Insider: Thanks for the Memories: Biographies and Memoirs

New and notable biographies and memoirs. Published every other month.

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by Marty Appel

The definitive biography of one of baseball's most enduring and influential characters, from New York Times bestselling author and baseball writer Marty Appel.

by Lee Siegel

A young boy's awakening to the conflict between innate gifts and social class is at the center of this searing memoir about the unforgiving sovereignty of money. ... The Draw touches on fundamental questions: How do we balance our obligations to ourselves with our obligations to others? What do we owe society when its rules have a legal basis but not a moral one? Written with startling candor and psychological acuity, Lee Siegels The Draw is for anyone who has ever struggled with money, or who has tried to break through the barriers of family and class.

by Rüdiger Safranski and David Dollenmayer

Safranski's monumental biography is a careful survey of Goethe's wide-ranging genius. Beyond his incredible literary gifts, Goethe was intensely interested in natural science and took seriously his official post as a statesman, working tirelessly to ensure that the working poor received wages and daily bread. With grace and nuance, Safranski crafts a portrait of Goethe's inner life that illuminates both his written work and the turmoil and triumphs of his era. Safranski shows that reading Goethe affords not simply an encounter with a literary virtuoso but an opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation of the human condition.

by Dani Shapiro

The best-selling novelist and memoirist delivers her most intimate and powerful work: a piercing, life-affirming memoir about marriage and memory, about the frailty and elasticity of our most essential bonds, and about the accretion, over time, of both sorrow and love. Hourglass is an inquiry into how marriage is transformed by time--abraded, strengthened, shaped in miraculous and sometimes terrifying ways by accident and experience. With courage and relentless honesty, Dani Shapiro opens the door to her house, her marriage, and her heart, and invites us to witness her own marital reckoning--a reckoning in which she confronts both the life she dreamed of and the life she made, and struggles to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become. ... Shapiro writes gloriously of the joys and challenges of matrimonial life, in a luminous narrative that unfurls with urgent immediacy and sharp intelligence. Artful, intensely emotional work from one of our finest writers.

by Giles Tremlett

Acclaimed historian Giles Tremlett chronicles the life of Isabella of Castile as she led her country out of the murky Middle Ages and harnessed the newest ideas and tools of the early Renaissance to turn her ill-disciplined, quarrelsome nation into a sharper, truly modern state with a powerful, clear-minded, and ambitious monarch at its center. With authority and insight he relates the story of this legendary, if controversial, first initiate in a small club of great European queens that includes Elizabeth I of England, Russia's Catherine the Great, and Britain's Queen Victoria.

by Helene Cooper

The harrowing, but triumphant story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leader of the Liberian women's movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the first democratically elected female president in African history.

by Lyndal Roper

This definitive biography reveals the complicated inner life of the founding father of the Protestant Reformation, whose intellectual assault on Catholicism ushered in a century of upheaval that transformed Christianity and changed the course of world history.

by Macy Halford

A beautifully written and heartfelt memoir by a young woman from Dallas, Texas, exploring the Evangelical Christianity of her childhood and its meaning to her in the present through the classic daily devotional My Utmost for His Highest .

by Amy Liptrot

The Outrun is a beautiful, inspiring book about living on the edge, about the pull between island and city, and about the ability of the sea, the land, the wind, and the moon to restore life and renew hope.

by Joan Juliet Buck

Joan's memoir tells the story of a life lived in the best places at the most interesting times: London and New York in the swinging 1960s, Rome and Milan in the dangerous 1970s, Paris in the heady 1980s and 1990s. But when her fantasy life at Vogue came to an end, she had to find out who she was after all those years of make-believe. She chronicles this journey in beautiful and at times heartbreaking prose, taking the reader through the wild parties and the fashion, the celebrities and creative geniuses as well as love, loss, and the loneliness of getting everything you thought you wanted and finding it's not what you'd imagined. While Joan's story is unique, her journey toward self-discovery is refreshing and universal.

by Sally Bedell Smith

Prince Charles Ranging from his glamorous palaces to his country homes, from his globe-trotting travels to his local initiatives, Smith shows how Prince Charles possesses a fiercely independent spirit and yet has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role, living a life dictated by protocols he often struggles to obey. With keen insight and the discovery of unexpected new details, Smith lays bare the contradictions of a man who is more complicated, tragic, and compelling than we knew, until now.

by Peter Andreas

A true account of a deep mother-son bond and the joy and toll of growing up with a radical mother in a radical age follows Carol Andreas, a traditional 1950s Mennonite housewife-turned-Marxist rebel, as she and her young son, whom she kidnapped from his straitlaced father, travel the world, chasing the revolution together.

by John A. Farrell

Brilliantly researched, authoritatively crafted by a prize-winning biographer, and lively on the page, this is the Nixon we've been waiting for. Richard Nixon opens with young Navy lieutenant "Nick" Nixon returning from the Pacific and setting his cap at Congress, an idealistic dreamer seeking to build a better world. Yet amid the turns of that now legendary 1946 campaign, Nixon's finer attributes quickly gave way to unapologetic ruthlessness. It is a stunning overture to John A. Farrell's magisterial portrait of a man who embodied postwar American cynicism.  Richard Nixon is an enthralling tour de force biography of our darkest president, one that reviewers will hail as a defining portrait, and the full life of Nixon readers have awaited.

by Mary Jennings Hegar

On June 29, 2009, Air National Guard major Mary Jennings "MJ" Hegar was shot down while on a Medevac mission on her third tour in Afghanistan. Despite being wounded, she fought the enemy and saved the lives of her crew and their patients. But soon she would face a new battle: to give women who serve on the front lines the credit they deserve...  In Shoot Like a Girl, MJ takes the reader on a dramatic journey through her military career: an inspiring, humorous, and thrilling true story of a brave, high-spirited, and unforgettable woman who has spent much of her life ready to sacrifice everything for her country, her fellow man, and her sense of justice.

by Andrew Forsthoefel

A memoir of one young man's coming of age on a journey across America--told through the stories of the people of all ages, races, and inclinations he meets along the way.

by Dierdre Baird

From his heyday to the present moment, Al Capone's life has gripped the public imagination, and his gangster persona has been immortalized in the countless movies and books inspired by his exploits. But who was the man behind the legend? Capone loved to tell tall tales that perpetuated his mystique; newspapers loved him and frequently embellished or fabricated stories about him to sell copies. While some remember him as fundamentally kind and good, others speak of how frightening he was, a vicious, cold-blooded killer...Writing with exclusive access to Capone's descendants, Deirdre Bair finally gets at the truth behind this eternally fascinating man, who was equal parts charismatic mobster, doting father, and calculating monster.

by Richard Ford

A stirring narrative of memory and parental love, Richard Ford tells of his mother, Edna, a feisty Catholic girl with a difficult past, and his father, Parker, a sweet-natured soft-spoken traveling salesman, both born at the turn of the twentieth century in rural Arkansas. For Ford, the questions of what his parents dreamed of and how they loved each other and him became a striking portrait of American life in the mid-century. With his celebrated candor, wit, and intelligence, the award-winning storyteller and creator of the iconic Frank Bascombe delivers an unforgettable exploration of memory, intimacy, and love.

by Bruce Springsteen

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs. He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as "The Big Bang": seeing Elvis Presley's debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song "Born to Run" reveals more than we previously realized.

by Keggie Carew

A family memoir about the author's race to document her father's story as a World War II paratrooper before his mind succumbed to dementia relates how he overcame formidable obstacles and maverick impulses to join an elite special ops unit that was a first collaboration between the American and British Secret Services.

by Kate Hennessy

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a prominent Catholic, writer, social activist, and co-founder of a movement dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. Her life has been revealed through her own writings as well as the work of historians, theologians, and academics. What has been missing until now is a more personal account from the point of view of someone who knew her well. Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty is a frank and reflective, heartfelt and humorous portrayal as written by her granddaughter, Kate Hennessy.

by Mary V. Dearborn

The first full biography of Ernest Hemingway in more than fifteen years; the first to draw upon a wide array of never-before-used material; the first written by a woman, from the widely acclaimed biographer of Norman Mailer, Peggy Guggenheim, Henry Miller, and Louise Bryant.

by Kevin Dann

This sweeping, epic biography of Henry David Thoreau sees Thoreau's world as the mystic himself saw it: filled with wonder and mystery; Native American myths and lore; wood sylphs, nature spirits, and fairies; battles between good and evil; and heroic struggles to live as a natural being in an increasingly synthetic world.

by Mark Ribowsky

After he died in the backseat of a Cadillac at the age of twenty-nine, Hank Williams, a frail, flawed man who had become country music's most compelling and popular star, instantly morphed into its first tragic martyr. Having hit the heights in the postwar era with simple songs of heartache and star-crossed love, he would, with that outlaw swagger, become in death a template for the rock generation to follow. Presenting the first fully realized biography of Hiram King Williams in a generation, Mark Ribowsky vividly returns us to the world of country music's origins, in this case 1920s Alabama, where Williams was born into the most trying of circumstances, which included a dictatorial mother, a henpecked father, and an agonizing spinal condition. Tracing the singular rise of a music legend from the street corners of the Depression-era South to the now-immortal stage of the Grand Ole Opry, and finally to a haunting, lonely end on New Year s Day 1953, Hank uncovers the real man beneath the myths, reintroducing us to an American original whose legacy, like a good night at the honkytonk, promises to carry on and on.

by Alia Malek

In The Home that Was My Country, Syrian-American journalist Alia Malek chronicles her return to her family home in Damascus and the history of the Jabban apartment building. Here, generations of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Armenians lived, worked, loved, and suffered in close quarters. In telling the story of her family over the course of the last century, Alia brings to light the triumphs and failures that have led Syria to where it is today.

by James Rhodes

James Rhodes' passion for music has been his lifeline--the thread that has held through a life of abuse and turmoil. But whether listening to Rachmaninov on a loop as a traumatized teenager or discovering a Bach adagio while in a hospital ward, he survived his demons by encounters with musical miracles. These--along with a chance encounter with a stranger--inspired him to become the renowned concert pianist he is today. Instrumental is a memoir like no other: unapologetically candid, boldy outspoken, and surprisingly funny--shot through with a mordant wit, even in its darkest moments. It's also an impassioned tribute to the therapeutic powers of music, weaving in fascinating facts about how classical music actually works and about the extraordinary lives of some of the great composers. It explains why and how music has the potential to transform all of our lives.

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