Category Archives: Biography & Memoir


Title: Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

Author: Rick Pearlstein

Summary: Great historical epic. Not jut a fascinating account of the rise of Richard Nixon, but also the best account of the decade of the 1960s. Full of detail and great characters.

Who will like this book?: Anyone interested in this period of our recent history.

If you like this, try this: Bush’s Law by Eric Lichtblau

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference Librarian


Title: Escape

Author:Carolyn Jessop

Summary: When Carolyn was 18, she married Merril Jessop. She was his fourth wife. Fifteen years later, she took her eight children and fled, becoming the first woman to successfully win a custody case against a polygamist husband. In this harrowing book, Carolyn describes day to day life as a member of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and the monumental struggle she endured trying to protect her children from her petty and cruel ‘sister wives,’ emotionally abusive husband, and the community itself as it sank deeper into paranoia and religious fervor.

With the recent focus on polygamy in the Western U.S., this unforgettable book is as timely as it is fascinating. Jessop’s story is incredible, and her resilience and hopeful outlook are astonishing.

Who will like this book?: People who are interested in polygamy, or life in religious cults. People who like to read about the inner workings of, let’s say…non-traditional families.

If you like this, try this: Under the Banner of Heavenby Jon Krakauer. When Men Become Gods by Stephen Singular. Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Title:  The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Author:  Bill Bryson

Summary:  This book is ideal for any baby boomer who remembers their childhood fondly.  No heart-wrenching drama here.  The reader needs to have a good sense of humor and delight in the seriously silly adventures of children. I have not laughed out loud this much while reading a book in a long time.  Don’t you remember how seriously you took the “play” time you relished as a child? Don’t you want to feel so astonished by adult behavior again? Don’t you want to jump right into some great nostalgic read where all is fun, good and safe?

Bill Bryson, accomplished author of the favorite A Walk in the Woods(among others), shares his childhood and family life of the 1950′s and 1960′s growing up in Des Moines, Illinois.  He even likes his parents and appreciates their quirks! His storytelling is hilarious and warm. He laments about the wonderful things about this era in American history and what we may have lost. His impressive writing talent allows the reader to a take a nostalgic trip down memory lane in a feel-good and informative way.

I listened to the audio with someone who is not a baby boomer but sadly, was born, a tad too early, and he laughed out loud with me. The stories about childhood and the American way of life are universal. Please pick up a copy of the audio book while going on a long trip this summer and laugh with your family and friends.

Recommended by:  Karen, Deputy Town Librarian

The Know-It-All

Title: The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

Author: A.J. Jacobs

Summary: The premise of this book is quite simple: Jacobs, then an editor for Esquire, decides to fill the ever-growing gaps in his education by reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The whole thing, from start to finish. As his ‘knowledge’ increases, so do the hilarious encounters between his mostly-patient wife, his father (who once attempted the same feat, but stalled B), his obnoxiously smart brother-in-law, Alex Trebek, and the staff of the hallowed encyclopedia itself.

Organized from A to Z, this is a very funny book with a very big heart, especially concerning the struggles of Jacobs and his wife to conceive. Full of trivia (including Descartes’ preference for cross-eyed women), and amusing anecdotes about modern life, this book is probably a better way to spend an afternoon then hefting a volume of the Britannica – not only will it make you feel smarter, it will put a smile on your face.

Who will like this book?:Fans of comedic writing, trivia masters, confirmed know-it-alls or know-it-alls in training.

If you like this, try this: Jacob’s latest book, The Year of Living Biblically. For a more serious look at famous reference books, go for The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Kid Who Climbed Everest

Title: The Kid Who Climbed Everest

Author: Bear Grylls

Summary: The author of this book, is the subject of the wildly popular Discovery Channel Series entitled “Man vs Wild.” Each week Bear is dropped off by helicopter to a horrifying part of the planet from where he must escape by using his impressive survival skills. Bear spent three years in the British Special Air Service and his latest triumph in May 2007 involved him flying a motorized paraglider over Mount Everest. I find the series really educational and thrilling and somehow satisfying as I watch from my comfortable armchair. Bear is articulate and shares his impressive knowledge of survival skills with the audience in an engaging way.

This book describes Bear’s climb of Mount Everest at the tender age of 23. (Most climbers wait until their thirties to attempt such a feat when they are fully mature in terms of attitude and physiology. ) On May 16, 1998 he became the youngest man and one of only thirty British climbers to summit. He informs the reader about the preparation for such a climb. Bear shares his challenges in funding such an adventure, his extensive training, and the requisite education about the tough environmental and climatological elements as well as the physiological needs of the human body to carry out such a feat.

After reading this book I felt I had a far better understanding of many facets of attempting and succeeding at such a climb. This information did not take away from the mounting excitement as Bear prepares for the ultimate climb. He shares his fears, his awe of the mountain, and his respect for his predecessors and team mates. Altogether an exciting and informative read.

If you like this, try this: Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Outside Magazine articles about individuals who push their limits.

Recommended by: Karen, Deputy Town Librarian

The Diana Chronicles

Title: The Diana Chronicles

Author: Tina Brown

Summary: This book has been out for a while but I knew I was going to save it for holiday time when I could sit back and relish all the lunacy of the Royals. Don’t get me wrong: I consider them part of my extended family, with both my parents being from the British Isles.  As a child, it was not uncommon to witness relatives referring to genealogical charts of the Royals during heated family discussions!

Tina Brown, the former editor of the British magazine Tatler and the American Vanity Fair and The New Yorker has done an admirable job of getting inside the head and heart of the late Princess Diana. This book provides the right balance between Diana the victim of royal cruelty and a Diana with the very early and singular determination to become the bride of the Prince of Wales.

The author manages to provide much historical background about the entanglement  of the Spencer family and the Royals. The inevitability of their continued relations, however troubled, is obvious. Diana is portrayed believably as a person with real strengths and weaknesses. She is just like many of us, and at the same time she is not. She has a palpable empathy for less fortunate people, and uses it to help those people and herself. She has a messy emotional life and ends up in unfulfilling relationships time and time again – which makes the reader feel for her and get annoyed with her.

Regardless of what you think of her life and adventures, she remains a fascination, and this book sheds more light on what made Diana, “Diana.”

Recommended by: Karen, Deputy Town Librarian