Biographies & Memoirs
Some people today fear going under the surgeon’s knife. It’s mostly a dread of the unknown. What might happen while they are knocked out, unaware of what is going on around them. They may not realize how fortunate they are. In Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, readers are swept back in time to a period before anesthesia was generally used. A good surgeon was a swift, careful cutter who could make the operation as mercifully short as possible for his wide-awake patient. He might even do some good for the patient in the process.
In Isaac’s Storm, Erik Larson tells the story of the fateful year 1900 when Isaac Cline and a hurricane crossed paths in the city of Galveston, Texas. As a meteorologist at a time when that science was still not being taken seriously by most people, performing well at his job was a major goal for Isaac. Despite his commitment, a series of factors—most significantly disillusionment with the Cuban weather reporting and an incomplete understanding of certain weather patterns, would result in absolute catastrophe for Galveston and the people living there.
A life-threatening health condition led Dee Williams, author of The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, to make some unorthodox life decisions. In seeking the traditional American dream of being a homeowner, she buys a house—one with great potential, but in need of extensive TLC. Dee, a farm girl, is not intimidated by hard work, and gradually she transforms her fixer-upper into charming digs, complete with a lavish garden. Between maintaining her abode and traveling for her job as a state hazardous waste inspector, she has no time to simply luxuriate in little day-to-day pleasures. It’s not until she is diagnosed with heart failure in her early forties that she realizes how vital it is to change her priorities. She is no longer content to be a slave to house and yard work.
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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer: "A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that 'suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.' He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster." (Book Summary)
If you like nonfiction accounts of survival like Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, then you may also like these titles:
Adrift: Seventy-six days lost at sea by Steven Callahan
The author recalls his seventy-six day ordeal adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in a five foot inflatable raft, after the sinking of his sailboat, recounting his problems surviving the weather, shark attacks, raft leaks, and food and water shortages.
Alive: The story of the Andes survivors by Piers Paul Read
On October 12, 1972, a plane carrying a team of young rugby players crashed into the remote, snow-peaked Andes. Out of the forty-five original passengers and crew, only sixteen made it off the mountain alive. For ten excruciating weeks they suffered deprivations beyond imagining, confronting nature head-on at its most furious and inhospitable. And to survive, they were forced to do what would have once been unthinkable ... This is their story -- one of the most astonishing true adventures of the twentieth century. (amazon.com)
Have you been inspired by a great man or woman? Perhaps it was a political figure or leader you saw on TV, a humanitarian featured on the cover of a magazine, or a CEO in the Wall Street Journal. Most of us have found someone to admire at one time or another. While I have been intrigued by many people in the news, I usually turn to biographies for any in-depth understanding of great people. Poets, kings and queens, theologians, statesmen, artists, and authors—I don’t shy away from any type of person.
From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island, by Lorna Goodison, is a lyric examination of past generations living in the cityscapes and countryside of Jamaica. Ms. Goodison looks at her family’s strengths and strayings with loving, wise eyes.
Gladys Poles Todd, long-time Fredericksburg resident, died recently at the age of 101, having witnessed and been a part of the city’s changeover from its days of segregation. She lived to see schools and lunch counters integrated, and she was an important force behind making that happen. Among her many works, Mrs. Todd organized sit-ins, led voter registration drives, and supervised night study programs.
Her obituary gives a goodly number of details from her long and generous life, but you may also wish to read more about her in Fitzgerald’s A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania.
In 1997, she and other local leaders in the Civil Rights era got together for a forum at the library to discuss those difficult days. Fortunately, the program, Civil Rights: Fredericksburg’s Story, was recorded in DVD format and can be checked out.
Besides a historic legacy to be shared by the community, Mrs. Todd also left a personal record of her life. Her oral history, part of HFFI’s Pieces of Our Past series, is available to read in the Virginiana Room of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.
Photo courtesy of The Free Lance-Star
The University of Mary Washington's popular Great Lives Chappell Lecture Series returns in 2016 with another great lineup. Lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall and are free and open to the public. For more information about each lecture and presenter, see the full schedule here.
Writer and artist Box Brown tracked down interviews with professional wrestlers to craft a graphic novel that celebrates the legend of Andre the Giant while also acknowledging the foibles of this fascinating figure.
This readalike is in response to a customer'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. You can browse the book matches here.
Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found by Jennifer Lauck: "Lauck's heartbreaking and inspiring memoir...tells how an ordinary child growing up under the blue skies of Carson City, Nevada, in the early 1970s lost her childhood after her world became unhinged by family tragedy." (Book Summary)
If you enjoyed this book for the author's engaging writing, you may enjoy these titles:
Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter by Barbara Robinette Moss
"With an unflinching voice, Barbara Robinette Moss chronicles her family's chaotic, impoverished survival in the red-clay hills of Alabama. A wild-eyed, alcoholic father and a humble, heroic mother along with a shanty full of rambunctious brothers and sisters fill her life to the brim with stories that are gripping, tender, and funny." (Amazon.com)
Driving with Dead People: A Memoir by Monica Holloway
"Holloway's candid story starts out innocently enough as she describes her eccentric family, especially her father, who loved "talking gore" and kept a movie camera in his pick-up for filming gruesome wrecks. Monica, too, has an obsession with death, and revels in her friendship with a mortician's daughter and their access to postmortems. When Monica reaches her teen years, her parents divorce. Her mother then decides it's "her turn," and she goes back to college, often leaving Monica and her next oldest sister alone. Holloway perceptively writes about hurtful moments embedded in her memory, such as her parents repeatedly telling her that her birth was a "mistake," and her mother's selfish refusal to pay for treatment for a kidney infection. The final piece of this dysfunctional family's puzzle falls into place when the oldest sister begins to remember being molested by their father; so, too, does Monica. Amidst a burgeoning number of abuse memoirs, Holloway's shines because of her deft handling of the small details while painstakingly assembling the larger picture." (Booklist)