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  • Jenny Shank 2:00 pm on 2019/05/02 Permalink
    Tags: , claiming ground, , francisco cantu, heavy: an american memoir, if the creek don't rise: my life out west with the last blak widow of the civil war, , laura bell, mean, Memoirs, myriam gurba, rita williams, river house, sarahlee lawrence, searing memoirs, , the line becomes river   

    6 Memoirs to Read Next If You Loved Educated 


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    Tara Westover’s memoir Educated is a blockbuster by any standard. Those who read it early sensed that this story, of Westover’s evolution from growing up scantly homeschooled in a family of rural Idaho survivalists and then earning her PhD in history from Cambridge, had the elements of a classic-in-the-making. Educated was lauded by Bill Gates and President Obama, became a finalist for many literary prizes (including the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award, the LA Times Book Prize, and the PEN America Jean Stein Book Prize), and has endured for months on bestseller lists across the globe. There’s a good chance that you’ve already read it. So if you’re hankering for a memoir just as good as Educated, here are six stellar choices to read next.

    If The Creek Don’t Rise: My Life Out West with the Last Black Widow of the Civil War, by Rita Williams
    If you loved the way Educated took you inside a family living as though they were in a prior century, this memoir will inspire the same awe. Williams was born in Denver in the 1950s. Her father left her mother for another woman, and her mom died from carbon dioxide inhalation in a boarding house when Rita was four. Rita was given to the nearest relative, her aunt Daisy, who lived a hardscrabble, subsistence lifestyle in the mountains near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Daisy, incredibly, was the last surviving black widow of a Civil War veteran. In the early 1900’s, when she was a teenager in a family of Tennessee sharecroppers, she married a 79-year-old Civil War veteran to escape the KKK-ridden South. They came West, where Daisy eventually took Rita in, raising her in poverty, with tough love—with an emphasis on the tough. Daisy is verbally abusive and the kind of woman who reminds a child to “urinate or move your bowels” before leaving the house, but also made an arrangement to wash a private school’s floors so Rita could attend. Williams’ rise in life is perhaps even more astonishing than Westover’s—she became a writer for the Los Angeles Times, O Magazine, and the television show “Queen of the South.”

    River House, by Sarahlee Lawrence
    While Westover grew up on a mountain in Idaho, Sarahlee Lawrence grew up on a high desert ranch in central Oregon with her parents, 70’s back-to-the-landers who raised her to be self-sufficient. She writes of her mom, “Her philosophy on mothering was one of release: a bow that shoots an arrow into the world.” And Sarahlee left to become a world-traveling river guide. But as the book opens, she’s running a river in Peru when she’s gripped with a powerful urge to return home. She does, and sets herself the task of building a log cabin, by hand, during the frigid winter months so she can continue to make her living as a river guide in the summer. Lawrence’s tenacity and stubbornness help her as she struggles to build a life and a home she’s proud of.

    Claiming Ground, by Laura Bell
    If you loved the passages of Educated where Westover tenderly described the western landscape, check out Laura Bell’s arresting Claiming Ground. Bell, like Westover, considered herself the black sheep of her family. A preacher’s daughter, Bell graduated from college in Kentucky in 1977 and decided to find her own religion, pursuing her “childhood’s private world blown larger than life, with a horse, two dogs, a rifle, a wilderness.” Bell came west with her sister and began working as a sheepherder in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. Each chapter is a lyrical snapshot from her life and work as a sheepherder, ranch hand, forest ranger, and masseuse.

    The Line Becomes A River, by Francisco Cantú
    Over the course of Educated, we see Westover’s eyes open and her mind expand as she learns lessons about the world that her isolated family never could have taught her. Westover also shares her struggles with mental instability as she tries to break free from them and start a new life. Cantú, too, begins The Line Becomes A River as a smart, sensitive young man, and has an awakening—and an unraveling—as he works for the U.S. Border Patrol. Cantú grew up along the border, speaking English and Spanish with his mother, who worked in National Parks. In college, he distinguishes himself as a scholar of the border, but feels his knowledge is too theoretical, and decides to learn firsthand about the situation at the border by joining the patrol, against the cautions of his mother. Searching, searing, and beautifully written, this book captures the complexities of life along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon
    Tara Westover’s relationship with her parents was complicated, to say the least. Her father, whom she suspects has bipolar disorder, dominated her and subjected her to abuse. Yet Westover still loves her parents so much that breaking with them was heart-wrenching. In one of the most celebrated memoirs of recent years, Kiese Laymon likewise lays bare his fraught relationship with food, his body, and his mother, to whom he addresses the book. Laymon’s mother, an accomplished, loving, brilliant, black college professor in Jackson, Mississippi, raised him right and wrong at the same time. As Laymon pores through his past in this unflinching book that in the end casts no blame on his mother, he makes it clear that the abuse he suffered—from the beatings his mom gave him, to sexual violation by a babysitter, to his own disordered relationship with food—are the consequences of growing up in a society that acts as though poor black people are not fully human.

    Mean, by Myriam Gurba
    If you came away from reading Educated with a great admiration for Tara Westover’s pluck and knack for self-reinvention, here’s another indomitable memoirist to meet: Myriam Gurba. In Mean, Gurba tells the story of growing up in California in the shadow of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, the daughter of a Mexican-American mother and a Polish-American father—she calls herself a “Molack.” Gurba writes with tremendous potency and wit about how people reacted to the Mexican side of her heritage—including a hysterical chapter in which she stays at a neighbor’s house and is served a disgusting, gloppy casserole the woman describes as “Mexican” food. As a young adult, Gurba is assaulted by a stranger who then goes on to rape and kill another woman, but this memoir does not follow the standard structure of a victim’s tale. Instead, it’s a heroine’s story, an account of how Gurba became the bold, hilarious artist, poet, and writer she is today. “Art is one way to work out touch gone wrong,” Gurba writes.

    The post 6 Memoirs to Read Next If You Loved <i>Educated</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jenny Shank 8:01 pm on 2019/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: Memoirs, , , opening up   

    5 of the Best New Memoirs of Spring 


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    Memoirs offer readers the opportunity to take a journey through another human’s life. No matter how different the particulars of the memoirist’s experience from our own, the best memoirs tap into something universal. Here are five fabulous memoirs hitting bookstores this spring that together capture a panoply of the American experience.

    Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob 
    In 2014, novelist Mira Jacob’s young son Z became obsessed with Michael Jackson, and he had a lot of questions about him, such as, “Was Michael Jackson Brown or was he white?” Jacob, whose parents are from India, is married to Jed, a Jewish man she met when they were growing up together in New Mexico. She told Z Michael Jackson turned white. “Are you going to turn white?” Z asks. His difficult, important, sometimes silly questions sparked Jacob to write a graphic memoir that takes the reader on a funny and bittersweet journey, illustrated with drawings of the people in her life cut out like paper dolls that move from scene to scene. As Jacob struggles to answer her son’s questions, she delves into her own complicated history of growing up brown, with skin darker than that of her parents, prompting her Indian relatives to describe her as “plain.” Jacob writes with honesty, humility, humor, and wisdom as she recounts painful and poignant moments from her life—such as the time she won a fifth grade Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest, and then, after she sent in her picture for the program, was given the wrong address for the banquet. Harder for her to bear is the way her in-laws vote in the 2016 presidential election, even after Jed writes them to say, “Please consider how this will harm our family.” Searching, candid, and full of heart, Good Talk provides an insightful conversation about race in America today.

    The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang
    It’s believed that approximately one percent of people have schizophrenia, and skilled and intelligent writer Esmé Weijun Wang takes care to guide readers through “the wilds” of the disorder. Wang, who won a 2018 Whiting Award and was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists on the strength of her debut novel, The Border of Paradise, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, after she was forced to drop out of Yale due to what she thought at the time was bipolar disorder. In between debilitating bouts with hallucinations and delusions, Wang has accomplished incredible achievements, from earning a degree at Stanford to becoming a medical researcher to making her name as a fashion blogger to racking up impressive writing honors, including the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize for this book. She explains the overachieving in this way: “I care about recognition as much as I care about my own self-regard, because I don’t trust my self-evaluation.” With admirable candor and probing insight, Wang chronicles bewildering experiences that include hospitalizations (“My third hospitalization occurred in rural Louisiana. I told the doctor that I was a writer and studied psychology at Yale and Stanford, which was about as believable as my saying that I was an astronaut and an identical twin born to a Russian ambassador”) and episodes in which she believes she is dead. “People speak of schizophrenics as though they were dead without being dead, gone in the eyes of those around them,” Wang writes, but The Collected Schizophrenias goes a long way toward restoring life and humanity to those with this condition.

    Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, by T Kira Madden
    In this harrowing memoir with a surprising conclusion, T Kira Madden describes a childhood of neglect set amid lavish privilege in Boca Raton, Florida. Madden’s Chinese Hawaiian mother grew up in Hawaii. Her father was Jewish and wealthy, the brother of Steve Madden, famous for his shoe empire. Through crystalline essays, Madden captures the experience as it must have felt to live it, in kaleidoscopic, fragmented fashion, out of chronological order. Madden’s mother is her father’s second wife. He left his first wife after Madden’s mother “rescued a mannequin from the J.C. Penney dump” and propped him up in the car and in the apartment for protection—they called him “Uncle Nuke.” Both Madden’s parents struggled with sobriety, and she was often left to her own devices, resulting in behavior including truancy and alcohol use, as well as experience with sexual assault. As shoebiz goes on in the background, Madden attends the kind of wealthy prep school whose students routinely receive plastic surgery as bar and bat mitzvah gifts; as one of the school’s few nonwhite students, she’s referred to by a racial slur she eventually adopts as a nickname. Despite the chaos of her upbringing, Madden’s love and forgiveness for both of her parents graces every page of this frank, lucid book.

    What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young 
    Damon Young is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas, a senior editor at The Root, and a writer of great wit and acumen who tells the story of growing up black and male in Philadelphia with incredible verve. He wrote this book, he explains, “to examine and discover the whys of my life instead of continuing to allow the whats to dominate and fog my memories.” Why did he wait until age 26 to earn a driver’s license? Why did his mother die young? Why did he enjoy Kool-Aid into adulthood? How can he reconcile the fact that he’s troubled by his neighborhood’s gentrification when he also enjoys the upscale amenities this brings? Young tells stories from his life in his trademark kinetic, discursive, joke-cracking style. These essays will amuse and trouble. “Thursday-Night Hoops,” about a pickup basketball league Young plays in with mostly white teammates, should be required reading to help understand the complexities and contradictions of black and white people coexisting in America today.

    The Body Papers: A Memoir by Grace Talusan
    Grace Talusan immigrated to America with her family from the Philippines when she was a preschooler. In this moving, clear-eyed memoir, which won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, she probes the events of her life, documenting them with photographs and official papers. She involves the reader in her quest to make sense of who she has become by charting where she’s been. “Immigration is a kind of death,” she writes. “You leave one life for another one with no guarantee of seeing your loved ones or home again.” The portrait Talusan creates of her father, Totoy, is one of the most complex and beautiful parts of the book. Totoy grew up in a compound with his family in Manila. To punish him when he was ten, his mother hung him. Totoy thought he would die, but he survived, immigrated to America (after having all his rotting teeth pulled), and became an ophthalmologist. When Grace was young, Totoy and her mother practiced stricter Filipino-style parenting but grew toward an American permissiveness and warmth. After Totoy learns that his visiting father had been sexually abusing Grace from age seven to thirteen, he becomes her fierce protector, disowning his entire extended family to defend his daughter, and doing everything he can to help her heal. But Talusan is still working on healing. It’s clear that telling her story with such openness and perceptiveness, is part of that ongoing process. “Reaching out to other people and connecting,” she writes, “which is the exact opposite of how I felt when I was being abused, is why and how I am alive.”

    The post 5 of the Best New Memoirs of Spring appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/03/11 Permalink
    Tags: an irish country doctor, anne enright, armchair travel, , , chestnut street, , , frank delaney, galway bay, , , , , , , mary pat kelly, Memoirs, , patricia falvey, patrick taylor, , smile roddy doyle, the daighters of ireland, the green road, , , the yellow house, , unraveling oliver: a novel   

    A Literary Tour of Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day 


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    As with every cultural holiday, St. Patrick’s Day often gets diluted and boiled down to its trappings—the green beer, the folk songs, the parades. And while everyone loves a good green beer, there’s so much more to Ireland in terms of history, culture—and literature. Some of the greatest writers, living and otherwise, are Irish, so this year let’s make a pledge to prep for March 17th by taking a deep dive into books coming out of the Emerald Isle. We’ll kick things off with this list of 12 must-read books by Irish authors, running the gamut from literary fiction to thrillers with a few stops in-between.

    Chestnut Street, by Maeve Binchy
    Published after the author’s death in 2012, this collection of short stories collects work Binchy produced over the course of her career, and thus offers not just a ground-level glimpse of Irish life and culture but an overview of Binchy’s writing style itself. The stories focus on ordinary people dealing with the ordinary, epic problems that everyone has. Husbands leave their wives and discover they’re still not happy. People struggle with jealousy, with heartbreak, with professional and personal failure. These stories—set in a single Dublin neighborhood, by and large—offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of its residents.

    Ireland, by Frank Delaney
    Delaney, a celebrated broadcaster and writer, offers up the history of Ireland framed as a series of fascinating stories told by a traveling Storyteller who visits nine-year old Ronan O’Mara in 1951. Trading stories for a bed and a meal, the Storyteller captivates Ronan—and the reader—with his tales of Irish Kings and warriors, until a story Ronan’s mother deems blasphemous sees him expelled from the house. Ronan goes in search of the Storyteller, and slowly evolves into a Storyteller himself, traveling Ireland and passing the stories on to a new generation. It’s a delightful book that acts as a stealth education on Ireland and its people.

    Smile, by Roddy Doyle
    Irish authors know how to spin a story like no one else. Booker Prize-winner Doyle returns with a fascinating character study that follows Victor Forde, a past-his-prime radio commentator who returns to his dingy hometown after separating from his celebrity chef wife. Abandoning his determination to make friends and do some writing, Forde drinks his sorrows away at Donnelly’s pub, spending time with the locals and then tottering off to work on a project he never quite gets started. One night at Donnelly’s, Forde encounters an old schoolmate, Fitzpatrick, a man he doesn’t remember from his violent years at St. Martin’s Christian Brothers School. Fitzpatrick forces Forde to revisit those dark childhood years, unraveling a decades-old mystery and memories of sexual abuse, and slowly becomes the man’s unlikely best friend, as Doyle builds to an ending both unexpected and inevitable.

    The Green Road, by Anne Enright
    Booker Prize-winning Enright was also the first Laureate for Irish Fiction, and this book tells the story of siblings dominated—and driven away—by their dramatic, excitable mother. Enright’s story is Irish, but she smartly sends the four Madigan children out into the world, where the language subtly loses its brogue and Enright can explore what it means to be Irish in the same larger context that people deal with in real life. The result is a marvelous story about family, about culture, and about those who choose to head out into the world and those who choose to stay close to home, and what those decisions cost each of them.

    The Yellow House, by Patricia Falvey
    Falvey, who was born in Northern Ireland but moved to America when she was twenty, left a high-powered job at PricewaterhouseCoopers to write her first novel—and you’ll be glad she did. The violence that plagued Northern Ireland throughout the 20th century is a vital part of Irish history, and Falvey frames it with a story about a determined young woman struggling to hold onto what’s hers in the midst of war both local and global, ultimately finding herself torn between two very different men. It’s as fiery and romantic as you want your Irish stories to be, and offers a perspective on the bloody sectarian violence that has defined much of recent history in the area, making this a moving and powerful read.

    The Irish Princess, by Karen Harper
    Harper offers up a gorgeous, lush story set in the 16th century. If you love historical narratives from outside perspectives, you will love the story of Elizabeth Fitzgerald, a girl born to Irish royalty…and a girl who knew the wrath of Henry VIII almost as much as his wives. The King imprisons her father, destroying her family, and she must seek allegiances and avoid enemies in the perilous English court of the aging king, seeing firsthand the fate of his wives and the intelligence and spirit of the young princesses, Mary and (future queen) Elizabeth.

    Galway Bay, by Mary Pat Kelly
    While the Great Irish Starvation might not seem like a particularly lush historical period for fiction, Kelly tells the story of her own family through that lens to spectacular effect. Beginning with Honora Keeley in 1839, who meets her future husband Michael Kelly swimming in Galway Bay, the story takes them through years of failed crops and bare survival before the momentous decision to take the trip to America to make a new life. Kelly’s chronicle of her own ancestors’ struggles and triumphs paints a masterful picture of a culture, a family, and an America in constant transition.

    The Daughters of Ireland, by Santa Montefiore
    A sequel to Montefiore’s The Girl in the Castle, this novel stands on its own and tells the story of Celia Deverill, who takes possession of the ruined Deverill Castle in 1925. She spends years lovingly refurbishing and repairing the place, only to see her family’s fortune destroyed in the crash of 1929—and her father and brother lost as well. Worse, she’s set upon by a blackmailer who tells her that her father’s fortune wasn’t exactly on the up-and-up, and Celia decides that she must clear her father’s name and rebuild her life using only her own energies. An ancient castle? A determined woman? This is the stuff of great stories, and Montefiore earns her bestselling status with a story of Ireland that will make you want a tour of the castles immediately.

    Unraveling Oliver: A Novel, by Liz Nugent
    Just in case you thought Ireland was all about gorgeous landscapes, romance, and the local pub, Nugent offers up this sprawling puzzle of a book. This is the story of Oliver Ryan, a successful children’s author in Dublin with a seemingly happy home life who one evening assaults his wife Alice, nearly killing her. But it’s also the story of everyone in Oliver’s life, past and present, who offer their stories about the man, weaving in and out of his own recollections. Bit by bit Oliver is exposed and the cause of his moment of violence is pieced together. Nugent brilliantly offers up stories that at first seem entertaining but unnecessary, then slowly links them more and more deeply until they click into place as essential clues. Dark and twisty, Nugent’s debut novel is urgent and violent and reminds us that we can walk away from our traumas, but we can never escape them.

    The Princes of Ireland, by Edward Rutherfurd
    An epic historical saga of the entirety of Irish history from Ireland in A.D. pre-Christian society through the founding of the Free Irish State, this novel follows fictional families through eras of Irish triumph and travails, starting with a romance in the 5th century that leads to tragedy and twisting and winding its way through time, stopping to note the arrival of Saint Patrick, the Viking attacks, the conquest by England, and the hanging of Silken Thomas in 1537. Threading history through the personal stories of people real and imagined, Rutherford paints a memorable picture of what Ireland was, is, and could be, making this an absolute joy to read, whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day or not.

    An Irish Country Doctor, by Patrick Taylor
    Taylor based this (and other books in his Irish Country series) on his own journals and notes from his youth, and the end result is a delight. Set in the 1960s in rural Ireland, freshly graduated Barry Laverty takes an apprenticeship with a small-town doctor (‛tiny’ is probably a better word than ‛small,’ actually) whose methods seem odd, but who slowly impresses Barry with his wisdom and dedication even as Barry gets sucked into the myriad local dramas and gossips that make small towns everywhere—but perhaps especially in Ireland—so interesting. This is the sort of book you sink into and get lost in, the sort of book that makes you want to book a trip to the Irish countryside immediately, and thus the ideal book to read in the month of March.

    Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
    Since the film adaptation of Brooklyn was nominated for an Oscar, more people than ever before know Tóibín’s name—and that is a very good thing. His status as a living link to Irish history is unparalleled: his grandfather was arrested during the 1916 Easter Rising, and his father was a member of the IRA. Tóibín’s work often explores Irish characters moving into unfamiliar cultures, which allows him to explore both with a deep intelligence and perceptive style that elevates his works above what are often fairly simple plots. He has commented that he grew up in a house with a “great deal of silence” and that his work “comes out of silence.” Ponder those statements while you’re reading some of the best writing of the modern age this St. Patrick’s Day.

    The post A Literary Tour of Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 3:00 pm on 2018/11/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , jeff tweedy, joe biden, Memoirs, ,   

    November’s Best Biographies and Memoirs 


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    Becoming, by Michelle Obama
    The memoir of any first lady is a major publishing event, but Michelle Obama stands doubly apart as a uniquely consequential figure who became a powerful advocate for women and girls around the world during her tenure, even while raising a family under the watchful eye of the media. Her life didn’t begin when her husband became president: the Princeton and Harvard Law graduate was a lawyer, educator, and executive before ever stepping foot in the White House. In her own words, she candidly talks about her life, her career, her family, and her continuing story.

    All the Way: Football, Fame, and Redemption, by Joe Namath and Sean Mortimer with Don Yaeger
    Fifty years after Joe 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 climbed to the very height of celebrity, but also dealt with debilitating injuries that led to an addiction to to painkillers and alcohol. Here, he reveals that the charmed life he appeared to lead masked real challenges.

    Back in the Game: One Gunman, Countless Heroes, and the Fight for My Life, by Steve Scalise with Jeffrey E. Stern
    One of the most dramatic and horrific stories of our modern political era occurred in the summer of 2017 when a gunman took aim at a baseball practice among a group of Republican members of Congress, near-fatally wounding Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Here, Scalise offers a minute-by-minute account of the attack, as well as the stories of the women and men—on the scene and in the days and weeks afterward—who helped to save his life.

    Let Her Fly: A Father’s Journey, by Ziauddin Yousafzai with Louise Carpenter and Malala Yousafzai
    In 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history for her work in promoting education for young women. Here, her father tells his own story, and shares what he’s learned from his life and his remarkable children. Ziauddin Yousafzai was born in a mud hut in Shangla, Pakistan and witnessed the rise of the Taliban in that region, a circumstance that ultimately led to his daughter’s shooting and the family’s subsequent uprooting to the UK. Himself a UN Special Advisor and activist, Ziauddin Yousafzai’s story is the fascinating true account of the father of a girl who became a world leader.

    Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc., by Jeff Tweedy
    Chicago’s Wilco has a following like few other bands, but despite their reverent attention, its lead singer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy hasn’t always been particularly forthcoming. In this new memoir, Tweedy talks about his entire life, with a particular focus on the live-music circuit and the Chicago scene that forged musical legends.

    Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, by Philip Norman
    Clapton’s influence on rock is indisputable: the 17-time Grammy winner has been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame three separate times. As a solo guitarist—and as a member of bands the Yardbirds, John Mavall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes—he’s been on the scene for more than a half-century. This biography, written by one of rock’s preeminent chroniclers in cooperation with Clapton and his family, follows the long road from an unconventional childhood, to the excesses of the ’60s and ’70s, through the tragic death of a child, and beyond.

    Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden
    The former vice president’s memoir, now in paperback, is his first since leaving the White House. It focuses on an extraordinary and difficult year in the life of Biden’s family: the 12 months surrounding the decline and death of his son, Beau, from a malignant brain tumor in 2015. The book provides a portrait of life in and out of the White House during a year of political challenges and world travel, set against the backdrop of a deeply personal story of loss.

    Whose story inspires you?

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

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

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


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    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.

     
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