Biographies & Memoirs
“The sharper your knife, the less you cry.”
Chefs dominate the cooking industry; the big ones have TV shows, cookbooks, their own magazines. Because of them, there are cooking shows for every taste and better produce in your local market. Here is a selection of notable memoirs; two of the authors uplifted home cooking in America.
In 1955, Anne Morrow Lindbergh penned what has become one of the most inspirational books in the 20th century, Gift from the Sea. Drawing from her years of marriage and motherhood, as well as her work as a writer, Mrs. Lindbergh writes of the various stages of a woman’s life, comparing them to the different seashells she finds on the beach of her vacation cottage. Each shell, each stage, has its assets and drawbacks, but the thread of continuity is what it means to be a woman and how to approach each stage without losing one’s self.
Most people today have heard of Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly non-stop over the Atlantic Ocean. Fewer people these days are familiar with Anne Morrow Lindbergh, his wife, but, in the mid-20th century, they were both well-known in America and abroad.
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 (audio format)
The author describes his spring 1996 trek to Mt. Everest, a disastrous expedition that claimed the lives of eight climbers, and explains why he survived. (catalog summary0
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
Adrift is an undeniable seafaring classic, a riveting firsthand account by the only man known to have survived more than a month alone at sea, fighting for his life in an inflatable raft after his small sloop capsized only six days out. (catalog summary)
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read
True story about how a group of people who survived an airplane crash in the Andes had toresort to cannibalism in order to stay alive. (catalog summary)
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.