Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’


Books About Fathers

by Heidi Lauritzen on February 21st, 2018

I have just finished two special books about fathers and highly recommend both. I took them home because of the titles: “An Odyssey” (I was a Classics major), and “The Wine Lover’s Daughter” (I do enjoy a glass of wine). While I learned much about Odysseus, and about Clifton Fadiman and wine, mostly I was touched by the relationships between the adult children and their fathers who are the subjects of these memoirs.

Author Daniel Mendelsohn is a classicist who teaches literature at Bard College. “An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and An Epic” is about the semester his 81-year-old research scientist father joins his seminar on Homer’s Odyssey.  The elder Mendelsohn provides commentary in class that often is in stark contrast to that of the young undergraduates–and frequently in opposition to his son’s professorial ideas as well.  After the seminar, the father and son decide to join an educational Mediterranean cruise that traces Odysseus’s homeward journey. The book blends the telling of these two experiences as it takes us through the Odyssey, and is rich in emotion and humor. Their adventure will remind sons and daughters that there likely are many facets of their parents’ lives that are unknown to them, until the circumstances are right to hear the stories. You need not have read the tale of Odysseus to enjoy this book, although if you have studied the Odyssey you will probably come away with some fresh insights about it.

In the book’s introductory chapter, Mendelsohn says “it is a story, after all, about strange and complicated families…about a husband who travels far and a wife who stays behind…about a son who for a long time is unrecognized by and unrecognizable to his father, until late, very late, when they join together for a great adventure…a story, in its final moments, about a man in the middle of his life, who at the end of this story falls down and weeps because he has confronted the spectacle of his father’s old age, the specter of his inevitable passing…”  He is speaking of Odysseus, and his son and father, but we also will learn that it is about something much closer to home.

Anne Fadiman is the wine lover’s daughter, and this is a book about her relationship with her father Clifton Fadiman. Although she is the well-known author of Ex Libris and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, her father perhaps was even more famous in his time: an editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, book critic for The New Yorker, a Book of the Month Club judge for forty years, and emcee of the NBC radio quiz show Information Please. And from an early age, he also educated himself about wine and began creating a wine cellar that ultimately reflected his extensive knowledge and savvy acquisitions. He co-authored two editions of The Joys of Wine.

Clifton Fadiman came to all of this through relentless hard work, and a quest for self improvement that would raise him above his humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York and life with his parents, recent immigrants. He studied how to speak without an accent, how to dress, how to eat, and what to drink. Despite his successes, he never felt entirely comfortable that he had achieved the level of society that he wished for.

The love he showed his children is evident however:  he nurtures the talents in his children, and generously teaches them about wine.  Anne Fadiman’s burden is that she doesn’t really enjoy wine, although she desperately wants to in order to please her father. A fun thread of the book describes her efforts to determine scientifically why she doesn’t like wine. And while there is an element of competition with him in her early writing career, it seems primarily self-imposed and she always credits him with influencing her to be a reader and writer.

And what can be better than books and wine? Fadiman writes “My father had long associated books and wine: they both sparked conversation, they were both a lifetime project, they were both pleasurable to shelve, they were the only things he collected. The Joys of Wine called wine cellars ‘wine libraries’.”

Like Mendelsohn’s book, this also is about an adult child coming to terms with an aging father, learning that father’s full story, and sharing much love and warmth along the way.

 

ICPL Staff Top Picks for 2017: Best of the Best

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 31st, 2017

It’s here: the Iowa City Public Library’s Top Picks for 2017!

Staff members nominated nearly 100 books released in 2017 as their favorite reads of the year. Those that made this list were nominated by more than one person, which truly makes them the Best of the Best.

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
  • Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (published in Britain in 2016; released in the U.S. in May of 2017)
  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
  • La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey
  • Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
  • Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  • Glass Houses by Louise Penny
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman
  • Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
  • Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Volume 1 by Emil Ferris
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Our Best Book Overall for 2017 is The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas.

This debut novel was nominated by more staff members than any other book this year, which makes sense given all the other Best of 2017 lists it has appeared on this month. If you haven’t read it, be sire to check out a copy before the movie is released!

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2017: Autobiography/Biography/Memoir

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 28th, 2017

Perhaps you’ve seen this phrase on a T-shirt or coffee mug: Careful or You’ll End Up in My Novel. When it comes to writers of autobiographies, biographies and memoirs, that’s 100 percent true!

Here’s a list of people’s stories we had trouble putting down in 2017:

  • You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman
  • David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones
  • The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs
  • Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
  • Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Are there any titles we missed? Let us know!

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2016: Biography and Memoir

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 28th, 2016

Did you know memoir comes from the Latin work memoria, which means making memory or reminiscence?

A memoir is a sub-genre of the autobiography and tends to encompass one time period of an author’s life while a biography and/or autobiography is a detailed description of a person’s entire life.

Here are the lives (or parts of lives) we enjoyed reading about in 2016.

ICPL’s BEST BIOGRAPHIES, AUTOBIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS OF 2016

  • Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughsmemoir
  • It Gets Worse by Shane Dawson
  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
  • Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman
  • Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart
  • Greetings From Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  • You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
  • Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
  • The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner
  • I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro
  • Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Book Display: What does it mean to be transgender?

by Beth Fisher on November 14th, 2016
Book Display: What does it mean to be transgender? Cover Image

What does it mean to be transgender?  Transgender people are people whose gender identity – their innate knowledge of who they are –  is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth. Transgender people are your classmates, your coworkers, your neighbors, and your friends. With approximately 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States—and millions more around the world—chances are that you’ve met a transgender person, even if you don’t know it.

Being transgender means different things to different people. Like a lot of other aspects of who people are – like race or religion – there’s no one way to be transgender, and no one way for transgender people to look or feel about themselves. The best way to understand what being transgender is like is to talk with transgender people and listen to their stories.  For more information visit http://www.transequality.org/

The books below, and many more like them, can be found in the display on the first floor near the Help Desk. Read the rest of this entry »

I think I know you …

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on August 17th, 2016
I think I know you … Cover Image

I’m relatively new to audiobooks, having listened to my first one a few months ago, but I agree with my colleagues who say they are a great way to pass the time on long drives, during a run or cleaning the house.

I also agree with them that a narrator makes, or breaks, the audiobook.

There are several I’ve started but couldn’t finish because I didn’t like the narrator’s voice. One of these books was even read by the author, but she did not sound at all like I thought she would. For some odd reason even I can’t explain, that did not sit well with me. I returned the audiobook on my OverDrive app and checked out the physical book instead.

I recently finished listening to I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: My Life as a Co-Star by Judy Greer. She also voiced the audiobook. If the name isn’t familiar, I’m sure it will be after you Google it. With more than 16 working years in Hollywood, and 90+ film and TV credits to her name, she’s one of those actors who seems to be in everything.

She’s a star, yet she isn’t. She’s worked with George Clooney and Paul Rudd and Jennifer Lopez, but can still run to a 24-hour drug store without fear of being recognized. In fact, if/when she is recognized, the people who stop her aren’t sure why they’ve stopped her. Best of both worlds? The work, some fame, but no paparazzi?

(If you aren’t going to Google Judy Greer, she played Lucy in 13 Going on 30; Maggie Lang in Ant-Man; Karen Mitchell in Jurassic World; and Kitty Sanchez in Arrested Development.)

This was an entertaining memoir. Greer is funny, honest – some might think she’s too honest, but I loved it – and anyone who’s curious about what happens behind-the-scenes in Hollywood will get a little bit of gossip. Not dirt – she’s not stupid; she still has to make a living – but the next time you see a celebrity looking like the wish they were anywhere else on the red carpet or at a press junket, Greer’s book will explain why both aren’t fun.

A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel

by Jason Paulios on April 22nd, 2016
A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel Cover Image

The latest in the Bur Oak Books series from the University of Iowa Press is Cornelia Mutel’s account on climate change as seen from the mixed oak woodlands in rural Johnson County, Iowa. The book is cleverly structured to follow the four seasons during the year 2012, each season features daily journal entries detailing weather and climate notes. Interspersed are notable updates on various woodland species in the acreage alongside Iowa natural history. Paired with the day-to-day of 2012 country living are complimenting memoir sections detailing growing up in Madison, her mother’s early death, and parenthood in Iowa City.  

Her writing is organized and passionate, her love of the natural world is infectious and I often found myself considering putting down the book to wander a nearby nature trail. Throughout all the meditative trail walking anecdotes filled with chipmunk scurrying and spring ephemeral blooming are sobering climate science facts and how they are impacting all these things we care about. Her research is presented in small digestible amounts and her teaching background is evident in the way in which she breaks down complicated earth science processes. 

ICPL Top Picks for 2015: Autobiographies, Biographies and Memoirs

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 28th, 2015
ICPL Top Picks for 2015: Autobiographies, Biographies and Memoirs Cover Image

Quiz time! What’s the different between an autobiography, biography and memoir?

An autobiography is a story an author writes about his or her life. Usually all-encompassing, most autobiographies start with the author’s childhood and move chronologically highlighting important events, ending at the present time.

A biography also follows a chronological structure over a long period of time, but it is written by someone other than the subject of the book.

Memoirs are sometimes confused with autobiographies, which is completely understandable. Like an autobiography, a memoir is a narrative written by the author about their life. But while autobiographies cover the author’s life up to the point of publication, a memoir focuses on one aspect or theme of the author’s life. Memoirs tend to be less formal, and focus more on memories, feelings, and emotions instead of facts.

No matter which genre you prefer, autobiographies, biographies and memoirs introduce readers to fascinating people, reveal the stories of well-known individuals, and provide inspiration, insight and greater understanding of others.

ICPL’s BEST AUTOBIOGRAPHIES, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS OF 2015LouisaMayAlcott

  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
  • You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day
  • Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
  • Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt
  • Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
  • Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  • Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus
  • I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
  • Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks
  • Live Like Line, Love Like Ellyn: One Community’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph by Bill Hoeft

 

 

Uproariously funny and irreverent take on modern pregnancy and parenting

by Melody Dworak on November 3rd, 2015
Uproariously funny and irreverent take on modern pregnancy and parenting Cover Image

Emily Flake’s Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting hilariously pokes fun at experiences of expectant and first-time parents, particularly those of women who established careers and were fully independent thinkers before deciding to start a family.

At eight months pregnant myself, I peeled through the first third of her book, howling with laughter every few pages or so. I can identify with dealing with “swole” feet and eating cookies to make the baby kick (and just to eat cookies). This book was much needed comic relief for my final stretch as a pregnant lady.

Read the rest of this entry »

Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin

by Katherine Habley on September 29th, 2015
Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin Cover Image

Okay I admit it….I’m a Midwestern girl through and through.  Born in Cleveland, moved to Chicago as a young child, then to Kansas City where I grew up, then off to college in Columbia, Missouri, then to my first professional library job in Normal, Illinois (where I met my husband), next to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where our two children were born, and finally to Coralville where our kids grew up (now 32 and 34 years old). The point is, I am proud of my Midwestern upbringing and the work ethic and sense of values inherent in being part of a friendly and down to earth region of the country.  So I found the book, Primates of Park Avenue, quite a stretch in subject matter from what I can relate to as a woman, wife, and mother.  The author has a PhD. from Yale and does writing and social research.  Her background in anthropology is evident as she compares mommies who live on the Upper East Side to primates and to women from other countries. This book is a memoir about Martin’s life moving from downtown NYC to Park Avenue with her wealthy husband, a native of Manhattan.  The customs and social life of the women in her uber rich neighborhood are absolutely foreign to me, and thus, very interesting and appalling at the same time. Trying to fit in as a new mom in a new neighborhood, wanting a good school for your son, and wanting to meet new friends are definitely things I understand; but the high society social climbing that apparently happens in the Upper East Side is something I’m glad I’ve never encountered in Iowa.  Martin feels like a social outcast in her new lifestyle.  The stress of getting a kindergartner into the best school in the city, wearing only designer clothes and carrying a Birkin bag, always being dressed to the nines whenever you leave the apartment to buy milk at the local store, taking Xanax to ward off a nervous breakdown, being snubbed when trying to set up a child’s playdate, owning a second home in the Hamptons, and vacationing in Vail are all discussed in this funny and erudite novel written from an interesting slant.  The comparisons between mother baboons and mommies on Park Avenue is just amazing. Talk about looking at cultural mores and animal behavior in a whole new way! I didn’t want to put this book down.  Hope you enjoy it as well!