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.
A lasting impression after reading Custer’s Trials is that George Armstrong Custer was a man who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time—until he died being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A.E. Hotchner’s Hemingway in Love is a poignant postscript to A Moveable Feast, particularly to Hemingway’s bittersweet last chapter. Hotchner, now 95, was Hemingway’s younger friend and Boswell, notebook at the ready, accompanying Papa to all the iconic haunts: Venice, Paris, Pamplona, Key West. He wrote a full biography of his mentor soon after Hemingway’s suicide. In this late memoir, Hotchner wants finally to give Hemingway his say about his one true love: Hadley, his first wife, the Paris wife.
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.
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.
Of all the tragedies associated with the Kennedy family, the story of Rosemary Kennedy is among the saddest—and least known. It lasted a lifetime and played out virtually in secret, as opposed to the assassinations and plane crashes that commanded 72-point headlines and seem frozen in time.
Henry Kissinger is one of the most controversial statesmen in American history. Some regard him as the country’s greatest strategic foreign relations thinker, while others describe him as conspiratorial or as a war criminal. Noted Harvard historian Niall Ferguson tells the first part of Kissinger’s story in great detail in Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist, the first of a projected two-volume biography.
Readers familiar with Jenny Lawson, as either The Bloggess or the author of the 2012 bestseller Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, are aware that she has created a tribe of perfectly flawed followers by telling hilarious stories about some of the darkest times in her life. Furiously Happy is similar in focus—you’ll find taxidermy, riotous fights with husband Victor and funny if slightly scary family stories—but Lawson’s latest book is even more open about the challenges posed by illness. It will make you laugh to the point of tears, but it could also help you make it through the toughest stuff life has to offer.
When you look at the father-daughter photo on the cover of Kelly Carlin’s raw and reflective memoir, A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up With George, you wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the shadow of the fast-talking, fast-thinking and fast-living comedian George Carlin. And then you begin reading, and you realize that Kelly’s reports from the trenches sound familiar to anyone who grew up amid the whirlwind social changes of the 1960s and ’70s.