Biographies & Memoirs

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

There’s no understating the dangers of life in Africa: malaria, spitting cobras, poisonous spiders, intestinal parasites and worms, landmines, terrorists, corrupt government officials, and its many wars.  In Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood Alexandra Fuller - nicknamed Bobo - chronicles her childhood in Rhodesia during the tulmultuous Rhodesian Civil War, which culminated in the end of white rule. It was not an easy, carefree childhood. Three of Bobo’s siblings died in infancy or early childhood, and Bobo herself had a few close scrapes with death. She learned at an early age to load guns and not to startle her parents during the night for fear that they may accidentally shoot her.

Bobo’s parents are the most profound characters in this memoir, especially her mother. Mum could drink all night, sitting “yoga-cross-legged,” and still be awake in the morning to greet the dawn with “stupefied wonder.” She can round up cattle all day like the toughest ranch hand, and yet she can also minister to the farm workers’ ailments with mercy. She could spend the day quietly reading books with Bobo on the bed and listening to radio programs, and the night singing at the “club” with a bottle in her hand. With the death of each child Mum goes into a steeper downward spiral.

If you like "Let's Take the Long Way Home" by Gail Caldwell

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.  Available for adults, teens, and kids.

Let's Take the Long Way Home is Gail Caldwell's story about her friendship with the late Caroline Knapp, and how they loved each other, flaws and all.

If you liked "Let's Take the Long Way Home," you may like these recommendations:

If you haven't already, you should definitely read Knapp's two memoirs - Drinking: a Love Story and Pack of Two.

I would also recommend Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. Grealy was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma at age nine. The surgery which saved her life disfigured her face. As a counterpoint, Ann Patchett writes about her lifelong friendship with Grealy in the book Truth & Beauty: a Friendship.
 

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's first book, Kitchen Confidential, was a surprise when it hit national best seller lists; even the author was taken aback. He thought it would appeal to food-service workers in the New York city area, as it was a "look behind the curtain" of local restaurants. The secret to Bourdain's success in this and later books is his passion for food and his ability to write well why he finds food exciting. We get two Tonys in his books: bad Tony and good Tony. Good Tony is articulate and writes well about food or preparation of food. Bad Tony is foul-mouthed and angry. We get both Tonys in Medium Raw.

If You Like "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls...

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.  Available for adults, teens, and kids.

If you like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, here are several inspiring memoirs of people who have survived extremely abusive and difficult childhoods, yet who have found success in their adult lives. The stories are grim but inspiring.

All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg.
This haunting, harrowing, and gloriously moving recollection of a life on the American margin tells the story of Rick Bragg, who grew up dirt poor in Alabama, and who became a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for "The New York Times". 
 

A Piece of Cake: A Memoir by Cupcake Brown.
The bestselling memoir of Cupcake Brown's harrowing and inspiring life from the streets to one of the nation's largest law firms The book bedazzles the reader with the amazing change that is possible in one lifetime.

 

 

The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson

What makes good bedside reading? I’m talking about that particular kind of reading that consists of paying close attention for about ten minutes, dozing for ten more, then waking with a jerk as the book crashes to the floor. This is not the place for “War and Peace.” 

I’ve found that two kinds of books lend themselves to the bedside. The first are the tried and true books that I can happily read over and over, even re-reading chapters or skipping them by mistake with no loss to the reading experience. Thank you, Angela Thirkell, Margery Allingham, and Betty MacDonald.
 
The second kind of bedside reading consists of short pieces, such as stories or essays. They can’t be too demanding, of course – no Montaigne, no Faulkner. For this kind of reading, I thank authors like L. Rust Hills (“How to Do Things Right, or the Confessions of a Fussy Man”), Eleanor Perenyi (“Green Thoughts, A Writer in the Garden”), and James Thurber (just about anything). Each is entertaining, and each is forgiving – because of length or lightness of touch – of a short attention span.

My newest addition to the bedside table is of the second sort.  Geoff Nicholson’s “The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism,” despite its daunting title, is really a series of personal essays on walking. 

Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War

If your early education taught you something about Thomas Jefferson, it likely included facts on his part in authoring the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Jefferson was an ideas man—a deep thinker. Well-educated in the classics at the College of William and Mary, he stayed out of the usual undergrad troubles by keeping at his studies and socializing with the professors while classmates spent their time drinking, gambling, and racing their horses through the streets. As historian Michael Kranish relates in Flight from Monticello, he made plenty of friends, but they were from the same landed gentry class as himself.

He first encountered an upstart farmer named Patrick Henry at a friend’s dinner party. Jefferson was not impressed by his dress, candid manners or frank speech, which drew a crowd of admirers. Not so much the classical scholar, Patrick Henry was already a practicing attorney while Jefferson was still in school.  While Jefferson carried on learned conversations with his professors, Henry was winning cases—not with references to Greek and Roman scholars but by spelling out the plain merits of the case and the rules of law. Jefferson found his courtroom arguments crude but admired his ability to turn a phrase and set a crowd on fire.