The lives of musical greats continue to fascinate us, and this fall once again features biographies and memoirs of key players, from the producer credited with inventing rock ’n’ roll to a woman at the forefront of feminist rock.
The holidays can be a bit stressful, but luckily, laughter is an excellent stress reliever! So crack open one of the three books below and crack up around the Christmas tree.
Celebrity memoirs often have a predictable arc: I was born, and for a brief while I was much like you, eating cereal and riding bicycles, then (big famous thing) happened and now here I am, not much like you at all. These memoirs fill a need, because we want to know about the famous thing but also the steps that led to it, in hopes that we might trade our own cereal bowls for shrimp forks. By that metric, Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You, a memoir written by an actress, is the farthest thing imaginable from a celebrity memoir. For this we can rejoice and be glad.
When Kevin Powell appeared on the first season of MTV's “The Real World,” he developed a reputation for hostility toward his white roommates. I remember thinking he was an adult miscast in a show full of kids, always running out the door to work. In The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey Into Manhood, we learn about the grinding poverty and loss that fueled that anger, which resurfaced time and again to threaten all he held dear.
My Life on the Road is a traveler’s journey like no other, and Gloria Steinem, feminist icon, 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient (President Obama called her a “champion notice-er”), journalist, organizer and activist, is your unique guide.
Home Is Burning is perhaps the funniest book about dying I’ve ever read. Dan Marshall deftly chronicles the months he and his four younger siblings dealt with the terminal illness of not one but both of their parents. His beloved father, Bob, has held the family together for more than a decade while his mom, Debi, fights non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. So when Bob is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), it’s a punch in the gut for a family already dealing with bad news.
Stories about brothers make Barry Moser weep. He yearns for a fraternal closeness that never existed between himself and Tom, his older brother. In We Were Brothers, a memoir shrouded in wistful melancholia, Moser recalls his childhood in Tennessee and his “heavy ladened and knotty” relationship with his brother.
Frederick Forsyth, former RAF pilot and journalist for Reuters, spoke four languages, enjoyed his share of cigarettes and liquor, toyed with members of the East German Stasi, slept with the mistress of a high-powered Communist official and covered a civil war in Nigeria. All before the age of 30. Forsyth shares his adventures in his entertaining new memoir, The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, a fast-paced account of his career from post-World War II Europe through the Cold War and on to the present.
In 2010, musician Patti Smith published Just Kids, a radiant memoir about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their lives as bohemian babes-in-the-woods in New York City. Set in the 1960s and ’70s, the story of their coming-of-age as artists—Smith’s first full-length work of prose—won the National Book Award. In her new memoir, M Train, Smith trades the circus atmosphere of the psychedelic era for the here and now, offering readers a remarkably intimate look at her life in New York City.
At 51, his days full of work and travel as an Emmy Award-winning correspondent for CNN, Tom Foreman relaxes in what free time he has. He ignores the added pounds and growing lethargy until the day his 18-year-old daughter asks, “Will you run a marathon with me?” Foreman is too loving a dad to say no, and way too far past his days as a competitive runner to rise easily to her challenge.