Category Archives: Biographies and Memoirs

Review: Teaching the Cat to Sit: a Memoir, by Michelle Theall

A compelling memoir of love, family, spirituality and discrimination. A gay woman’s journey through tumultuous, troubled teen age years to ultimate peace, acceptance and happiness.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: LG

Check our catalog

Advertisements

Comments Off on Review: Teaching the Cat to Sit: a Memoir, by Michelle Theall

Filed under Biographies and Memoirs, Staff Picks

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett

Patchett has wanted to be a fiction writer since she was a child, but after her college education and her stint at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for grad school she supported herself with writing magazine articles for several years. The articles she chose for this essay collection add up to a sort of autobiography. I especially enjoyed her account of training for and taking the entrance exam, written and physical, for the Los Angeles police department, as police officer had been her father’s career. The happy marriage of the title was achieved after seeing her parent’s marriage break up and Ann’s reluctance to undertake a second marriage after the failure of her first. I listened to the book on CD which is narrated by the author.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: kh

Check our catalog

Comments Off on This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett

Filed under Audiobooks, Biographies and Memoirs, Non Fiction, Staff Picks

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

In this inspiring and uplifting book, Justice Sotomayor tells of the story of her life up to her appointment as a federal judge at age 38. She grew up in the Bronx, her family scarred by her father’s alcoholism and early death when Sonia was nine. Her character was also shaped by her diagnosis of juvenile diabetes at age seven and her determination even as a little girl to be a lawyer and a judge, since she was no longer eligible for her first dream of police detective because of her diabetes. Her mother was determined that Sonia and her brother make the most of their education as she saw it as their path to a more prosperous life. Sonia also tells about the many family, friends and mentors who have guided her in this real American dream story. I listened to the book on CD, narrated by Rita Moreno which was excellent.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good
Reviewed by: kh

Check our catalog

Comments Off on My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

Filed under Audiobooks, Biographies and Memoirs, Staff Picks

The World in My Kitchen: The Adventures of a (Mostly) French Woman in New York, by Colette Rosant

I had read Colette’s earlier memoir, Apricots on the Nile, about growing up in a large, loving Egyptian-Jewish family in Cairo during the 1940’s. This volume follows her marriage in 1955 to artist and architect James Rossant and her life as a newlywed in New York City where she learns about American food and develops a love of cooking and world cuisine. There are funny stories about her early efforts as a French translator (questioned by the FBI at one point!), young mother and Greenwich Village homeowner. She has had a fabulous career, raised four children and gotten involved in lots of creative food ventures all over the world. Some recipes are included in this brisk account covering a half century of her life.

Check our catalog

RATING: * * * A good read
Reviewed by: kh

Comments Off on The World in My Kitchen: The Adventures of a (Mostly) French Woman in New York, by Colette Rosant

Filed under Biographies and Memoirs, Staff Picks

Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, by Gail Caldwell

Caldwell, local Cambridge based author and former chief book critic for the Boston Globe, here writes about the intense and nearly perfect friendship she had with author Caroline Knapp, whose untimely death at only 42 left Gail bereft. They had so much in common:  a love of the water, Caroline as a rower and Gail as a swimmer; they taught each other their sports. Also, they both were dog owners who found great joy in together training and exercising their dogs. On a darker note, they both had conquered drinking problems. Daily phone calls and walks with their pets formed a large part of both women’s daily routines. One of the members of my book group, a widow, thought Caldwell got it right about how grieving feels and works.

See two earlier staff reviews of this book here.

Check our catalog

RATING: * * * A good read
Reviewed by: kh

Comments Off on Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, by Gail Caldwell

Filed under Biographies and Memoirs, Staff Picks

Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance, by Jean Zimmerman

A dual biography of Edith Minturn Stokes and her husband Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, Manhattanites of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wealthy, but aware that fortune also has responsibilities to society, their story is fascinating. Edith was the model for the giant statue of the Republic by Daniel Chester French which was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, 1891-1893. Newton, as he was known, was the author of the monumental six volume “The Iconography of Manhattan Island” which you may see in the Rare book collection of the Boston Public Library or online at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/cul/texts/ldpd_5800727_002/
We also learn about their dual portrait painted during their honeymoon in London by John Singer Sargent which you may view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Check our catalog

RATING: * * * * Very, very good
Reviewed by: kh

Comments Off on Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance, by Jean Zimmerman

Filed under Biographies and Memoirs, Staff Picks

Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel, by Jeannette Walls

Really a biography of grandmother Lily Casey Smith, but written in the first person with her grandmother as the narrator, this book is filled with fascinating stories of life in the American West in the first half of the 20th century. Through the book’s short chapters of family stories, I got a real sense of the kind of smart, no-nonsense, hard working woman Lily must have been. Born on a ranch to a delicate mother who was unsuited to frontier life and a father whose handicaps did not stop him from becoming a successful quarter horse breeder and trainer, Lily in these stories shines as a rancher, teacher, horse trainer and darn good poker player who would not have suffered fools gladly. I really enjoyed her story, told by granddaughter Jeannette, also the author of her parents’ story, The Glass Castle.

Check our catalog

RATING: * * * * Very, very good
Reviewed by: kh

Comments Off on Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel, by Jeannette Walls

Filed under Biographies and Memoirs, Historical Fiction, Non Fiction, Staff Picks