International model Cea Sunrise Person may have an unconventional career, but she had a very unconventional childhood.
In her memoir North of Normal, Person deftly details the "miserable excesses and occasional beauty" of her off the grid upbringing in the Canadian wilderness. Until the age of 13, Person lived with her free-spirited mother, grandparents and two aunts in a tipi. That's right: No running water, no plumbing and no electricity. They formed a totally self-sufficient community, foregoing modern amenities and living off the land.
Their tiny hippie utopia—where little clothing is worn, lots of pot is smoked and sex is rarely private—is soon interrupted by Person's mother, whose string of whirlwind relationships threaten any possible stability.
Watch the trailer, narrated by Person herself, below:
What do you think, readers? Will you pick up a copy of North of Normal?
Our June Nonfiction Top Pick is Joanna Rakoff's new memoir, My Salinger Year. In this absorbing account, Rakoff (A Fortunate Age) describes her time as an assistant for one of the most storied literary agencies in New York City—one that represented such literary legends as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and Judy Blume, along with the agency's star client, J.D. Salinger.
At just 23, Rakoff found herself thrown into an office perpetually frozen in time where the agents still smoked at their desks, and the typewriter and Dictaphone reigned supreme. Aside from her more predictable administrative tasks, Rakoff learned that one of her duties would be answering fan mail for the reclusive Salinger. She soon found a rebellious courage to ditch the form-letter response, and secretly composed her own thoughtful replies to the passionate letters.
Although Salinger will certainly draw most readers in at first, Rakoff offers "a deeply moving but unsentimental coming-into-your-own story" that resonates long after the final page is turned.
Of course, Rakoff explains it better herself: Watch her video from Knopf below.
What do you think, readers? Interested? My Salinger Year hits shelves today! You can also read our lengthy Q&A with Joanna Rakoff for even more details.
First she thought she had bed bugs. Then she thought she was overworked. A friend suggested that she might have bipolar disorder. After a month of tests totaling almost a million dollars, Susannah Cahalan drew a clock at the request of the doctor. The drawing showed that her brain was inflamed.
Cahalan, a journalist, chronicles her journey from sane to manic to catatonic and back, relying on interviews with family and friends to shed light on the month she can hardly remember in her new book, Brain on Fire.
Read our interview with Cahalan at BookPage.com and check out this interview style trailer where she elaborates on her month of madness:
What do you think about Cahalan's experience? What are you reading right now?
In Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails, Anthony Swofford (author of Jarhead) chronicles his own journey as a fame-flushed author with his cancer-stricken father as they travel 1,000 miles in a 44-foot-long RV.
Swofford doesn’t spare anyone in his account, not his lovers, not his family, not himself. He paints himself as a fast-living philanderer and a failure at being human. Fortunately, he is a studious traveler, and the journey ends on a hopeful note, with Swofford learning lessons from his dying father on how to lead a more meaningful life.
What do you think of Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails?
Mother's Day is this Sunday! Our May issue features five great books for moms (grandmothers and expecting moms, too!). Below are the book trailers for two of these books: Up by Patricia Ellis Herr and Bloom by Kelle Hampton.
Up is the memoir of a mom and her pint-sized hiking partner. Patricia Ellis Herr and her five-year-old daughter climbed nearly 50 New England peaks during their year-and-a-half adventure. Our reviewer called it "half hiking reference manual and half meditation on how to instill independence and confidence at a young age—an odd and oddly compelling combination."
Kelle Hampton, best known for her blog Enjoying the Small Things, shares the story of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome. Her memoir, Bloom, is a "searing and brave portrait of her baby’s first year . . . [that] gives a whole new meaning to the term 'open book.'"
No sugar-coated motherhood stories here. Will you check these out? Do you know a mom who would love to read one of these incredible memoirs?
Don't feel bad if Jenny Lawson, aka the Bloggess, makes you laugh at terrible things (dead pets, etc.). It's not your fault—her life has been ridiculous, her humor is questionable and her memoir, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, captures it all.
Here's what our reviewer had to say about Lawson's riotous book:
"This is the kind of book where, once you’ve got the lay of the land, a sentence like '[My neighbor] seemed more concerned this time, possibly because I was belting out Bonnie Tyler and crying while swinging a machete over a partially disturbed grave' makes total sense. It might also make you laugh and cry simultaneously, since the grave held Lawson’s beloved pug and she was swinging at vultures who were trying to dig him up. If that doesn’t make you laugh, there’s a story about her multiple miscarriages and the subsequent birth of her daughter that’s an absolute howler. No, seriously. Plus: Chupacabras!"
Is this a must-read?
Our April Top Pick in Nonfiction is Wild, the magnificent memoir by Cheryl Strayed. After the death of her mother, Strayed decided to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. She starts her journey alone, grieving and misguided (her pack weighs more than 70 pounds) but discovers "a visionary state of solitude" while battling blisters and the elements. Writes our reviewer:
Wild is never simply a survival memoir. . . It is also a guidebook for living in the world, introducing a vibrant new American voice with a deceptively simple message: Go outside and take a hike.
Is this a memoir you will check out?
When I moved to the South when I was 12, it was the first I had ever heard of revivalist churches or speaking in tongues. Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson takes that controversial sector of American religion and sticks it all right on the page.
As a young girl, author Johnson became a part of cult leader David Terrell's traveling ministry when her mother became his organist. Traveling around the country with Terrell, she “witnessed miraculous healings, speaking in tongues and the casting out of demons.” It was an unstable and wild childhood that Johnson now presents with a "clear-eyed and compassionate view." Read more in our review.
It's both historical and personal, and it sounds just like the type of memoir I'd enjoy.
Holy Ghost Girl comes out this Thursday, October 13. Are you interested in learning more about growing up under a revival tent?
Philip Connors is a fire lookout, which means he does exactly what the words suggest: He spends several months of the year perched high above the wilderness and searches for forest fire. Some fires are natural and will be allowed to burn. Others—like the ones started by humans—are not, and will be put out.
In Fire Season, a "stunning gift of a memoir," Connors writes beautifully about his desire to lengthen his attention span, our need to make peace with fire and his role as a citizen (rather than a conqueror) of the wilderness. You can get a feel for Connors' life as a lookout in this trailer from Ecco:
In BookPage, Catherine Hollis calls Fire Season an "exciting new addition to the canon of American nature writing." The book is on sale today. Will you pick it up?
Have you seen any good book trailers lately?
I blogged about Ashley Judd's "memoir with purpose" more than a year ago, and the book is finally on sale a week from today.
Though I usually feel a bit ho-hum about celebrity memoirs, the book trailer for Judd's All That is Bitter and Sweet is actually quite inspiring:
What do you think, readers? Were you touched by Judd's decision to make her life "an act of worship"? Will you read All That is Bitter and Sweet?
Have you seen any good book trailers lately?