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Memoirs – 2013


Memoirs – 2013
Gere Branch, April 29, 2013
Katie M. (Bennett Martin Public Library)

Listen to this booktalk as an audio podcast!

Brain on Fire
by Susannah Cahalan [Biography Cahalan]

One day Susannah was a high functioning, New York writer and then suddenly, over a short period of time she became moody, irrational, and unstable. After having several seizures she was finally admitted to a hospital where doctors initially thought she might be suffering from schizophrenia. Eventually she was diagnosed with a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain. She recounts her experience through interviews with her physicians, reading her parents’ journals and reviewing hours of film during her hospital stay since she has no memory of the many months she spent in the ICU.

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hassidic Roots
by Deborah Feldman [Biography Feldman]

Deborah Feldman grew up in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York where conservative, orthodox customs were enforced. As a girl she was given a substandard education and as a teenager was betrothed to a man she barely knew in an arranged marriage. She struggled with the emotional & intellectual restrictions on her life but after the birth of her son she decides to divorce her husband, leave the religious community she once belonged to, and start a new life.

The Wilder Life
by Wendy McClure [813 WilYm]

This is a must read for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Super fan Wendy McClure provides an account of her year tracking down everything related to the Little House on the Prairie books. She visits the Ingalls homesteads, churns butter after finding an authentic nineteenth century churn, and attends a Laura look-a-like competition in DeSmet, SD. Along the way she meets eccentric characters who are as tied to the books as she is. A light read written with humor, wit, and warmth.

One Shot at Forever
by Chris Ballard [796.357 Bal]

This is a thrilling account of a small town high school team that makes it to the 1971 Illinois State Baseball Championship. The unlikely champions are led by their counter-cultural, hippy coach whose style clashes with the WWII generation of educators and parents. The coach is about to be dismissed until the team begins a miraculous series of wins that inspires the entire town. The experience profoundly impacts the teenage students.

Almost a Family: a Memoir
by John Darnton [Biography Darnton]

John Darnton was almost a year old when is father, Darbey, died in the South Pacific covering WWII for the New York Times. John and his older brother were raised by his mother who created a mythological identity of his father. As his mother struggled to provide a stable home for her boys John dreamed of how different his life would be if only his father had lived. Later, as adults, John and his brother start to investigate their father, the find a man who was quite different from the idealized figure their mother invented.

A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness – and a Trove of Letters – Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression
by Ted Gup [361.7 Gup]

Ted Gup is a writer whose works appeared in the Washington Post & New York Times. As the family historian his mother gave him a suitcase of writings from his grandfather when she was cleaning out her deceased parent’s possessions. When sorting through the suitcase’s contents Ted found a trove of thank you letters written to his grandfather under his assumed name of Mr. B Virdot. Ted began exploring the reason for the letters – a newspaper ad in 1933 offering financial help at Christmas for suffering families during the depression. He tracks down the recipients of his grandfather’s charity and finds out how the gifts impacted their lives. He also discovers why his grandfather was so secretive of his identity.

Heads in Beds
by Jacob Tomsky [Biography Tomsky]

Fresh out of college with a newly earned philosophy degree, Jacob Tomsky looked around for a career to match is ambition and found none. What he did find was a job as a valet parking attendant for a five star hotel in New Orleans. Thus began his career in the hospitality industry. Written with his acerbic sense of humor he offers his advice on how to steal items from bar and not get caught, how to get an upgraded room without paying more, and why you should never give your car keys to the parking attendants.

The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe [Biography Schwalbe]

After his mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Will accompanies her to her radiation treatment. During the long hours they spend waiting in hospital lounges, they discuss many of the books they’ve read over the years. What starts out as suggestions & recommendations turns into a transfer of wisdom and grace from a dying mother to her son.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
by Fiona Carnarvon [Biography Carnarvon]

Fans of the PBS series Downton Abbey will enjoy this book about the 5th Countess of Carnavon. Almina was born the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild. It was Rothschild’s money given for her dowry to an almost bankrupt Earl of Carnavon that preserved the ancestral estate. The marriage gave her a title & legitimacy in gilded Edwardian society and allowed the Earl to invest in his Egyptian excavations eventually leading to the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb. The book details her efforts to run the great house including turning it into a hospital during the Great War.

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris
by Jennifer L. Scott [646.76 Sco]

Jennifer Scott is given lessons in graceful living by her host family during her year as a foreign exchange student in Paris. The chapters present lessons Jennifer learned from her mentor, Madame Chic, and help her transform from a casual, Californian teen into a sophisticated young woman.

The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker
by Janet L. Groth [Biography Groth]

Janet Groth was an ambitious young woman with an English degree when she traveled to New York City in the late 1950’s. She took a low paying job as a receptionist for the New Yorker Magazine thinking it would eventually give her contacts and lead to a career as a writer. Instead, she remained a receptionist, watching others advance due to a combination of sex discrimination and her own poor choices.

Mrs. Kennedy and Me
by Clint Hill [973.922 Hil]

When the Kennedy Administration replaced the Eisenhower Administration, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill expected to be assigned to the incoming president. Much to his dismay, he was reassigned to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Over the course of the next three years they would become friends and confidants. She would rely on him for protection and strength in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination and then she would be gone from his life. Written with great admiration, Clint Hill provides an intimate portrait of the incredibly private First Lady.

Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
by Gabrielle Hamilton [641.5 Ham]

Gabrielle Hamilton had an idyllic childhood in the county where her artistic parents gave their children free reign to frolic and play. At the center of their home was a kitchen & panty stocked by their French mother whose cooking and palate was sophisticated by American standards. When her parents’ marriage collapses her mother moves out and her father is rarely home. She is driven by her hunger to concoct dishes made from what she can find in the pantry. Thus begins her career as a chef. She recounts the steps that eventually lead to opening her famous NYC restaurant.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed [Biography Strayed]

Cheryl’s unconventional childhood and her mother’s death from cancer left her isolated, rootless, and adrift as a twenty something. By chance, she finds a travel guide for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Deciding a 1000 mile journey is what she needs, she embarks on a hike from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State.

Prague Winter
by Madeleine Albright [Biography Albright]

When Madeleine Albright was being vetted for her nomination as Secretary of State, a reporter discovered that although she was raised Catholic, her parent was actually born Jewish. After leaving her position as Secretary of State, she explores her Jewish roots and discovers what happened to her Czechoslovakian relatives after Nazi Germany occupies the country during WWII.

I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had
by Tony Danza [Biography Danza]

For Tony Danza, former television star and talk show host, turning 60 was a big change. His talk show was cancelled and he separated from his wife. Examining his life, he decided to try his original career plan: become a teacher. After sharing his idea with colleagues, he finds himself cast as a rookie teacher at Philadelphia’s Northeast High in a reality show sponsored by the A& E network. But dreaming about teaching is quite different from actually being a teacher.

Like Any Normal Day
by Mark Kram [Biography Miley]

Buddy Miley was a star high school athlete excelling in multiple sports until a football injury left him a quadriplegic. At first, his optimistic attitude, inspired by his small town’s adulation, helps him adjusts to his new condition. But at the years go by his pain increases and his hopes diminish. His mother, who provides the major of his physical care, becomes increasing frail. Finally, he asks his younger brother to help him with an assisted suicide.

My Year with Eleanor
by Noelle Hancock [Biography Hancock]

Noelle Hancock was living a fabulous life in New York City until she lost her job at the beginning of the Great Recession. Floundering & adrift, she walks into a coffee house and chances upon a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” After reflecting on Eleanor’s words, she realizes that she has become too timid in her choices. She decides to spend the year between her 29th & 30th birthdays confronting her biggest fears, from diving with sharks to jumping out of airplanes. And everything else in between…

After Visiting Friends
by Michael Hainey [Biography Hainey]

Michael Hainey’s father died when he was six years old. His death was something that was rarely discussed by his mother. She always gave vague answers to his questions and he grew up wondering who his father was. Since his father was an editor for a Chicago newspaper his obituary was in several local papers. As a teen Michael Hainey discovered one paper noted his father died “after visiting friends.” As an adult, Michael discovers who his father was visiting on the night of his death and why his mother was so vague regarding the circumstances of his death.