Biographies & Memoirs

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almon

In Candyfreak, Steve Almond makes the typical chocoholic look like a quitter. Almond doesn’t just enjoy the occasional sweet indulgence. He is enamored with candy, especially chocolate candy bars. This infatuation drives his curiosity about the candy industry. It also compels Almond to wax poetic when describing candy’s taste and texture or lovingly tracing the popularity and disappearance of archaic, often regional, candies, such as Caravelle, Twin Bing, Idaho Spud, and Valomilk.

Throughout Candyfreak, Almond refers to his obsession with candy as a “freak,” arguing that the energy he expends thinking about, describing, hoarding, and consuming candy is not inherently different from the more widely accepted obsessive hobbies, such as sports fandom or extreme collecting: “[W]e don’t choose our freaks, they choose us. I don’t mean this as some kind of hippy dippy aphorism about the power of fate. We may not understand why we freak on a particular food or band or sports team. We may have no conscious control over our allegiances. But they arise from our most sacred fears and desires and, as such, they represent the truest expression of ourselves.”

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, tells the story of one man's attempt to promote peace in the Middle East by building schools. Journalist David Oliver Relin chronicled Greg Mortenson’s life in order to encourage further support for his efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Marquis de Lafayette

Lafayette by Marc Leepson

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, January 31, with a lecture on the Marquis de Lafayette by Marc Leepson, author of Lafayette.

The American Revolution attracted volunteers from far away. One of the most famous is the legendary Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette. Marc Leepson has published a crisp new portrait of Lafayette with the emphasis on his life as a military man. According to one reviewer, Leepson’s “eye for the telling detail and his devotion to journalistic brevity shine in all his work, and his affectionate Lafayette is the latest example.” — Richmond Times-Dispatch. The author is a journalist, historian, and the author of seven books.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of the Marquis de Lafayette check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Kurt Vonnegut

And So It Goes by Charles J. Shields

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series kicks off on Tuesday, January 24, with a lecture on Kurt Vonnegut by Charles J. Shields, author of And So It Goes.

And So It Goes is the culmination of five years of research and writing—the first-ever biography of the life of Kurt Vonnegut, author of the now-classic Slaughterhouse Five: Vonnegut’s World II experiences turned into fiction. Published in November 2011, Charles J. Shields’ biography has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and been widely acclaimed by reviewers. Shields is also the author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (2006), which spent 15 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In August 2011 he was named associate director of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life and works of Kurt Vonnegut check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

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.

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan is a collection of five stories set in various African countries that reveal the harsh consequences for children of life in Africa.

If you liked Say You're One of Them for the chance to stand in another person' shoes, you may enjoy these titles:
 

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn
"Jacob's Rest, a tiny town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique, 1952. An Afrikaner police officer is found dead. Detective Emmanuel Cooper, a man of uncertain parentage in a country that demands racial purity, follows a trail of clues that lead him to uncover a shocking forbidden love and the imperfect life of one Captain Pretorius."-catalog summary


 

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
A spare and haunting, wise and beautiful novel about the endurance of the human spirit and the subtle ways individuals reclaim their humanity in a city ravaged by war. In a city under siege, four people whose lives have been upended are ultimately reminded of what it is to be human.
From his window, a musician sees twenty-two of his friends and neighbors waiting in a breadline. Then, in a flash, they are killed by a mortar attack. In an act of defiance, the man picks up his cello and decides to play at the site of the shelling for twenty-two days, honoring their memory. Elsewhere, a young man leaves home to collect drinking water for his family and, in the face of danger, must weigh the value of generosity against selfish survivalism. A third man, older, sets off in search of bread and distraction and instead runs into a long-ago friend who reminds him of the city he thought he had lost, and the man he once was. As both men are drawn into the orbit of cello music, a fourth character-a young woman, a sniper-holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. As she protects him with her life, her own army prepares to challenge the kind of person she has become. A novel of great intensity and power, and inspired by a true story, 'The Cellist of Sarajevo', poignantly explores how war can change one's definition of humanity, the effect of music on our emotional endurance, and how a romance with the rituals of daily life can itself be a form of resistance. (catalog summary)

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed is the story of veteran journalist Barbara Ehrenreich’s investigation into low-wage America. Before she left her normal life to pursue this project, she already knew something of the problems that these workers endure because of her research into other social issues. Ehrenreich had suggested to the editor of Harper’s Magazine that someone should do an investigative piece about this group, but she never thought at the time that she would be the person to dig deep into the lives of the working poor in America.

Live Through This by Debra Gwartney

Live Through This by Debra Gwartney

What would you do if your daughters ran away? Live Through This, by Debra Gwartney, is the true story of a mother who lost two of her daughters to the grunge subculture of the 1990s. They began hating everything about her--not just two teenagers fighting with their mother but a feud. Meanwhile, they totally submerged themselves into depression. Shortly after the girls became obsessed with the movement, Gwartney lost them fully to the streets. This story is a unique account by a mother of her lost relationship with her daughters.

No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns

No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angel

Jay “Bird” Dobyns was the first undercover ATF agent to infiltrate the notorious, American-born biker gang, the Hells Angels. In his book No Angel, Dobyns describes his twenty-one month journey into the biker gang that led him to discover a bad side of himself while uncovering the underbelly of the American motorcycle culture.

Dobyns was an adrenaline junkie; he lived for thrills. When he was shot as a rookie agent in ATF at age twenty-six he realized just how much of an adrenaline junkie he was and swore that he would never be a desk-riding agent. That just wasn’t enough.

Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid by Simon Pegg

Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid by Simon Pegg

While some memoirs are incredibly complex and intrinsically difficult to categorize, most of the ones I’ve read tend to fit in one of two general groups: the experience-driven and the persona-driven. Avi Steinberg’s Running the Books exemplifies the experience-driven category. Steinberg was an unknown when his memoir was published, and that relative obscurity meant that most readers were not drawn to the book because of his persona or celebrity. It was the topic of the autobiography that caught the public’s attention--the fact that this young man had worked in a prison library and found a way to describe the disorienting experience with both clarity and depth. 

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan

Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Sometimes life takes us in a direction that unexpectedly changes everything and alters all our future plans. Happily, this is just what happened to Conor Grennan, the author of Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. It is necessary for me to state now that I know Conor and my daughter and her husband play the smallest of roles in Conor’s memoir. Perhaps because of this I took particular pleasure in reading this book, but I think personal interest was quickly overtaken by the value of his touching story.

Conor planned a long, world-wide trip after working in Prague for a couple of years. His adventure begins in Nepal at the Little Princes Children’s Home, where he volunteered to help the “orphans." The children turned out not to be orphans, but victims of child traffickers.