A powerful memoir that pulls the curtain back on Indigenous family life in late 20th century America. Growing up in the Southwest USA, the author retells her story both on the reservation (Yuma, AZ) and off (Farmington, NM) as she and her family deal with assimilation, racism, alcohol abuse, tragedy, religion and economic ambition while they struggle to succeed in American society. The detailed and often-times painful growing-up story focuses on identity and the desire to “fit in” vs. the internal need to “be yourself” and the author’s journey to understanding and accepting her mixed culture and her own family. This is a very strong, eye-opening memoir that blends Indigenous belief and American culture with the difficulties of growing up and finding oneself.
A fascinating retelling of Ed Zwick’s professional career in writing, producing and directing from early lucky breaks to eventual Academy Awards. His style of writing is cleverly imbued with self deprecation at almost every turn as he tells the unvarnished truth about his journey through the Hollywood system. At times he delves into “tell-all” territory with stories about Woody Allen, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, to name a few - and Zwick is quick to put the stories into context for every name he mentions (including himself). From T.V. hits such as thirtysomething and My So Called Life to celebrated films such as Glory and Legends of the Fall, he focuses on the “how” and the often times messy process needed to achieve a vision.
A truly innovative novel in content, form and design, this novel breaks the mold for LGBTQI+ fiction. At its heart, the story focuses on the end of life of Juan Gay as he retells his story to Nene, the 27 year-old main character. Both are gay and met while institutionalized for behavior--oftentimes blackouts/seizures--10 years prior. The plot weaves around Juan’s connection to a scientific study from the 1930s focused on the real lives of LGBTQI+ people. With elements of storytelling and filmmaking used to retell both their histories, as well as mixing in the actual blacked-out scientific study, the plot touches on mental illness, homophobia, racism, sexism and ultimately both death and survival. Interestingly, the study and the author (Juan Gay) used in the story are real. A truly unique and thought-provoking story.
On the surface a novel about a family and adult siblings living through a single April day in 2019, 2020 and 2021--before, during and as Covid begins to wane. But underneath a deep look at love as the three main characters, Dan and Isabel (a married couple) and Isabel’s brother Robbie each deal with their own complicated relationships, life choices and expectations. As the pandemic hits, the resulting physical isolation only stirs the deep emotional isolation and conflicted feelings amongst the three. The meaning of love and family, dealing with grief, tragedy and anxiety are all key components of this well-written, philosophical and at-times humorous novel.
A story of love, loss, grief and finding home which is told by three gay men, two living and one dead. Their stories are told individually as major sections of the book but also interconnected as the plot moves between past and present. Their lives are explored with brutal, uncomfortable honesty and touch on issues such as eating disorders, promiscuity, anxiety and being HIV positive. Ultimately the true meaning of family, friendship and the love that binds is explored with fantastic writing and a theme that all will be well in the end. “With every single person we touch, we’re leaving parts of ourselves. We live through them."
Viet Thanh Nguyen has created an unforgettable, at times uncomfortable look at his life, his family origins and his place in both family and society. As a refugee from Vietnam he recalls growing up in the 1980s in San Jose and, later, LA with brutal honesty, especially as he recounts his relationship with his parents and their own histories, both in Vietnam and America. His pointed emphasis on the meaning of words and language within the American immigrant experience is truly thought-provoking. At times angry, painful, political, hilarious but always brilliant, with a keen focus on the treatment of “others" in America, this memoir is a true introspection of one man’s life journey as he comes to terms with his own Defiant/Quiet set of two faces.
A smart, fast-paced spy thriller where past events impact the here/now across MI6, the British government and many people involved in both. A government special committee called Monochrome is established to explore the far-reaching power of MI6, leading to a discovery from an early 1990s Berlin operation. This discovery sets in motion a thrilling chain of events with chases, street fights and a penultimate encounter impacting all involved. While a stand-alone novel, there is a story line which appears to be the origin story of one of the characters in the Slow Horses series, although this is not explicitly stated. A great edge-of-your-seat thriller!
A well-researched biography of Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos and other successful businesses. The authors focus on Hsieh’s personality which is a complicated mix of business genius, social anxiety and the constant drive to find happiness. It is truly a heart-breaking account of one man’s descent into addiction while appearing to have it all. It is an engaging book as one truly feels the pain in Tony Hsieh as he sits at the top of the world.
A collection of short stories with a common theme of life in the Arab-American community of Dearborn, MI. The author illustrates various aspects of life, primarily amongst the Lebanese community, with each story often harking back to life in Lebanon, before war, immigration and sometimes hardship. While the theme is constant, the plot of each story is unique covering a gamut of age, sexuality, gender but almost always with the conflict of American-born children and adult natives of Lebanon. You get a first hand view of immigrant life centered in an immigrant community. A very entertaining and informative collection.
A brilliant story of a young Iranian-American man and his family as they struggle to adjust to life in LA. The story is told by the youngest son “K” as he details his love of his older brothers, his mother and his difficult relationship with his father all as K struggles with his sexuality. The author’s use of language is interesting and engaging in telling this story from the mixed American/Persian perspective. The story is brutally honest, heart-breaking and introspective as K struggles to understand love and find his place in the world.
The author meets his 106-year-old neighbor after a move to Kansas City and from there a truly remarkable biography is born. Charlie, the neighbor, shares his life story, which really is a mirror of life throughout the the 20th and early 21st centuries, with candor, detailing both painful loss as well as joyous life events. Throughout the story of his life, Charlie demonstrates a true resilience to life’s challenges as well as a keen fascination with all things new and with change. His story will remain in your mind long after you finish the book.
A fascinating memoir that reveals much about the author as well as his subject, his German grandfather, a Nazi manager in small-town France. The author spent many years researching his grandfather's life to reveal an honest and unsparing story that is deeply personal and reveals details that most history books do not cover. Hard to put this one down!
An honest and eye-opening memoir written by a true son of the South as he confronts the truth about his lifelong hero; Robert E. Lee. His journey from being a true Southern Gentleman to the “reckoning” of understanding the true history of Lee and the Confederate cause of maintaining slavery at all costs is remarkable in its candor. While this is the author’s story, it also a history of the myth of the South’s lost cause and its ties to racism in the US. It very clearly ties to current events as he ties the Lost Cause to current events especially regarding Confederate memorials.
A fascinating, little-known true story of an 18th-century British sailing expeditionary force gone wrong. The story focuses on one ship, the Wager, as the expedition goes from bad to worse during the journey around Cape Horn. This is a story of hardship, interpersonal battles, resilience and the intricacies of 18th-century maritime law. A real page-turner and a remarkable true story!
An epic, multi-generational saga spanning nearly the entire 20th century in India. A young woman from Kerala and young doctor from Scotland begin their journeys in separate parts of India with each experiencing life through family, faith, mysticism and tragedy while dealing with the “condition,” a genetic medical mystery with symptoms including the inability to survive in water. Their stories follow the historical turns of India as a country, with caste and societal norms playing a key component in their paths crossing. A story of love, faith, heart-break and living life without fear. A remarkably touching book.
A picture book detailing the behind-the-scenes making of the classic children’s book Make Way for Ducklings focused on the author Robert McCloskey. A fantastic telling of the story with incredible illustrations akin to those in the classic book. This is one of those special children’s picture books that educates and entertains both children and adults as there are many details uncovered about the origin and evolution of the story--including bringing real ducks into his NYC apartment. As a bonus there is also a section at the end of the book on the making of the famous statue(s) of Make Way for Ducklings situated in Boston Common.
A book that is difficult to categorize as it’s equal parts history, memoir, social commentary all wrapped in a deeply personal travel journal from trips through the US South. It is a unique approach to telling the story and enduring legacy of slavery not only in the South but also in the overall fabric of the entire country. Told in a mix of both third and first person the author occasionally speaks directly to the reader as she describes both painful and uplifting episodes of the past and how they relate to the current. I learned a lot from this book and found it difficult to put down.
Based on declassified documents, this is the story of the origins of the OSS (precursor to the CIA) Research and Development branch. Stanley Lovett, a renowned industrial chemist, is recruited into the OSS to lead the R&D department in 1942. A fascinating journey begins as all kinds of new/secretive weapons are developed as moral questions are soon overridden by war needs. I was surprised by many of the inventions; chemical and otherwise that seem like James Bond movie fantasies were, indeed, actual real weapons: umbrella gun, poison pens, and many more.
A spell-binding account of the days before, during & after the Nazi blitz of England, with a specific focus on Winston Churchill & his family. Larson finds new ground on Churchill with an almost daily accounting of the actions taken to manage the defense of England and the vast effort to engage the USA in the war. Reads like a novel!
Maurice Swift is a master manipulator driven by unlimited ambition who tells his story in the fast-moving decades of his life. No one is safe from his unyielding drive to be a world-class author in this novel with shades of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Keeps you on edge with occasional dark humor as Swift wiggles through his lies at key moments. Once you begin this one, it's hard to put down.
This is an excellent collection of very personal, very funny essays. If you're familiar with David Sedaris's other work, you'll notice both similarities in theme and also a few darker (yet still funny) stories, especially when focusing on his father. If you're new to him or familiar with his work, you will enjoy Happy-Go-Lucky.
This story of a man searching for his origins is truly epic in scope, characters and social commentary. Familiar Irving themes--wrestling, ghosts, tragedy, sexual/gender identity, and politics--appear in this novel, but in a fresh, new perspective. Large portions of the book are in screenplay form, which is cleverly incorporated into the plot. There are many laugh-out-loud moments.
The true story of Robert Bunch, the British Consul to the USA based in Charleston, SC before, during and after the Civil War. Driven by personal ambition to rise up the ranks in British diplomatic circles, Bunch cleverly balanced the needs (trade, abolition) of Britain and the U.S. all while appearing to assist the Confederacy. His base in Charleston provided a unique understanding of local politics/mood which he used to his advantage while clearly siding with the needs of Britain and by default, the U.S. government. His ability to be accepted by the locals while working against their desires makes for a fascinating true story.