, full of bookies, mobsters, athletes, and celebrities.

    Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah
    When The Daily Show host Trevor Noah was born in apartheid South Africa, his existence was literally a crime: the union of his white father and black Xhosa mother would have, had it been discovered, been punishable by five years in prison. As a result, Noah was hidden away for much of his young life before liberation saw his mother embark with him on an adventurous existence to try to make up for the years of privation. It would be a fascinating story even if he hadn’t gone on to take over as host of the venerable political comedy show, but Noah’s anecdotes and stories covering the breadth of his life take on extra weight given its unlikely trajectory.

    When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi with Abraham Verghese
    Fascinating figures aren’t always celebrities: Paul Kalanithi wrote this extraordinary memoir while in the final stages of a battle with stage IV lung cancer. At the time he was diagnosed at only 36, he was just about to complete his education as a neurosurgeon and was soon to be a new father. Suddenly, the doctor was also a patient, confronting his own mortality at a time when he expected his life to be beginning. That dual view gives him a unique perspective as he explores his own illness in a way that manages to be both poignant and life-affirming.

    Which iconic personality most inspires you?

    The post Go Behind the Scenes with Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher, and More Iconic Personalities appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 4:00 pm on 2018/06/30 Permalink
    Tags: Biography, ,   

    The Best Biographies and Memoirs of July 

    The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, by Nelson Mandela, with Sahm Venter and Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela
    Jailed in 1962 for the crime of organizing against the Apartheid government of South Africa, Nelson Mandela wasn’t released until 1990. In the intervening years, he wrote many hundreds of letters: to supporters, to government officials, to activists, and to his family. The letters collected here, many never before published, display the determination, optimism, and sharp legal mind of one of the towering figures of the twentieth century. They also provide insight into Mandela the person, forced to mourn the death of a child through correspondence and watch his family grow up apart from him. In troubled times, his sacrifices, strategies, and beliefs remain relevant.

    The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President, by Sean Spicer
    The history of this American era won’t be written for a long time, but insider memoirs offer some sense of a first draft. Sean Spicer was backstage and on the front lines during the early days of the turbulent Trump administration, maintaining a contentious relationship with the media as White House press secretary. He’s not done, suggesting that press coverage of the campaign, transition, and first 100 days was hopelessly biased against the president. He’s promising to set the record straight with the first major memoir from a Trump insider.

    Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, by Ron Stallworth
    Ron Stallworth’s incredible true story inspired the upcoming film from writer/director Spike Lee and producer Jordan Peele. In 1978, the Klan was again on the rise in the United States, and Stallworth was the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Interested in a growing terrorist threat to the community, he responded to an ad for more information from the local KKK by mail. Instead, he received a call asking if he was willing to join up. During months of investigation, he maintains a phone correspondence with the group, sabotaging cross-burnings, exposing plots, and even forming a relationship with then-Grand Wizard (and current alt-right leader) David Duke. His white partner was tasked to fill-in for Stallworth, when necessary.  It’s a fascinating, harrowing, eye-opening story.

    You’re on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir, by Parker Posey
    Quirky indie-film legend Posey entirely eschews convention with her new memoir (of course she does). The star of films like Dazed and Confused, Party Girl, You’ve Got Mail, The House of Yes, and many more that you haven’t heard of, isn’t just opening up about her past, from her colorful childhood through an unconventional career; She’s telling her story as though the two of you are stuck on an airplane together. It’s a book full of stories, but also recipes, whimsical how-tos. and the actor’s own handmade art. Nothing else would do from the hilarious outsider who became a Hollywood star.

    Godspeed: A Memoir, by Casey Legler
    The story of the multi-talented Casey Legler isn’t entirely one of triumph, and this isn’t by any means a typical sports memoir. A competitive swimmer from the age of 13, Legler went to the 1996 Summer Olympics where she set a world record during the qualifying heat, only to come in 29th during the actual event. At the time, she was living a life of isolation and alienation, an alcoholic caught up in drugs and anonymous sex before finding a path for herself. She’s since been a writer, a restaurateur, and a groundbreaking model for men’s clothes over the course of her fascinating life.

    Papillon, by Henri Charrière
    First published in 1969, the autobiographical novel from French convict Charrière was an immediate sensation and a global bestseller: a Steve McQueen-starring film version was commissioned almost immediately, and a remake with Charlie Hunnam is due later this year. It’s a good time to revisit the story of the writer and petty criminal, wrongly (he always maintained) convicted of murder and sentenced to a penal colony in French Guinea. Over the ensuing 14 years he escaped multiple times, was shipwrecked, adopted by a Columbian native tribe, and made a lifelong friend willing to finance his escapes from a series of ever-more-restrictive prisons.

    Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream, by Ibtihaj Muhammad with Lori Tharps
    Age 13 is a bit late to take up fencing if one aspires to the Olympics, particularly for a young Muslim woman in a sport that’s dominated by the wealthy and white. Despite her undeniable talent, Ibtihaj faced opposition at each step of her training and career, becoming both an inspiration and a lightning rod as the first woman in a hijab to compete in the Olympics during the 2016 Summer Games, which took place at the height of that year’s contentious presidential race. As an outspoken Muslim American, she became a cultural icon and one of the country’s most influential athletes.

    Wanna Bet?: A Degenerate Gambler’s Guide to Living on the Edge, by Artie Lange and Anthony Bozza
    In his third book, comedian Artie Lange dives into the lifestyle and subculture of one of his favorite risky pastimes: gambling. Funny and confessional, Lange explores his own addiction alongside a few famous and less-famous friends who share his obsession with the risky nature of betting—on anything. He provides an insider’s view into a world that few of us could ever hope to glimpse, full of bookies, mobsters, athletes, and celebrities. 

    Whose story inspires you?

    The post The Best Biographies and Memoirs of July appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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