Fascinating Folks

Wally Lamb
This is a riveting set of contemporary autobiographical stories about female prisoners and ex-prisoners. The women talk about their lives before and during prison, many of which will curdle your blood. This is a compelling look at a side of life most of us (hopefully) never experience first-hand.
Alexandra Fuller

Fuller's memoir of a childhood dominated by the Rhodesian civil war of 1971-1979 captures the fascinating life of a white family living in one of the most remote regions of Africa.

John Bayley

Iris Murdoch's husband guides us through the contemporary writer's early life, her brilliant career, and her battle with Alzheimer's disease. This is truly a poignant love story as well as a biography of a remarkable woman. This book was also made into a film starring Judi Dench and Kate Winslet.

Adeline Yen Mah

"Born in 1937 in a port city a thousand miles north of Shanghai, Adeline Yen Mah was the youngest child of an affluent Chinese family who enjoyed rare privileges during a time of political and cultural upheaval. But wealth and position could not shield Adeline from a childhood of appalling emotional abuse at the hands of a cruel and manipulative Eurasian stepmother. Determined to survive through her enduring faith in family unity, Adeline struggled for independence as she moved from Hong Kong to England and eventually to the United States to become a physician and writer. A compelling, painful, and ultimately triumphant story of a girl's journey into adulthood, Adeline's story is a testament to the most basic of human needs: acceptance, love, and understanding."

Cokie Roberts

"...an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families -- and their country -- proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it. While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. Roberts brings us the women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. While the men went off to war or to Congress, the women managed their businesses, raised their children, provided them with political advice, and made it possible for the men to do what they did.

"The behind-the-scenes influence of these women -- and their sometimes very public activities -- was intelligent and pervasive.Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favored recipes, Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed, and Martha Washington -- proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might never have survived."

Also available on audio and in large print.

John Berendt

Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares.
Available on audio as well as in a movie version starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.

Tracy Kidder

This biography of physician and medical anthropologist Paul Farmer focuses on his work to fight TB in Haiti, Peru, and the countries that used to be part of the USSR. A driven and dedicated man, Dr. Farmer fights obstacles virtually every day of his life on behalf of the people he is trying so hard to help.

Also available in large print.

Ekaterina Gordeeva with E.M. Swift

A heartwarming story of two young Soviet iceskaters who were a team both on and off the ice. The wife, Ekaterina Gordeeva, became a widow very suddenly and at a very young age. This is her story of their life.

Barbara Hodgson
Hodgson profiles adventurous women who sacrificed personal comfort and respectability to pursue experiences traditionally open only to men. Filled with fascinating portraits, historical maps, and intricate drawings, this is at once a beautifully illustrated exploration of early travel and a spirited celebration of women.
Katy Lederer

"Katy Lederer grew up on the bucolic campus of an exclusive East Coast boarding school where her father taught English, her mother retreated into crosswords and scotch, and her much older siblings played 'grown-up' games like gin rummy and chess. But Katy faced much more than the typical trials of childhood. Within the confines of the Lederer household an unlikely transformation was brewing, one that would turn this darkly intellectual and game-happy group into a family of professional gamblers.

"Poker Face is Katy Lederer’s perceptive account of her family’s lively history. From the long kitchen table where her mother played what seemed an endless game of solitaire, to the seedy New York bars where her brother first learned to play poker, to the glamorous Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, where her sister and brother wager hundreds of thousands of dollars a night at the tables, Lederer takes us on a tragicomic journey through a world where intelligence and deceit are used equally as currency."

Will Randall

"Who hasn't fantasized about dismantling his or her hassled, wired-up life for a simpler existence? Yet who among us has the will and opportunity to do it? The answer, of course, is very few. Will Randall, a young English schoolmaster, had such a chance -- and took it. He uprooted his conventional First World life and let himself be blown to one of the farthest and most beautiful corners of the earth, the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific. In the entertaining tradition of Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, this is the story of Solomon Time.

"From the first, it's an improbable journey. In a chance encounter on a rugby field, Randall meets a doddering old man known as 'the Commander,'  who has retired to England after running a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific for thirty years. Six months later, the Commander dies and his will is read: he wants someone to travel to his beloved, long-missed island -- where his plantation has fallen into ruin -- and devise a way for the natives to support themselves. If successful, they might avoid poverty, build a new school, and even fend off the greedy developers circling their peaceful waters. It's a mission of noblesse oblige, yet possibly a fool's errand, too. Randall agrees to go. ... a moving and witty account of one man's accidental adventure in paradise ... ."

James McBride

"The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in 'orchestrated chaos' with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. 'Mommy,' a fiercely protective woman with 'dark eyes full of pep and fire,' herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion--and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain."

Oliver Sacks

"In an unforgettable portrait of an extraordinary mind, the distinguished neurologist who wrote Awakenings offers an account of his youth as fascinating as his celebrated case histories. Overflowing with humor, sadness, sensuous recollection, and the almost physical rapture of discovery, this bestseller re-creates the wonder of science as it is first experienced."

Christopher S. Wren

Newly-retired journalist encounters New England's gnarly nature as he treks far away from Times Square and into the Green Mountains.

From Chapter One:

It was not yet noon and hotter than a July bride in a feather bed when I trudged a half-dozen miles down the wooded northeastern flank of Mount Greylock, which is, at 3,491 feet, about as high as you can go in the state of Massachusetts. The descent, steep and muddy, made my footing precarious under the weight of a pack that felt stuffed with rocks. By the time I emerged from the spruce woods onto Phelps Avenue, a street of tidy wooden houses on the southern fringe of North Adams, I was hurting as hard as I was sweating.

Before I got bitten, I had planned to follow the white blazes marking the Appalachian Trail north across a green footbridge over some railroad tracks and the Hoosic River. Instead, I turned east on Main Street and caught a ride to the regional hospital on the other side of town.

Within minutes, I found myself stretched out on a white-sheeted bed in the hospital's emergency ward, feeling the soothing chill of saline solution dripping antibiotics into my vein through a long needle taped to the top of my hand.

It was not where I expected to be.