Category Archives: Biography & Memoir

Jerry Lee Lewis


Title : Jerry Lee Lewis : His Own Story

Author : Rick Bragg

Publisher : HarperCollins, Oct. 2014

Summary / Review : Rick Bragg listened to Jerry Lee’s stories for over two years and then wrote about his life like a he was a member of the family.

Jerry Lee Lewis was born in 1935 in Ferriday Louisiana, a place where the water would rise up routinely, flooding the land, destroying homes and farms, and leaving behind writhing nests of copperheads and diamondbacks. His family was poor. His mother picked cotton and his father was a bootlegger and sometime carpenter. But Jerry Lee decided early on to “live by a set of rules separate from those set down for dull, regular people.”

He was four when he discovered the piano on a visit to his Aunt Stella’s house.  He touched one key and, as he explains to Rick Bragg “I don’t know what happened.  Somethin’ strange.  I felt it in my whole body.” His father, Elmo, would mortgage his farm to buy Jerry Lee his first piano, At the age of 80, he still has it.

Formal piano lessons, of which there was only one, did not work well for Jerry Lee.  He learned by playing and listening, sneaking into Haney’s Big House where he would hide under the tables until he was hauled out by Will Haney himself and shown the door.

Formal schooling also did not work out well for Jerry Lee.  His nickname, Killer, didn’t come from his on-stage antics with the piano but by trying to strangle the 7th grade teacher with the teacher’s own tie. After earning $14 at his first professional gig at the age of 14, belting out “Wine Spo-dee-o-dee” for a crowd gathered at the Paul Ford Motor Co to get a look at the the new model with the flathead V8 well loved by both bootleggers and G-men, Jerry Lee decided to quit school.  He “saw no future in it.”

His upbringing in the Pentecostal Church would create a life-long tension between the fear of the Holy Ghost and the love of the secular music he chose to play. In a last ditch effort at throwing his cards in with the Holy Ghost,  Jerry Lee enrolled in the Southwestern Bible Institute where they offered courses in Bible study, Pentecostal history and church business.  He lasted three months.  He was asked to do a piano solo at the singspiration, a night of religious entertainment.  He obliged with a boogie rendition of My God is Real, which he described as “up-tempo spiritual,” unfortunately the Dean interpreted it as “reckless and prurient.” The next day he was asked to leave.  It was back to the clubs and for that every music lover should be grateful.

Rick Bragg chronicles all the highs and lows of the quintessential rock and roll life – the wives (six by some counts, seven by others), the women, the drugs, the fights, the honky-tonks and juke joints. Jerry Lee’s star rises and falls more than once in a career which spans decades and continues with the recent release of Rock & Roll Time. His command of music encompasses rock, country, gospel and he is as inspired belting out Great Balls of Fire as he is performing the old hymns, Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Railroad to Heaven, on another recent release (Mean Old Man).

As Jerry Lee says “I’ve had an interestin’ life, haven’t I?  A great Life.”

Read about his life to a background of his music. Visit our website to select some of Jerry Lee’s music from Freegal or Hoopla.

Who Will Like This : As Rick Bragg might say, “Anyone who ever danced in their socks.”

If You Like This Try This : For more on Jerry Lee read Unconquered : The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart and Mikey Gilley or try another recent biography of a music legend – Respect : The Life of Aretha Franklin

If this looks like something you would like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold!

Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor…


Title: Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice

Author: Joan Biskupic

Summary/Review: The most interesting thing about this book is the direction the author chose in describing the selection and Senate approval of Justice Sotomayor. She describes in wonderful detail how it is nowhere near enough to be a brilliant, Ivy League educated, experienced lawyer and lower court judge, but how politics and one’s network of associates, mentors and friends impact the possibility of being selected by the President of the United States and then surviving Senate confirmation hearings. The author takes us through some of Justice Sotomayor’s upbringing and education, but focuses on the way she drove herself to cultivate professional associations and friendships to give her the best chance to do social good from lower court benches and concurrently, to give her the best chance to climb the ladder of judicial advancement. One problem I had was that I previously read and thoroughly enjoyed, “My Beloved World”, Sonia Sotomayor’s auto-biography. As far as human interest and reader involvement, it far out shone this book. But again, the books are written from two different points of view.

Who will like this book: Anyone interested in Sotomayor or politics in general.

If you like this, try this: I would still recommend reading “Breaking In” if you are interested in the intricacies and politics involved in the professional life of a judge in the United States.

Check the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if this book is available and/or to place a hold!

Wolf of Wall Street

Title: Wolf of Wall Street
Author: Jordan Belfort
Publisher: Bantam Books, 2007
Summary/Review: It’s hard to believe that this book is non-fiction because Jordon Belfort, the author and main character of the book, has portrayed his meteoric rise from lowly assistant stockbroker a mega-millionaire as such a farce.  I am sure that there are financial and stock market insights to be gleaned from reading this book, but it is so funny that you don’t care.  The author describes in excruciating detail his all-encompassing desire to eat, drink, self-medicate, and debauch to his heart’s content.  All while earning millions of dollars each month.  He takes us behind the scenes of manipulated IPO’s, some of which seem to be created exclusively to enrich him and his firm.  By the time he is caught out by federal authorities for money laundering, insider trading, and other financial crimes he has been married twice, had two children, and achieved the ripe old age of 36!  This is a morality story but again it is so funny, page after page, that you can simply enjoy it.
This book has been made into a movie starring Leonard DeCaprio.
Who will like this book?If you saw (and enjoyed) the movie, we always recommend reading the book!  If you’re looking for a funny read about a very serious topic.  If you’re interested in memoirs, finance, or comedy!
If you like this, try this: Belfort has written another book about his exploits (and ultimately, his downfall) in “Catching the Wolf of Wall Street”.  If you felt there was anything lacking, this second book of stories may fill in the gaps.  If you’re looking for more information and stories dealing with Wall Street and the people who run it, try “House of Cards” by William Cohan (who also writes “The Last Tycoons”).  Greg Smith also wrote a piece for the New York Times, “Why I Left Wall Street”, which has since been turned into a book after 3 million readers logged onto the Times website to see his account.  This one has a much darker view on the excess and extravagance of Wall Street. 
Recommended by: Mark Z, Guest Reviewer
If you’d like to read this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!

World’s Strongest Librarian


Title: The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

Author: Josh Hanagarne

Publisher: Gotham Books, 2013

Summary/Review: Josh Hanagarne is not your average librarian. He’s a 6’7”strongman, who lives each day battling with Tourette Syndrome.

What started out as twitches at an early age progressed into frequent harmful tics as Josh grew older. After he was diagnosed with Tourette’s, he tried several treatments that produced little results.

As Josh struggled attending classes and holding down jobs, you begin to wonder how this guy is ever going to make it in the world. His honesty hits home—whether he’s talking about what it is like to have Tourette’s, dating, marriage, having children, or questioning his Mormon faith. His certainty comes from the love and support of his family.

After Josh discovered that weight lifting provided some relief to Tourette’s, he begins experimenting with different strength building techniques. He is left with hope of getting his tics (and life) under some control. The way Josh challenges himself, whether with weights or by working in an environment that requires silence, is inspiring.

Evident throughout the pages are Josh’s love of reading and the importance of libraries in his life. He incorporates humor in his story where you expect to find none. This book not only motivates you to be a stronger person, but also to have compassion of those around you.

Who will like this book: Anyone interested in an inspiring story or those who want to know more about Tourette Syndrome.

If you like this, try this: “Always Looking Up” by Michael J. Fox or “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio

Recommended by: Sharyn, Circulation

Think that this book could be your next read?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!

Dad is fat



Author:  Jim Gaffigan

Publisher: Crown, May 2013

Summary/Review: Anyone who has children, has been a child or knows anyone with children will love this book. Jim Gaffigan, a stand-up comedian best known for his riffs on Hot Pockets,  has written a funny, honest look at parenthood.  He is the father of 5 children, all under the age of 9. To some of us that would be enough to strike fear in our hearts. Add into the mix that he and his family live in a 2-bedroom, 5-story walkup in the Bowery section of Manhattan and most of us would run screaming for the hills.  He credits his wife with being the one who holds it all together, but what comes through in the book is the wonderful partnership they have, collaborating not only on parenting but on his stage shows, movies and books as well.  His ability to laugh at himself, all while clearly adoring his family made it a great read. This was a wonderful book, a laugh-out-loud funny book.   Included in the chapters are drawings by his children, family pictures and floor plans that map out how to put 5 children to bed in a 2-bedroom apartment while still allowing for mommy and daddy time. Needless to say, it’s not easy!

Who will like this? Anyone who needs a good laugh, as anyone who reads the book will be able to identify with at least one chapter in it!

If you like this, try this:  If you’re interested in reading more about the lives of comedians, try Chelsea Handler’s “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang” or “Lies Chelsea Handler Told me”, or Ellen DeGeneris’ “Seriously…I’m Kidding”.   Another hilarious book you may like is Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened”.  If you’re looking for comedy, try anything by David Sedaris or Dave Barry.

Recommended by: Linda, Circulation

If you’re interested in this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold


Chanel Bonfire


Title: Chanel Bonfire

Author: Wendy Lawless

Publisher: Gallery Books, 2013

Summary/Review: Growing up with an alcoholic, narcissistic, and mentally ill mother was by no means easy for Wendy and her younger sister Robin. Keeping the severe dysfunction hidden behind closed doors was even harder. Wendy, the dutiful older daughter, became the glue that held her family together despite the neglectful and manipulative ways of her mother Georgann. Robin on the other hand, had very little patience for her mother’s shenanigans.

Always on the lookout for a rich man and living beyond her means, Georgann moved the girls to New York, London, and Boston (just to name a few) in search of the life she felt she deserved. All the while Georgann maintained that the girls’ biological father had a new family and no longer wanted them. Manipulation was her forte, telling the girls things like “My doctor thinks that if you and your sister appreciated me more, I wouldn’t be so depressed” and “…my doctor thinks that it’s because of you girls that I drink”. As Georgann’s behavior became more erratic and dangerous, the two sisters did all they could to break free from their mother’s grip and live their own lives.

Similar to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, this is a memoir loaded with family dysfunction that reads like a novel and is told with self-reflective honesty and more than a little humor.

Recommended by: Sue B., Circulation

Who will like this?: Someone looking for an amusing memoir that still deals with difficult issues.

If you like this, try this:  The author has a very similar writing style as Jeannette Walls (Glass Castle), so you may want to try out some of her memoirs.  Additionally, Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened” also deals with difficult issues while still speaking through humor.

If this looks like a book you’d enjoy reading, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and to place a hold!

My Mother Was Nuts

my mother was nuts

Title: My Mother Was Nuts: A Memoir

Author: Penny Marshall

Publisher: Brilliance Audio, 2012

Summary/Review: Penny Marshall reminisces about growing up in the Bronx, where she spent most of her time in her mother’s dance studio. She talks about her accidental introduction into acting and her later transition into directing. Her brother Garry may have initially opened the door for her, but Penny’s dedication and talent secured her place in Hollywood. Best known for her role on Laverne & Shirley and as director of Big and A League of Their Own, Penny gets up close and personal on her first marriage and entrance into motherhood, her second marriage to Rob Reiner, and relationship with Art Garfunkel (who knew?!). Surrounded by famous friends (Carrie Fisher and John Belushi–to name a few), Penny offers up many private and often humorous moments.

I loved that the audio book was performed by Penny Marshall, however, I wish she did less “reading her book” and more “telling her story”.

Who will like this book: : In addition to Laverne & Shirley fans, anyone with an interest in Hollywood stars or the seventies/eighties would enjoy this book.

If you like this, try this: My Happy Days in Hollywood by Garry Marshall or Bossypants by Tina Fey.

Recommended by: Sharyn, Circulation

To see if this book is available, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog.  We have it available in both audio and print!

Going Home


Title: Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

Author: Jonathan Katz

Publisher Villard Books, 2011 

Summary/Review: Jonathan Katz is famous for his many books on dogs and life on Bedlam Farm – he’s written seven novels and twelve works of non-fiction.  But he’d never really addressed what happens to someone when an animal that they have loved and cared for dies.  When Katz made the very difficult decision to put down his border collie Orson, he was blindsided by a grief that was so strong, he didn’t quite know how to deal with it, so initially he didn’t.  After some time and healing, he realized that his experience was very similar to others who’d lost pets, so he decided to write a book about it.  This beautiful book will be of real help to anyone who’s said goodbye to an animal that they loved.  Katz addresses not only the grief – he also writes about the guilt that may come from having had to make the decision to end a pet’s life.  Speaking from personal experience, this book is very comforting and a true gift for anyone in pain over the loss of a pet.

Who Will Like ItAnyone who has ever shed a tear over the loss of a beloved pet.

If you like this, try this: As mentioned, Jon Katz has a number of other books including “Dogs of Bedlam Farms”, “A Good Dog”, and “Dog Year”.  If you’re looking for more stories about pets, try “Marley & Me” by John Grogan, or “Dewey” by Vicki Myron.

Recommended by:  Mary, Reference Librarian

If you’d like to read this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and place a hold [Link will open in a new window]

When We Were the Kennedys


Title: When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine

Author: Monica Wood

Publish: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

Summary/Review: When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine by Monica Woods is an endearing memoir told from the voice of a nine year old girl. It is 1963 and the family patriarch is felled by a heart attack on his way to work at the local paper mill. Left behind are a mother and her five children including a daughter with special needs.

The author writes beautifully of the bonds between families, neighbors and co-workers. Her Uncle Bob, a Catholic priest and her Mom’s youngest brother, does his best to be the man of the family even when he is so devastated by their loss. In this memoir you are transported back to the early 1960’s and what is was like to grow up during this time like reading Nancy Drew, and riding your bike all over town, and making up games with neighborhood friends. It is also the story of a mill town and what happens when there are union issues and when the plants are sold to outside entities that have no ties to the town.

Woods is a fiction writer so the book flows like a novel. Although the author writes from a nine year old perspective it is not saccharine and sweet; rather the narrative is reminiscent of a more innocent time. The title of the book is somewhat misleading since the reference to the Kennedy’s is that Jackie and her children lost their father and husband in the same year that this family suffers their devastating loss. This book is written with humor and love and is a touching story of healing and families.

Who will like this? Memoir readers, people who grew up in the 1960’s, people who appreciate good writing.

If you like this, try this: ”Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood” by Alexander Fuller, “The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer,” The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls.

Recommended by: Claudia, Technical Services Assistant

Does this look like a book you would like to try?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold [link will open in a new window]

Hiking Through


Title: “Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail”

Author: Paul Stutzman

Publisher: Revell, A Division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan- 2012

Summary: All his life, Paul Stutzman dreamed of hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a hiking adventure of 2,176 miles. Paul was not looking to be a section hiker, hiking small sections of the trail at a time, but to experience the Appalachian Trail as a thru-hiker, doing the hike from start to finish continuously over an extended period of time. Like most people, Paul’s dream was put on hold by day to day life. The challenges of paying a mortgage, raising three children and paying college tuition, car payments and working full time along with his wife. Paul and his wife Mary looked forward to retiring together and doing all the things that they never had time to do while working full time and raising a family. Unfortunately, life threw them a curve ball, and Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. After four years, Mary lost her battle with cancer. Paul is devastated and does not know how to pick up the pieces of his life and to work through his grief. His dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail now seems like a way for him to heal. But how can he quit his job of 25+ years in the food industry and pack up and leave for several months? He is torn between his own desire to pursue his dream and the guilt he feels by leaving everything behind. Paul takes us on his personal journey of a lifetime. He quits his job and spends 4 ½ months on the Appalachian Trail. Along the way he experiences the kindness of strangers and the friendship of several thru-hikers. It is truly an amazing story of strangers coming together to share one common goal and the challenges they face in their quest to fulfill their dream. It is a very unique bond that is formed out in the middle of the woods. Paul’s remarkable journey was about more than just hiking. In the book, he states “In one month, I had gained more insights on life than I had in many, many years past.” This book will make you laugh and make you cry. You can’t help but become a part of Paul’s journey and anticipate the challenges he faces each day spent on the trail. His writing will touch your heart. There are moments when he questions his own sanity of quitting his job and walking over 2,000 miles. His faith and his sense of humor were of great help along the way. There were days when he questioned his desire to stay on the trail and reach his goal at the top of Mount Katahdin, but he never gave up. Paul reminds all of us that we spend so much time preparing for the future that we neglect to enjoy the present. He said his experience on the Appalachian Trail changed his life. I loved this book! It is fun, it is inspiring, and it is one man’s choice to take that first courageous step. As a day hiker, this book even had me thinking about a thru-hike. It is an amazing story of change and healing, stepping out of one’s comfort zone and a little trail magic along the way.

To read his blog and see pictures of his hike, visit Paul Stutzman at

Who Will Like this? Anyone with an adventurous streak. Anyone with dreams of hiking the Appalachian Trail (or any other hikes). Those who enjoy hiking, or just reading about it. Anyone looking for great inspiration or motivation to turn a dream into a reality. Anyone with a love of the outdoors.

If you like this, try this: “Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peak Bagging Adventure” by Patricia Ellis Herr, “A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson, “In Beauty May She Walk: Hiking the Appalachian Trail at Age 60” by Leslie Mass, “Halfway To Heaven: My White Knuckled and Knuckleheaded Quest for the Rocky Mountain High” by Mark Obmascik.

Recommended by: Laura, Technical Services Department

Does this look like your kind of read?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check if it’s available and to place a hold!