Tag Archives: biography

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (2010)
Perhaps this book should be called “The Truth about Cleopatra, Last Queen of Egypt.” In reality, her life, filled with intrigue, danger, political upheaval, reads like an unbelievable adventure film. She lived by her wits with constant loyalty to Egypt.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff showcases her authentic research  in this remarkable work. The historical truth of Cleopatra’s life demands that she be taken seriously. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the way Schiff presents myth versus truth.

The way she saved her skin and her kingdom from Julius Caesar is one story; the way she tried to preserve that same kingdom from another Roman soldier, Mark Antony, is another. The ability to present the truth is Schiff’s strength. She was more than a steamy seductress; she was a power unto herself.

To find about more about the book check out this Q&A with the author.

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore (2006)
An inspiring, emotional, enlightening, and unforgettable true story. It’s written and alternately narrated by two men from completely opposite walks of life. Hall is a wealthy art dealer who owns multiple homes and hobnobs with only the wealthiest people, and Denver Moore is a homeless man who grew up on a plantation as a modern-day slave. Not only does this relate each of their life stories, but, more importantly, it is a loving tribute to Hall’s wife, Debbie, whose unselfish and compassionate generosity helped to bring these two men together.

It opened my eyes to aspects of America that I’ve never seen: from the lowest levels of poverty and cruel racial discrimination, to the most ridiculous levels of wealth and materialism. It also teaches some great life lessons of pure charity and unselfish, non-judgmental kindness. The world would be a much better place if we all had a little bit of Debbie’s compassion and willingness to give of ourselves for others.

Visit the book’s website for more about this inspiring story.

Life, On the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas

Life, On the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas (2011)
Famous for both his innovative cooking and beating Stage 4 tongue cancer, Grant Achatz (rhymes with Patches) co-wrote this autobiography with his restaurant business partner. Their five star Chicago culinary mecca Alinea has won many accolades, including Gourmet Magazine’s Best Restaurant in America (2006) while Restaurant Magazine boosted Alinea to No. 6 in the world for 2011. Chef Achatz has won numerous personal awards, including “Best Chef in the United States” for 2008 from the James Beard Foundation.

It’s amazing to read about the untold hours Chef Achatz spends at his restaurant and surprising that anyone can get by on so little sleep. His life experiences ultimately stress the importance of love, friendship, passion for your work and being your own health advocate, even if a fifth medical opinion is what it takes to get the help you need.

The book includes many photographs, but my curiosity led me to look at live footage of Grant Achatz on You Tube.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (2010)
An inspiring and heartbreaking true story of two men named Wes Moore. They’re about the same age, and grew up in the same area of Baltimore, with similar backgrounds. However, they have ended up in very different places: one became a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow, and has a successful professional life; and the other is serving a life sentence for murder. This book explores and illustrates the struggles, temptations, and especially the influential people in each of their lives, from childhood to adulthood, in an attempt to figure out why they took such different paths.

I was really struck by the author’s summation: “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.” At the end of the book is a “call to action” for each of us to do our part through volunteer work or donations. In that vein, he provides a Resource Guide listing many organizations that provide services and education to parents and children. Wes Moore, the author, knows he can’t save everyone, but he’s determined to do whatever he can to prevent more “other Wes Moore” situations.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Based on the eight pages of acknowledgments by the author, it can take a village to tell a story. And what a powerful, amazing, awesome story it is…

Born in 1917, Louie Zamperini was a precocious child, a prankster, and later a runner. He smashed California track records as a student at USC and raced at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

During World War II, as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, he flew combat missions in the Pacific Theater. On May 27, 1943, his B-24 crashed into the ocean. Louie and pilot Alan Phillips survived 47 days at sea, only to be captured by the Japanese.

Unbroken is the unbelievable story of Louie. The detail is amazing yet not overwhelming. Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit) has a wonderful storytelling ability that makes 400 pages fly by. And her story is fascinating in its own right. For over half her life, she has suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. This Newsweek article provides more about Hillenbrand, her relationship with Louie, and the book.

Jacques Cousteau by Bradford Matsen

Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King by Bradford Matsen (2009)
Fast reading and informative book about Jacques Costeau’s 20th century inventions and discoveries. It is startling to learn that the undersea explorations and diving equipment inventions were due to Cousteau’s desire to dive deeper and search the world’s oceans.

There is enough information in this book to learn about ocean explorations in the 20th century without getting too detailed. Every person should read this book to understand that ocean exploration and space exploration are equally important and that space was done by countries’ funding and ocean was done by a few good, curious adventurers! Very interesting insight into the personal life and personality of Jacques.

Learn more about this famous oceanographer and read the Seattle Times review.