Biographies by the Less-than-Famous

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Biographies by the Less-than-Famous

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Out 31, 2009, 10:12 am

I've become a great fan of biographies of people that aren't celebrities or politicians or otherwise famous. (Although I also love political biographies!)

Anyone else interested in the less-than-famous? I'd recommend The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer and Corked by Kathryn Borel.

At the risk of adding substantially to my TBR shelves: any recommendations?

Editado: Nov 1, 2009, 3:54 am

I read an interesting memoir called Cups with no Handles at the start of this year. A memoir of Bette Boynton, an Australian woman who was a keen political activist and social reformer in the 1930s-through to the seventies. She told her tale to Carolyn Landon who added an afterward by her daughter, as Bette died in 2003.
A very interesting look at urban and rural life in Victoria, Australia as well as a non-saccharine view of mothers and their children - especially with the children's viewpoint of how they felt about their mother's political and non-traditional mothering activities.

edited to add: oops, my LT notes say I read it end of 2008. Time flies...

Nov 4, 2009, 8:01 pm

Less-than-famous? Hell, how about unknown, or obscure? Try mine. I've written 3 volumes of memoirs so far and am working on another one. I'm nobody, but people seem to like 'em. They keep chugging along on Amazon and at my website ( I read more memoirs than anything else these days, but still love a good novel too.

Nov 4, 2009, 8:12 pm

Alain DeBotton wrote a biography of a girl he liked called Kiss and Tell.

Editado: Nov 4, 2009, 8:29 pm

I really enjoyed The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

If you are into that kind of thing the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston about the young man whose arm was trapped under the rock and he had to cut it off in order to survive.

I have read several survival type memoirs

Another good one is The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan. Definately just an ordinary family.


Nov 4, 2009, 10:42 pm

May not qualify but Mykal Gilmore's Shot In The Heart was really good.

Nov 5, 2009, 6:44 am

Nov 5, 2009, 8:31 pm

An autobiography I really enjoyed was Paperboy: Confessions of a Future Engineer by Henry Petroski. Petroski is not exactly unknown, he has written a dozen books or so. I've never seen him on Leno though. He has even written a book about bookshelves. Right up our alley.

Nov 5, 2009, 8:33 pm

I think he also wrote a book about pencils?

Nov 13, 2009, 1:13 pm

I'm reading (for the second time actually) Alexandra Fuller's memoir of her childhood in Africa, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. As immigrants from England, her family struggled to maintain their farm as Rhodesia became Zimbabwe.

Nov 15, 2009, 11:02 am

Jan 18, 2010, 7:17 pm

My favorite kind of biog is of "unknowns." I've got a good one for you: In Gatsby's Shadow: The Story of Charles Macomb Flandrau. "Charlie" should have been a great writer, but it just never happened for him. But he did write great letters. I wish the biographer would bring out a collection of his correspondence. Let's just say that Charlie didn't suffer fools--and just about everybody was a fool.

I'll just give you one quote, and maybe you need to have some years on you to appreciate Charlie, I don't know. But he absolutely fractures me.

In a letter to someone, I don't remember who: "Grace is really almost a brilliant person, but in all sincerity, at the age of almost fifty, I no longer give a damn about brilliancy."

I bought this book used from for about a buck. What a bargain!

Mar 7, 2010, 4:47 pm

I loved Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. She writes about growing up on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression, saying, "It was quite a romp." So was the book. Wonderful. I also loved The Road to Nab End: a Lancashire Childhood by William Woodruff.

Editado: Mar 29, 2010, 10:24 am

I know what you mean ~ truth can be stranger & more powerful than fiction sometimes. A Life Less Lost is a mother's story of her child's battle with cancer and well worth a read.

Abr 21, 2010, 4:54 am

I'm so glad this is a category! I run and this is exactly what we specialize in! I myself have written books on Walter Tetley and Joan Davis, two great performers sadly ignored today.

Editado: Maio 30, 2010, 1:24 pm

I'm reading Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner, which I'd heard great things about. The book is well written, often laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes sad and always insightful.

Jun 16, 2010, 12:26 pm

I'm currently reading a David McCullough book Brave Companions. He has grouped together 17 portraits that he wrote over a period of about 20 years. He has some very fascinating characters in this anthology. Well worth the read. You'll probably discover answers to some questions that have nagged you for years. I always wondered who built the Panama Canal and why. Of course we know it was built to connect the two oceans but is that the whole answer? No. Check it out.

Jun 29, 2010, 6:24 am

msg 10 LynB I don't know if you already know, but Alexandra Fuller is working on a new book, the prequel of Don't let's go to the Dogs Tonight.
titled "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness"
here a link I hope it might be helpful

Set 2, 2010, 9:27 pm

Even though Harry and Bess Truman were certainly famous people, here they were trying to blend in with the less-than-famous, just folks crowd...

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: the true story of a great American road trip is not great literature, but a really fun tale and quick read of the Truman's road trip after his presidency. As one of the reviewers (not me) said, "Read this book & put a smile on your face."

Extraneous regardless of politics comment... To me, Harry Truman was our modern day everyman president, a nice guy (when he, Bess or Margaret were not insulted) and a "real" person and it shows in this book.

It's hard to conceive of a former president just driving around the USA without any protection at all. That era is gone forever.

Nov 18, 2010, 12:36 pm

I just started Labrador by Choice: A Labrador Trapper's Autobiography. Benjamin Powell left his home in Newfoundland for a life in Labrador in 1936, at the age of 15. In 1974 he published the autobiography. My wife found the book in a used bookstore or flea market recently. It's of interest to us because we visited Newfoundland on vacation a few years back. My wife read and enjoyed it, so now I'm taking my turn.

Nov 19, 2010, 8:42 pm

I'm about half way through Henry VIII's Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey by Jessie Childs. He is often just seen in the background, so to speak, but I never realized how important he really was until I started reading this book.