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.
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.
Years before I read Eat, Pray, Love, I clipped a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 bestseller that I still have today. “Happiness is the result of personal effort,” she wrote. “You have to participate relentlessly.” This was not news I wanted to hear at the time, but a life spent waiting for the right bluebird to cross my path wasn’t working out too well, either. I started to put a little more shoulder into my efforts, and did, in fact, find myself enjoying life more. If you’re living a creative life (and news flash—you are), the same rules apply. In her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert contends that persistence and curiosity are the keys to pushing past your boundaries to live a bigger, happier life.
That they're different as day and night is unarguable, but the first two women appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court elevated one another, and the status of women in this country, immeasurably through their combined efforts. Sisters In Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World profiles O'Connor and Ginsburg, their struggles for acceptance in a field designed to exclude them and the cases they worked on that had the greatest impact.
Negroland is not a geographic locale. It’s the name Margo Jefferson gives to the place, time and circumstances of her upbringing in the upper echelons of black society. Her memoir, which reads with the blast force of a prose poem, looks back with love and no small amount of anger at a life spent navigating the freedoms of class while flirting with, and occasionally skirting, the imposed limits of race.
True crime fans know the formula when it comes to serial killers: Take one messed up childhood, add a domineering mother and shake repeatedly until something snaps. It was certainly true in the case of Michael Ross, who raped and murdered eight women before he was caught, tried and ultimately put to death. By the time journalist Martha Elliott met Ross in prison, he'd received extensive treatment and refused a new trial on the grounds that he didn't want the families of his victims to be further traumatized.
Ever dreamed of owning your own business? Paul Downs has been living that dream for nearly three decades and has the battle scars to prove it. After sharing his experiences on the New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog, he decided to narrow his focus, documenting a year in the life of his small woodworking company in a book. Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business may inspire you, but it will also have you asking hard questions before you hang out a shingle somewhere.
Robert Kennedy often worked in the shadow of his brother John, but he found a sense of purpose and identity when he committed to wipe out corruption in the labor movement. His white whale was Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union, who was uncannily able to evade charges for years despite being up to his neck in criminal behavior. In Vendetta: Bobby Kennedy Versus Jimmy Hoffa, author James Neff follows their clashes against a backdrop of Vegas lounges, the Hollywood tabloid press and Washington politics.
Despite being a vast topic, economics seems at the simplest level to be about connecting buyers and sellers. But what about exchanges where money's not involved? From life-or-death matters like organ donation to finding Junior a spot in that prestigious preschool, "matching markets," where both sides must choose each other, are also an economic force.