05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Graphic Book, Humor, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast, 240 pages, read by Lisa, on 07/30/2014

In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.

An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast’s talent as cartoonist and storyteller.

05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

I Forgot to Remember by Su Meck , 288 pages, read by Lisa, on 07/07/2014

In 1988 Su Meck was twenty-two and married with two children when a ceiling fan in her kitchen fell and struck her on the head, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury that erased all her memories of her life up to that point. Although her body healed rapidly, her memories never returned. 

Yet after just three weeks in the hospital, Su was released and once again charged with the care of two toddlers and a busy household. Adrift in a world about which she understood almost nothing, Su became an adept mimic, gradually creating routines and rituals that sheltered her and her family, however narrowly, from the near-daily threat of disaster, or so she thought. Though Su would eventually relearn to tie her shoes, cook a meal, and read and write, nearly twenty years would pass before a series of personally devastating events shattered the normal life she had worked so hard to build, and she realized that she would have to grow up all over again.

In her own indelible voice, Su offers us a view from the inside of a terrible injury, with the hope that her story will help give other brain injury sufferers and their families the resolve and courage to build their lives anew. Piercing, heartbreaking, but finally uplifting, this book is the true story of a woman determined to live life on her own terms.

02. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff, Alex Tresniowski, Valerie Salembier, 274 pages, read by Madeline, on 07/14/2014

Stopping was never part of the plan . . . 

She was a successful ad sales rep in Manhattan. He was a homeless, eleven-year-old panhandler on the street. He asked for spare change; she kept walking. But then something stopped her in her tracks, and she went back. And she continued to go back, again and again. They met up nearly every week for years and built an unexpected, life-changing friendship that has today spanned almost three decades. 

Whatever made me notice him on that street corner so many years ago is clearly something that cannot be extinguished, no matter how relentless the forces aligned against it. Some may call it spirit. Some may call it heart. It drew me to him, as if we were bound by some invisible, unbreakable thread. And whatever it is, it binds us still.

02. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, 240 pages, read by Madeline, on 07/01/2014

In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.

An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast’s talent as cartoonist and storyteller.

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman, John Shiffman, 324 pages, read by Madeline, on 06/29/2014

The Wall Street Journal called him “a living legend.” The London Timesdubbed him “the most famous art detective in the world.”
 
In Priceless, Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career for the first time, offering a real-life international thriller to rival The Thomas Crown Affair.   
 
Rising from humble roots as the son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year career that was nothing short of extraordinary. He went undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid.
 
In this page-turning memoir, Wittman fascinates with the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities: The golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king. The Rodin sculpture that inspired the Impressionist movement. The headdress Geronimo wore at his final Pow-Wow. The rare Civil War battle flag carried into battle by one of the nation’s first African-American regiments.
 
The breadth of Wittman’s exploits is unmatched: He traveled the world to rescue paintings by Rockwell and Rembrandt, Pissarro, Monet and Picasso, often working undercover overseas at the whim of foreign governments. Closer to home, he recovered an original copy of the Bill of Rights and cracked the scam that rocked the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.
 
By the FBI’s accounting, Wittman saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art and antiquities. He says the statistic isn’t important. After all, who’s to say what is worth more –a Rembrandt self-portrait or an American flag carried into battle? They’re both priceless. 
 
The art thieves and scammers Wittman caught run the gamut from rich to poor, smart to foolish, organized criminals to desperate loners.  The smuggler who brought him a looted 6th-century treasure turned out to be a high-ranking diplomat.  The appraiser who stole countless heirlooms from war heroes’ descendants was a slick, aristocratic con man.  The museum janitor who made off with locks of George Washington’s hair just wanted to make a few extra bucks, figuring no one would miss what he’d filched.
 
In his final case, Wittman called on every bit of knowledge and experience in his arsenal to take on his greatest challenge: working undercover to track the vicious criminals behind what might be the most audacious art theft of all. 

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty by Diane Keaton, 192 pages, read by Madeline, on 06/21/2014

From Academy Award winner and bestselling author Diane Keaton comes a candid, hilarious, and deeply affecting look at beauty, aging, and the importance of staying true to yourself—no matter what anyone else thinks.
 
Diane Keaton has spent a lifetime coloring outside the lines of the conventional notion of beauty. In Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, she shares the wisdom she’s accumulated through the years as a mother, daughter, actress, artist, and international style icon. This is a book only Diane Keaton could write—a smart and funny chronicle of the ups and downs of living and working in a world obsessed with beauty.
 
In her one-of-a-kind voice, Keaton offers up a message of empowerment for anyone who’s ever dreamed of kicking back against the “should”s and “supposed to”s that undermine our pursuit of beauty in all its forms. From a mortifying encounter with a makeup artist who tells her she needs to get her eyes fixed to an awkward excursion to Victoria’s Secret with her teenage daughter, Keaton shares funny and not-so-funny moments from her life in and out of the public eye. 
 
For Diane Keaton, being beautiful starts with being true to who you are, and in this book she also offers self-knowing commentary on the bold personal choices she’s made through the years: the wide-brimmed hats, outrageous shoes, and all-weather turtlenecks that have made her an inspiration to anyone who cherishes truly individual style—and catnip to paparazzi worldwide. She recounts her experiences with the many men in her life—including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Sam Shepard—shows how our ideals of beauty change as we age, and explains why a life well lived may be the most beautiful thing of all. 
 
Wryly observant and as fiercely original as Diane Keaton herself, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty is a head-turner of a book that holds up a mirror to our beauty obsessions—and encourages us to like what we see.

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney, 240 pages, read by Madeline, on 06/05/2014

The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Autobiographies, Graphic Novel, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney , 248 pages, read by Tammy, on 05/21/2014

marblesCartoonist Ellen Forney tells her personal story of confronting that she is bi-polar the best way she knows… through comics and sketches. She openly shares about her struggles to accept the she is bi-polar and the difficulty of finding just the right blend of medication and therapy so she can still be creative.

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: How To's, Humor, Inspirational, Marsha, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags: ,

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, 238 pages, read by Marsha, on 05/27/2014

birdLamott gives us an inside peek at her writing processes and the advice she gives to her workshop students.  Hilariously written, as one reviewer notes, the book is “a warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps.”  Lamott is not shy about telling her students and readers that writing is hard work and what we think of as reward, publication, may not ever happen.  And yet, we should keep on writing about ourselves, our lives, our very ups and downs.  She encourages us all to just keep writing day by day.  A good dose of humor is thrown in to keep us from getting too despondent.  Lamott tackles libel, beginning writing, taking classes, and finding writing partners with a good dose of reality and fun in her text.  I highly recommend it for any creative person who needs a good laugh.

 

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, 320 pages, read by Lisa, on 04/25/2014

The New York Times bestselling author of State of WonderRun, and Bel Canto creates a resonant portrait of a life in this collection of writings on love, friendship, work, and art.

“The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living.”

So begins This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, an examination of the things Ann Patchett is fully committed to—the art and craft of writing, the depths of friendship, an elderly dog, and one spectacular nun. Writing nonfiction, which started off as a means of keeping her insufficiently lucrative fiction afloat, evolved over time to be its own kind of art, the art of telling the truth as opposed to the art of making things up. Bringing her narrative gifts to bear on her own life, Patchett uses insight and compassion to turn very personal experiences into stories that will resonate with every reader.

These essays twine to create both a portrait of life and a philosophy of life. Obstacles that at first appear insurmountable—scaling a six-foot wall in order to join the Los Angeles Police Department, opening an independent bookstore, and sitting down to write a novel—are eventually mastered with quiet tenacity and a sheer force of will. The actual happy marriage, which was the one thing she felt she wasn’t capable of, ultimately proves to be a metaphor as well as a fact: Patchett has devoted her life to the people and ideals she loves the most.

An irresistible blend of literature and memoir, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a unique examination of the heart, mind, and soul of one of our most revered and gifted writers.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Book, Memoirs

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney, 256 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/19/2014

Art and madness. Do the two always have to go hand in hand? Is there a reason so many artists/writers/creative types struggle with mental illness? If they had been alive today, in the age of modern medicine and therapy, would they still have been able to create their masterpieces? Ellen Forney finds herself having to deal with this very issue as she, a long-time comic artist, is diagnosed as bi-polar. Forney doesn’t just tell her story; she does her research as well. Forney tells readers about the illness itself, the medications, side effects and so-called “mad” geniuses. Early on in her treatment, she worries about the medication taking away or diminishing her creativity. By the end, she has found a middle ground. Things aren’t perfect and never will be, but readers can tell that Ellen is going to wind up OK.
Marbles is a fantastic graphic memoir. Forney, who is an Eisner-Award winning cartoonist (and the artist for Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) does an excellent job of demystifying this potentially devastating mood disorder by putting forth her story in a clear and concise narrative. It is abundantly clear that much of her progress is due to a talented doctor/therapist and a large support network of friends. Even so, it still took years to find balance and which serves as a good reminder to readers that these issues will not go away overnight or on their own. At times humorous, but always honest, this memoir is an excellent example of what the comic medium is capable of.

02. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, 432 pages, read by Madeline, on 03/07/2014

An instant American icon–the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court–tells the story of her life before becoming a judge in an inspiring, surprisingly personal memoir.

With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.  She writes of her precarious childhood and the refuge she took with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She describes her resolve as a young girl to become a lawyer, and how she made this dream become reality: valedictorian of her high school class, summa cum laude at Princeton, Yale Law, prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, private practice, federal district judge before the age of forty. She writes about her deeply valued mentors, about her failed marriage, about her cherished family of friends. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-discovery and self-invention, alongside Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.

30. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Inspirational, Memoirs, NonFiction, Rachel

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, 228 pages, read by Rachel, on 03/29/2014

This was a fantastic autobiography! Reminiscent of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Hiding Place provided the perspective of a Christian family in Holland hiding those who were fleeing Nazi persecution. I was amazed by the organization of the resistance and the positivity of Corrie ten Boom during one of the darkest times of history.

This is the true story of how Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch underground when the Nazis invaded Holland, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room.

TV writer Hilary Winston offers up a witty collection of autobiographical tales about her misadventures in dating.

Just when Hilary feels like her life is finally in order, she gets a sucker-punch to the gut: Her ex has written a novel based on their relationship in which he refers to her throughout as the “fat-assed girlfriend.” Her response to this affront is just one of the many hilarious stories in My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me–a laugh-out-loud, tell-all in which Hilary sets the record straight on all her exes.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Helen, Memoirs, NonFiction

Most Talkative by Andy Cohen, 288 pages, read by Helen, on 09/30/2012

The man behind the Real Housewives writes about his lifelong love affair with pop culture that brought him from the suburbs of St. Louis to his own television show

From a young age, Andy Cohen knew one thing: He loved television. Not in the way that most kids do, but in an irrepressible, all-consuming, I-want-to-climb-inside-the-tube kind of way. And climb inside he did. Now presiding over Bravo’s reality TV empire, he started out as an overly talkative pop culture obsessive, devoted to Charlie’s Angels and All My Children and to his mother, who received daily letters from Andy at summer camp, usually reminding her to tape the soaps. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that everyone didn’t know that Andy was gay; still, he remained in the closet until college. Finally out, he embarked on making a career out of his passion for television.

The journey begins with Andy interviewing his all-time idol Susan Lucci for his college newspaper and ends with him in a job where he has a hand in creating today’s celebrity icons. In the witty, no-holds-barred style of his show Watch What Happens Live, Andy tells tales of absurd mishaps during his ten years at CBS News, hilarious encounters with the heroes and heroines of his youth, and the real stories behind The Real Housewives. Dishy, funny, and full of heart, Most Talkative provides a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the world of television, from a fan who grew up watching the screen and is now inside it, both making shows and hosting his own.

06. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

This Is How You Say Goodbye: A Daughter's Memoir by Victoria Loustalot, 240 pages, read by Madeline, on 01/31/2014

A razor-sharp memoir in which a young woman travels to Cambodia, Stockholm, and Paris to overcome the legacy of her difficult and charismatic father

When Victoria Loustalot was eight years old her father swept her up in a fantasy: a trip around the world. It was a grandiose plan and she had fallen for it. But it had never been so much as a possibility. Victoria’s father was sick. He was HIV positive and soon to fall prey to AIDS. Three years later he would be gone.

When Victoria realized that the grand trip with her father wasn’t going to happen, she was devastated. Her mother assumed she’d get over it, that eventually it would become just a shrug. But it didn’t. In the years to come, Victoria wondered what it would have been like to have been alone with her dad all those months, to see him outside of his sickness, beyond anything related to their family or their life. To have been with him in a new context. That’s what she wanted. And that’s what she did.

Some fifteen years after that initial promise, Victoria went to Stockholm, to Angkor Wat, and to Paris. She went to the places they were meant to see together, and she went to make peace with her father, too. Because while he’d always be forty-four, she’d gone on accumulating birthdays. Every year, her understanding of him continued to evolve and their relationship was still alive. Victoria Loustalot felt trapped beneath all of the unanswered questions he left behind. She needed to be set free. She needed to say goodbye.

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, Informational Book, Kira, Memoirs, NonFiction

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee casts off the yarn harlot's guide to the land of knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee , 218 pages, read by Kira, on 11/28/2013

castoff froganatomy-of-a-knitter1  knit steph Stephanie Pearl-McPhee uses the format of a travelogue to humorously describe knitter’s foibles (including the STASH). She also incudes a number of quizzes so you can find out what type of knitter, stasher, etc. you are.  It was quiet funny and I actually learned a few things I hadn’t know (I am Not a tumblr_loylymBblY1qcg6wqo1_500process knitter).

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Pamela

I, Toto by Willard Carroll, 96 pages, read by Pamela, on 11/27/2013

I totoDuring the expansion of the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles, Willard Carroll unearthed a leatherbound scrapbook from a site that was once a pet cemetery. To his amazement, its yellowing pages contained the rags-to-riches story of Terry, the cairn terrier who played Toto in the enduring film The Wizard of Oz. Reprinted here in its entirety, I, Toto traces the canine star’s tragic beginnings, her exhilarating film career, and her happy retirement in Southern California. Best of all, it offers the inside scoop on Toto’s signature role, her costars, and the making of The Wizard of Oz.

There are also some endearing passages about Terry’s (a.k.a. Toto) interaction with Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, and Spencer Tracy.  A book written from a dog’s point of view is not unique, but from this famous dog’s point of view it is unique.

Children and adults alike will like this book.  There are plenty of pictures to entertain the young ones while an adult reads the story.  It’s a very quick read and packed with lots of entertainment about a very special little dog.

25. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tracy

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt, 256 pages, read by Tracy, on 11/24/2013

In this memoir, iconic singer Linda Ronstadt weaves together a captivating story of her origins in Tucson, Arizona, and her rise to stardom in the Southern California music scene of the 1960s and ’70s.

Born into a musical family, Linda’s childhood was filled with everything from Hank Williams to Gilbert and Sullivan, Mexican folk music to jazz and opera. Her artistic curiosity blossomed early, and she and her siblings began performing their own music for anyone who would listen. Now, twelve Grammy Awards later, Ronstadt tells the story of her wide-ranging and utterly unique musical journey.

Ronstadt arrived in Los Angeles just as the folk-rock movement was beginning to bloom, setting the stage for the development of country-rock. After the dissolution of her first band, the Stone Poneys, Linda went out on her own and quickly found success. As part of the coterie of like-minded artists who played at the Troubadour club in West Hollywood, she helped define the musical style that dominated American music in the 1970s. One of her early back-up bands went on to become the Eagles, and Linda would become the most successful female artist of the decade. She has sold more than 100 million records, won numerous awards, and toured all over the world. Linda has collaborated with legends such as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Aaron Neville, J.D. Souther, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Bette Midler, and Frank Sinatra, as well as Homer Simpson and Kermit the Frog. By the time she retired in 2009, Ronstadt had spent four decades as one of the most popular singers in the world, becoming the first female artist in popular music to release four consecutive platinum albums.

In Simple Dreams, Ronstadt reveals the eclectic and fascinating journey that led to her long-lasting success. And she describes it all in a voice as beautiful as the one that sang “Heart Like a Wheel”—longing, graceful, and authentic.

I was so excited to read this that I did something I rarely ever do: read an entire ebook on my phone. For real. I hate reading on my phone, especially for extended periods of time, but I don’t have a tablet or e-reader, so there you go. I received an e-copy of the book via NetGalley and promptly downloaded it to my phone. I had intended just to begin the book and then patiently wait for a print copy, but couldn’t ultimately could not stop reading. And laughing. So much laughing. Allie Brosh’s book is painfully honest and laugh-out-loud-hilarious. And her mastery of MS Paint for dramatic effect is unparalleled.
Anyone who has ever read and enjoyed “Hyperbole and a Half” ought to pick this up right away and read it cover to cover. Anyone who has never checked out “Hyperbole and a Half” has serious deficiencies in their life and they need to start reading the blog and/or this book immediately.

While the library doesn’t own a copy yet, we probably will sooner or later.  Until then, check out the blog at: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

You won’t be disappointed.