Obsessive-compulsive disorder has become a joke in our culture. We label ourselves OCD if we prefer our socks folded a certain way or our desktop arranged just so. In The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought, David Adam exposes the insensitivity of these casual mentions by sharing his own struggle with this crippling mental illness. His book puts the OCD diagnosis in historical context, but he combines this broader frame of reference with his personal story, which adds humor, pathos and authority.
Grandparents who love their only grandchild fiercely, but haven’t spoken since their divorce 50 years ago, incite her urgent question: What happened? As she writes in A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France, Miranda Richmond Mouillot hopes to recreate a fairy tale of love found, and somehow lost, amid the turmoil of World War II. But her grandparents, Armand and Anna, are growing frail and their memories of fleeing Nazi-occupied France are painful.
In 1971, 10-year-old Allen Kurzweil arrived at a Swiss boarding school called Aiglon. He was a Jewish boy from New York; his father had died, and his mother was “test-driving her third husband.” Kurzweil was happy to be back in the Alps—his Viennese father had brought him there for winter holidays and imbued him with a love of alpine hiking and skiing.
The civil rights laws and social programs initiated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the mid-1960s transformed U.S. society. Although they were highly controversial at the time, laws establishing Medicare and Medicaid, public broadcasting, help to those in poverty, consumer and environmental protection, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities and many other programs remain in place today. Though President John F. Kennedy introduced civil rights legislation shortly before his death, it was his successor, Johnson, who was able to get the legislation passed and move on to other aspects of what became known as the Great Society.
If Elena Gorokhova’s splendid second memoir merely conveyed to readers a vivid, almost visceral understanding of the sometimes paralyzing sense of dislocation she experienced arriving in the United States in 1980 from the Soviet Union, that alone would be reason enough to read it. On her first day in the U.S., for instance, she visits the air-conditioned Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum with the American husband she barely knows, and wonders, “Why are there no smells? Russia assaults you in your nostrils: milk always on the verge of turning sour, the wet wool of winter coats we wear everyday for five months, rubber phone booth tiles buckled with urine. . . .”
One day Claude Knobler and his wife read a newspaper article that would change their lives. Written by award-winning journalist Melissa Fay Greene, it chronicled the plight of Ethiopian children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
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.
Andie Mitchell had been overweight for as long as she could remember. But cutely plump as a school-age kid became morbidly obese at age 20, when she weighed nearly 300 pounds. Growing up with a depressed, alcoholic father and a mother who worked round the clock to pay the bills, Mitchell grew to view food—any food—as her friend and companion.
Although Andrew Keen has long been involved with Silicon Valley, he has a big problem with the sunny predictions made by early champions of the Internet. And here he is on solid ground. The web did not level the political playing field, provide nearly as many jobs as it destroyed, turn every citizen into an entrepreneur or allow us to share the Internet’s bounty of conveniences without sacrificing our privacy in the process.
Even before reading the first words of Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness, it’s obvious that this is no ordinary memoir. First there’s the cover, with author Jessie Close in the embrace of her sister, actress Glenn Close. Then there are the photos inside, with captions like, “My dad on the porch of our house in the -paracommando camp in Zaire.”