Biography

Furiously Happy

By Jenny Lawson
4
Rated by Josh N.
Jan 2, 2016

If you've read Jenny Lawson's first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, or if you follow her online, you know that her head is a very, very strange place--in all the best ways, assuming your head is also a very strange place. I don't generally think my head is a strange place, but I do love the way Jenny Lawson's mind works and the way she writes about it, so maybe I'm stranger than I think I am.


Furiously Happy is much less autobiographical than her first book. She still tells stories about her life, but it's more about what she's been doing in recent years. Like in her first book

May 6, 2016

Furiously Happy is a second memoir by Jenny Lawson, and she's just as outspoken, insightful and full of profanity as in the hysterically funny Let's Pretend This Never Happened (a Mostly True Memoir).


In this edition of Jenny Lawson’s life, she talks about her smart and normal daughter, and more looks into her life with her long-suffering husband, Victor, who truly loves her no matter what.


Jenny's anecdotal tale also gives us some insight into her many phobias: a fear of people and of going out in public which can be very hard for a writer out on a book tour. Jenny also talks about her

Jun 12, 2014

In many ways, I love Pritchard’s story of rebuilding his family farm. Against the advice of pretty much everyone, Pritchard takes up farming the land that his parents could never make a living off of. Gaining Ground is his amazing journey. He starts off with crushing debt, little help, and no plan. Through trial and error, trial and error, and then a little more trial and error, Pritchard finds a way to make the farm not only his own, but profitable for the first time in many years.


Yet, as Pritchard waxes poetic about saving the family farm, he omits even the significant details of his

Goat Song

By Brad Kessler
5
Rated by Helen H.
May 13, 2016

Just when I thought I was done with the “bought a farm and moved to the country” genre, along comes Goat Song. Brad Kessler’s book is certainly about buying a farm and moving to the country. It’s also about learning to raise dairy goats. And even a little bit about making cheese.


But really, it’s song in itself--a sweet melody about harmony and how Kessler has managed to find it.


In sharing his experiences expanding his starter herd of four goats, making cheese to feed himself and his wife, building a new barn and acquiring a license to sell cheese, he’s actually sharing much more

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

By Kelly Sundberg
5
Rated by Cheryl M.
Oct 22, 2018

Kelly Sundberg's beautifully written memoir, Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival, is about her almost decade-long marriage to her husband Caleb. But it is more than a story of domestic violence and systematic abuse.  It's also about love, leaving, and moving from victim to victor.  Sundberg holds a PhD in Creative Nonfiction and before publishing her memoir worked as an essayist.  Her essay, "It Will Look Like a Sunset," was her first attempt at examining her marriage and telling the world about her abuse. This essay's literary success and Sundberg's desire to tell

Hamilton

By Lin-Manuel Miranda
5
Rated by Rachel C.
Nov 5, 2015

I recently found myself saying something I never would have thought I might say: "I'm so in love with George Washington right now."


The reason for such a strange statement?  Hamilton.  It's an odd concept, a hip-hop musical about the guy on the ten dollar bill, most famous for having been killed in a duel with the current Vice President, based on the 800+ page biography by Ron Chernow.  And it's magnificent.  Lin-Manuel Miranda earned his MacArthur Genius Grant with this work.


There are a number of reasons that this is a perfect storm of a musical. Narratively, it's a story with

Hillbilly Elegy : A Memoir

By J.D. Vance
4
Rated by Amanda C.
May 26, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy is unlike anything I've ever listened to. J.D. Vance grew up in the rust belt of America and was the first from his nuclear family to graduate from college. He speaks about growing up there and tells you extensively about the journey his family (grandparents and mother) made before today. 


He details some gritty stuff like an alcoholic grandfather and an abusive mom. I congratulate Vance for working so hard to create something for himself despite coming from a family that was torn apart by some challenging circumstances and, at the same time, held together by a grandparents'

Jan 19, 2017

I Am Big Bird is a must-see for fans of Sesame Street, Jim Henson, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, or all of the above. It’s a documentary focusing on the life of Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who plays both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and also sometimes other famous Sesame Street characters like Bert. As I’m sure you already know, Sesame Street is like a big family where everyone helps one another to educate and entertain children. You will not only get the inside scoop on the puppets in this documentary, but you will also enjoy learning about Caroll Spinney, members of the Sesame Street team

Feb 28, 2019

Eleanor Roosevelt served as her husband’s eyes and ears throughout his twelve years in office; she knew every corner of the United States from personal visits and meetings with locals without a cocoon of Secret Service protection. Starting in 1941, the very hands-on First Lady solved the personal problems of worried Americans while she traversed the continent. Ladies’ Home Journal included her first of several advice columns, entitled “If You Ask Me,” which shares both its name and content with this book. Collected from over twenty years of columns, Ms. Roosevelt’s writing exudes purpose

I'm Just a Person

By Tig Notaro
4
Rated by Colleen O.
Aug 10, 2016

I must have been hiding under a rock, because I had not heard of Tig Notaro before she appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to talk about her newly released book. I'm Just a Person mostly revolves around what happened to her in the year 2012, but what I should actually say is what DIDN'T happen to her that year. Just in that year, she was diagnosed with an aggressive bacterial infection called c.Diff, from which she almost died. Immediately after this her mom died suddenly, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her relationship with her girlfriend dissolved. But through all of these

In Other Words

By Jhumpa Lahiri
5
Rated by Sarah A.
Aug 13, 2016

It’s pretty daunting to even attempt to recommend something written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies) and try to do it justice. She has presented us a beautifully written memoir in which she soulfully expresses the reasons why she feels compelled to master the Italian language – not only to speak it fluently as one who wants to live in the country, but to write it, one who yearns to express herself in another way, through a foreign language. Foreign as not just of another land, but foreign as unknown and unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She actually

Apr 3, 2018

It Can’t Be Don’t, Nellie Bly is a short, but interesting chapter book about Nellie Bly, a journalist in 1888, when women were not considered journalists.


Inspired by Jules Verne’s book Around the World in 80 Days, Nellie tries to see if one can, in fact, travel around the world in eighty days. And in trying, she wants to beat Verne’s time. Halfway through her journey she finds out there is a journalist from the magazine Cosmopolitan trying to beat her. It Can't Be Done, Nellie Bly takes you on her adventure.  Come along and see if she makes it!


 

It Was Me All Along

By Andie Mitchell
4
Rated by Melody M.K.
Jan 7, 2016

It Was Me All Along is a memoir about a young girl that turned to food for comfort, parenting, homework help, and to fill the empty hole she had deep inside herself. Andie Mitchell's struggle is not just with food, but also with turning her unbalanced childhood world into one she could live in normally.


After Andie's father lost his job, he slept all day and ate and drank all night. Before Andie started school, she stayed up with him participating in the eating--gorging on unhealthy fat- and calorie-laden foods before falling asleep in front of the television. While Andie's father was out

Jane (DVD)

By Brett Morgen
5
Rated by LeeAnn B.
Jun 27, 2018

Jane Goodall is a living legend and one of the women I most admire. Her chimpanzee research during the 1960’s at the Gombe National Park in Tanzania is the subject of this National Geographic documentary. The film features never-before-seen footage from her early years of research. 


This documentary by Brett Morgen captures some of what it must have been like for a young Ms. Goodall to embark as an untrained, female researcher and make astonishing discoveries about chimpanzees living in the wild. She was the first to observe them using tools to search for food. Morgen also touches on Ms

Jimi: All Is by My Side

By John Ridley
3
Rated by Katie S.
May 20, 2015

Everyone famous has to be discovered at some point in time. Jimi Hendrix was discovered in 1966 while playing guitar for a funky rock group in one of Manhattan's numerous clubs. Linda Keith, then girlfriend of Keith Richards, becomes captivated while Jimi plays and begins a frantic search to make him a star. She eventually lands Chas Chandler from the Animals as Jimi's new manager and whisks him away to London which is where, in the middle of the historical rock-and-roll scene, Jimi makes his mark on the music world and begins his journey to stardom.


Although this movie focuses less on his

Aug 25, 2016

Let me begin this recommendation with a caveat: you probably need to be at least a little bit interested in knitting to enjoy Knitlandia. Or have an interest in traveling . . . to knitting related destinations. Clara Parkes, author of The Yarn Whisperer and several other books on knitting, returns to delight us with stories of her knitting adventures to both domestic and foreign locations. A couple of my favorites are "Romancing the Loons" – about the Squam art workshops in New Hampshire and "Cloudburst Over Paris" – learning that the owner of a unique yarn store in Paris (that I have

Lab Girl

By Hope Jahren
4
Rated by Helen H.
Jan 3, 2017

Do not believe the title of this book. Jahren has a dog, but he isn’t a Labrador. (Coco is actually a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.) But read it anyway! You’ll learn so much.


There’s the harsh reality of how scientists procure funding, which Jahren explains eloquently. You’ll learn what a scientist does in the field, and how, with a dash of why. And how red tape can render that work all for naught. You’ll learn what true friendship looks like, and you might understand mental illness a little bit better.


Not to mention the trees, their leaves, and how they grow, drink, survive and reproduce

Jul 2, 2020

British aristocracy has an interesting hold on many people around the world, the closer to the Royal Family and the more intense this interest and scrutiny becomes. 


Lady Glenconner served as a maid of honor at the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, and was Extra Lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II's sister, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, from 1971 until the Princess died in 2002.


Life among the titled is not all high teas and hunting parties; as this book will show, titles and privilege do not always guarantee a happy life, although more often than not, it is an interesting

Jul 11, 2015

Bill Klein and Jen Arnold are little people with their own show called The Little Couple on TLC. When the show began, they'd already established themselves in their careers and were about to get married. Life is Short covers the early years leading up to the show, addressing the unique challenges they individually faced being small, as well as the challenges common to many of us. Chapters alternate between Jen and Bill, beginning with their early childhood years. Both are very open about painful experiences, but also focus on how important attitude, love, support, and hard work are in

Lips Unsealed

By Belinda Carlisle
3
Rated by Diane H.
Oct 26, 2014

Belinda Carlisle seems to have lived the quintessential rocker’s life—starting off poor and dreaming of a magical life, being in love with music at a young age, starting a band almost on a whim, seeing her band rise to fame, drowning in drugs. Belinda’s story, Lips  Unsealed, is one of brutal honesty about how her own shortcomings and insecurities kept her in the grip of addiction even while her life seemed perfect and almost fairy-tale like to those on the outside. Her life reads as an inspiring and cautionary tale. It also made me want to dig up The Go-Go’s albums and listen with a greater

Little Fish

By Ramsey Beyer
4
Rated by Kate M.
Oct 3, 2014

Ramsey Beyer grew up in small town Michigan, dreaming of going to art school in a big city. Although she loved growing up in a rural area, she longed for the diversity and challenge of an urban life. So when it came time to apply to schools she looked for art schools in her favorite big cities, eventually settling on a well-respected institution in Baltimore.


With her freshman year of art school and a move to a big city looming ahead, Ramsey began to worry that she would miss her rural life. Between rigorous foundation classes and learning to live with roommates, Ramsey kept meticulous

Dec 19, 2016

When Jason Amundsen drops an egg farm bomb on his wife Lucie, she understandably balks at the idea. He’s already dragged her from city to city chasing his supposed dreams, but those dreams at least came with health benefits. This one? It’s too much, and Lucie successfully puts the kibosh on the idea. Until Jason gets laid off.


He gets laid off, and this silly dream of his won’t die. The rest of the story is of Lucie, Jason, and their two children, Abbie and Milo, all walking the tightrope between family and farm. Lucie must hold her home, husband, and children close to her heart, while the

Jun 26, 2019

T Kira Madden's debut memoir in essays is brutal in the best way: gorgeously written, relentlessly honest, and impossible to put down. If you're into stories about daughters who love and struggle with imperfect parents, read this. If you relate to families filled with dysfunction, read this. If you love someone who is queer, read this. If you have a soft spot for essays that make you cry at work, read this. Seriously--I could find a reason for everyone to read this book. Been touched somehow by adoption? By trauma? By being a lost teenager? By having to leave home to find it again? This book

Love and Trouble

By Claire Dederer
4
Rated by Michelle H.
May 24, 2018

As a raggedy child of the 1970s in the liberal northwest, author Claire Dederer found herself steering life by way of drifting, a method using random hazard and profound reflection as the tools for guidance. In Love and Trouble she writes about her life at middle age and compares it with herself as a young woman with the repeated observation that she is reverting back to the craptastic – her word – girl she was. She had a few vices, and she wants them back.


Her writing is clear and precise, and she’s candid and funny. Most remarkably, she avoids sugar coating age. If you’re looking for a

Oct 1, 2016

The title of Love, Loss and What We Ate is what sparked my interest: what could be more relatable? I knew nothing about Padma Lakshmi and didn’t even recognize her name. But it doesn’t matter; anyone can find aspects of her story engaging. She writes with honesty and simplicity about the events of her life. Although she has been a model, actress, foodie, and was even married to the likes of Salman Rushdie, we can relate to her tales of cooking, childhood, career moves, relationships, and motherhood. She writes with a curious blend of candor and self-consciousness, which is both endearing and a

Love & Mercy DVD

By Paul Dano
5
Rated by Brent W.
Aug 26, 2017

In portraying Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, Love & Mercy perfectly evokes the Southern California of 1967. I left the theater deeply affected by the sweep of Wilson’s tumultuous life. Paul Dano is superb as the young Brian, and John Cusack is very moving as the deeply troubled middle-aged Brian. In fact, all the actors are superb. While I wasn’t a fan of either the man or the group before, I am now. This is a great movie and I’ve watched it at least five times.

My favorite scenes depict the recording of Brian's masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Highly recommended.

Machine Gun Preacher Documentary

By Zac Simpson
3
Rated by Edward R.
Nov 18, 2015

When a documentary is made about a polarizing figure, the film itself may receive praise simply for existing rather than earning acclaim as a well thought-out film. Zac Simpson’s documentary about Sam Childers, otherwise known as the Machine Gun Preacher, has capitalized on Childers notoriety. Already in the spotlight through a successful biography, news stories, and even a feature film starring Gerard Butler, his transformation from a drug dealer and user, as well as a member of a biker gang, to a born-again Christian that patrols South Sudan with a gun in his hand, has been well documented

Mar 27, 2018

This book tells the story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist trying to come to terms with his father’s story and the death of his mother. This book follows the story of his father’s experiences in Poland and Auschwitz, as well as that of his entire family. It tells of the romance between his father and mother during this time and their struggles to stay together despite the circumstances. This book shows the relationship between the author and his father throughout. This graphic novel portrays the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats during the Holocaust.


This

Jun 10, 2017

Dr. Maya Angelou was an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage, and screen producer. In this documentary, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack do a remarkable job of detailing her extraordinary life. The DVD includes details about her childhood in the Depression-era South, interviews with Dr. Angelou during different periods of her life, and video footage of her early performing career. It also contains interviews with her family and friends to reveal even more about her life and impact on others.


In 2006, I attended the An Evening with Maya Angelou lecture