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  • Jenny Shank 8:01 pm on 2019/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , nonfiction, 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, , nonfiction, 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.

  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/08/14 Permalink
    Tags: nonfiction, treat yo self   

    10 Books That Prove People Are Getting Serious About Happiness 

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    When we find ourselves in unsettled times, we turn to books for insight and guidance. And we aren’t the only ones: more people than ever are looking to books about wellness, self-improvement, and self-care, in search of advice on how to tackle stress and self-defeating behaviors head on. The best of these books have a fierce new attitude: today’s self-help isn’t about taking baby steps, it’s about grabbing life by the lapels and shaking it until happiness falls out of its pockets. Here are ten of the best books knocking us out of our rut and helping us make the move toward true growth.

    The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson
    This just might be the bible of the new self-help generation. Where the old-school approach treated happiness as a prize everyone deserves, Manson argues—forcibly and with a lot of sharp wit—that it’s better to be honest about your own limitations, and seek to adjust how you approach life instead of deciding life should be adjusted to suit your needs. Bracing and sometimes alarming, this book is a dash of cold water to the face that so many of us need. You will be happier for having read it, because the best way to start changing your life for the better is to start seeing it with clear eyes.

    Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis
    Hollis, founder of TheChicSite.com, writes a funny and warmhearted book imploring women to stop comparing themselves to each other and feeling like no amount of achievement will ever be enough. Hollis is up front about her own failings, relating a childhood in which she learned that accomplishments got praise, leading to a life spent living in a pressure cooker. These tendencies spilled into her love life, and Hollis, now a happily married mother of four, is brutally honest about her own missteps with her future husband. The end result is a book that will get women to take a step back, take a breath, and think hard about what they want instead of what’s expected of them.

    You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero
    Sincero’s bracing book offers an honest and personal system for achieving your goals, in which the focus is on getting over yourself. We all have dreams, and we all have limitations. Getting past the latter to achieve the former is often a matter of seeing reality and charting a path. Sincero offers advice drawn from her own often hilarious fails to help you put together a vision of the future you want and to get past the many, many ways you will try to self-sabotage. Sincero’s fun and edgy guidebook is essential reading for everyone fighting their own worst enemy—themselves.

    12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
    The greatest threat to happiness is lack of control, the sense that the world is swirling around you and things are happening without your permission. That chaotic energy can wear you down and make you want to give up, but renowned psychologist Peterson offers an off-center way of looking at the world that tames those wild currents and shows you how to bring order to the chaos. What’s new and great about his approach is how he lets his wide-ranging curiosity and broad knowledge inform the discussion, offering a series of fascinating lectures that go from ancient Egypt to skate parks around the world—because the new approach to self-help isn’t about boring theory, it’s about real knowledge applied to real problems with energy and intelligence.

    Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
    “Mindfulness”: it’s a term you hear all the time, an omnipresent buzzwords with vaguely New Age connotations. But mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools, and Kabat-Zinn’s book not only explains what, exactly, meditation is and how to go about it, it also explains why it’s worth pursuing. For anyone uncertain how meditation can help them take control of their lives and be happier, the answer is simple—it’s all about paying attention, shedding the distractions, and getting to the core of everything. In plain, honest language, Kabat-Zinn walks you through why it’s worth it.

    Zen as F*ck: A Journal for Practicing the Mindful Art of Not Giving a Sh*t, by Monica Sweeney
    Today’s happiness seekers aren’t the quiet spiritualists of the past—they’re warriors. Sweeney offers the ideal mindfulness book for folks who have to balance their rage and sarcasm with their sincere desire for centeredness and happiness. Putting aside all frippery and spacey proclamations, this book channels your butt-kicking, take-no-prisoners attitude and funnels it into a mindful and hopeful guide that’s as funny and fierce as you are. For anyone who has rejected meditation or yoga as not for them, this is the book that will get you to zen.

    The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness, and Happiness Through the Power of Sisu, by Katja Pantzar
    Today’s self-helpers aren’t content to sit around waiting for knowledge to be delivered—they go out and get it for themselves. After reading that the Finns are the happiest people in the world, Pantzar moved to Finland to find out why. Her discoveries about the “Finnish Way” are remarkable in their power. Insights including the way that exercise outside the gym is powerful medicine, or how nature is healing and energizing, or how personal courage and grit can be a sustaining force within ourselves will offer solace to her fellow happiness seekers.

    The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer
    Singer asks a powerful question that gets straight to the point: who are we? What makes us us? The answer is obvious once you think about it: it’s out consciousness, our thinking, observing, intuitive self. Singer goes on to discuss how developing our consciousness and our sense of self—our control over ourselves—can help us to heal from anything, get over anything, achieve anything. Singer takes the reader on a journey into themselves to identify and tap into the incredible power we all carry within ourselves, then takes us back outside to show us how to use it once we have it in our hands. Forget exterior forces—you already have everything you need to be better.

    Let That Sh*t Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullsh*t Behind and Creating a Happy Life, by Monica Sweeney
    Everyone knows the combination of sweet and sour that comes with holding a grudge, or picking at a scab, emotional or physical. Sweeney knows how debilitating holding onto negativity can be, and has some profane and irreverent—but powerful—ideas on how you can let go of all that drags you down through journaling and related exercises. This journal will encourage you to rage onto the page, and experience the power of exorcising your own demons your own damn self.

    Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life, by Gary John Bishop
    Many people know that feeling of weight, of unhappiness, of being so twisted up you can’t even figure out what the first step toward fixing everything should be. The difference today is, people aren’t willing to accept it any more. Bishop has a refreshingly simple reason that we feel this way:  we’re in our own way, and all we have to do is stop talking down to and insulting ourselves. For anyone who has called themselves names and experienced self-hate, Bishop has seven powerful assertions that will help untwist your thoughts and offer true clarity so you can begin being the better version of yourself.

    The post 10 Books That Prove People Are Getting Serious About Happiness appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2018/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: an astronaut's guide to life on earth, chris hadfield, earthrise: my adventures as an apollo 14 astronaut, edgar mitchell, endurance: a year in space a lifetime of discovery, floating 'round my tin can, flying to the moon: an astronaut's story, , , nonfiction, sally ride, scott kelly, to space and back   

    Books in Space: 5 Great Astronaut Memoirs 

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    There’s just no cooler resume line item in the world than “astronaut.” You can take your actors, your rock stars, your Nobel Prize winners. Yeah, sure they made art and connected with millions, but the one thing none of those people ever did was leave the Earth in a marvel of science and engineering and visit outer space.

    Blasting off to the infinity and beyond (or at the least the moon, or Earth’s orbit) is something only a few hundred people in history have ever done. And until consumer space flights and Mars colonization become a thing, being an astronaut is such a unique and fascinating experience that we’ll have to look to the thoughts and recollections of others to get even a taste of what it’s actually like to gaze at Earth from above. Here are six astronauts who went to space, returned, and then wrote about it.

    Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery, by Scott Kelly
    For some, going to space is a once- or twice-in-a-career occurrence. For Scott Kelly, going to space is his career. This dude has spent about as much time in space as you’ve spent in an office. He’s been on four different space flights and no American has ever spent more time in space. He’s the perfect guinea pig—and now literary expert—on the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body, brain, and spirit. He writes unflinchingly about being in space, and the difficulty of returning to civilian life. Especially interesting is Kelly’s report of a fascinating experiment in which he took part. To study exactly what space does to the body, NASA studied his earthbound twin brother and compared his aging process to that of Kelly…who spent an entire year in the outer limits.

    An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield
    Not only is Chris Hadfield an astronaut with more than 4,000 space hours to his credit, he’s an unabashedly joyful and welcoming ambassador (and fan) of space programs. He revived widespread interest in space travel with his dispatches from space, satellite hookups to classrooms, and viral video of himself singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station. In his book, the perpetually-wonder-filled Hadfield details his journey from an Ontario corn farm to the world’s most famous modern-day spaceman. He’s also remarkably frank—and fantastically detailed—about the process of going into space, and the day-to-day, moment-to-moment realities of living in space.

    Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story, by Michael Collins
    Of the three men to successfully reach the moon for the first time in July 1969—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins—only Collins didn’t get to actually set foot on that sweet, sweet green cheese surface. As the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 spacecraft, Collins dropped off Armstrong and Aldrin in their Lunar Module and then he orbited the moon. That means Collins was the only one of the historic trio to spend time in space alone, placing him in the embedded observer role on the NASA moon mission. He was uniquely qualified, then, to give this fascinating, first-hand, well-measured journalistic account on what it was like to go to the moon and back.

    To Space and Back, by Sally Ride
    It’s a memoir in the form of a coffee table book…for kids! The extra-large full-color format allows for tons of remarkable photos taken in space, adding an extra dimension (and something to contemplate) while one reads the words and memories of Ride, the first American woman in space. The copy is geared towards children, and the questions they’d have about space, such as how it feels to be weightless, the unique strangeness of blasting off, and what (and how) astronauts on the Space Shuttle eat.

    Earthrise: My Adventures as an Apollo 14 Astronaut, by Edgar Mitchell
    Mitchell was part of the Apollo 14 crew in 1971, one of NASA’s final moonshots and one that was relatively (but not completely) uneventful when compared to Apollo 11 (the first one that landed on the moon) and Apollo 13 (which was so notably disastrous they made a movie about it). Mitchell covers the nerve-wracking experience that is flying to the moon, but that’s just part of this The Right Stuff-esque account of a man who was a career astronaut and who had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. For example, he spent a great deal of time in Roswell, New Mexico—when the government was conducting nuclear testing, and when a UFO supposedly crashed there—and served as a Navy fighter pilot. Mitchell isn’t afraid to get profound either, waxing poetic as he does about looking down on one’s own home planet.

    What astronaut memoirs would you recommend?

    The post Books in Space: 5 Great Astronaut Memoirs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Brian Boone 2:30 pm on 2018/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: drawn from life, , nonfiction   

    10 Essential Nonfiction Graphic Novels 

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    The graphic novel has emerged as a major storytelling medium over the last few decades thanks to visionary artists and writers like Alan Moore and Craig Thompson. But it’s such a sensitive, intimate form that by its visual nature allows for so much visceral detail that it’s become a tool for authors and artists to tell their stories—either their life stories, family stories, or world events that shaped them. Here are 10 of the most profound and fascinating nonfiction graphic novels.

    The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography, by Tetsu Saiwai
    The man we all know as the Dalai Lama, because he’s been the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists around the world for more than 75 years, was once just a toddler named Llamo Thondup. Then he took on the name Tenzin Gyatso and became the fourteenth Dalai Lama. While he’s been a world and religious leader for longer than most of us have been alive, his life remains shrouded in mystery, in part because he lives in exile in India because of the Chinese takeover of Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama’s amazing and fascinating life story, which runs concurrently with some of the biggest events in 20th and 21st century Asian history, has never been told better than in Tetsu Saiwai’s graphic tale, The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography. Saiwai presents the story in the traditional Japanese manga style, befitting this almost unbelievable true life tale of cultural heroism.

    Tetris: The Games People Play, by Box Brown
    As great as many of them turn out to be, most video games don’t have that interesting of an origin story—somebody at a software company gets an idea, 100 people develop it, millions are entertained. The story of the classic puzzle game Tetris is far more interesting…and harrowing. Created by a Russian computer scientist named Alexey Pajiitnov during the Soviet era, the story of Tetris is one of corporate manipulation and government interference behind the Iron Curtain. Author and artist Box Brown also fits his style to the material, drawing in a boxy, blocky style, suggesting the endless shapes of Tetris itself.

    Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman
    Maus is the Citizen Kane or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of graphic novels—it pioneered the form, and rarely have others that came after have come close to doing what Art Spiegelman did. In 1992, it became the first ever graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It’s the autobiographical tale of Spiegelman coming to grips with his father’s haunting and devastating memories of enduring the Holocaust as a European Jew. Spiegelman depicts those scenes as a literal cat-and-mouse game: Cats are cast as Nazis, and mice as Jewish people. That sounds flippant, but it’s anything but—Maus sensitively humanizes the Jewish war experience. Readers will be chilled and forever changed by what deceptively looks like Sylvester and Tweety Bird.

    Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Alison Bechdel is a veteran cartoonist probably best known for the “Bechdel Test.” A viral idea taken from a 1985 strip, a movie successfully passes the test, and is deemed less sexist than the usual Hollywood fare, if two women are shown having a conversation about something besides a man. Bechdel is also the author of, to date, the only graphic novel ever turned into a Tony-winning Broadway musical. Her 2007 memoir Fun Home grapples with lots of Big Issues, including family, sexuality, and death. Bechdel grew up in a rural Pennsylvania funeral home her father operated. Throughout the book, Bechdel replays multiple incidents from her childhood as she tries to make sense as to why her father stayed a closeted homosexual for so long, as well as why he made a tragic decision that changed her world.

    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, by Guy Delisle
    Great journalists observe first and then report, making sense of their subject along the way. In that regard Guy Delisle is a journalist and a cartoonist, providing de facto reports about what daily life is like in the far-flung locals where he travels with his wife, a physician with Doctors Without Borders. In addition to works about Myanmar (Burma Chronicles) and China (Shenzen: A Travelogue from China) is Delisle’s most revelatory work: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. He’s the right man for the job: Delisle wasn’t allowed to use a camera or smuggle out photos, but he could draw his experiences there and bring back to the West to demonstrate what life is really like for regular people in the closed-off nation.

    Muhammad Ali, by Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane 
    Okay, this one does kind of feel like a comic book, if only because it’s about a guy who was the closest thing this planet ever got to Superman. Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane use striking panel art to tell the complete life story—the good parts and the bad parts—of “The Greatest,” boxer and Civil Rights activist Muhammad Ali. Sometimes graphic novels are a great way to get reluctant readers (kids especially) to pick up a book, and this one might do the trick, providing plenty of context to show not only how Ali was great but why he was so great.

    Smile, by Raina Telegemeier
    Nonfictional graphic novels are a great way to learn about the world around us, but they’re also a source for relatable, “small” tales of an individual’s experience. Smile is that kind of story, and it’s also the story of how its cartoonist became a cartoonist. Raina Telegemeier suffered terrible mouth injury as a child, and it required extensive surgeries. Smile details that harrowing journey, as well as the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of her classmates, all of which led her on an inward journey into the world of…sequential storytelling. (It also includes a very visceral, you-are-there retelling of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.)

    The Beats: A Graphic History, by Harvey Pekar
    With his long-running American Splendor series, irascible crank and cartoonist Harvey Pekar was a major proponent of biographical cartooning. He’s one of many who worked on this animated textbook about an equally important American artistic movement: the Beats. A group that included people as artistically disruptive and often strange as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg need to have their stories told through an unconventional means. A thoroughly honest self-made outsider like Pekar is the one to tell them.

    Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi 
    This graphic novel is both a history book as well as a memoir, which makes it more impactful as essential examples of both genres. Author Marjane Satrapi was born to a middle-class family in Tehran, Iran, in the ‘60s, and this two-volume recollection shows what life was like before, during, and after that country’s Islamic Revolution. It’s a tale of broad change, but also small change, and how big movements can affect one’s very perception of themselves.

    The Elements of Style (Illustrated), by William Strunk, E.B. White, and Maria Kalman
    As important as it is, and as many times as we’ve all consulted it, let’s be honest: The Elements of Style is a real slog. It’s a grammar and punctuation textbook, which is just going to be dry, no matter how it’s approached. Or…not? The arcane and arbitrary rules of the English come alive when illustrator Maria Kalman applies her warm, classic, and even funny artwork to the words of original authors William Strunk and E.B. White. The result is what any great book, fiction or nonfiction, all-words or graphic-based should do: Make the reader understand.

    What’s your favorite nonfiction graphic noel?

    The post 10 Essential Nonfiction Graphic Novels appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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