Strayed was only in her twenties when her mom dies of cancer at 45. Her mother’s death leads to the unraveling of her world: her siblings drift away; her stepfather disengages after he remarries, and her rock solid marriage ends in divorce. Her despair, anger, and unrelenting grief over her mother’s death lay at the heart of her failed marriage and some very poor choices.
A crazy idea to hike the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail alone keeps her going. This adventure is all that holds her together despite her unbelievable lack of preparedness. Against enormous odds, she succeeds in walking the trail redeemed by the kindness of strangers and the wide open beauty of the wild. Beautifully and honestly written, this memoir inspires, and for those interested long distance solo hiking it serves as a “what not to do” manual. Check out Wild today.
In this memoir, Haven Kimmel recounts her small town Indiana childhood where her father took a gun to his factory job every day, and her mother read science fiction novels in her corner of the couch. A delightful, humorous read.
Check out A Girl Named Zippy and these discussion questions.
Summer at Tiffany is a delightful portrait of a moment in time. During the summer of 1945, Marjorie and her roommate Marty leave the University of Iowa for New York City. While jobs aren’t quite as easy to procure as promised, they get hired as the first female pages (runners) at Tiffany’s flagship store.
More than 60 years later, Marjorie recounts that special summer: celebrity sightings (Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich – did you know her role in WWII?), saving pennies for a few treats, dancing with soldiers, her own summer romance, and experiencing V-J Day in Times Square.
When I think of 1945, World War II immediately comes to mind. Marjorie’s story is a different slice of that year. As she said, everyone she knew was affected. Yet the story she shares is a 21-year-old small town girl experiencing the big city for the first time.
Shakespeare professor (as Mary Bly) and romance novelist Eloisa James takes a yearlong sabbatical and moves from New Jersey to Paris with her husband (Alessandro, a professor and an Italian knight) and two children (Luca, 15 and Anna, 11).
It’s difficult to describe this book. It’s a memoir. A travelogue. A love letter to the City of Light. A chronicle of everyday family occurrences. But it’s done in such a way that draws you in and makes you feel as if you’re there alongside Eloisa and her family in Paris. Anna will steal your heart. The antics of Milo, the family dog, will leave you chuckling.
The book grew out of Facebook status updates posted during her year abroad. Each chapter starts with a brief essay and is followed by short vignettes. Some are only a few sentences long; others are lengthy paragraphs. It works.
The writing is eloquent and witty. Although the format lends itself to reading in short spurts, you won’t want to put this book down!
Read Paris in Love today! Also check out a TIME Magazine interview with the author about her famous parents, her writing life, and her decision to move to Paris.
Watch the author and her husband discuss the book and see some of Luca’s snapshots of Paris in this YouTube video.
Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert (2011)
Roger Ebert is one of the most well-known movie critics in the world, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and also famous for the television show Siskel & Ebert at the Movies. Ebert has written many books that review movies and even a biography of director Martin Scorsese. But his memoir of growing up in southern Illinois is his most impressive work yet.
Plagued for years by cancer that eventually disfigured his face and left him unable to eat, drink or speak, Ebert’s story is not depressing but rather a celebration of what a wonderful life he has had. He was able to overcome alcoholism and marry the woman of his dreams who is still his devoted partner. The book also has fun tales to tell of his close encounters with movie stars such as John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. To learn more about Ebert check out his blog.
Read Ebert’s reviews of movies currently playing at a theater near you:
Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011)
I loved listening to this book on CD. It was narrated by the author, Tina Fey, probably best known for her impersonation of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential election. She’s also been the head writer on Saturday Night Live; writes and stars in the TV series 30 Rock; and has written and/or starred in a number of films. She talks about getting her start in comedy in Chicago with the Second City troupe.
There are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book, and she delivers them perfectly. She’s gutsy, intelligent, and irreverently funny, with a no-holds-barred attitude about most things. Highly recommend this for anyone who wants a good laugh, although there is “adult language” which may offend some people.
Comedian Tina Fey entertains in her well-written memoir covering her personal life plus her stints at Chicago’s Second City, Saturday Night Live, and 30 Rock. I suggest listening to the audiobook narrated by Fey. Even if you haven’t followed her career, it’s easy to relate to this down to earth comedian and actress. I burst out laughing during her recollections of her childhood and her honeymoon as well as her responses to mean-spirited comments.
Wondering about the cover? Check out this interview with the hand model.
For more about the book, check out TIME, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times.
Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work by Tim Gunn (2010)
Tim Gunn made the phrase “Make It Work!” famous on the hit reality TV series Project Runway where he mentors the contestants and costars with model Heidi Klum. In this etiquette book/biography, Tim shares his 18 golden rules for a happy and successful life. The rules include “be a good guest or stay home” and “when you need help, get it.” Surprisingly, when it comes to appropriate clothing, he reminds us that “physical comfort is overrated,” but that he really doesn’t notice too much what other people wear, and will rarely comment on an outfit unless he is asked.
Just one of the interesting tidbits in the book is that Tim was an unpaid consultant on Project Runway for the first two seasons. Other juicy revelations include info on J. Edgar Hoover since Gunn’s father was an FBI special agent and also J. Edgar’s ghostwriter.
Visit Gunn’s facebook page for more information on the fashion guru.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (2010)
“It must have some kind of teeth, and it wasn’t shy about using them.”—A description of a nightmarish monster? No. Instead, it’s a tai chi master…snail. This surprising, lovingly crafted homage to a snail, written by the seriously ill and bed-ridden Bailey whose friend one day brings her a wild snail in a flowerpot for her bedside, delighted me with Bailey’s observations of her new companion. She finds many parallels between her life and the snail’s, making this book meaningful and moving. Although the denouement seemed a bit rushed, I found it an easy read and enjoyed the captivating little quotations and haiku poetry about snails that introduced the chapters. Who would have thought? Four ½ stars.
Check out the YouTube video about this book.
African Diary by Bill Bryson (2002)
A small book to get a quick insight into Africa. Bryson writes with his usual humor about traveling through Africa and what his preconception of Africa was before his trip.
Bill Bryson’s story about Africa contains wonderful pictures and explanations of the continent. The profits of the book go to CARE to benefit African people.
Check out the official Bill Bryson website and read reviews on Amazon.com.
Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper (2009)
This is an endearing book about an abandoned two-week-old kitten with a severe infection that took his sight. Gwen, the vet’s client, agrees to see the kitten, falls in love with him, and takes him home. Since Homer was named after the blind poet of the Greek epic, Odyssey, each chapter starts off with a quote from that poem. Gwen tells a humorous, touching story of life with Homer. Homer doesn’t let his “handicap” stop him. His senses of hearing and smell are enhanced. He is a bundle of energy, curious and affectionate. Find out how the two established female resident cats adjust to their new little brother. Read about how Homer enriches Gwen’s life and those who meet him (including her parents who were professed dog people). Gwen and Homer lived in New York on September 11, 2001. The book has an upbeat ending.
You might also enjoy these feline tales: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron and An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle by Nina Malkin.
Read an excerpt and visit the author’s website.