A small boy found a jersey with a lightning bolt on the front hanging in the basement rafters. With this jersey, he was transformed into The Thunderbolt Kid. Like other superheroes, The Thunderbolt Kid could leap tall buildings with a single bound and do other daring deeds that kept the World Safe For Democracy. But The Thunderbolt Kid could also vanquish idiots with a single blazing thought.
Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the century (1951), in the middle of the country (Des Moines, Iowa), in the middle of the Baby Boomers. But before he was The Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson was – a paperboy.
Bryson has also written many seriously funny travel memoirs. A Walk in the Woods is a personal favorite, but all of his works are enjoyable. In a Sunburned Country has Bryson traveling to Australia, a country that “has more things that will kill you than anywhere else,” and I’m a Stranger Here Myself, where Bryson returns to America after living in Europe for 20 years.
Did you keep a diary as a teenager? I did, and I remember it being an absolute roller coaster between exhilaration and despair. And glitter ink. Lots and lots of glitter ink! Luckily, my teenage diary did not survive to the 21st century. Carrie Fisher’s did, though. In 1976, she was just turning 19 and cast as Princess Leia in a low-budget movie called Star Wars. Her notebooks from that time—on and off-set—not only reveal a teenager with a crush on her co-star but an almost anthropological look back at a time long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Her teenage thoughts are even more poignant after her unexpected death last December.
This review was published in Sightlines, CRRL's Assistive Services newsletter.
Our spring book selection is Mrs. Kennedy and Me, by Clint Hill.
From 1960 until 1964, Mr. Hill was the U.S. Secret Service agent assigned to guard Jacqueline Kennedy. Initially he resisted this assignment. He had been loyal to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and was facing an incoming opposition party. Mrs. Kennedy had rejected her first Secret Service agent. If she okayed Hill, he would have to take the assignment or end his career.
After graduating with honors from Emory University, Christopher Johnson McCandless left his suburban home in Annandale, Virginia, behind to pursue an odyssey to the Stampede Trail in Alaska.
McCandless gave up his $25,000 college grant to charity and began traveling across the Western United States. To the disappointment of his family back home, he ceased all communication with them and abandoned his 1982 Datsun after a flash flood somewhere in the Midwest.
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.
One of my favorite customers called me to tell me that he loved the book Until Tuesday. I am sure that this story about a veteran spoke to him since he is also a veteran who happens to love dogs.
Until Tuesday is the true story of a highly-decorated Iraqi war veteran who returns home as a war hero. However, Luis Carlos Montalvan has such incredible injuries to his body and his psyche that he cannot cope with everyday life. He hovers on the brink of suicide until he meets Tuesday, a golden retriever who also had an emotionally difficult journey to get to Luis.
Of the eight memoirs I’ve read so far this year, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is definitely the funniest. Fans of Laurie Notaro and Jen Lancaster will probably adore Lawson’s spirited descriptions of everything from her father’s affection for armadillo racing to her encounter with Stanley, the Magical Talking Squirrel.
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!”
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.
I picked up I Never Promised you a Goodie Bag, by Jennifer Gilbert, thinking that it would be full of hilarious mishaps that occurred at weddings and events that the Save the Date’s CEO had experienced. However, I soon found that it was something more. It is the memoir of a young woman who started out life being fiercely independent, the daughter of wealthy parents who had an import business and were frequently overseas. Jennifer traveled all over without a care in the world until at 22 years old she was attacked in the hallway of her best friends’ apartment. Her friends were too frightened or too selfish to come out, even though Jennifer was screaming for help. The girls in the apartment did call some boyfriends and they came over with baseball bats and drove the attacker away.