Nina Stibbe was 20 years old in 1982 when she moved to London to become the live-in nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books, and her sons Sam and Will (whose father is film director Stephen Frears). There was no convenient phone, so Nina began sending quirky, funny letters home to her sister to report on her job.
Rob Lowe is dishing, again. Three years after the publication of his surprisingly engaging memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, the former Brat Packer-turned-TV veteran has penned Love Life, a collection of essay-type ruminations that are a mix of the surreal and the serious.
BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, April 2014
Frances Mayes’ lyrical memoir of growing up Southern was a long time coming. Worried about upsetting her family, she stopped and started Under Magnolia many times over: “Anytime I felt the impulse to start my Southern opus again, I instead headed for a movie or a new Thai restaurant,” she writes. “I’d go jogging or read a novel until the impulse faded.”
When explosions rocked the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, three people were killed and 260 injured, among them Jeff Bauman. Standing with friends to cheer on his girlfriend, who was running in the race, Bauman saw a man whose appearance and demeanor didn’t fit the crowd leave a backpack and walk away. Bauman was about to suggest to his friends that they move farther up the street when the pack exploded, taking both his legs with it. Stronger is Bauman’s account of his injury and recovery, and a tribute to working-class Boston resilience.
Sometimes things happen in life that change one’s perspective. Literally. For Gail Caldwell, hip surgery made her five-eighths of an inch taller. It was a new view, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
With the same musical emotion that her father spun into the songs he played, Allman’s daughter Galadrielle spins a poignant and illuminating portrait of a father she never knew in Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman. The book is part memoir and part biography, as she chronicles not only Duane’s life, but also her own search to discover and appreciate her late father.
It’s hard to know whether to call Boyd Varty’s Cathedral of the Wild a memoir, a true adventure story or a self-help book. All I know is that it made me cry with its hard-won truths about human and animal nature, distilled by Varty from his experiences living on Londolozi, the game reserve his family runs in South Africa.
Blake Bailey has written notable biographies of authors John Cheever and Richard Yates, both difficult and brilliant men. While he was sifting through their lives, he was also reflecting on his own. The Splendid Things We Planned is the resulting portrait, a story of mental illness and addiction and the difficult orbits they force upon the healthy. It’s also a tribute to one family’s best efforts and inevitable failings.
In her memoir, The Ogallala Road, Julene Bair chronicles the last days of her family’s Kansas farm, as well as the bittersweet love affair that feeds her hope of saving the place her folks called home. She makes the case that modern farming practices are inexorably eroding the vast resources her ancestors took for granted, and she mourns the unraveling of the tapestry that once bound together her family, their history and the land they shared.
One of those guys seemingly born to wear a tux, Robert Wagner proves an expert tour guide in the sometimes dishy, always perceptive You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age.