Category Archives: Biography & Memoir

Popular Digital Biographies and Memoirs

Why not step into someone else’s life for a while by reading or listening to a biography or memoir while you’re staying home and staying safe? Here are a few suggestions that you can download from Overdrive with your Fairfield Public Library card.

Title details for A Marvelous Life by Danny Fingeroth - Available

A MARVELOUS LIFE
By Danny Fingeroth

“In this enthusiastic biography of Stan Lee (1922–2018), Fingeroth, one-time writer and editor at Lee’s longtime employer Marvel Comics, tells the story of the man who helped create comic legends including Spider-Man and Black Panther.”~Publisher’s Weekly

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen - Available

DUTCH GIRL
By Robert Matzen

“A meticulously detailed and researched look at the formative years of an iconic performer; for fans of Hepburn as well as anyone seeking a social history of the Dutch experience of World War II.” ~Library Journal

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Edison by Edmund Morris - Available

EDISON
By Edmund Morris

“Inspiration and perspiration prodigiously unite in this sweeping biography of one of America’s greatest inventors. Pulitzer-winning biographer Morris tells Thomas Alva Edison’s story backward, opening with the creator of the first long-lasting light bulb, the phonograph, and other electromechanical marvels in lionized, imperious old age and presenting each decade of his life in reverse order, back to his boyhood spells of intense, isolated concentration.” ~Publisher’s Weekly

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Maid by Stephanie Land - Available

MAID
By Stephanie Land

“In her heartfelt and powerful debut memoir, Land describes the struggles she faced as a young single mother living in poverty. “My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter,” she writes, before chronicling her difficult circumstances.” ~Publisher’s Weekly

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard - Available

HERO OF THE EMPIRE
By Candice Millard

“Biographer Millard…writes about one of the most famous statesmen of the twentieth century, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Rather than facing the man in full bloom during WWII, she casts dramatic light on the incidents that brought “to the attention of a rapt British public a young Churchill.” In 1899, he was already aware of his future importance in the political world and certain that he would need to show glory on the battlefield during the colonial Boer War in South Africa. The perfect opportunity arose when he was taken prisoner and managed not only to escape but, after great hardship, also return to the fight. Millard’s rendering of the exciting details of Churchill’s heroic exploits result in a magnificently told story.” ~Booklist

For more information, please click here.

Title details for In Pieces by Sally Field - Available

IN PIECES
By Sally Field

“Arresting in its dark disclosures, vitality, humor, and grace, Field’s deeply felt and beautifully written memoir illuminates the experiences and emotions on which she draws as an exceptionally charismatic, empathic, and powerful artist.” ~Booklist

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon - Available

WHISKEY IN A TEACUP
By Reese Witherspoon

“Actress and book club host Witherspoon pays tribute to her Southern roots in this charming collection of recipes, how-to’s, and personal stories.” ~Publisher’s Weekly

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Grant by Ron Chernow - Available

GRANT
By Ron Chernow

“Acclaimed biographer Chernow, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Washington: A Life, entertains in this informative whopper as he upends the long-held view of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) as a lumbering general and incompetent president.” ~Publisher’s Weekly

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs - Available

SMALL FRY
By Lisa Brennan-Jobs

“An epic, sharp coming-of-age story from the daughter of Steve Jobs. It’s rare to find a memoir from a celebrity’s child in which the writing is equal to—or exceeds—the parent’s reputation, but that is the case with Brennan-Jobs’ debut. The author engagingly packs in every detail of her life, including her seemingly innocuous conception by Jobs and artist Chrisann Brennan, her father’s paternity denial, their rocky reconciliation, and Jobs’ ultimate rejection and silence.” ~Kirkus

For more information, please click here.

Title details for A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston - Available

A LIFE IN PARTS
By Bryan Cranston

“Cranston fans will delight in the intimate revelations in this substantial memoir from one of Hollywood’s most introspective stars. And anyone interested in acting will devour Cranston’s savvy advice about honing one’s craft and building one’s career.” ~Booklist

For more information, please click here.

Title details for Educated by Tara Westover - Available

EDUCATED
By Tara Westover

“A recent Cambridge University doctorate debuts with a wrenching account of her childhood and youth in a strict Mormon family in a remote region of Idaho… An astonishing account of deprivation, confusion, survival, and success.” ~Kirkus

For more information, please click here.

“What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.” ~Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Leonardo da Vinci

Title: Leonardo da Vinci
Author: Walter Isaacson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; October 2017

Summary/Review: I am not generally a reader of biographies, or pretty much any non-fiction so I was very impressed with how interesting this book was. I am not a Da Vinci historian or expert but I am definitely a fan, particularly of his incredibly expressive drawings. 

The author tells the artist’s life story by taking us through the day-to-day life of a working renaissance craftsman-artist. After all, artists have to put food on the table too, and one way to do that was to acquire the patronage of powerful and wealthy merchants, noblemen and church officials. 

We learn that Da Vinci, even though he is widely considered one of the great masters of all time, had very little interest in finishing and delivering his assignments. This lead to some very lean times and a frequent search for patronage. His curiosity about all things scientific and the relationships of creatures and their environments ruled his days as he sought to understand and describe nature, the human anatomy and interestingly enough, a lifelong compulsion to describe the physics of the flow of water. 

In this book he is credited with very forward-thinking treatises on anatomy, the relationship of all things in nature as they relate to humanity and engineering designs hundreds of years in advance of their actual execution. Flying machines, war engines, city planning, the list is seemingly endless. 

But it was the drawing, the notebooks, the analysis of light and dark which really kept me turning the pages. I knew the Master was prolific but I had no idea just how many undeveloped ideas and theories are found in the hundreds of sketchbooks and thousands of pages he left behind. 

Give it a try. I just received my hold on another Isaacson biography about Steve Jobs, the creator of all things Apple. I hope it’s as interesting as the Da Vinci biography.

Recommended by: Mark Z., guest reviewer.

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on this book, please click here.

Girl in the Dark

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Title:  Girl in the Dark

Author:   Anna Lindsey

Publisher: Doubleday, 2015

Summary/review: This is the story of a young woman who finds herself becoming sensitive to the glow of her computer screen at work.  Her condition worsens to the point where she cannot tolerate any kind of light at all without an extreme reaction through her entire body.  She ends up staying in complete darkness in a room in her apartment all day.  Thankfully she has a fiancé who takes care of her needs and when he comes home and prepares dinner she emerges to another room lit with a dim nightlight.  She sometimes is able to go out for a walk on very dark nights but when the town sends a letter to all citizens that they are upgrading the streetlights to new brighter ones it is near tragedy for her. She eventually has several partial remissions, but it is fascinating to read about the implications of her condition.  It is almost like a self- imposed blindness, a horrible condition to think about.  We do not realize many of the things we take for granted, including friendships.   Her emotional ups and downs, even to the point of near suicide really took me in and I thought a lot and am still thinking about this book.

Who will like this book?: Someone looking for a unique memoir

If you like this, try this: If you’re looking for memoirs with unique twists, check out our extensive biography and memoir collections!

Recommended by: Jan, Admin

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

Jerry Lee Lewis

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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…

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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

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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

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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

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Title: 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

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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!