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Browsing all posts tagged 'biography'


Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Title: Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
By: Caroline Fraser

If you grew up like me, reading and re-reading the Little House books, you may find this book as fascinating as I did. Caroline Fraser has meticulously researched Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, her writing, and that of her daughter Rose Wilder Lane (an important Libertarian). It turns out that the ... [Read more]



Educated: a memoir

Title: Educated: a memoir
By: Tara Westover

“I wanted to get away from the junkyard and there was only one way to do that, which was the way Audrey had done it; by getting a job so I wouldn’t be at the house when Dad rounded up his crew. The trouble was, I was eleven.” It’s hard ... [Read more]


Reading dangerously

The year of reading dangerously : how fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) saved my life

Title: The year of reading dangerously : how fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) saved my life
By: Andy Miller

I, too, dislike "Year of Reading This, Year of Reading That" memoirs. This one is actually good. It's hard to resist a literary tour guide who pits Moby-Dick against The Da Vinci Code (in the chapter "Whale vs. Grail"). Also, one has to like an author who includes the titles ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography

A city with many dark secrets

The Lady in gold

Title: The Lady in gold
By: Anne-Marie O'Connor

Gustav Klimt’s portrait of the wealthy socialite Adele Bloch-Bauer, painted in a mosaic pattern using gold leaf, was commissioned by Adele’s husband Ferdinand Bauer in 1907 and today is considered a masterpiece. Adele Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis in 1925, at the age of 45. She was spared witnessing the 1938 ... [Read more]


Lifting the burdens

What it is like to go to war

Title: What it is like to go to war
By: Karl Marlantes

A work of courage and intelligence that challenges us to consider issues most of us would rather avoid. Karl Marlantes has thought deeply about the psychological impacts and lifelong burdens of killing in war, based on his experiences in Viet Nam and subsequent self-examination. He bravely exposes his own feelings ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography

A tempestuous personality

River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the technological wild west

Title: River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the technological wild west
By: Rebecca Solnit

Instead of utilizing the traditional biographical format, Rebecca Solnit has chosen to delineate this remarkable man through his many self-taught accomplishments and innovations. British born in 1830, he left his homeland early on to set off to America to explore his interests and opportunities, working on the docks of New ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography

Artist or scallywag?

The mad potter: George E. Ohr, eccentric genius

Title: The mad potter: George E. Ohr, eccentric genius
By: Jan Greenberg

"For most of his adult life, folks called George Ohr a scallywag, a rascal, a braggart, a clown. He called himself a genius, an artist, an outsider, a mud dauber, the mad potter." Lively quotes from George Ohr and lots of color photos of his ceramic works make this book ... [Read more]

biography, kids nonfiction



Title: Wave
By: Sonali Deraniyagala

Estragon: I can't go on like this. Vladimir: That's what you think. --Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book. I wasn't sure whether I'd review it. I didn't trust myself to "judge" it. I was right to read it. It deals with a ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography


Are You My Mother? a comic drama

Title: Are You My Mother? a comic drama
By: Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother? What an amazing find! I picked up this graphic narrative because the title evokes the children’s book classic Are You My Mother? in which a baby bird wanders around questioning everyone it meets. Bechdel’s cover art -- a vanity, makeup, jewelry -- is our first cue ... [Read more]

biography, graphic novel

Want to Be Great: Boss


Title: Bruce
By: Peter Arnes Carlin

Bruce is a new biography of singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen by Peter Ames Carlin, author of Paul McCartney:a life. The book concentrates on the difference between Springsteen and many other musicians: from Steel Mill to E Street Band, he has been a true cultural and working-class icon, deep-rooted in ... [Read more]


Gentle cicerone

A Romantic in Spain

Title: A Romantic in Spain
By: Théophile Gautier

Awww, Spain…I remember 1975, waking up early a.m. in the night train from Paris to Madrid, realizing I was now in the land of poor befuddled Don Quixote and the exquisite Alhambra, and feeling an amorphous affinity for the country and its people. And here in this book in the ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, travel

Tipping pointers

Heads in Beds: a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality

Title: Heads in Beds: a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality
By: Jacob Tomsky

Living in our beautiful town, we have all been affected (infected?) by the tourism industry, voluntarily or involuntarily, for better or for worse. Maybe you've given a lost soul directions to the Boardwalk one too many times, or been late for work because you forgot about the Beach Train. Enter ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, travel

Marvelous invention

My Invented Country

Title: My Invented Country
By: Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende’s moving memoir about the country she loved and left is read so perfectly by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis that I almost want to say: Don’t read this book; you must listen to it! The many voices of Allende’s writing -- irony, tenderness, humor and harshly honest journalistic modes -- are ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, audiobook

Farmer's Market Will Never Look the Same After

Blithe Tomato

Title: Blithe Tomato
By: Mike Marshall

Digs below the trendy, glossy surface of contemporary small scale farming, uncovering rich soil beneath. Unlikely ever to enjoy wide distribution, but remarkably insightful and delightfully well written. Set in California's Central Valley, will amply reward serendipitous discovery in library stacks. [Read more]

non-fiction, biography

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

Title: The Glass Castle
By: Jeannette Walls

At once heartbreaking and heartening, Walls describes her peripatetic childhood taking on adult responsibilities at an extremely young age because her parents, though physically present, lived mostly in their own worlds. They obviously loved their children but felt no need to parent them in the conventional sense. At the age ... [Read more]

biography, audiobook

But Wait! There's More!

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1.

Title: Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1.
By: Harriet Elinor Smith, Editor.

Dear Mr. Clemens, So nice to hear from you! As always, I enjoyed reading your recollections of work as a cub pilot on the Mississippi, and the amusing stories of life on the never ending lecture circuit. I’m so sorry about your daughter Suzy passing away; she sounds like such ... [Read more]

fiction, non-fiction, history, biography, travel


The anthropology of turquoise: reflections on desert, sea, stone, and sky

Title: The anthropology of turquoise: reflections on desert, sea, stone, and sky
By: Ellen Meloy

Warning: when you discover that Ellen Meloy died suddenly in 2004, you may feel bereft. "I was just getting to know her; how could she disappear?" The consolation is her books. Call them naturalist's memoirs or personalized landscapes or eco-history or (as she did) anthropology, they add up to a ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, travel

A Softer Side of Patti

Just Kids

Title: Just Kids
By: Patti Smith

What do artists mean when they refer to having “a breakthrough” and from that point, go on to create their own unique style of expression? This autobiography describes the working conditions of the poet and punk rock star Patti Smith, and her friend, the late avant garde photographer Robert Mapplethorpe ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history, biography, poetry, photography, art


Summit Fever

Title: Summit Fever
By: Andrew Greig

Most mountaineering writers are mountaineers first. Poet and novelist Andrew Greig did it the opposite way: he joined an attempt on the “unclimbable” Mustagh Tower as expedition scribe, and emerged a mountaineer. His account of that expedition is an idiosyncratic classic. Greig may have driven his companions crazy with his ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, travel

Strength in What Remains

Strength in What Remains

Title: Strength in What Remains
By: Tracy Kidder

At once heartwarming and tearjerking, Kidder tells the story of Deo who arrives in New York City with $200 in his pocket after a harrowing escape from civil war and genocide in Burundi. This is a story of hope and survival in the face of man�s inhumanity to man. Deo�s ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography

What Makes Steve Martin Run?

Born Standing Up

Title: Born Standing Up
By: Steve Martin

Copies of this book keep passing through my hands, as I sort through the library gifts. Such is my job. I must make a quick decision; one can’t read all the books, after all. One looks at reviews, similar books, how often they check out. But this one, every time ... [Read more]


Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack

Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack

Title: Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack
By: Charles Osgood

The book is subtitled "A Boyhood Year During World War II." It is Osgood's memoir of 1942 when he was nine years old. The war was touching lives of those at home - victory gardens flourished, scrap metal was collected for the war effort, schoolchildren memorized the silhouettes of Japanese ... [Read more]


The Making of Modern Paris, or, the demolition of prime real estate?

Haussmann, His Life and Times, and the Making of Modern Paris

Title: Haussmann, His Life and Times, and the Making of Modern Paris
By: Michel Carmona

This is a critical biography of the ultimate urban planner, Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann. A re-evaluation of the controversial urbanization of Paris, Dr. Carmona (professor of Urban Studies at the Sorbonne) does a fantastic job of laying out the truly hideous public hygiene problem, famously described as "a choleric swamp", and ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history, biography, art, travel

The funniest travelogue ever?

Into the heart of Borneo

Title: Into the heart of Borneo
By: Redmond O'Hanlon

Possibly the funniest travel memoir ever written, as well as an unexpected gold mine of accurate scientific information. When O'Hanlon invited his Borneo travel companion, the poet James Fenton, on a succeeding journey, the answer was an earbreaking NO! Would most readers want to accompany O'Hanlon? Probably not. But a ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, travel

It's A Long Drive Down Interstate 5, or that's a lot of cotton!

The King of California, J.G. Boswell and The Making of A Secret American Empire.

Title: The King of California, J.G. Boswell and The Making of A Secret American Empire.
By: Mark Arax

This book dovetails perfectly if you happen to be reading John Steinbeck, or studying the photographs of Dorothea Lange. A biography which examines the life of a very powerful farmer (at one point owning over 200,000 acres of rich farmland) used to driving bargains across bar stools and shaking down ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history, biography

Journeys of a Passionate Traveller

A Year in the World

Title: A Year in the World
By: Frances Mayes

Mayes' most well-known work Under the Tuscan Sun and its offshoots never appealed to me so I was surprised and delighted when I discovered her more recent memoir, A Year in the World. In her day job Mayes was a writing instructor, and here she shows her craft in top ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, travel

From Frito Pie to Pho

Take Big Bites: adventures around the world and across the table

Title: Take Big Bites: adventures around the world and across the table
By: Linda Ellerbee

Longtime reporter, producer, TV host, and author, Linda Ellerbee calls herself "a recovering journalist who's traveled and eaten her way around the planet and lived to tell some tales." In Take Big Bites she has written a witty, sassy book about food that's also a blend of autobiography, travelogue and ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, travel

Pathways to Santa Cruz County & Its People

Pathways to the Past: Adventures in Santa Cruz County History

Title: Pathways to the Past: Adventures in Santa Cruz County History
By: Alverda Orlando and 21 others

Pathways to the Past is not the first book on the history of Santa Cruz County. As a matter of fact, at the time of this writing, our library catalog alone shows 135 titles on its history from early ones like Illustrations of Santa Cruz County, California, with historical sketch ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history, biography

Endearing biography of Doris Day

Doris Day: the untold story of the girl next door

Title: Doris Day: the untold story of the girl next door
By: David Kaufman

Are you a "Dayniac" too? This biography is so much more than just the usual tell-all book about America's sweetheart Doris Day with the superb voice and acting career. This book will give you the real low-down on her smarmy manager/husband, Marty Melcher. Miss Day was one of the biggest ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history, biography

The Wife of a Famous Man

Song Without Words

Title: Song Without Words
By: Sophia Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy's wife bore him 13 children. He scribbled his novels in notebooks that only she was able to read so she spent all night copying in a legible hand everything he wrote the previous day...think about THAT the next time you see a copy of WAR AND PEACE. But ... [Read more]

history, biography, photography

Something to Make You Think

Principles of Uncertainty

Title: Principles of Uncertainty
By: Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman is a wonderful whimsical artist who has drawn many colorful covers for the New Yorker and has written several slightly wacky delightful children's books including Ooh-La-La (Max in Love), Smartypants, and Fireboat, an excellent 9-11 children's book. You don't have to have seen her art or read her ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography

A Colorful History

Color: A Natural History of the Palette

Title: Color: A Natural History of the Palette
By: Victoria Finlay

Doesn't this sound like something that would be assigned in a dry history class? If you think so, you'd be wrong! Victoria Finlay, an excellent writer, has given us a history of the development of color in paint that is actually a page-turner. Extensively researched, we learn that each hue ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history, biography, art

Friends in the Kitchen

M.F.K. Fisher and Me: A memoir of Food and Friendship

Title: M.F.K. Fisher and Me: A memoir of Food and Friendship
By: Jeannette Ferrary

If only it were my kitchen! I would prove to both Jeannette and Mary Frances that when I scramble eggs, or sear a pork chop, it was their advice that helped me make them turn out so "right." What serendipity! Jeannette is a cookbook writer and writes M.F.K. a fan ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history, biography

Book Kits

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