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.
Stephen King called Abigail Thomas’ memoir A Three Dog Life “the best memoir I have ever read,” and Thomas has another winner with her latest, What Comes Next and How to Like It.
Patton Oswalt’s career has ranged from earnest stand-up comedy to material that requires an encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture to simply follow along. In Silver Screen Fiend: Learning about Life from an Addiction to Film, he describes how a lifelong love of cinema led him from hubris to humility and back on more than one occasion.
When “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Robert E. Lee’s father, eulogized George Washington, he memorialized the late president’s effort to forge a unified nation that would bring happiness forever to the people of America. On the eve of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee, married to the daughter of Washington’s adopted son, appeared poised to preserve the Union that Washington had fought so hard to establish.
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is such an iconic military figure that he is legendary to Civil War scholars and schoolchildren alike. So it’s hard to imagine an author breaking new ground with another Jackson biography. But S.C. Gwynne does just that in Rebel Yell, which deserves comparisons to Shelby Foote’s three-volume The Civil War for its depth of knowledge and graceful narrative. Gwynne, a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Empire of the Summer Moon, casts Jackson as a human being, not as a bronze figure towering over a battlefield. Readers will come away from Rebel Yell with an understanding of the man that goes beyond his military exploits.
Amid the 21st-century glut of overindulgent memoirs, The Removers is a poignant, near-perfect addition to the genre. Andrew Meredith writes of growing up in a crumbling Philadelphia neighborhood, his family quietly imploding in the wake of a scandal that cost his father his university job.
There is a near irresistible urge to believe what we want to believe, even in the face of conflicting evidence. Seldom has that regrettable impulse been demonstrated more starkly than in 2006 when three members of the Duke University lacrosse team were charged with raping a woman they had hired to perform at a party as an “exotic dancer.” The accused were white men from well-to-do Northern families and the accuser a poor local black woman with two young children to support. With its overtones of racism, regionalism, gender advantage and class privilege, the situation couldn’t have been more dramatic—or potentially explosive.
Actress Anjelica Huston offers a retrospective on her childhood in Ireland, her adolescence in London and her burgeoning model days in New York City in a vivid new memoir, A Story Lately Told. This first installment of a planned two-book set offers a personal look at Anjelica’s early life, in which her parents—the famous director John Huston and ballet dancer and model Ricki...
For fans of searingly honest memoirs, the publication of Susanna Sonnenberg’s She Matters is a cause for celebration. Sonnenberg’s previous book, Her Last Death, explored her tumultuous relationship with her provocative and ultimately destructive mother. This book turns to more nurturing, though occasionally heartbreaking, women in Sonnenberg’s life: her friends.Comprised of...
Ever since Cain and Abel, societies have been shaken and shaped by brothers who competed with, supported or blithely ignored one another. George Howe Colt, the second-born of four brothers, has plowed through history to describe these powerful and perplexing sibling dynamics. He does so within the framework of recounting the ups and downs of fraternal relationships that prevailed inside his own...