Biography

Mercy in the City

By Kerry Weber
4
Rated by Helen H.
Dec 10, 2014

I am by no means a religious person. But I do appreciate spirituality and love people who actively live their proclaimed faith. Having read a spiritual memoir or two that didn’t quite deliver, I approached Mercy in the City somewhat tentatively. It turned out to be as surprisingly wonderful as I was skeptical.


“In a city with twenty-four-hour stores, eight million people, and infinite possibilities…” Weber chooses, in addition to giving up alcohol and sweets, to complete all the Corporal Works of Mercy for Lent.  Yes, in the heart of New York City a young practicing Catholic chooses mercy

Miss Sharon Jones! (DVD)

By Sharon Jones
5
Rated by Brent W.
Aug 10, 2017

Miss Sharon Jones! is worth seeing for Jones' performance in a little country church of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" alone. Her grit, power and will to sing are amazing. The film covers a critical period in her life with her band, the Dap Kings, when she is dealing with intense cancer treatments and, at the same time, trying to keep the group together. Her humor, bravery and explosive talent fill the screen.  


Having seen Sharon and the Dap Kings at the 2016 New Orleans Jazzfest, I wanted to see more performance footage, but recognize we are lucky to have any at all. The film is equally

My Dog Skip

By Willie Morris
5
Rated by Hannah Jane C.
Jan 1, 2016

My Dog Skip is a rollicking jaunt through Willie Morris’ memories of his adventures with Skip, his boyhood dog and constant companion.  Skip is no ordinary dog, nor is the bond that Skip and Willie share.  In this playful and beautifully written memoir Willie writes about the years he spent with Skip, each page bursting with hilarious shenanigans, canine loyalty and ferocious exuberance.


Skip and Willie’s adventures are numerous and often outlandish.  Skip is a privileged dog who “drives” the family’s green DeSoto, roams the town with Willie, eats as much bologna and raisin bran as he likes

Dec 1, 2014

This is the story of Paul Rosenberg, one of pre-World War II France’s most influential and knowledgeable art dealers, as told by his granddaughter, Anne Sinclair. Rosenberg was hailed as a pioneer in the world of modern art, exhibiting artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Leger at his Paris gallery. With the German occupation of France in 1942, Rosenberg, as a Jew, was forced to flee France, leaving his artwork behind to be confiscated by the Nazis. The story is historically significant, but it is also interesting to see the man and his life discovered and revealed through the eyes of

Mar 18, 2015

If you were born after 1985, you’ll remember the high school game Never Have I Ever where those playing each put their hands into a circle, and one by one everyone goes around and says something they’ve never done. If you’ve done the stated action, you put a finger down, and the last person with fingers remaining “wins” the game. Or do they?

In Katie Heaney’s debut book Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date, Heaney meticulously illustrates her love life starting at the mature age of five. While her promiscuous grade school days, laden with multiple crushes and several boyfriends at the same time, may foreshadow an equally

Aug 29, 2012

Alan Alda's insightful autobiography Never Have Your Dog Stuffed gives us a peek into the highs, lows, and adventures of an actor's life.  Growing up among a family of burlesque performers, perhaps Alda was fated for acting, but his journey had its fair share of bumps.  He laces candid humor throughout the telling of his trials and tribulations, from growing up with a schizophrenic mother to enduring emergency surgery in the remote Chilean mountains, but his successes are equally exciting.  And yes, his father really did take his childhood dog to a taxidermist. I have a fond appreciation for

No Summit out of Sight

By Jordan Romero with Linda LeBlanc
4
Rated by Peggy H.
Jul 16, 2014

Jordan Romero was fascinated by a poster in his elementary school of the Seven Summits, the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents. When he was nine years old, he announced to his parents that he wanted to climb the Seven Summits and he wanted to start training immediately. Jordan was familiar with what training involved; his father and stepmother were adventure racers. They traveled the world racing by foot, bike, canoe, kayak and even camel!  After much discussion and consideration, his parents eventually gave their stamp of approval.  On July 22, 2006 Jordan ascended his

Apr 7, 2010

I suppose I should start by admitting that before I picked up this book I had no idea who Kathy Griffin is. And, having given a celebrity tell-all or two a try I am not usually drawn to them. In fact, I avoid them. Official Book Selection, however, is well worth making an exception for. I got hooked while reading the captions of the photos and belly-laughing in the relative quiet of the public library. I couldn’t put it down. Luckily, the audio was there and Griffin’s reading makes the book that much more enjoyable. Being a professional comedian lends itself to writing and reading an

Once More We Saw Stars

By Jayson Greene
3
Rated by Lisa A.
Jul 12, 2019

Once More We Saw Stars is a story no one wants to tell, one of a two-year-old daughter’s death and how her parents try to move in the world after their world—their daughter—has died. While it is, in the end, hopeful and filled with love, the journey this book takes the reader on is one of genuine, visceral loss: there’s anguish, anger, fighting, and desperation.


This story is painful, to say the least, and it’s not something I can comment on. As Greene writes in the part about going to grief counseling: no one else gets it. No one else can. I can read his story and weep for his loss and

One Man's Dream: My Town, My Team, My Time

By Frank White with Bill Althaus
2
Rated by Vincent S.
May 10, 2014

This is the autobiography of Frank White, the 8-time Gold Glove second baseman for the Kansas City Royals. White describes his childhood and the loving support of his family while growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, his high school days at Lincoln High School, and playing baseball as a young teen. He was a pretty good pitcher in those days. Interestingly, he describes fearful moments when visiting relatives in his birthplace, Mississippi, during the 1950s and 1960s when he and his friends dashed away from roadsides when cars filled with white people sped along the roads.


White describes

Orange is the New Black

By Piper Kerman
5
Rated by Megan K.
Dec 6, 2019

Many of you may be familiar with Piper Kerman’s story but I’ll give you a quick summary: in 1993, 24 year old Piper smuggled money for her then-girlfriend who was involved in an international drug ring. Following the money smuggling incident, she cut off all ties to the people involved and got started on a new life. However, her past caught up to her and Piper was indicted for her involvement in 1998. Six years later, in 2004, she was sent to Danbury, a minimum-security facility to serve 15 months. Piper ended up serving 13 months, and detailed her experience in this book.


It is important

Primates of Park Avenue

By Wednesday Martin
4
Rated by Diane H.
Oct 31, 2015

Seen through the lens of an anthropologist, the women who inhabit the Upper East Side of New York City appear to be a strange tribe with outrageous rituals, beliefs, and attitudes.


In this memoir by Wednesday Martin, we watch as she, along with her husband and young child, journey from lower to upper Manhattan – a trip that is negligible geography-wise and enormous socially and culturally.


As she undertakes the highly stressful search for the right apartment and preschool, Martin realizes what a foreign land she has moved to. It is from within this unique and exclusive enclave that

Rapture Practice

By Aaron Hartzler
4
Rated by Peggy H.
Oct 13, 2015

This is the memoir of Aaron Hartzler, a writer and actor currently living in Los Angeles. The story covers his growing up years right here in the Kansas City metro.


Aaron was raised in an extremely conservative Christian home as the son of a preacher. As a child, he was thrilled by the idea of the Rapture, a highly anticipated event in which Jesus will return to Earth to gather his believers and take them directly into heaven. Aaron would jump as high as he could into the air while singing, hoping that he could catapult himself directly into heaven. But as he entered his teen years, Aaron

Dec 20, 2013

The smell of baking cookies brings back memories of mother's kitchen...Biting into a fresh tomato recalls the garden behind your childhood home...Watching the yellow powder and milk combine to create delicious macaroni and cheese reminds you of your first apartment. For author Lucy Knisley, as for many of us, food is a trip down memory lane. With a caterer mother and foodie father, her life has been defined and marked by some of the best (and worst food).


A graphic memoir, this book touches on the food that has shaped her life, from sushi visiting a childhood friend in Japan to the junk

Sep 25, 2013

Similar to Tina Fay’s Bossy Pants, William Shatner’s Shatner Rules might possibly be better in audio than written form. Narrated by the great Captain Kirk himself, the audio version feels as if you’re watching a personal interview with Mr. Shatner. Whether reading or listening, if you’re in the mood for a humorous, informative biography on a TV legend, this is the book for you.


When one thinks of William Shatner, it is likely that his role as Captain James Tiberius Kirk on Star Trek comes to mind first. In this, his thirty eighth book (yes, you read that correctly), we get a glimpse of the

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

By Ruth Franklin
5
Rated by Jesseca B.
Nov 15, 2017

Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed this biography about her life. Even if you are unfamiliar with Jackson, however, you can appreciate this well-researched biography that chronicles the social and political background that shaped the author's writing, as well as the mindset of America during her adult life in the 1930s through the 1960s. Each chapter describes two to four years of her life, from her birth in California in 1916, through her move to New York, until finally her death in Vermont at the age of 48. Franklin's biography, though extensive and

Oct 9, 2017

Patton Oswalt sometimes serves as my spirit guide. That might be a function of my desire to put all of my useless pop culture knowledge to good use and get paid for it. Which is not to say that I think Patton's job is simply goofing on George Lucas or drawing parallels between his chronic depression and the Mad Max film series. Like all effective comedians, he presents his often insightful and unique views on the world with remarkable timing and a memorable delivery. To that end, I sometimes forget that those jokes must be written and not simply spat at the audience in an impromptu diatribe.

Simple Dreams

By Linda Ronstadt
3
Rated by Marty J.
Jun 19, 2015

Wow, what an amazing life Linda Ronstadt led! In a musical career that spanned almost half a century, she sang rock/pop, opera, American standards (accompanied by an orchestra), country, blues and Mexican rancheras (with a mariachi band)!  Along the way she performed, jammed, hung out and/or formed friendships with an eclectic group of famous musicians including Jim Morrison, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Dolly Parton, and Rosemary Clooney—to name just a few.


Simple Dreams is not a particularly well-written memoir, and it doesn't reveal much personal information (like the names and ages of

Sirens : a memoir

By Joshua Mohr
5
Rated by Andrew P
Jan 18, 2018

I wonder if this book emits its own hiss. What happens when you hold it to your ear? Can you make out my scorched music?


How do you describe a rocket launcher to your nose? Or a landmine to your brain? In Sirens, Joshua more does just that. Each chapter is broken into snippets of time all wrapped up in a purple haze. Mohr doesn’t spare the reader, nor himself, from the brutal truth of his life as an addict. From the corner of Columbus and Columbus to the shining heights of rehab, he describes in detail the horrors and celebrations that propelled him from junkie to author.


The

Sep 3, 2016

Caitlin Doughty’s memoir of her journey to becoming a licensed mortician is equal parts morbid, hilarious, inspiring and ruthlessly genuine. It’s also a memoir of her fight against the fear of death, a fight that almost destroys her. Much like the orange rot that sometimes trails our faces during death, we may never be ready to see it. But Caitlin stresses throughout Smoke Gets in Your Eyes that witnessing death is how we ready ourselves for it, and even embrace its terrible beauty.


Caitlin may be a mortician, but first and foremost she is an observer and writer, using description and self

Soul Surfer

By Bethany Hamilton
5
Rated by Bre H.
Mar 12, 2017

Bethany Hamilton loves surfing. Her biography, Soul Surfer, is the  story of how she became “the bearer of hope for those who have been handed a bad deal in the card game of life.” When she was only thirteen years old she was attacked by a shark and lost her right arm.

She not only escaped death, she came back as strong and faithful as ever to become a champion surfer.

Pictures of Bethany, her family and friends, and even the shark that attacked her add to the interest of Soul Surfer. This is an amazing read and it definitely inspired me.

May 21, 2014

This memoir recounts the story of Malika Oufkir, whose father was the closest aide to the King of Morocco. We follow Malika from the age of five, as she is raised in the palace as the princess’ companion. While life in the harem is a kind of imprisonment itself, it is nothing compared to what awaits her, her mother, and her siblings after her father is executed for an attempt to assassinate the King.


She and her family spend the next 20 years in prisons. Sixteen years into their ordeal, sickly, starving, and desperate to the point of suicide, Malika and some of her siblings manage to dig a

Survival Lessons

By Alice Hoffman
5
Rated by Cheryl M.
Feb 18, 2018

Alice Hoffman's Survival Lessons is a tiny, beautiful gem. While I have eagerly devoured all of Hoffman's fiction, I was not aware that she had written a non-fiction book or that she had survived a life-threatening illness. 


Survival Lessons details Hoffman's journey through cancer in the form of life advice. Eighty-three pages long, all the short chapters have the word "choose" in their titles: Choose Your Heroes, Choose to Enjoy Yourself, Choose your Friends, etc. Often displayed in waiting rooms for Oncology patients, Hoffman's book offers so much more than just survival lessons; it

Apr 24, 2017

Alaska. I imagine it’s the most remote you can get while remaining on American soil. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to pack your bags and move there, save yourself the trip and read Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs first.


Lende, an obituary writer in the small town of Haines, brings her friends, family, and neighbors to life. And life is different there. Short growing seasons, the speed with which a “moose can turn a ten-year-old apple orchard into a few stumpy sticks or the way even a very young bear can rip the branches right off of a loaded cherry tree, not to

The Art of Asking

By Amanda Palmer
5
Rated by Josh N.
Feb 1, 2015

I've been a fan of Amanda Palmer, her music and her personality, for a while now. I admire how open, honest, brash, and brave she is. The Art of Asking is based on a TED talk she gave in 2013, expanded here to talk about her life as an artist and musician along with musings on why it's important to ask for help, why we often find it difficult to ask, and why sometimes asking for help doesn't get us what we asked for. (If you listen to the audiobook, you also get Amanda singing with her ukulele and some bonus songs by her and some of her friends.)


This is one of those books that smacked me

Jun 24, 2018

In her immigrant's memoir told in graphic novel form, Thi Bui explores the saga of her family's escape from Vietnam in the 1970's to the United States.


Her debut opens with the birth of her first child in 2005. Will she be a good mother? How is she different from her mother? What was her mother's experience? How was her mother shaped after losing family, her country? How did her father's childhood shape his fathering abilities? And how has her own experience as a refugee, coming to a country she had to assimilate into that she was culturally so different from, as well as being confronted

The Big Tiny

By Dee Williams
5
Rated by Helen H.
Mar 28, 2015

After reading The Big Tiny, I am certain I could live happily, just like Dee Williams, in a tiny house. I’m equally certain someone else will have to build it for me.


One day she “had been a normal, middle-class, middle-of-the-road woman with a mortgage and a job and friends, who went running and climbing and paddling, racing in a thousand different directions at a thousand miles per hour.” Then suddenly she was a woman with ventricular tachycardia with torsades, an uncertain future, and follow up appointments with her cardiologist. It was at one such appointment that Williams’ doctor was

Jul 12, 2014

In The Bully PulpitDoris Kearns Goodwin discusses the Progressive Movement through the eyes of three principal actors—Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Samuel S. McClure—along with the remarkable contributors to McClure’s Magazine, notably Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White.


As in her previous histories of Lincoln, the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson, Kearns Goodwin provides rich descriptions of the relationships among the many players in her books. This makes her writing so much more compelling than histories that merely

The Captains

By William Shatner
3
Rated by Scott S.
Nov 1, 2014

It is common knowledge amongst Star Trek fans (and most everyone else who has heard of him) that William Shatner has an ego the size of a Galaxy-class starship. From insulting trekkers and trekkies alike (“Get a life!”) to famously arguing with co-star Leonard Nimoy and the show’s creator Gene Roddenberry, Shatner’s legacy is one of both passionate intensity and an inflated sense of self. Perhaps it is appropriate that a film dedicated to uncovering the underlying motives (neuroses?) of those other actors chosen to sit in the captain’s chair of the various Star Trek iterations should be

Aug 6, 2016

If you have any doubt that growing clean food, and sustainable farming takes a special person, Kimball will set you straight. Especially since she didn’t start out a passionate grower. She was, in fact, a New Yorker. A Manhattanite even. A vegetarian Manhattanite living in a shabby cool exposed-brick apartment.


“And [she] fell in love . . . over a deer’s liver”. She met Mark on assignment and got to know him while researching a piece on young farmers bucking the industrial agricultural complex by growing organic food. During her stay, Mark shot, killed and butchered a deer that had been