Biographies, Memoirs and Autobiographies 2019

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Biographies, Memoirs and Autobiographies 2019

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Editado: Jan 4, 2019, 10:36 am

What are you reading this year?

Editado: Jan 3, 2019, 7:19 pm

Tonight I will start Why Religion? A Personal Story by Elaine Pagels.

Happy New Year to all.

Jan 6, 2019, 9:43 am

'Finally finished The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. Others such as Ron Chernow have done a much more thorough, fascinating and enjoyable job, but considering the physical suffering Grant went through to write his memoirs, I felt compelled to read it. (He died a slow painful death from throat cancer, finishing the book just prior).

So, I needed a break from the voluminous, and just finished Black Klansman in a couple hours. It's not gonna win any literary awards, but a fun read nonetheless.

Jan 7, 2019, 3:16 pm

>3 Sandydog1: I understand that the biggest reason Grant forced himself to complete those memoirs despite his pain was so that his family would have benefit of the proceeds of the book's sales after he was gone.

Jan 7, 2019, 8:51 pm

>3 Sandydog1:
I was intrigued by Grant, early in his book, calling both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War “unholy,” and asserting that the former conflict was “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” I sure don’t remember my public school teachers or history textbooks ever suggesting such a thing.

Thanks for the tip on the Chernow volume. On to the TBR list.

Jan 9, 2019, 4:25 pm

Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War
Mark Harris
5/5 stars
This is the amazing true life story of some of the greatest Hollywood film directors who were asked to film events during WWII and produce training films for the soldiers while putting aside their careers. John Ford, George Steven, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra were the ones asked to give up their Hollywood jobs to work with the government. A few stayed to make instructional films to train soldiers; others accompanied troops to war torn regions putting their lives in danger while filming. This was a page turner for me from the beginning to the end! Technically, this is non fiction but they did talk about the lives of the directors.

Jan 16, 2019, 3:58 pm

Jell-O Girls: A Family History
Allie Rowbottom
4/5 stars
Jell-O was invented prior to 1899 and Rowbottom’s great-great-great uncle bought the patent and manufactured it. The book details her family’s lives living in privilege and how the so called “Jell-O” curse affected their lives. The book also details the history of Jell-O over the years and touches on the story of a group of girls from LeRoy, New York, who came down with a Tourette-like syndrome which was blamed on the manufacture of the product in the area. Interesting!

Jan 17, 2019, 9:00 pm

I just finished Why Religion A Personal Story by Elaine Pagels.
It is an intellectually engaging, emotionally gripping memoir of loss, grief and religion. I want to reread it again soon. Pagels is a scholar of religion at Princeton University, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, and author of the bestselling National Book Award Winner The Gnostic Gospels. Her son Mark was born with a hole in his heart. He dies at age 6. Within a year her husband Heinz dies from a fall while hiking. Left to raise two small children by herself, and at turns angry and guilty she struggles to find the way through her grief. How does one go on in the face of such loss? Does religion have anything to offer? Eventually, she returns to the Gnostic Gospels, 52 first-century or second-century Christian texts unearthed in 1945. Initially denounced as heretical, they offer an alternative perspective on early Christianity. Helped by her scholarship, she ultimately achieves some equanimity.

I just started Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. I seem to be on a kick of reading memoirs of grief and loss. This is an incredible memoir of loss. Deraniyagala was vacationing in Sri Lanka when it was struck by a tsunami on December 26, 2004. Sonali was swept away but, amazingly, survived. Her parents, husband, and two children did not. I am not very far along but I cannot imagine how she deals with such loss.

Editado: Jan 18, 2019, 4:26 pm

Today I'm going to start The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for History. I'll be a while, as the book, really two volumes republished together, checks in at almost 800 pages.

Jan 19, 2019, 8:53 am

A full biography published before he finished college? In the case of Taylor Wilson, it is quite a fascinating story.

The Boy Who Played with Fusion
Taylor Wilson is a science prodigy; and he did achieve nuclear fusion at age 16. The author adds lots of related material; some I would call padding.

Jan 25, 2019, 12:19 pm

Iron Mac: The Legend of Roughhouse Cyclist Reggie McNamara by Andrew H. Homan.
The author lets us in on some of the history of the famed six-day bike races of long ago by telling the story of Aussie Reggie McNamara. Interesting stuff, to me. I just wish it were a better book.

Jan 26, 2019, 7:31 pm

>10 2wonderY:
Sounds like a much more up beat story than say, The Radioactive Boy Scout

Jan 29, 2019, 3:44 pm

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future
Elizabeth Esther
4/5 stars
This is the true story of Elizabeth Esther who grew up in a very physically and mentally punishing religious cult and the efforts she took to try and remove herself from their influence. Very compelling!

Fev 3, 2019, 11:53 am

I finally finished The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James. This detailed biography, actually two books republished together as one volume in 1937, won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1938. It is very detailed (786 pages worth), well written and quite fascinating for anyone with an interest in American History. However, it is a product of its time in that James white-washes almost entirely Jackson's duplicitous and in many cases murderous actions towards Native Americans, both as a military leader and as president (the Trail of Tears, for example, is not mentioned other than as what is implied to be a benign forced movement of Indians from Georgia and Florida to west of the Mississippi) and James actually comes up with a short but jaw-dropping defense of slavery. So in the reading I learned about Jackson's life and times, and also was reminded about what attitudes would still have been in 1938.

Fev 9, 2019, 7:47 pm

Finished re-reading Why Religion A Personal Story by Elaine Pagels. Continuing my theme of reading memoirs about loss and grief, I started The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (which I read about 8 years ago).

Fev 10, 2019, 10:30 am

Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation by Aili and Andres McConnon.
The cyclist is Gino Bartali, the Italian racing great, and the “True Story” is, in part, a chapter in the battle against anti-Semitism, with the Catholic Church here an admirable ally in the fight.

Editado: Fev 13, 2019, 11:56 am

October Sky
Homer Hickam
5/5 stars
This was a wonderful book on the early life of Homer Hickman, living in a coal town along with the stress of that, while he and his friends were being inspired by the space race and wanting to be a part of it. He did eventually become a NASA engineer but not without the help of his friends and the town that supported him.

Fev 17, 2019, 8:10 pm

Finished The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion's memoir about the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne.Continuing to read memoirs of loss and grief, I am starting to re-read Blue Nights, Didion's memoir about the death of her daughter

Fev 18, 2019, 8:51 am

I've just started Criminal That I Am by Jennifer Ridha.

Editado: Fev 19, 2019, 8:57 pm

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.
They watched the wings of gannets in flight then made an airplane that flew. Good going, Wilbur and Orville!

Fev 20, 2019, 12:00 pm

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark
Meryl Gordon
4/5 stars
This is a very interesting look at the reclusive Huguette Clark, a wealthy heiress, introvert and hoarder who secluded herself in a hospital room for over 20 years relying on some people who did not always have her best interests in mind and cut off from her relatives whom she did not want to see or contact. On her death, she left a huge estate and a huge problem for the lawyers and the courts to sort out pitting her family against the friends and staff she had given money to.

Fev 22, 2019, 8:40 pm

Halfway through Digging Into the Past. Kinda quaint, it deals with a profession from the 1920s to 1970s - a different paleontological time, so to speak. It's fairly dense and not meant to be a YA book, but I would have probably devoured this book as dinosaur-nut kid.

Mar 1, 2019, 11:24 am

Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored
Mary Gabriel
4/5 stars
This is the interesting story of the life and times of Victoria Woodhull who attempted in 1870 to run for President of the United States. Victoria was a quite a character. Growing up poor but highly intelligent, she went on to do many things that women of that time period were not allowed to do. Married twice, she also worked in many areas-from being a clairvoyant and a prostitute to running a newspaper and a brokerage firm. She was also the first woman to address Congress. Gabriel did a nice job researching Woodhull and her life.

Mar 1, 2019, 2:07 pm

JulieLill...I read that book several years ago and enjoyed it. She really is a fascinating person and I knew nothing about her. I wonder if she's better known in the US than here in Canada?

Mar 2, 2019, 12:59 pm

>26 LynnB: I am not sure- I had seen this book at the library and grabbed it. I knew the name but not her history but I was glad to have found it because she was so interesting.

Mar 6, 2019, 8:19 pm

Continuing with memoirs: Finished Blue Nights by Joan Didion. Just started Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover.

Mar 19, 2019, 9:24 pm

Finished Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. This is an amazing story and one of the best books I have read in a while.

Mar 19, 2019, 11:57 pm

I've just started Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography by Michael Ainger

Mar 23, 2019, 7:37 pm

The Final Confession of Mabel Stark
Robert Hough
3/5 stars
Fictional dark story based on the true life story of Mabel Stark which covers her tragic life including her many husbands and her work with tigers and other animals for over 57 years with circuses around the world. And if you can find it there is a DVD about the true Mabel Stark called Mabel, Mabel Tiger Trainer which is very interesting too.

Editado: Mar 24, 2019, 5:51 pm

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos
Lucy Knisley
3.5/5 stars
Knisley, a graphic novelist and author, relates her pregnancy trials in a no holds barred look through pictures and words. Well done!

Editado: Mar 25, 2019, 6:19 pm

>31 JulieLill: I read that book a while back and enjoyed it. My wife enjoyed it, too. Somewhere, maybe on wikipedia, I read that someone (a famous actress, but I don't remember who) owned the movie rights for quite some time but could never get the project off the ground.

Mar 27, 2019, 12:16 pm

>33 rocketjk: There is a DVD on her which I bought cause nobody in our library system had one. I got it on Amazon. The title is Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer and I thought it was really interesting.
The dvd was $11.

Mar 27, 2019, 1:24 pm

Mar 29, 2019, 5:44 pm

As the pro basketball season approaches the playoffs, I’ve been reading and have finished Bill Bradley's Life on the Run. It’s an account of one season in the career of a three-term United States Senator, Rhodes Scholar, Olympic gold medalist and two-time NBA champion with the NY Knicks. A good deal less gossip than the usual athlete’s memoir. A nice thing, in my view.

Mar 31, 2019, 8:40 pm

>36 dypaloh: I read that book many years ago and enjoyed it. Among the things I liked about it was its depiction of the interaction among teammates of very different backgrounds.

Abr 1, 2019, 2:09 pm

I finished Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography by Michael Ainger. While there is too much detail offered about individual quarrels over business and procedure, due to the author's over-reliance on the troves of correspondence he had access to, and not enough information for me about the inner lives of these two famous artists, all in all this was an interesting dual biography of one of the great music/libretto writing teams of the English stage.

Abr 1, 2019, 6:28 pm

>37 jwrudn: I felt the same. Bradley does a good job conveying his respect for these men whose backgrounds often differed radically from his own.

Abr 5, 2019, 3:26 pm

I just finished Guerilla Days in Ireland: a First-Hand Account of the Black and Tan War (1919-1921) by Tom Barry. Commandant General Tom Barry was the commander of the West Cork Flying Column of the I.R.A. during the days of the Irish guerilla war aimed at expelling the British from Ireland. Guerilla Days in Ireland is Barry's memoir of that campaign and his role in it, written and published 25 years after the events described. Barry describes in interesting detail the ways that the decidedly outgunned (even when they had enough guns to go around, they rarely had enough bullets) and outmanned IRA forces carried on an effective enough campaign to eventually force the British government to offer truce terms in 1921.

Abr 7, 2019, 3:39 pm

Abr 10, 2019, 11:14 am

The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film
W.K. Stratton
3.5/5 stars
Stratton writes about the making of the film The Wild Bunch, the time period surrounding and influencing the making of the film and of course the director Sam Peckinpah and his new darker version of the western genre. This is definitely for film buffs and people who have seen the film. I enjoyed it.

Not technically a biography but Sam Peckinpah, the director's life is highlighted.

Abr 10, 2019, 11:16 am

>43 JulieLill: That looks very interesting. Thanks!

Editado: Abr 11, 2019, 1:20 pm

I finished Shamrocks & Salsa, the self-published memoir of my friend, Jerry Cox. Normally I would only include an excerpt from my review on this thread and point you to my more in-depth thoughts on my 50-Book Challenge thread and/or the book's title page. However, this book is of particular personal meaning to me, so I'm including my full review, here:

By the time I met Jerry Cox, he was in his mid-80s. He died in February 2018 at the age of 93, so I got to be friends with him for that length of time. Jerry was one of the most admirable people I ever met. The son of Irish immigrants who retained a love for that history and culture, Jerry became a Catholic priest. As a priest, first in Oakland and then in Sonoma County, California, Jerry developed a passion for working with the disadvantaged, particularly among the Mexican community. In addition to supporting and starting many social programs designed to assist in this cause, Jerry became involved in the politics of that world, as well. He was an early supporter of Cesar Chavez, for example, and took part in many protests and marches in support of the United Farm Workers. Then, after close to 25 years as a priest, Jerry fell in love with Kathy Snyder, a nun 20 years his junior with whom he'd been working. In relatively short order, the two left the Church and married. They had two daughters (now grown) and continued to work as educators, counselors and organizers. In time, they moved to Anderson Valley, an area of Mendocino County, CA, where my wife and I now live, and where we met Jerry and Kathy. Kathy was teaching and Jerry working as a part-time counselor at the local high school, where my wife was the full-time counselor. Eventually, Jerry and Kathy moved in right up the road from us. Now that Jerry has passed away, naturally, I wish I had spent more time talking with him. My wife and I can both say that Kathy Cox is one of our best friends.

Shamrocks & Salsa is Jerry's self-published memoir, which he worked on intensely with his friend and editor, Mary O'Brien, over the final years of his life. It chronicles the many roads of Jerry's life, the many people he worked with and tasks he undertook. It is good to be able to hear his voice while reading his words, as skillfully edited by Mary, over the past week. There are times one wishes for a bit more depth, and where the memoir seems to become basically of a list of projects and jobs and the people who took part, each only two or three paragraphs long. But Jerry and Mary were racing the clock, as it were, as Jerry was already in his 90s when this work was being done. Overall, even those details help create a tapestry of impressions, painting a vivid picture of a singular man making a breadth and depth of solid and truly moving contributions to the world, all while maintaining a true humility and a devilish sense of humor. Viva Jerry!

Editado: Abr 18, 2019, 11:42 am

I am reading What Happened by Hillary Clinton. It is long, but still an interesting look at one of the most unusual elections in modern history.

Editado: Abr 17, 2019, 10:19 pm

Working through The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance, which apparently has been published with 2 subtitles? Touchstone may be ok.

Abr 18, 2019, 12:05 am

>48 Sandydog1: Several years back I read and enjoyed by Modern Library edition of The Medici by G.F. Young. Quite a clan they were!

Abr 26, 2019, 11:30 am

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair
William Hazelgrove
4/5 stars
This book is about the end of Capone’s career as a gangster and the building of the 1933 World’s Fair that took place in Chicago during the depression. Not a long book but a fascinating look at the time period, though in this book Capone and the World’s Fair weren’t really linked together but were events occurring at the same time. This reminded me of Erik Larson’s fascinating book The Devil in the White City which was about a serial killer who lured and killed visitors from the 1893 Exposition in Chicago.

Maio 4, 2019, 5:16 pm

>51 LynnB: That sounds interesting!

Maio 5, 2019, 8:36 am

it is if you like Canadian books and authors....lots of name dropping that won't mean much otherwise. And a warning....reading this is likely to increase your list of books you want to read!

Maio 10, 2019, 2:17 pm

I finished Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice by David Feige. David Feige spent fifteen years as a public defender in the hellish court system of the South Bronx. He subsequently became a writer and a frequent guest on Court TV, whatever that it. At any rate, Indefensible is Feige's very well-written and often harrowing memoir/expose of his years as a severely over-worked advocate for those who had either fallen or jumped into the frequently entirely cold-hearted legal system.

Editado: Maio 18, 2019, 12:14 pm

By David Sedaris
4.5/5 stars
Sedaris (one of my favorite authors) writes about his life and his family in a no holds barred look using his oddball sense of dark humor to ease the pain of difficult times and to celebrate good times.

Maio 26, 2019, 8:30 pm

The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick
Mallory O'Meara
5/5 stars
Mallory O’Meara, the author of this book and also a horror screenwriter and film producer, through sheer tenacity was able to track down and put together the story of Milicent Patrick. Patrick came from an artistic family and grew up in the town near the Hearst Castle in California where her father worked as superintendent of construction on the Castle. Milicent, who was quite artistic, was involved in the designing of the monster from the movie The Lady From the Black Lagoon and also worked on the animation/drawings of A Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia but who eventually lost her job due to a jealous boss. What a wonderfully interesting book!

Maio 29, 2019, 10:19 pm

Just finished Dirt Work about the growth of a wilderness trail worker with a helluva work ethic. Plenty Excellent. *** 1/2

Maio 30, 2019, 12:16 am

Presently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. I just got to the chapter where she meets HIM!

Jun 5, 2019, 11:39 am

Love, Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey
Betty DeGeneres
4/5 stars
This book covers the life of Betty DeGeneres up to 1999 when it was first published. Betty and her kids had a tumultuous life. Betty was divorced, remarried and divorced again. She talks about her marriages and life after marriage, her children and their lives and struggles and especially the events surrounding her daughter Ellen and her coming out. Well written and very interesting.

Editado: Jun 5, 2019, 1:38 pm

I recently finished For the Sake of Shadows by Max Miller. Miller was a well-known San Diego journalist during the Depression, best known for his reportage on the San Diego docks, I Cover the Waterfront. Published in 1936, For the Sake of Shadows is Miller's probably somewhat fictionalized account of his very short and unsatisfying stint as a Hollywood scriptwriter. The book is basically a long complaint without enough detail to even make it satisfying to lovers of screeds. Kind of fun, though, at this late date, for its historical interest.

Jun 7, 2019, 7:00 pm

I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story by Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler.
Oh, yeah. Henry had one.

Jun 10, 2019, 11:48 am

Lab Girl
Hope Jahren
4/5 stars
This is the true story of the life of Hope Jahren and her career as a geobiologist. Her cohort and assistant Bill is by her side for most of the book and he is an quite a character! Alternating chapters discuss her life with her work. Sometime the science bogs down the flow of the narrative but overall I found it interesting and I learned a lot about the science of trees, flowers and soil.

Editado: Jun 14, 2019, 11:57 am

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners
by Therese Oneill
Oneill, in a humorously satirical style, details the awfulness of being a woman in the Victorian Age. You will be glad you live in today’s modern era after reading what women had to do to keep up appearances and take care of their family and home. Interesting and a fast read!

Editado: Jun 30, 2019, 9:51 pm

Finally getting around to reading Life. Ol' Keith Richards is fascinating ("*(&^%$^#@**&! touchstones!).

Jul 1, 2019, 10:49 am

>63 JulieLill: I took you up on your recommendation and yes, it is all ghastly and entertaining.

Jul 1, 2019, 11:49 am

>65 2wonderY: So glad to live in this time period!

Jul 12, 2019, 11:22 pm

Finally picked up Life by Keith Richards and couldn't put it down, alternating between CDs in the car and cellulose paperback binding at home (Ol' Skool just like Keith). An incredible journey about shit, chicks, bump, court, JD, shooters, Glitter Twins, insomnia, friendships and brotherhood, the birth of rock n roll, studios, pets, the islands and first chords at concerts. And I thought US Grant's book was good? This was amazing.

Jul 14, 2019, 6:35 pm

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
Casey Cep
5/5 stars
The trial of the murder of Reverend Willie Maxwell, who had taken out insurance policies on numerous family members with several ending up murdered, was the one story that Harper Lee could not resist. And so she returned to Alabama to attend the trial to take notes in an attempt to write a book about the crimes. Cep’s book flows so well that it was hard to put down and the information on Lee and the trial was fascinating.

Jul 17, 2019, 11:46 am

Born with Teeth
Kate Mulgrew
4/5 stars
This is the autobiography of Kate Mulgrew, actress, who grew up in Iowa in a very interesting family dynamic and who eventually got into acting. She started out in the soap opera Ryan’s Hope and the book ends with her starting in her new role as Captain Janeway in the show Star Trek: Voyager. She certainly led an interesting life and this is definitely a page turner.

Jul 17, 2019, 12:10 pm

Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend.
Author Casey Tefertiller has an eye for fun details in this thorough biography of the Old West icon. Readers interested in the Old West or ones who would like to know how cinematic versions such as Tombstone compare with what really happened, will find a lot in this book to enjoy.

Editado: Jul 18, 2019, 4:18 pm

Monsters: A Celebration of the Classics from Universal Studios
Roy Milano
3/5 stars
I picked this book because it had some more information on the film The Creature From the Black Lagoon which I read about in The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O'Meara which was really interesting. This is a pretty short book about some of the first monsters in film history but it has some great photographs from the films plus some interesting facts about the actors and the monster films they were in.

Jul 18, 2019, 7:28 pm

Finished Becoming, which was really great. Now reading a book by Melinda Gates called The Moment of Lift, which is also really good. It is not a memoir in the traditional sense, but she does tell you what she is working on at the Gates Foundation. Very impressive!

Jul 21, 2019, 12:42 pm

The Generous Years
Among America’s most recognizable figures of the 1950s and 60s, newscaster Chet Huntley grew up on a Montana farm before drought, hailstorms, locusts, crop disease, invasive species, and fire drove his family into town. If you’re old enough to remember Huntley and liked him, this account of his youth is well written and time spent reading it is time spent in good company.

Jul 21, 2019, 5:52 pm

Back to reading memoirs for a while. Just finished Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land. Excellent. A nice complement to Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich and Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado. Currently reading Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon. Waiting on my shelf is Travels with Lizbeth by Lars Eighner.

Jul 21, 2019, 6:58 pm

Just dropping in - I've read a number of bios and memoirs this year, much more than my usual and I think I will be reading more before year's end. I've also read some books that cover just a small moment in someone's life. most notable being Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard which is magnificent and Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick which is good but not great. Here are some reviews/comments- Ron

So far:

Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan, finished January 8, 2019, 3 - 3 1/2 stars

The author points out at the very start that most everything the average person 'knows" about Boone is not the real Daniel Boone. Fess Parker he was not. There are some specific elements of the book that disappoint me - but there is a LOT of good information in here. I suspect this must be one of the most thorough books on the subject available. Near the end of the book the author notes that Daniel Boone towards the end of his life was rather unhappy about the legends and tall tales repeatedly told about him. He certainly did a lot that didn't need to be exaggerated. He was a rare and unique individual.

Books like this on American history and historical figures can leave me a little melancholy. This one was no exception. I can easily tell why - Boone loved the wilderness. However, virtually every step he and the other settlers like him took destroyed that wilderness. Trap and kill until there was no more game. He was then restless and moved on to the next wilderness, and others followed and then it was no more, over and over and over. This is as much if not more of a story about early America as it is a history of Daniel Boone.

I learned quite a bit from the book but something about the style of the book let me know, as another reviewer mentioned, it wasn't of the caliber of a biography by David McCollough. A few places I found myself skimming. Morgan does give us a lot of details here and there about pioneer life, things that I would imagine most people in the 21st century have no idea about. He also seems to be trying to not write an idol worship book here, but trying to give a fair and balanced look at Boone and the lives of those around him. There is a lot of interesting material in here. There is also quite a bit of speculation about just about everything, because although there may be various facts, many things are missing or not documented in history. The speculation got to be a little too much for me. The individual reader will have to decide on how the speculations fit. There are extensive footnotes which I appreciated at times, and there is also an extensive bibliography. Perhaps a little odd, I did not leave this book much of a fan of Daniel Boone.

I think one of Morgan's stated intentions early in the book is to give a fairer treatment/discussion to the role of women and native americans. He cites within the text quite a few prior biographies and authors and relies heavily on several. Natives do get a very fair treatment here and there are several speeches by leaders esp the Cherokee one quoted in here. He does make it clear that Boone was not an "indian fighter" despite how he may have been popularly portrayed. Boone was repeatedly referred in his time as a "white indian" but I wasn't convinced that was a valid shingle to hang on him. The author (and Dan'l himself) note that the indians hunted for food and need. Daniel did that of course, but much moreso he hunted and trapped in such a fashion that he essentially stripped each new valley - he did this to earn his living and allow himself to explore the wilderness, which as I noted he destroyed in the process by opening new areas up to others. He quickly became aware that the game was not limitless. For an intelligent man you would think he could have realized earlier in life what he was doing to the world. There was this thought then that the wilderness was unlimited. So Dan'l would be gone for months ( or years) return with furs (or not, because the native americans of the areas frequently relieved him of his plunder) bonk his wife Rebecca so she would be preggers with yet another child he would need to support and buy more supplies and head off again to trap more. Later in life he didn't do this of course. Rebecca comes across as something of a superwoman of the era.

I don't think there is any way to avoid the hunting and trapping with Boone. It isn't the focus after being a big part in the beginning third. The story sorta changes at the point that is a strange step in Boone's life. It is apparently still controversial and the author seems to tread a little lightly around it - Boone gets captured around the start of the revolutionary war by the Shawnee - hoping to save men also caught or about to be and to divert a pending attack on his Boonesboro settlement, he surrenders many of the people to the tribe. Boone becomes the adopted son of the chief. A dozen or so of the men also become tribe members (and after a time apparently never wanted to go back to their old life, they so fully embraced the native american way of life). The Shawnee sell the captives that don't join them to the British for a nice reward. The British want Boone but the Shawnee chief won't hand him over, so the British try to woo Boone to the loyalist side. Boone is with the indians for a very long time (and presumed dead I think by wife and others). The author tries to have the reader believe that Boone did what he did to save as many lives as he could but apparently many people of the time considered him a traitor both because of his dealings with the british during the war and his "going native". The book spends a good part about others around Boone, esp his early historians and his children (Nathan and Jemima esp). Lots of discussion about the ways of life of the pioneers. Did you know that there was almost a colony/ new state called Transylvania?!

Transylvania was roughly what became Kentucky. But Transylvania existed for quite a few years (relatively speaking). I'm probably being a little unfair to Boone in my feelings - it was a very different time in the world and he was truly a unique individual and explorer. What has not changed is simple human greed. That made me as melancholy as anything with the book. Boone, who was apparently a very honest man, was overwhelmed. I think Boone sincerely wanted the Shawnee and others in Kentucky to co-exist peaceably with the colonists. But also, he brought with him and encouraged many people to go with him into the new frontier of Kentucky. Even if he had to move a little farther out each time. But then the deluge hit and even he had not a chance. I seriously doubt Boone wanted slave plantations in Kentucky. He spent much of the second half of his life in a very different manner than his early days.

It isn't a bad book at all. Somewhere in the middle of the book I looked up a December 1985 National geographic on Boone and it was very good. I especially liked that it had one of those huge geographic maps of the Ohio territory with all the places where Boone was and the geographic positions of things. While reading the book it had become increasingly hard for me to place all the events and places in a mental map and I had pretty much given up till I found the nat geo map and article. It was a real plus.


The Exile by Pearl Buck, finished June 8, 2019, 3 stars

"The Exile" is one of Pearl Buck's early works, published in 1936 following the completion of her Good Earth trilogy. She wrote biographies of both of her parents. Buck was 44 years old in 1936 and had only left China two years before. This is the biography of Pearl Buck's mother Caroline, "Carie", clearly written as both a family history and tribute with a great deal of love. It begins with Buck's great-grandparents in Holland, their emigration to America in the 1850's including their youngest child who was Buck's grandfather and the young Parisian woman he married and brought to America.

Caroline Stulting was born March 8, 1857 in the part of Virginia that became West Virginia and died October 21, 1921 in China. Her obituary notice is of interest:

There is a heavy dose of patriotism in this book with recurring comments on what it is and was to be "An American", American exceptionalism and religious freedom. Despite all the love poured into this, by book's end I was pretty sad. It is not uncommon to have regrets about life when we near the end. We think of things we should have done when we were younger, different choices we could have or should have made and regret some of the choices we did make. That is the way Carie came to old age and the end of her life in China, unhappy with choices she had made big and small, and things she had never done. She clearly underestimated what she had accomplished, and yet I could not help myself sympathizing with her.

Buck writes with great descriptive flourishes, maybe almost too much, because I tend to think that when one notices the writing too much maybe it IS just a bit too much. Carrie spent the majority of her life in China as a missionary and moreso as a missionary's wife. What that means is that one must watch child after child be born and die from disease.


Just One More Thing: Stories from My Life by Peter Falk, finished July 19, 2019, 3 1/2 - 4 stars

I picked this book up a couple weeks ago - I couldn't resist it. Started reading this in bits and pieces all out of order. Then I stepped back and read it page by page. It is a quick read.

Peter Falk likes to read short stories so he gives us snapshots of his life in short stories. He points out that the book is not an autobiography. He isn't sure what it is. I'd call it a memoir.

Falk passed away in 2011 at age 83, but the book was published in 2006 and Falk clearly still had all his wits about him, as well as pretty detailed memories. Unfortunately he would soon after be hit with dementia and a rapid mental decline with Alzheimer's disease. Falk tells his stories in a purposely entertaining way. This was a very interesting read.

Why did I pick it up? One might think because of Columbo, Falk's trademark character. The true reason is because I adored him in on of my favorite films "Wings of Desire" in the late 1980's, as well as a sequel a few years later and when I saw this book had a chapter on the film it stayed glued to my hand. The behind the scenes detail and notes Falk wrote made me smile. I laughed out loud several times while reading this, something I can assure you I rarely do when reading a book.

Recommended for any Falk/Columbo fan and I would only really recommend this for Falk fans, and there are many of those. (I would not call myself one - I only watched a small handful of Columbo movies). However, I knew little about his life other than his public image which was rather questionable. The book surprised me in many ways and I honestly enjoyed most of it. If you know anything about Falk (he was apparently difficult to work with and a serial womanizer among other things) you can read his stories with a slight bit of skepticism about what he is leaving out or emphasizing, but these are his stories and nothing seemed untrue. Quite a few pictures are included to illustrate his stories, including some of Falk's own drawings.

Jul 21, 2019, 8:03 pm

>77 RBeffa: Thanks for the great reviews.

I, too, am a huge fan of Wings of Desire, though I haven't seen it in a long time. Also loved another Wenders movie, The American Friend.

Jul 22, 2019, 1:03 am

>78 rocketjk: I probably missed American Friend. I know that when Netflix with DVD's came along I tried to watch every Bruno Ganz movie I could get, but I don't remember American Friend.

Jul 22, 2019, 10:53 am

>79 RBeffa: I saw it in a small art film theater, probably in San Francisco, very long ago. Not sure where or how you'd see it now, whether it's on Netflix or not. I think you'd remember it, though. Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper!

Jul 26, 2019, 5:08 pm

Jul 27, 2019, 8:49 pm

Finished Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon. Wow! What a great book. Best I have read in quite a while. About growing up black with a single mom in Jackson, Mississippi. About racism in America, a difficult abusive, but ultimately (maybe) loving relationship with his mother. "Heavy" refers to the author's weight but I think is a metaphor for the other struggles in his life.

Editado: Ago 1, 2019, 2:51 pm

Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper
by Liz Garbus
4/5 stars
This is actually a documentary with and about Gloria Vanderbilt and her son-Anderson Cooper. Gloria discusses life and its ups and downs as a Vanderbilt with the help of her son. If you haven't seen it-it definitely a must see. Fascinating!

Ago 2, 2019, 8:05 am

I saw it and thought he did a great job. Handling the story of your own parent's life is a challenge. What a lady.

Ago 3, 2019, 10:16 am

Finished Travels with Lizbeth by Lars Eighner. Fascinating memoir of author's three years on the road and living on the streets with his dog Lizbeth. Many insights into the sociology of the homeless.

Ago 12, 2019, 11:28 am

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill
by Candice Millard
4.5/5 stars
Millard is one of my favorite authors and she doesn’t disappoint in this tale of Churchill’s escape after being captured during the Boer War in 1899 in South Africa while he was there as a news reporter. Highly recommended!

Ago 20, 2019, 2:35 pm

Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault: Essays from the Grown-up Years
Cathy Guisewite
3.5/5 stars
This book is written by Cathy Guisewite who wrote and drew the comic strip Cathy. It has essays about her life after she ended the comic strip. In this funny book she deals with some of the same issues that were in her comic strip (dating, weight gain, etc.) but also about her marriage that ended, her daughter whom she adopted and dealing with her elderly parents. Very enjoyable and relatable!

Ago 20, 2019, 9:59 pm

Ago 21, 2019, 9:03 pm

Just finished Becoming by Michelle Obama. This is a very detailed insight into her life, including her time as First Lady. Easy reading - recommended.

Ago 28, 2019, 12:04 pm

This was a really interesting CNN documentary on the rise and fall of Halston, the fashion designer. I did not know much about him but I remember when he signed up with JC Penney's to sell his creations which led to his downfall.

Editado: Ago 31, 2019, 2:57 pm

Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
4/5 stars
Goodwin relates her life around the major events of the 1950’s including her love of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the hope that they will win the World Series, the changes in her neighborhood and her life in the Catholic Church. I thought this was wonderfully written and enjoyed learning about that time period through her eyes.

Set 3, 2019, 5:51 pm

I'm reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Set 3, 2019, 8:53 pm

>93 LynnB: Hope you like it! I loved it. In fact, maybe I will read it again, since I have nothing else on my plate right now that seems to suit me.

Set 5, 2019, 8:31 am

I'm reading Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Set 5, 2019, 10:25 am

>95 LynnB: I picked that one up last year but have not gotten to it yet. I like Shute.

Set 5, 2019, 1:55 pm

The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France by Daniel de Visé
A biography of cycling champion Greg Lemond. A good one for race fans. Non-cyclists interested in competitive sport and the competitive abuses of PEDs might like it too. One chapter is nothing less than deadly intense.

Set 5, 2019, 9:34 pm

I am reading Healing: A Woman's Journey from Doctor to Nun about a woman who grew up during the Vietnam war in the South. Her father was possibly American, but she never met him. Her mother was Vietnamese. She came to this country with her brother and became a physician, but after a series of traumas, some in Vietnam and some in the U.S., she decided to become a Buddhist nun and study with Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village. Very interesting so far.

Set 25, 2019, 11:39 am

Master of Dark Shadows: The Gothic World of Dan Curtis
You have to be a person of a certain age to remember Dark Shadows, the supernatural soap opera that debuted in 1966 and ended in 1971. But there are still a lot of fans around that remember the show and this fun documentary on the show covers the origin of the show, who created it, the stars and the demise. Recommended!

Set 26, 2019, 6:19 pm

I finished the second book by Dang Nghiem called Mindfulness as Medicine: A Story of Healing Body and Spirit. It was also a wonderful book that continues her journey as a nun in the Zen Buddhist tradition and the stories of people she met, helped and those who helped her through several life crises.

I just finished a book called Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered Hidden World of Animal Intelligence and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene Pepperberg. For those of you who did the Treasure Hunt, it was the answer to one of the clues. This was also an excellent memoir of a scientist who started out as a chemist and became one of the leaders in the fields of linguistics and human/animal communication -- all because of her wonderful Grey parrot, Alex.

Out 9, 2019, 8:51 pm

Just finished Wild Too much young chick bio. I wished there was a bit more trail lore.

Out 14, 2019, 12:05 pm

The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World and the Rebirth of New York
by Tom Roston
4.5/5 stars
This is the history of the restaurants in the Windows on the World which resided in the Twin Towers/ the World Trade Center in NYC and was created/developed by the restaurateur, Joe Baum. Roston gives the readers a behind the scenes look at the restaurants in the WTC and the people who ran them. He also talks about the history of the city during that time period and the tragedy that still affects people today. Sad but a compelling read. For a better synopsis of this book – check out this website-

Editado: Out 24, 2019, 4:15 pm

For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink
by Sarah Rose
5/5 stars
This is the story of the lengths that England and the British East India Company went about to monopolize the tea industry and take it away from China. Robert Fortune, gardener, botanist and plant hunter was sent by England to secretly gather plants from China to send to India (where England had British Rule). Aiding him in the transplantation of the plants (besides some Chinese citizens) was the newly invented Wardian case, a predecessor of the terrarium. This was definitely a hard to put down book. So interesting!

Out 31, 2019, 3:38 pm

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers
Maxwell King
4/5 stars
This was an enjoyable and interesting biography of the wonderful Fred Rogers. The author takes us through his life discussing his family and his work on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. He also discusses his strong religious faith and his unwavering sense of the belief that children should be valued and heard.

Nov 3, 2019, 7:21 am

I'm reading The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre. While it is mostly about the Myers-Briggs indicator, it is also partly a biography of Isabel Briggs-Myers.

Nov 3, 2019, 4:20 pm

>106 LynnB: That sounds interesting!

Nov 5, 2019, 3:09 pm

They Called Us Enemy
George Takei
4/5 stars
Wonderful graphic novel/biography about the trials of George Takei (Star Trek's Sulu) and his family when they were forced to leave their home after the Pearl Harbor attack and go into a internment camp simply because they were Japanese. Well written! I had read of his interment in one of his previous books but I feel this provided a little more information.

Nov 9, 2019, 12:01 pm

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail
Rusty Young
3.5/5 stars
This is the true story of Thomas MacFadden, who on a trip to South American got caught by the police with drugs at the airport in Bolivia. He is sentenced and sent to the San Pedro Jail in Peru. McFadden is confounded by the prison set-up. To get a room to live in, you have to buy a cell of your own. Families live with their relative who is a prisoner, in their prison cell and businesses are run by the prisoners in the jail. Drugs are prevalent in the prison and are a main source of revenue to buy items and bribe the guards and judges. I thought this was a fast and interesting read!

Nov 15, 2019, 12:07 pm

Maiden - The Finish Line Knows No Gender
4/5 stars
Wonderful true film about 26 year old Tracy Edwards from England. In 1989 she was at loose ends and wanted to participate in the Whitbread Round the World Race. No sailing ship would take her on because she was a girl so she bought a run down boat and got a crew of all women to participate in the race. I loved it.

Editado: Nov 18, 2019, 12:03 pm

Dave Itzkoff
4.5/5 stars
This is the biography of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Itzhoff follows Robin from his very beginnings to the sad ending of his life. I thought this was a really well written biography and I just flew through it. If you are fan of his, this is a must read!

Editado: Nov 21, 2019, 1:54 pm

The State Boys Rebellion
By Michael D’Antonio
4/5 stars
This is the true story of a group of boys and girls from the 1940’s in Massachusetts who were imprisoned in asylums during the time of the rising theories of eugenics. Entry into these schools was not equal and some of these children should not even have been in there. These children were abused, made into laborers, poorly educated and experimented on until they rebelled. Unfortunately, after release some did not do well and had trouble adjusting to outside life but they felt fortunate to be free. The book also talked about the influence that Pearl Buck and Dale Rogers had on opening up the institutions. They kept their developmentally disabled children at home which influenced families of the disabled to do the same thing. This is a shocking book and though I was familiar with the time period, I never realized the extent of the abuse at these homes. Well written!

Nov 26, 2019, 9:29 pm

Jackie Robinson: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad
The story of the man who identified himself as “Jackie Robinson, Negro outspoken.”
It’s fair to call this an essential book for fans keenly interested in baseball of the 1940s and 50s. It’s also a good one for readers wishing to learn more about how the politics of color changed in the U.S. during the 50+ years of Robinson’s life. Plus, Jackie himself is plenty interesting too.

Nov 27, 2019, 12:28 pm

>113 dypaloh: Sounds interesting!

Nov 27, 2019, 2:33 pm

I finished the essential, disturbing Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates' subject is the experience/reality of being black in America. The book is written in the form of a long letter to his teenage son. This form is brilliant, in that I'm sure it led Coates to put all his heart and soul into the book, but also because it allowed him to write in relatively basic concepts that facilitated a more effective connection with his white audience. To put it another way, if he had aimed his narrative at black adults, he would have had to take too much for granted, in terms of what his audience already knew, to make the book useful for informing his white audience of much of anything.

So, as a member of Coates' white audience, I can say that this book added in very important ways to my understanding of Coates' subject matter, but more importantly to my understanding of the enormity of my ignorance on these issues. Coates writes of the always fraught experience of walking down the street, any street, in America as a black person. He speaks not of "white people," but of "the people who think they are white" and calls us "Dreamers," people who are able through our own privilege to believe in a dream of an upwardly mobile and potentially color blind society, secure in the fantasy of our own innocence regarding racism. It all touched a nerve for me, having grown up in a liberal household with the mythology of an American Dream hypothetically accessible to all. Please believe me that I am barely scratching the surface of Coates' powerful material with this synopsis.

Five stars.

Nov 28, 2019, 1:20 pm

>115 rocketjk: Nice review!

Dez 5, 2019, 3:30 pm


I'm on here very irregularly (trying to curb internet usage) but I've wanted to let people know of the best autobiography I've ever read and in the top 5 bios ever.

Becoming Superman

It's tragic and moving, but ultimately a story of how we can become so much more than the circumstances we grew up in -- even when those circumstances included deep abuse - including his mother trying to murder him twice and his father's extreme physical abuse and abject poverty. J. Michael Straczynski clung to the Superman comics - not to have X ray version and be the man of steel. But to always treat others with respect and to do the right thing.

A very moving read. Never maudlin, JMS has a fabulous voice.

Editado: Dez 5, 2019, 4:09 pm

>117 PokPok: Sounds very interesting-thanks for the recommendation!

Dez 8, 2019, 12:38 pm

Yesterday I finished Kate Remembered, prize-winning biography A. Scott Berg's entertaining memoir of his longtime friendship with Katharine Hepburn, interwoven with more standard biographical passages about her life and career.

Dez 8, 2019, 3:56 pm

Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her
Robin Gerber
4/5 stars
This is the story of Ruth Handler who was looking for an adult female doll for girls to play with. At the time there were only baby dolls or paper adult dolls for girls to play with. While traveling in Germany she saw a Bild Lilli adult doll which inspired the creation of the Barbie doll and which became a toy sensation. This was the beginning of the rise of Mattel but life for Ruth and her family would be a whirlwind of ups and downs. What an interesting read!

Editado: Dez 8, 2019, 4:01 pm

>119 rocketjk: I read a Berg biography years ago called Max Perkins: Editor of Genius and loved it. I need to add his other books to my reading list.

Dez 8, 2019, 4:09 pm

>117 PokPok: Thank you for mentioning this. I had to pick up a kindle edition of it and plan to read it next year.

Dez 8, 2019, 5:22 pm

>121 JulieLill: The Perkins book was the biography that Berg had just published when he met Hepburn. I'm not surprised to hear that it is good reading.

Dez 20, 2019, 6:15 pm

Dez 20, 2019, 8:38 pm

I am slowly reading Karl Marx by Francis Wheen. It's OK. A bit slow and wow was he a nasty guy! Anyway, kind of interesting so far.

Editado: Dez 23, 2019, 5:48 pm

I finished In My Father's Court Isaac Bashevis Singer's memoir about his childhood in Poland in the years leading up to, and during, World War One. Singer’s father was a Hasidic rabbi and the court of the title was the Beth Din, the traditional court in the Singers' home to which community members came to have their divorces, lawsuits and other disputes arbitrated and their questions about Jewish holy books and law answered and illuminated.

The book is presented as a series of short vignettes, each from five to seven pages in length, told more or less in chronological order, with Singer’s narrative evolving as the small boy begins to grow and to question his surroundings. In the early remembrances, the perspective is kept very tightly on his father’s fierce devotion to God and to Jewish biblical and rabbinical law, custom and mysticism. The tales told are about the people who arrive in the Singers' home, what their problems are, and how his father deals with them.

Soon enough, however, the outside world begins gradually to intrude. The family moves from a small town to the crowded streets of a Jewish Warsaw slum. Next come rumors and then the realities of World War One, with its uncertainties and sharp deprivations. Singer’s older brother becomes more worldly, and young Isaac begins asking questions himself and longing for information about the outside world. Zionism and socialism begin to be discussed among the young, further eroding the hold of the old ways over the community as a whole.

Dez 23, 2019, 8:28 pm

I'm reading Travel Light, Move Fast by one of my favourite memoirists, Alexandra Fuller