Posts filed under 'Biography/Memoir'
I waited awhile to read this biography because I wasn’t certain how interested I was in the subject. Still, overwhelmingly positive reviews continued to come in, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.
Stacy Schiff sorts through lots of primary source material and from the writers of Cleopatra’s day, and pieces together a detailed portrait of a woman who has long been vilified. Schiff shows us the motivations of those who wrote about Cleopatra either glowingly or deprecatingly and draws reasonable conclusions about what is true about Cleopatra, what may be exaggerated, and what material was likely fabricated. Now that I’ve read the book, I’m glad I hadn’t read much prior material about her. I doubt it could stand up to Schiff’s portrait of a strong, determined, intelligent and insightful woman who was able to hold her own against the mostly male rulers of the day.
I recommend this biography for fans of ancient history, and those interested in the the real story of Cleopatra and her impact on the ancient world.
Find Cleopatra:A Life in our catalog.
March 30th, 2011
It’s still early in February, but we thought we’d start working on our Valentine’s day recommendations. This year, rather than offer formula romances, we’re presenting you a list of real love stories:
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: a love story with wings (B B624)
Falling Palace: a romance of Naples(914.573 H713)
HRH The Duchess of York
Victoria and Albert: a family life at Osborne House (942.081 V64y )
Love Stories of World War II (940.53 L897)
Gutted: down to the studs in my house, my marriage, my entire life (643.7 L331)
The Turkish Lover (B Sa23t)
Love is a Mix Tape: life and loss one song at a time (B Sh543)
Frankie’s Place: a love story (B St838)
About Alice (792.028092 ei34)
February 2nd, 2011
Hillenbrand has written another impressive work of non-fiction (after Seabiscuit). Although the Unbroken was just published in November, 2010, Universal has already optioned the film rights.
Unbroken tells the story of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, beginning with his misspent youthful years of mischief and petty thievery in California. Louis had a big personality and a big way of doing everything he attempted. On the verge of being expelled from school, his older brother Pete championed Louis and convinced the principal to allow him to stay and participate in sports. Pete was a competitive runner and knew that Louis had even more talent than he. Pete, at only a few years older, was such a good mentor and coach that Louis became not only a hometown champion, but made his way onto the 1936 Olympic team, competing in Berlin.
The first part of Louis’ story is certainly book-worthy in itself, but it’s only the beginning. The real story begins as America enters the war and Louis enlists. The stories of Louis’ time while serving in the war are both chilling and gripping and include descriptions of raids during which his plane was shot no fewer than 500 times and still made it back to the airfield, his long time adrift on a raft after his plane was shot down, and his time of suffering in a variety of Japanese P.O.W. Camps. Then Hillenbrand takes us a step further into Louis’ life post-war when he finds himself struggling with his memories of war and unable to move forward until he is inspired to take on a task of redemption.
Hillenbrand brings an amazing story to light in her latest and it’s not to be missed by history or military buffs, sports fans, or anyone interested in reading about a truly inspirational life. There’s a reason this was dubbed “The Greatest Generation”.
Find Unbroken in our catalog.
January 22nd, 2011
Spoto first came to my attention as the biographer of Audrey Hepburn (Enchantment). I appreciated his balanced treatment of Hepburn along with his insights. When I saw he had completed a biography of Kelly, I immediately put it on my to-read list.
In High Society, Spoto focuses mainly on Kelly’s few Hollywood years. He painstakingly dispels many myths and rumors about her early life and offers behind-the-scenes tales of Grace and her relationships with her directors and her co-stars. He also portrays her as a rebel against the studio system who chose many of her own roles, even when the studio had other ideas.
Unfortunately, Spoto spends much more time on Kelly’s various films and love affairs than he does on the second half of her life as a wife, a mother, and patron of the arts in Monaco and France. It seems that the time of her life spent in Monaco would be even more fascinating than her early life. Still, given her status and her family’s wish for privacy and control of information that it’s probably more difficult to write much of her later life other than the speculation already served up in European tabloids. There’s not much groundbreaking material here, but if you’re a Kelly fan, you’ll find it an entertaining read.
Find High Society in our catalog.
October 23rd, 2010
In case you’re not familiar with this particular pop phenomenon, here’s a little background. Writer Justin Halpern moved back in with his folks after a bad breakup. He soon started writing down his dad’s sharp, off-color, often hilarious, and brutally honest comments and put them out on Twitter, gathering a multitude of followers in the process. His dad’s quips became so popular, in fact, that Halpern was able garner a book deal and CBS is planning a sitcom based on the Twitter feed.
This book is more than just a collection of tweets. Each chapter covers an episode from Justin’s life followed by a collection of comments by his father that are related in some way to the focus of the chapter. It’s an amusing collection, a quick read, and fun for all those Twitter followers to find out just a little more about what makes Halpern’s father tick.
Find Sh*t My Dad Says in our catalog.
September 21st, 2010
If you’ve read Kitchen Confidential, you’ll have an idea of Bourdain’s subject matter. In his latest, Bourdain again speaks honestly about cooks and cooking, paying close attention to those considered the best in the field. This book is not another Kitchen Confidential though, Bourdain’s outlook and writing style have matured. This book shows us a humbler Bourdain who has come to understand what it takes to be truly great Chef even as he explains why he would not consider himself to be one. He takes on Top Chef, the politics of The Food Network, and explains how he metamorphosed from a chef to a cooking/travel show host who has come to have a great appreciation for the truly gifted chefs. Bourdain is funny, crass, honest, wonderfully descriptive, and has a few surprises up his sleeve for his readers. Recommended for his fans and for foodies.
Find My Bloody Valentine in our catalog.
August 29th, 2010
When Piper Kerman was just out of college, she took up with a crowd very unlike her college friends. They were not only into drugs, but into drug smuggling. Piper eventually was convinced to transport a briefcase full of cash, after which, she decided to make a clean break from the group and start over in San Francisco. Many years later, her brief criminal past caught up with her as the drug ring was taken down and names were named.
Orange is the New Black is Piper’s fascinating memoir of her much-delayed incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, CT. While she shares the horror of having to go to prison, she also admits her guilt and fully understands she is there because of her own actions. As much as it is a memoir, it’s also a sociological look at what goes on in a minimum security federal prison. As Piper ticks off the months of her sentence, she also comes to understand the larger issues surrounding her crime and how she contributed to the addictions of others.
Find Orange is the New Black in our catalog.
July 28th, 2010
This is a difficult memoir to read in many ways, but a very imporant one. It’s Nujood’s story, and although she had assistance in committing it to paper, it still comes across as the voice of a very young girl who was put in a terrible situation by those she thought she could count on.
Nujood’s family had fallen on hard times and her father deemed it best to marry her off, at age 10, to a man he barely knew. Although Nujood’s husband promised her father that he would not touch Nujood until she was older, it’s a promise he had no intention of keeping. He also beat Nujood when she cried and fought his advances and when she could take it no more, she naively found her way to the court house to ask for a divorce.
Nujood had no idea she was the first such child bride to seek a divorce and had no idea of the possible repercussions and ramifications her act could bring. This is a quick read, but it’s of sufficient length to tell Nujood’s story as well as she could understand it herself.
Find I am Nujood, age 10 and divorced in our catalog.
July 2nd, 2010
When Roger and Ginny Rosenblatt’s daughter Amy died suddenly at the age of 38, they didn’t hesitate to move in with their son-in-law and three young grandchildren. They did this although they lived hours away, had careers hours away, had friends hours away, and lived in their dream house hours away. What the Rosenblatts knew was that their son-in-law was capable, successful, and a good parent. What they found out was that it would take the three of them to help fill the emptiness left by Amy’s death.
In this moving memoir told in a series of vignettes, Rosenblatt writes of their grief, their efforts to help raise the children as Amy would have done, their missteps, their small successes, and of the love they have for their family and friends who provided significant support and encouragement. This is a touching memoir that comes across not only as a tale of grief, but also as a story of love.
Find Making Toast in our catalog
May 31st, 2010
Heymann takes a look at the story many have suggested, but few have detailed about the romance between RFK and Jackie Kennedy. It apparently started not long after the death of President Kennedy, and lasted until nearly the end of Robert’s life. Heymann interviews those in the know, and includes dates, places, witnesses and details. You’ll also read plenty about JFK’s carousing right under Jackie’s nose and about all the political-hollywood hookups of the day. If you have any illusions about Heymann’s subjects, be prepared to have them shattered.
Find Bobby and Jackie: a love story in our catalog.
April 25th, 2010
Patti Smith’s memoir of her very special friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe is a special book. It is fascinating, intelligent, perceptive, and tender and, by turns, delightfully happy and overwhelmingly sad. The book details the several years when Patti and Robert lived together, established a lifelong friendship, and made a pact to always care for each other. It opens and closes with a eulogy to Mapplethorpe, a loving remembrance of the time of his death.
Patti and Robert were “just kids” living in New York City, starting when they were both 21; they had no money, but strong artistic dreams, drive, and talents. Their successes were to be in the future. Our current knowledge of their talents adds to our interest in their early years. Patti Smith’s telling of this time adds to our understanding of how they developed and became the artists we now know.
The book is also rich in details of time and place –Brooklyn, Greenwich Village, Coney Island, and the Hotel Chelsea - and descriptions of relationships with other famous artists – Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Sam Shepard - are just a few. If you remember these times and places, some of the details will take you there. If you don’t remember, the details and some of the illustrations and photographs will give you a strong sense where they were and where you might have been.
Find Just Kids in our catalog.
March 10th, 2010
George Carlin and his friend, Tony Hendra worked on Carlin’s biography on and off for many years. After Carlin’s death in 2008, Hendra compiled the book in the way he thought Carlin would have wanted. Last Words is Carlin’s biography, but it’s more than that. It’s the portrait of a little boy who didn’t want to live up to his mother’s expectations, who became in turn a street punk, a comedian, and a social commentator. Carlin’s biting wit and political views are fully present in this volume, but we also get to see how his talent and views developed and the forces that propelled him from small-time impersonator to much-loved star. Highly recommended for Carlin fans.
Find Last Words in our catalog.
March 6th, 2010