biography/memoir

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Charles Dickens in Love by Robert Garnett

Charles Dickens was the “celebrity” of the Victorian era. Well loved for his family oriented stories and novels, his life was a combination of romantic subterfuge, financial constraints and familial duty. This biography highlights the three intensely romantic interests in his life other than his wife, the mother of his ten children. The most interesting relationship with Ellen Tiernan, twenty seven years his junior, lasts until his death.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

The semi-famous blog Hyperbole and a Half has a book counterpart! If you've never read the blog, go there now and read away and then read her book, too. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking. Funny and at moments somber. Using crude, yet perfect, drawings that convey every range of emotion, Allie Brosh tells stories of her childhood, life with two crazy dogs, and dealing with social anxiety and depression.

My Heart is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart

Funny, outrageous stories from the personal life of the founder of Found magazine. Davy reminded me of a couple other Davids - Eggers & Sedaris - his writing is crystal clear and his grasp on reality is phenomenal. There's failed love for sure, but also incarceration, sex near a tarantula, death, music, a scam artist and 99 bottles of pee on the wall.

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin (audiobook)

Steve Martin narrates his own memoir of being a stand-up comedian, from learning magic tricks at Disneyland at the age of 15, many years of crafting his show, to enormous success, then walking away. This is a surprisingly touching story of an isolating career, much of the time spent on the road, and many years of struggling before he hit it big. There is humor in it, but it is not a comic book. Rather, a sweet and dark reminiscence.

Mo' Meta Blues by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Ben Greenman

Questlove has achieved fame as the drummer for The Roots, a long-lasting instrumental hip-hop band that is also the incredibly virtuosic house band for the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon televison show.

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

It's like Aaron Hartzler was raised in an alternate universe. His memoir of growing up in a conservative Christian home was completely foreign to me, yet fascinating. No TV, no music except of the hymn variety, he was compelled to hide the fact that he was reading Neil Simon plays and listening to Amy Grant!   In his world a bad boy goes to the movies.  Hartzler presents his story in a straightforward manner that doesn't negate his parents beliefs, but illuminates his own burgeoning disillusion with them.

Stitches by David Small

In this graphic novel memoir, David Small chronicles his sickly childhood growing up in Detroit in the 1950s. Small is told he needs surgery to remove a cyst, but he wakes up without a vocal cord . . . and voiceless. He eventually learns he had cancer—a fact his parents kept a secret from him. The use of the images helps Small to capture his adolescent frustrations, his powerlessness, and his lack of voice better than just words can.

We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen

I expected this to be an oral history of comedians so I was a little surprised at how much space was given over to improv and writing for sitcoms.  Not that it wasn't interesting but I kept wondering when we'd be getting back to the comedians.   A lot of the focus of the book is about women breaking into the largely male arena of stand-up comedy and the perception, by some people, that women aren't funny.  There is some rehashing of well-worn topics like how hard women had it on  Saturday Night Live, and other not so well known, like how supportive Janeane Garofalo was

The Lost: A Search For Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

As a boy, Daniel Mendelsohn was fascinated by his maternal grandfather’s stories and compelled by the mysterious absence of the single great-uncle (of seven siblings) who was “killed by the Nazis” along with his wife and four daughters. As an adult, the author doggedly pursued the truth about what happened to these “six of six million” in an attempt to know who they were as individuals caught up in the larger holocaust of history.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Born to a single mother and adopted by Pentecostal parents, acclaimed British novelist Jeanette Winterson's childhood was extraordinary by any measure.  In this raw, fiercely honest and deeply affecting memoir, she remembers growing up with a monstrous mother and a passive father in a very specific time and place: the 1960s and 1970s in the small North England industrial town of Accrington, where some of the poorer children brought dog biscuits to school for their mid-day meal and everyone Jeanette knew was as skinny as a ferret.

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