Biographies, Memoirs and Autobiographies 2018

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Biographies, Memoirs and Autobiographies 2018

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Jan 4, 2018, 3:38 pm

What have you read?

Jan 4, 2018, 3:39 pm

Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe
Cullen Murphy
4.5/5 stars
Somehow this book ended up on my hold shelf, I know I must have ordered it but had forgotten all about it. What a wonderful surprise this book was to me! I love comics and this was a look at a slice of life that is disappearing. Cullen Murphy, the author and comic strip artist; writes of the heydey of print comic strips and the artists that lived in Connecticut including his father, John Cullen Murphy who drew the Prince Valiant comic for a time. If you love comics or just a good book, I think you will enjoy this look back at the wonderful artists and the work they did.

Editado: Jan 21, 2018, 6:28 pm

Walking Through Walls: A Memoir
Philip Smith
3/5 stars
In this non-fiction book, Philip Smith, an editor and artist writes about his life growing up with his father, Lew Smith, a decorator and psychic healer. Yes, this is non-fiction though it does read like fiction and in this very interesting account, he details his father’s highly unusual life as he helps heal people psychically using pendulums and also has the ability to talk to the dead. As I read this book, I did and still have my doubts about his father’s abilities but I think you’ll have to read this book to make up your own mind.

Jan 30, 2018, 3:05 pm

The Doctor Wears Three Faces
Mary Bard
3.5/5 stars
I have always been a big fan of Betty MacDonald and have read her books. I did not know that her sister was also a writer of several books and was very excited to find this one. In this book, Mary describes her married life to a very busy doctor and raising a family, along with remodeling a home and the endless problems with all of it. She has a similar writing style to her sister and puts a lot of humor and wit into her writing. If you enjoyed her sister's books you will enjoy Mary's spin on life.

Fev 15, 2018, 3:28 am

Just finished My father's name last night, really excellent bio/memoir-ish thing about Jackson's quest to find his family history and the story he can piece together of their lives, interwoven with the history of the county his family is from (so, a lot of slavery/race stuff, before, during, and after the war/emancipation). Wonderful book that ought to be more widely known!

Editado: Fev 19, 2018, 10:52 am

Chasing the Last Laugh: How Mark Twain Escaped Debt and Disgrace with a Round-the-World Comedy Tour
by Richard Zacks
4/5 stars
Not knowing a lot about Mark Twain, I found this book at the bookstore which looked very intriguing. This is not a full biography of Twain but encompasses his later years when he is facing bankruptcy after investing in the Paige typesetter. To get out of debt he agrees to a round-the-world speaking tour beginning in 1896 and traveling through Australia, New Zealand, India, North and South America with his wife and two of his daughters. This book describes his experiences in those countries, the people he meets and retells some of the programs and stories he gives during his speaking programs. The tour is fairly successful but he has bouts of illness and a tragedy happens towards the end of the tour. I found this very interesting and it really expanded my knowledge of Twain and his writings.

Fev 26, 2018, 9:33 pm

The Zoo: The Wild and Wonderful Tale of the Founding of London Zoo:1826-1851
by Isobel Charman
4/5 stars
Charman does a wonderful job in describing the beginnings of the London Zoo. Each chapter highlights a different time period and a individual or individuals who were involved with the zoo during that time period including, a zoo keeper, a founder, gardener and an animal doctor. Even Charles Darwin gets a chapter for he was a corresponding member of the zoo and used the resources of the zoo in his work and research. I think I was most shocked at the deaths of a lot of the animals that came to live in the zoo and how the zoo personal tried everything they could think of to prevent the loss of the exotic animals.

Editado: Abr 14, 2018, 12:38 pm

I'm now reading, and very much enjoying, Speak to Me, Dance with Me, a memoir by famed dancer/choreographer Agnes de Mille.

Abr 14, 2018, 6:32 pm

>11 rocketjk: Will be interested in your review!

Abr 20, 2018, 4:43 pm

>12 JulieLill: I finished Speak to Me, Dance with Me and my review is up on my 50-Book Challenge thread, which you'll find here:

Abr 21, 2018, 5:11 pm

>13 rocketjk: Great review! Thanks!

Abr 21, 2018, 5:12 pm

>14 LynnB: I have this on my list to read but I fear I will be the last person to have read this book. I work at the my library at circulation (and Tech) and it is still very popular.

Abr 22, 2018, 8:19 am

JulieLill, as someone who first read Gone With the Wind in 2004, and Orwell's 1984 in 1985 (I figured I'd wait and read it has an historical novel), I can relate!

Abr 22, 2018, 10:19 pm

Editado: Abr 22, 2018, 10:24 pm

Behind Every Great Man Forgotten Women Behind the World's Famous and Infamous
Marlene Wagman-Geller
3.5/5 stars
Short biographies of women and their famous partners make up this interesting book. While the chapters only give a short synopsis of the women and their partners, Geller entices you to want to learn more about these women. Some of the women written about include Eva Braun, Oona ONeill, Winnie Mandela and Constance Lloyd. Fascinating!

Also titled Behind Every Great Man: Women in the Shadows of History's Alpha Males. The original title was for a advance copy.

Editado: Abr 27, 2018, 7:40 am

Abr 29, 2018, 12:45 pm

Just started Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and Mother's Love by Zack McDermott. NY Times gave it a terrific review and I am looking forward to getting further into it.

Abr 29, 2018, 7:01 pm

>21 jwrudn: Sounds interesting and sounds like something I would read. Looking forward to your review.

Maio 2, 2018, 3:16 pm

I'm reading Lab Girl by Hope Jahren which is part memoir and part science.

Maio 6, 2018, 9:08 pm

Lab Girl had tremendous hype, reviews. I found much of it tedious.

But on a related note...

OMG (pardon the pun). 'Finished I'm Perfect You're Doomed Sad and comic at the same time. A fast read and a wonderful HBO-style comic show , but with a bite of reality...

Maio 8, 2018, 11:03 am

>24 Sandydog1: I was very impressed with Jahren's science prose, but I didn't need to be dragged along through her weird field trips and her emotional sagas. The middle of the book was a long slog for me too.

Maio 8, 2018, 4:02 pm

>24 Sandydog1: I have to add I'm Perfect You're Doomed to my reading-just cause it has a great title.

Maio 9, 2018, 8:07 pm

Just finished Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love by Zack McDermott. A terrific book: funny, at times painful to read and ultimately uplifting. The best memoir I have read about living with mental illness. Starting Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I have Loved by Kate Bowler

Maio 10, 2018, 3:25 pm

>27 jwrudn: That sounds definitely like something I would read - adding to my list.

Maio 16, 2018, 8:10 pm

Finished Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler. Bowler was 35 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. The book chronicles her uncertain life with cancer, her aggravation at the advice and attempts at consolation ("everything happens for a reason") she receives, and reconciling her faith with bad things happening to good people. A well-written, thought-provoking book with lessons for anyone going to die.

Maio 28, 2018, 12:37 pm

I finished the excellent history Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the first origins of the concept of separation of church and state in American (and English) political/religious though, 100 years before Jefferson and the rest of the founders of the American republic. It's not a full-fledged biography of Williams, but he is certainly the central figure in the history.

Maio 31, 2018, 5:17 pm

>31 LynnB: That sounds like a apt title for a book on a judge.

Editado: Jun 2, 2018, 10:28 am

Jun 18, 2018, 2:39 pm

I'm reading A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. It's been on the shelf for a while, and today, one of her kidnappers was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Jun 20, 2018, 1:18 pm

I'm slogging through Fanny Stevenson: A Romance of Destiny by Alexandra Lapierre. She was Robert Louis Stevenson's wife. This should be a fascinating woman, but I am bored to tears. On the verge of giving it up.

Jun 20, 2018, 4:33 pm

>34 LynnB: That’s extraordinary news. While reading the book, it never once crossed my mind that any of the kidnappers could be tried someday.

Jul 2, 2018, 12:10 pm

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Allie Brosh
3.5/5 stars
Brosh writes and illustrates this part book/part graphic autobiography about herself and the funny situations she gets herself into. I found myself chuckling through this book and relating to some of the stories. Short read.

Jul 13, 2018, 2:04 pm

Having recently read House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout, I've started The Price of Life by Nigel Brennan, who was held with her.

Jul 16, 2018, 12:08 pm

Not a book but a documentary- I though this would fit in here.

Jane 2017
This is a wonderful documentary on Jane Goodall who was sent to record and document the lives of chimpanzees in Tanzania. I knew a little about her before seeing this film but I was blown away with all the work she did with chimpanzees. She met her husband through her work when he came to photograph her work and her son was raised in Gombe among the apes. Highly recommended.

Jul 17, 2018, 5:28 am

> 42 Were you trying to link something here?

Jul 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

Editado: Jul 25, 2018, 12:10 pm

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
Ruth Franklin
5/5 stars
Franklin does a wonderful job delving into writer Shirley Jackson’s world. Jackson did not live a storybook life. She was raised by extremely critical parents and even her marriage had its problems including infidelity. She also suffered from depression yet she was so smart and intuitive and her stories were so amazingly complex and intricate. If you only read one biography this year-this has to be the one.

Editado: Jul 27, 2018, 12:11 pm

How About Never—Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons
Bob Mankoff
4/5 stars
Bob Mankoff does a wonderful job on this autobiography/nonfiction book about his life as a cartoonist, his job as former cartoon editor for The New Yorker (now at Esquire) and founder of the online Cartoon Bank. This book is not just about him but a short history of the cartooning business and helping other cartoonists get ahead in the business. Enjoyable and informative.

Jul 31, 2018, 1:07 pm

Ago 5, 2018, 9:03 am

I'm rounding out my reading on the kidnapping of Amanda Lindhout by reading her mother's book: One Day Closer: A Mother's Quest to Bring her Kidnapped Daughter Home by Lorinda Stewart.

Ago 19, 2018, 6:43 pm

Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses
By Anthony Slide
3/5 stars
Slide discusses the various actors and actresses that made a living in the silent film era. Each segment on each actor is only a few pages long. Some made it into the talkie era but many of the others' careers ended when talkies took off. He also discusses the studios and I was surprised that the Chicago Essanay Film Manufacturing Company was a fairly big player in the silent film era. It eventually merged with other studios. Definitely for silent film buffs but I wanted more info though I fear a lot of the silent film era information has been lost.

Ago 20, 2018, 7:30 pm

I've just started On Watch by Elmo Zumwalt. Zumwalt was a very high ranking admiral in the U.S. Navy during the Nixon administration. Looking forward to reading Zumwalt's account.

Ago 26, 2018, 8:46 pm

Set 4, 2018, 3:45 pm

Am reading Hank & Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart by Scott Eyman. I bought this awhile ago and finally started it. So interesting!

Set 6, 2018, 4:38 pm

Set 16, 2018, 4:53 pm

Hank & Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart
Scott Eyman
4.5/5 stars
Being a huge movie fan, when I saw this at the bookstore, I knew I had to buy this book and I was not disappointed. The two met in New York as stage actors and became friendly and ended up as roommates. This book follows them through that period to the end of their lives even discussing their time in the military during WWII and their movie and stage careers. So interesting, this will be one of my top books this year.

Editado: Set 21, 2018, 1:48 pm

The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica
Laurie Gwen Shapiro
4/5 stars
This is the wonderful true story about William "Billy" Gawronski, a young man who longs to go to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd who had a soft spot in his heart for stowaways. After 3 attempts to hide on the boat, he has been allowed to stay and work on one of the ships on the trip doing odd jobs. Shapiro does a very nice job writing about Gawronksi through his life and highlighting the time period which included the beginning of the Great Depression that rocks Gawronski’s life and the lives of millions of people.

Set 23, 2018, 10:55 pm

Obit. Life on Deadline
Wonderful documentary on the people who work and write the obituaries of the world's movers and shakers at The New York Times. They discuss the process and the pitfalls of being obituary writers including who they are going to remember, the process of writing and it also discusses the famous biography files they keep on popular and newsworthy people.

Editado: Set 24, 2018, 9:56 pm

Set 27, 2018, 8:37 am

Bother. Inspired by this group, I've just hit Amazon UK and ordered a copy of Philip Ziegler's biography of Rupert Hart-Davis. I'm a bit dubious about Ziegler because I tend to think of him as a royal-watcher but I may be doing him an injustice. Hart-Davis fascinates me, after having read the Lyttelton-Hart-Davis Letters recently. (Touchstone goes to the selection, but I have the whole lot, as 3 fat paperbacks.)

Set 29, 2018, 3:10 pm

When We Rise by Cleve Jones.
I have a family connection to the author—we share cousins and an aunt and I knew Helen, his grandmother, whose appearance in this book gives me another reason to remember her fondly. I don’t know Cleve but I read his book with interest. He became famous for his political activities and the AIDs Memorial Quilt, and was portrayed by Emile Hirsch in the movie Milk.

Editado: Set 29, 2018, 7:38 pm

I finished On Watch, Elmo Zumwalt's fascinating, if extremely detailed, memoir as his time as Chief Naval Officer during the Nixon Administration. Zumwalt wrote his book very soon after the events. Read from this remove, time-wise, On Watch comes across as vivid reflection of many of the issues of the 1970s, especially as experienced from within the military establishment and from within the Nixon/Kissinger bizarro world.

My more in-depth comments on both books, especially the latter, can be found on my 50-Book Challenge thread.

Editado: Out 15, 2018, 12:14 pm

The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China From the Bottom Up
by Liao Yiwu
3.5/5 stars
Liao Yiwu interviews the citizens of China about life in China following the rise of Mao and beyond. The chapters highlight the jobs these people held and the changes that the revolution had on their lives. It is a sad book about the way the people of China were treated by their government and their fellow citizens who were forced to turn in their neighbors for any offences perceived whether true or not. Disturbing content but well-written.

Out 23, 2018, 12:38 pm

I've been working on Memoirs of a Georgian Rake by William Hickey. He led quite the life.

Out 24, 2018, 7:28 am

I've been listening to Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. It appears to have been finished and published just short of his departure.

And reading And Nothing But the Truthiness, a bio of Stephen Colbert. It started out less than interesting, but has improved.

Editado: Out 24, 2018, 12:07 pm

>64 LynnB: That's an interesting title.

Out 26, 2018, 12:51 pm

It was very interesting! Next up: My Secret Sister by Jenny Lee Smith.

Out 27, 2018, 11:58 pm

Just started Can't we talk about something more pleasant? by Roz Chast. It's a graphic memoir and to me, so far, is pitch perfect.

Nov 3, 2018, 12:19 pm

Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt by Jack Olsen.
Both biography and social history, this book (published in 2000) seems not much read these days even though Pratt’s situation was a cause celèbré for a time. He is now deceased but the issues addressed, racism and justice, remain relevant and concerning. It is quite a story.

Nov 4, 2018, 12:11 pm

I finished the very interesting The Grandma Stubblefield Rose: The Life of Susan Stubblefield, 1811-1895 by Edna Beth Tuttle and Dennie Burke Willis. Susan Stubblefield was born in upstate New York in 1811. She moved progressively west with first one husband, then another (both were drowned). Then, with her third husband and extended family, she went across the continent from Missouri to California in a covered wagon. The family settled eventually in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA, in 1858. I live in Anderson Valley now, and reading this book is part of my ongoing project of reading frequently about the history of the region. This is a self-published book, a fictionalized account drawn from diaries and written by two of Stubblefield's great-great grandchildren. The Stubblefield rose was a small rose bush given to Susan upon her first wedding day by her own mother. The plant had been brought from France two generations before that! Stubblefield brought the plant with her across the country until she eventually gave it two her own daughter. It is used here as a symbol of the continuity of family even withstanding the vast miles of distance that can open up as children travel away from parents.

Nov 16, 2018, 5:00 pm

I finished Fritz Peterson's memoir, When the Yankees Were on the Fritz: Revisiting the Horace Clarke Years. Sadly, this self-published book suffers badly from poor editing and also from Peterson's penchant for spending more time describing the (many) pranks he pulled on teammates over the years than on baseball. Peterson also provides an ongoing series of mini-bios on his teammates, but many are players who were only on the Yankees briefly and so whose stories, in a baseball context at least, are not particularly valuable. Still there is some interesting material here about those inter-dynasty Yankee years of the mid-60s to mid-70s, and Peterson's goofy personality and passion for baseball and the Yankees certainly comes through.

This is for baseball fans only (or probably even for Yankee fans only).

Nov 16, 2018, 5:04 pm

Working my way through Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor by Anne Edwards. Fascinating account of the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.

Nov 19, 2018, 8:04 pm

Finished Naturalist by the great Edward O. Wilson. A wonderful book.

Nov 28, 2018, 12:20 pm

I just finished an excellent and very interesting baseball autobiography, Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life by Greenberg with Ira Berkow. A fascinating memoir by a very interesting and intelligent man, as well as a great baseball player.

Nov 29, 2018, 3:24 pm

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington
Jennet Conant
4/5 stars
Conant discusses the life and times of Roald Dahl who served as a pilot in WWII for England. After his plane is shot down in Africa during a battle, Dahl is injured but is later is sent to Washington D.C. to work for the BSC (British Security Coordination). This was quite an interesting look at D.C. during wartime and all the machinations that were going on. Recommended!

Editado: Dez 23, 2018, 10:49 am

Finished Educated: A Memoir. And since I apparently can't get enough of horrible abuse and misogyny, am currently reading The Bookseller of Kabul

Dez 1, 2018, 10:01 am

Educated is on my TBR shelves.

Dez 1, 2018, 12:31 pm

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars
by Scotty Bowers
3/5 stars
Bowers relates his role and how it came about in the procuring of partners for the rich and famous in Hollywood and politics from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. This book was okay but I was more interested in Bowers. His life was very interesting. He does name a lot of names, but most of these actors and politicians had already been outed so there were no real surprises in the book.

Dez 6, 2018, 2:29 pm

I finished Groucho: the Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx by Stefan Kanfer. This a well-written and fascinating (if not always pleasant in subject matter) biography of an enormously influential figure in American (and world) comedy in particular and culture in general.

Dez 7, 2018, 11:04 am

>77 LynnB:

Lynn, it's a stunningly frustrating book, a classic example of the "Stockholm Syndrome". If I had a family like that I'd go on Craigslist or the wanted ads, and obtain a new one.

Dez 15, 2018, 11:38 am

Back from the Dead by Bill Walton.
A life in and out of basketball, told with Walton’s signature enthusiasm, though with some of his personal past wholly omitted—the mother of his four sons isn't mentioned at all. A fun one to read despite the epic number of orthopedic surgeries and pain verging on suicidal intensity and duration.

Dez 15, 2018, 6:02 pm

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J.D. Vance
4/5 stars
This was a very interesting and thoughtful look back at the author’s life growing up in Kentucky and Ohio and how it affected him and the lives of his family and friends. It opened a perspective on a way of life that was different from how I was raised.

Dez 16, 2018, 9:19 am

I read Hillbilly Elegy earlier this year. I loved the memoir part. It was written with honesty and a self-awareness that many people don't develop until they are much older than the author. He wrote that one of his goals with to give people a feel of poverty, and he accomplished that well. As a sociological study, though, I found the book fell short. The author tries to use his life to generalize about a culture and that is not correct -- the plural of anecdote is not evidence -- and, I'd also say it is unfair to label a large group of people based on one person's experiences.

Dez 16, 2018, 4:17 pm

>83 LynnB: I agree!

Editado: Dez 21, 2018, 12:01 pm

Hollywood Heyday: 75 Candid Interviews with Golden Age Legends
David A Fantle
3/5 stars
Fantle and Johnson have interviewed stars, producers and directors for the last 40 years. This book recalls the interviews of the famous including Charlton Heston, Fred Astaire, Robert Wagner, Esther Williams, Ernest Borgnine and Tippi Hendren to name a few. This was an interesting look back on Hollywood at its peak and its descent through the eyes of the major players themselves.

Dez 30, 2018, 11:00 am

I’m finishing up The Americanization of Edward Bok. He was an immigrant publisher who brought the Ladies Home Journal and other magazines to prominence in the early 20th century. It’s very informative but weirdly written in 3rd person. He had a very high opinion of himself and apparently never made a mistake which is a bit annoying but doesn’t diminish his accomplishments.