Category Archives: Biography & Memoir

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!

Without a Map: A Memoir


Title: Without a Map: A Memoir

Author: Meredith Hall

Publisher: Beacon, April 2007

Summary:  If you think you had problems as a teen, try finding yourself pregnant at 16, being disowned by your family, and shunned by everyone in your community.  This memoir takes place in the 1960’s in a small New Hampshire town.   Hall’s parents are divorced.  She is sent away from her family, friends, and school to live with her father and stepmother where she is basically ostracized in an attempt to hide her pregnancy.  She is forced to give up the baby and then spends her early adulthood wandering and longing for the baby she gave up and the parents who betrayed her.

She eventually reconnects with her son when he is a young adult, but it is bittersweet as he has been adopted by a family who lived in poverty and had abused him.  Hall ultimately helps to care for her aging parents, offering them what they were never able to offer her.  She is brutally honest in recalling her life.  She takes responsibility for her mistakes.  Hers is a story about hope, survival, and finding forgiveness.

Recommended by: Barbara, Head of Children’s Services

Wishful Drinking


TitleWishful Drinking

Author:  Carrie Fisher

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, December 2008

Summary: Typically, the children of movie stars and celebrities grow up with an unusual lifestyle; one that only you or I could hardly begin to imagine. Carrie Fisher, daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and perhaps best known for sporting her Princess Leia hair buns, takes unusual to the next level, and tells us all about her life journey and experiences in her hilarious and revealing biography, “Wishful Drinking”.  From playing dressup in her mother’s closet with her brother to getting drug abuse advice from Cary Grant to details of electro-shock therapy, pick up Carrie Fisher’s book today for a quick, entertaining and poignant look into this unique life.

Recommended by: Merry, Municipal Web Librarian


Title: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Author: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papademitriou

Publisher: Bloomsbury, September 2009

Summary: Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher, pacifist and lightning rod, was one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. This ambitious graphic biography focuses equally on his turbulent personal life and his groundbreaking work in the area of mathematical logic. We follow Russell as he discovers a paradox and works (and reworks) his theories. He teams with and is opposed by heavyweights of early twentieth-century philosophy,  including Wittgenstein and Godel, all the while searching for truth and remaining haunted by the madness he believes is constantly circling him.

Bertrand Russell affected – and was affected by – some of the most dramatic personalities and events of the twentieth century. While a graphic  novel about math and philosophy might not seem like the most enticing subject, in the hands of  these gifted writers and illustrators, Russell’s story comes to life in surprising and compelling ways.

Who will like this book?: People interested in the history of science, technology and math.

If you like this, try this: For another unique take on philosophy, try The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by Ian Stewart. If you are as clueless about math and science as I am, check out 100 Most Important Science Ideas by Mark Henderson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Kids Are All Right

Title: The Kids are All Right: A Memoir

Authors: Diana, Liz, Dan and Amanda Welch

Publisher: Harmony, September 2009

Summary: In 1983, the four Welch children lose their beloved father in a tragic car accident, and within months their still-grieving, soap opera-star mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This gripping saga is emotional, poignant and hard to put down. The family lives in upper crust Bedford, New York. Their father is an investment banker who, unknown to the rest of the family, was in deep financial debt, forcing their mother to support the family. Sadly, the mother succumbs to the illness early in the story, leaving four young children in a state of shock and confusion. This is the story of these lost souls who muddle their way through a dysfunctional childhood and tumultuous teenage years.

The memoir is told in alternate voices of the four Welch children, giving each of them the opportunity to recall their own memories. The combination of despair, hurt, hope and survival makes this memoir a captivating read. I very much look forward to hearing Liz Welch tell her personal story when she visits the Fairfield Woods Branch Library on February 17 at 7:00.

Recommended by: Laurie, Branch circulation and book club leader

The Secret Wife of Louis XIV

Title: The Secret Life of Louis XIV: Francoise d’Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon

Author: Veronica Buckley

Summary: Francoise d’Aubigne was born in a French prison, the youngest child of a minor, rebellious noble. She died over 80 years later as the widow of the King of France. Though her marriage to Louis XIV could never be formally acknowledged due to an extraordinary difference in social rank, Francoise had a profound influence on the Sun King, and reigned as an uncrowned queen during the most glorious era in French history.

This very readable biography immerses the reader in 17th century France, an era of absolute royal power, intense religious conflict and very limited opportunities for women. Author Buckley does a masterful job illuminating the lives of the royal ladies of Versailles and the salons of Paris. That d’Aubigne managed to rise from her humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power is incredible – and that she did so by remaining steadfast, loyal and humble in the dangerous court of the king seems almost miraculous.

Who will like this book?: Readers interested in royal biography and women’s history.

If you like this, try this: Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser. A book about another of Louis’ paramours, Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland. A terrific historical fiction on Marie Antoinette,  Abundanceby Sena Jeter Naslund

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian


Title: Stitches

Author: David Small

Summary: David Small grew up in a cold house, with distant, nearly silent parents. He was born sickly – and as was par for the course at that time, his radiologist father gave him plenty of x-ray treatments to strengthen his lungs. When a growth developed on his neck, his parents thought little of it. Four years later, he finally had surgery to remove an aggressive malignant tumor. But no one told young David what was wrong with him, or why he was now voiceless.

That Small grew up to be a renowned artist and picture book illustrator (Imogene’s Antlers, So You Want to Be President?) seems miraculous, given the circumstances of his childhood. In this boldly designed, unforgettable graphic memoir, he pulls no punches. But what elevates this book above and beyond the popular ‘terrible childhood’ subgenre is his refusal to reduce his family to caricatures. A story of family horrors shown through the eyes of a young, creative child, Stitches will make an impact on all who read it.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like redemptive stories about painful childhoods. If you or your children have enjoyed Small’s award-winning picture book illustrations, you will be fascinated by his life story.

If you like this, try this: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.  Why I Killed Peter by Olivier Ka. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Bad Mother

Title: Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace

Author: Ayelet Waldman

Publisher: Doubleday, May 2009

Summary: When her essay Motherlove was published, Ayelet Waldman revealed to the world that she loved her husband more than she loves her children. She was promptly vilified by ‘good’ mothers everywhere – even receiving letters stating that her children should be taken from her. After all, how could a woman who would make such a statement be a fit parent?

Are there anything but bad mothers out there nowadays, when the expectations placed on women to succeed both in and out of the home are so extreme…and when there always seems to be a member of the Good Mommy Police out there to bust you when you slip up? Waldman’s passionate responses to this question, as well as her thoughts on the many facets of motherhood, daughterhood and modern wifedom, are included in this bold and passionate collection of essays.

Who will like this book?: Harried moms who feel like they drop the ball more often than they catch it, and anybody who knows and loves them.

If you like this, try this: The collection The Bitch in the House. The forthcoming Manhood for Amateurs by Waldman’s husband, Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian


Title: Zeitoun

Author: Dave Eggers

Publisher: McSweeney’s, August 2009

Summary: In his National Book Critic’s Circle-nominated book What is the What, Dave Eggers deftly told the true story of a Sudanese boy-soldier and refugee as a ‘fictional’ narrative. In his latest, Eggers does the same for the city of New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Zeitouns, Abdulrahman, an immigrant of Syrian descent and his wife Kathy, a native Louisianan, are practicing Muslims who own a successful contracting business. When the storm draws near, Kathy takes their children to higher ground while Zeitoun remains to protect their properties.

Steering his secondhand canoe through the city streets, Zeitoun finds great comfort in assisting where needed while Kathy pleads with him to abandon the city, up until the day he stops calling. The truth behind his disappearance is shocking and life-altering.

Zeitoun manages to feel epic in scope while remaining compulsively readable. In its honest and clear-eyed depiction of the hurricane and its aftermath, it tells a deeply American story about faith, family, the cultural melting pot, devotion to duty, and what it takes to survive when the unthinkable occurs.

When you finish a book as good as this one, you are exhilarated but somehow sad because you can never read it for the first time again. Zeitoun cannot be recommended highly enough.

Who will like this book?: This is a book that deserves a wide readership, but it will particulary appeal to those who like reading stories about ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

If you like this, try this: What is the What by Dave Eggers. 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose. The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

American On Purpose

Title: American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot

Author: Craig Ferguson

Publisher: HarperCollins, September 2009

Summary: Craig Ferguson is the hilarious host of TV’s Late Late Show. Craig was born in Glasgow Scotland which he describes as “Detroit on acid” when he was growing up. He certainly managed to party his way through his youth until age 29 when he sobered up. His telling of his misadventures as a bouncer, a modern dancer, a drummer in a few bands all while totally inebriated (and more) is self deprecating, funny and sad. He travels to the United States with his father as a youth and his life is changed forever. He returns years later trying to land an acting job in Hollywood and does so by the skin of his teeth.

Now over 2,000,000 people laugh with him most nights as he entertains and shares his lust for the American way of life. His story is another great tale of the American dream coming true for a person who takes risks, perseveres, and appreciates his good fortune in the end.

Recommended by: Karen, Deputy Town Librarian