Biographies & Memoirs

If you like Ciao America! by Beppe Severgnini

Ciao America!

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.  You can browse the book matches here.

Ciao America! by Beppe Severgnini: "In the wry but affectionate tradition of Bill Bryson,Ciao, America! is a delightful look at America through the eyes of a fiercely funny guest -- one of Italy's favorite authors who spent a year in Washington, D.C. When Beppe Severgnini and his wife rented a creaky house in Georgetown they were determined to see if they could adapt to a full four seasons in a country obsessed with ice cubes, air-conditioning, recliner chairs, and, of all things, after-dinner cappuccinos. From their first encounters with cryptic rental listings to their back-to-Europe yard sale twelve months later, Beppe explores this foreign land with the self-described patience of a mildly inappropriate beachcomber, holding up a mirror to America's signature manners and mores."

If you like Ciao America! by Beppe Severgnini, then you may also like these titles and authors.

I'm A Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson
The master humorist and bestselling author of A Walk in the Woods now guides us on an affectionate, hysterically funny tour of America's most outrageous absurdities. After living in Britain for two decades, Bill Bryson recently moved back to the United States with his English wife and four children (he had read somewhere that nearly three million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens--as he later put it, "it was clear my people needed me"). They were greeted by a new-and-improved America that boasts microwave pancakes, twenty-four-hour dental-floss hotlines, and the staunch conviction that ice is not a luxury item. Delivering the brilliant comic musings that are a Bryson hallmark, I'm a Stranger Here Myself recounts his sometimes disconcerting reunion with the land of his birth.  (Catalog summary)

The Muse is Always Half-Dressed in New Orleans by Andrei Codrescu
These essays by the sharp and ingratiating Codrescu ( Road Scholar ) rove all over the place, and readers should be ready to do likewise. The author, a Transylvanian-born poet, a longtime resident of the U.S. and a commentator for National Public Radio, takes up subjects just as incongruously diverse as himself in his 26th book. As his fans will be glad to find, Codrescu stays in character: he is passionate, informal, maverick and ragingly funny, unwilling to behave.
(Publishers Weekly)
 

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sandovitch

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Nina Sankovitch is an avid reader as is her whole family.  They have turned to books for generations for joy and comfort.  When her sister Ann-Marie dies from cancer, Nina goes into a depression until she decides to take steps to get her life back in order by giving up her job as a lawyer and reading a book a day for a year.  This memoir is the progression that she makes from grief to joy over the course of the year.  Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is so eloquent, so beautifully written that it has become one of my favorite books. Nina shares so much wisdom that it is the kind of book that you would like to keep to read over and over again.  There were many times that I wanted to stop reading long enough to yell out, “Yes, Nina!!  You are so wonderful!” 

Being Flynn by Nick Flynn

Being Flynn by Nick Flynn

Nicholas Flynn’s life has been a motley assortment of personal loss, substance abuse, inertia, and petty crime, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to write his way to clarity and perspective. Despite the seemingly endless barrage of set-backs, Flynn has been able to craft his experiences and thoughts into an intense, complex memoir – Being Flynn.

If you like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air

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.  You can browse the book matches here.

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)

 

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

“Most kids grow up leaving something out for Santa at Christmas time when he comes down the chimney. I used to make presents for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

When I picked up a copy of Jeanette Winterson’s recent memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, I couldn’t wait to start the first page. I’ve been fascinated by Winterson’s novels for years, but never imagined she would narrate her life in the coherent, linear style associated with memoirs. In Winterson’s fiction, she constantly manipulates the boundary between fantasy and reality, integrating personal experience, mythology, and philosophy into a fluid conglomeration. Although Why Be Happy does feature some of Winterson’s trademark structural experimentation, it is also an engrossing story about one woman’s experience of dysfunction, madness, violence, love, and religion.

The President’s House, 1800 to the Present: A First Daughter Shares the History and Secrets of the World's Most Famous Home, by Margaret Truman

The President's House cover

A customer recently called me to tell me that he loved The President’s House, by Margaret Truman, so when I gave a talk in Northern Virginia a few days later, I passed on the recommendation to the group. The next customer who read it just called to tell me that he is really enjoying this book, too. Several of the book reviews said that it is a fun and interesting look at the White House written by a woman who has a deep love for this national icon because she was lucky enough to grow up there. 

Author and Musician James Lincoln Collier: Keeping Time with the Past

Fast Facts:

Born: New York City, June 27, 1928
Education: Graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, in 1950
Military service: Korean War, infantry, discharged in 1951
Family: married Carol Burrows in 1952. They had two children: Geoffrey and Andrew. Divorced his first wife and married Ida Karen Potash.
Work: worked as a magazine editor from 1952 to 1958 in New York City; also part-time trombonist at jazz clubs in Greenwich Village during the 1950s. He gave up the editing work and became a freelance writer full-time in 1958 and continues to work occasionally as a jazz musician.
Currently  Lives in: New York City
First Books: Cheers, an adult book, in 1961; Battleground: The United States Army in World War II, a non-fiction children’s book, in 1965; The Teddy Bear Habit; or, How I Became a Winner, a children’s novel, in 1967.
Selected Awards: My Brother Sam Is Dead, Newbery Honor book, ALA Notable Book, Jane Addams Honor Book Award, National Book Award Finalist, Phoenix Award; War Comes to Willy Freeman, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People; Chipper, Notable Studies Trade Book for Young People; Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787, Christopher Award; Jump Ship to Freedom, Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People; The Making of Jazz, American Book Award Finalist.

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola

From the time she was quite young, Sylvia Earle loved the outdoors. She spent her early childhood on a farm in New Jersey exploring the animals and plants around her. Her family moved to Florida when Sylvia was twelve, to a home with a backyard on the Gulf of Mexico. Once Sylvia began exploring the waters of the Gulf, she found her life’s calling. Throughout her career as an oceanographer, Sylvia has been driven to push the boundaries of the possible in order to find out more about the underwater world she loves so much.

All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay

All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay

The personal histories included in All There Is are compelling and powerful. Some are joyous celebrations of love and companionship, while others are stoic accounts of tragedy and perseverance. Despite their differences, each narrative is characterized by an overpowering sense of authenticity. The stories recorded in All There Is were not shared for personal gain or publicity. Rather, they were collected through the efforts of StoryCorps, an oral history project that allows any willing volunteer to record his or her most precious memories and experiences. The participants share the most essential aspects of their lives in interviews that are recorded for their personal archives and, in many cases, for the American Folklife Center.

Since its debut in 2003, the StoryCorps project has spread across the United States, recording over 40,000 interviews. As Dave Isay, StoryCorps’ founder, states, “StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. With a relentless focus on recording the stories of people who are often excluded from the historical record, StoryCorps captures lives that would otherwise be lost to history and reminds the nation that every story matters and every voice counts.”

Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain by Martha Sherrill

Dog Man

Someone once said, “When you finish a book that you love, it is like saying good-bye to a friend.”  I felt sad when I finished Dog Man and for a few seconds thought about turning to the front of the book and starting it all over again.

Martha Sherrill has such a beautiful writing style that it was a joy to read from beginning to end. Morie Sawataishi developed a deep admiration for the rugged mountain hunting dogs of Japan. Before World War II, Japan revered the Akita, partly due to the true story of Hachiko.  He was the loyal Akita who waited every day for his owner to get off of the train.  His owner was a professor who died suddenly at work.  Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for years hoping that he would come back.  Hachiko symbolized the Japanese sense of discipline and loyalty. However, during World War II, people ate the dogs and used their pelts to line uniforms until they were almost extinct.