African Diary by Bill Bryson

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

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

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.

Home by Julie Andrews

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews (2008)
This is Julie Andrews' memoir about her life growing up in England during WWII and her childhood singing career. It was very interesting to read about Julie growing up in England and how strong she was in dealing with her life as a child, as an amateur and as a beginning professional. The book explains Julie's life on-and-off stage and how it only takes a few kind people to nurture talent in spite of situations that are not ideal.

If you like Julie Andrews, you'll be interested in this book. The book ends as Julie is hired to be Mary Poppins by Walt Disney in this wonderful animation and actor movie. I hope Julie writes the next book about her middle years because it would be interesting to know how she managed to have a diverse career and a family life using all of her artistic and domestic talents.

Visit the Julie Andrews website and read the USA Today review.

Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg

Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg (2008)
Myron served as intermediary to the hearing world for his father and mother, both deaf. This touching memoir tells of his life in that early-mid 1940s world, his embarrassment, shame, but especially his joys. I delighted in its lovingly written moments of humor (pantomimed boxing matches), while its pathos brought tears. Although the storytelling slipped a bit in the last quarter of the book, the ending absolutely sparkled. I loved this memoir.

Listen to an excerpt read by the author with a sign language interpretation and read the Washington Post's review.

A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth

A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth (2009)
I adored the whimsical TV show Pushing Daisies, which I think may have suffered an early death under the weight of the writers’ strike. Kristin Chenoweth was one of the main reasons I watched. This vivacious, talented, perky, lovely, versatile, vivacious, sweet as her recipe for Butterfinger Pie – and did I mention vivacious? – singer and actress tells of her life from beauty queen to Tony award winner and beyond. Self-effacing and just plain nice, she writes sweet and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny stories about her life in and out of the limelight.

Listen to an interview with the author and read an excerpt at, read reviews at, and visit the author's website.

The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan

The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan (2008)
John Grogan, the author of Marley and Me, writes another winner. This is a funny, sentimental good read about John Grogan, the not-so-good Catholic boy, who grows up navigating life with his ultra-conservative Catholic parents. His deep love for his parents shows through in every page as his values clash with theirs, and he becomes a man.

Catholic or not, this memoir will make you think about your life and your relationship with your parents. John Grogan is a wonderful storyteller and writes another beautiful memoir, minus Marley.

Visit the author's website and read reviews at

A Narrative of My Captivity Among the Sioux Indians by Fanny Kelly

A Narrative of My Captivity among the Sioux Indians by Fanny Kelly (1871)
Originally published in 1871, this is a great firsthand account of life on the frontier in the latter 19th century. Fanny Kelly describes a wagon train, an attack by the Sioux, her life among her captors, and by extension, their lives, and the story of what happened when she got back. This book has plenty of drama and action. Plus it is a historical snapshot of an America now long forgotten.

Preview the book, read reviews from other readers, and explore other "captivity" narratives.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (1972)
Perfect stories from the life of a young veterinary doctor. The best book about people and animals that I have read in the last five years.  Herriot continues his story of life as an English country vet in All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful. These real life stories were made into an excellent BBC series.

James Herriot was the pen name for James Alfred Wight. Visit the James Herriot website to learn more about this veterinary/author. You may also read an excerpt from the book and find reviews at

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (2006)
Humorous, laugh-out-loud story of Bill Bryson's childhood growing up in the 1950s. If you want to read a true version of how life was growing up in the 1950s in Iowa, this is it. If you want to recall how life was in the 1950s, this is it.

Check out the reviews at, preview the book before visiting the library, and watch a video of Bryson discussing his book.

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson (2009)
Amy Dickinson, the successor to Ann Landers and writer of the syndicated "Dear Amy" advice column in the Chicago Tribune, has written this warm and funny memoir of her life after her husband leaves her and her young baby for a young Russian woman he's met. Amy's story is about picking herself up after this devastating blow and returning to her small hometown in upper New York. Nurtured by the "Queens," the Freeville women in her family, she does survive and becomes the insightful, wise woman we read in the advice column. This book is a quick, humorous read and Amy's story makes us proud that we, too, can make it and flourish in the face of most anything.

Check out the book's website and read reviews of the book at

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter (2008)
A moving and eye-opening story of resilience! This memoir recounts the author’s horrific experiences during her nine years in the foster care system. As a foster parent myself, I know firsthand the injustices and often appalling condition of the system.

I found this book engrossing, yet quite disturbing in many ways, especially her stories of abuse and neglect at the hands of foster families. I personally know many devoted and compassionate foster parents, and cannot imagine anyone becoming a foster parent with malevolent intentions. While this book may not be of interest to everybody, I think it’s a must read for anyone involved with children in foster care: foster parents, birth parents, social workers, therapists, teachers, judges, etc. Although this book is filled with many disturbing and tragic scenes, it is also filled with hope and love. That is what kept me reading it.

Visit the author's website and preview the book before you visit the library.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (1996)
A memoir about an American college professor and her lover who purchase a deserted villa in Cortona, Italy, and attempt to restore it to its former glory; thus, enabling them to enjoy “la dolie vita.” Along the way they learn to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the local workmen and the slower paced Italian way of life. Much different than the movie, I liked the book more. An added bonus is the recipes she includes.

Read reviews and a summary of the book at You can alos explore the book discussion guide.

The Woman Who Can't Forget by Jill Price with Bart Davis

The Woman Who Can’t Forget by Jill Price with Bart Davis (2008)
Jill Price remembers everything she’s ever done since 1970 – in minute detail. If she heard about events happening around the country or the world, she can tell you about those too. Sounds great, right? For Jill, her astounding memory is both a blessing and a curse. Her memories constantly play through her head, triggered by a sound, a smell, or something else. The emotions of the memory – both good and bad – remain strong.

Follow Jill’s story from her childhood to the present. See how her extraordinary memory impacted her life and kept her mired in the past. Find out what researchers have discovered about her memory. Listen to this CD – when Jill introduces medical jargon, it’s nice to have the correct pronunciation.

View the ABC News story and video and read the 2006 Orange County Register article about the scientists' study.

Marley & Me by John Grogan

Marley & Me by John Grogan (2005)
Wonderful true story about a family and a naughty Lab named Marley. This dog was kicked out of obedience school, careened through screen doors, ate everything that he could fit in his mouth, but managed to comfort his people at a difficult time in their marriage. The story made me laugh until tears rolled down my cheeks. The movie adaptation starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson will arrive in theaters on Christmas Day.

Visit the author's website, read reviews from and watch the trailer for the upcoming movie.

Are you there, Vodka? by Chelsea Handler

Are you there, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler (2008)
Comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler tells funny stories about her life. Topics include getting pulled over one week after her 21st birthday, taking a trip to Costa Rica with her father, and her love for vodka. A quick, enjoyable read.

Check out the author's fansite and read an excerpt from the book.