Insider: Thanks for the Memories: Biographies and Memoirs

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

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by Thomas S. Kidd

enowned as a printer, scientist, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin also published more works on religious topics than any other eighteenth-century American layperson. Born to Boston Puritans, by his teenage years Franklin had abandoned the exclusive Christian faith of his family and embraced deism. But Franklin, as a man of faith, was far more complex than the "thorough deist" who emerges in his autobiography. As Thomas Kidd reveals, deist writers influenced Franklin's beliefs, to be sure, but devout Christians in his life--including George Whitefield, the era's greatest evangelical preacher; his parents; and his beloved sister Jane--kept him tethered to the Calvinist creed of his Puritan upbringing. Based on rigorous research into Franklin's voluminous correspondence, essays, and almanacs, this fresh assessment of a well-known figure unpacks the contradictions and conundrums faith presented in Franklin's life.

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 John Oates and Chris Epting

Daryl Hall and John Oates have over 20 albums together, more than 60 million records sold, and 29 Top 40 hits. They are the most successful pop duo in the world and members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And yet John's story has never been told. Relying on his many hand-written journals, he brings to light many fascinating stories spanning his entire life with a journalist's eye and a poet's heart.

by Manal Al-Sharif

A memoir by a Saudi Arabian woman who became the unexpected leader of a movement to support women's rights describes how fundamentalism influenced her radical religious beliefs until her education, a job, and legal contradictions changed her perspectives.

by Stephane Gerson

A haunting chronicle of what endures when the world we know is swept away. On a day like any other, on a rafting trip down Utah's Green River, Stephane Gerson's eight-year-old son, Owen, drowned in a spot known as Disaster Falls. That same night, as darkness fell, Stephane huddled in a tent with his wife, Alison, and their older son, Julian, trying to understand what seemed inconceivable. 'It's just the three of us now,' Alison said over the sounds of a light rain and, nearby, the rushing river. 'We cannot do it alone. We have to stick together.' Disaster Fallschronicles the aftermath of that day and their shared determination to stay true to Alison's resolution.

by Cree LeFavour

As a young college graduate a year into treatment with a psychiatrist, Cree LeFavour began to organize her days around the cruel, compulsive logic of self-harm: with each newly lit cigarette, the world would drop away as her focus narrowed on the blooming release of pleasure-pain as the burning tip was applied to an unblemished patch of skin. Her body was a canvas of cruelty; each scar a mark of pride and shame. In sharp and shocking language, Lights On, Rats Out brings us closely into these years. We see the world as Cree did--turned upside down, the richness of life muted and dulled, its pleasures perverted. The heady thrill of meeting with her psychiatrist, Dr. Adam N. Kohl--whose relationship with Cree is at once sustaining and paralyzing--comes to be the only bright spot in her days. Lights On, Rats Out describes a fiercely smart and independent woman's charged attachment to a mental health professional and the dangerous compulsion to keep him in her life at all costs.

by Claire Dederer

From the New York Times best-selling author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses , a ferocious, sexy, hilarious memoir about going off the rails at midlife and trying to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become.

by Tatiana de Rosnay

As a bilingual bestselling novelist with a mixed Franco-British bloodline and a host of eminent forebears, Tatiana de Rosnay is the perfect candidate to write a biography of Daphne du Maurier. As an eleven-year-old de Rosnay read and reread Rebecca, becoming a lifelong devotee of Du Maurier's fiction. Now de Rosnay pays homage to the writer who influenced her so deeply, following Du Maurier from a shy seven-year-old, a rebellious sixteen-year-old, a twenty-something newlywed, and finally acantankerous old lady. With a rhythm and intimacy to its prose characteristic of all de Rosnay's works, Manderley Forever is a vividly compelling portrait and celebration of an intriguing, hugely popular and (at the time) critically underrated writer.

by Heinz Schilling and Rona Johnston Gordon

No other German has shaped the history of early-modern Europe more than Martin Luther.In this comprehensive and balanced biography we see Luther as a rebel, but not as a lone hero; as a soldier in a mighty struggle for the universal reform of Christianity and its role in the world. The foundation of Protestantism changed the religious landscape of Europe, and subsequently the world,but the author chooses to show not simply as a reformer, but as an individual.In his study of the Wittenberg monk, Heinz Schilling - one of Germany's leading social and political historians - gives the reader a rounded view of a difficult, contradictory character, who changed the world by virtue of his immense will.

by Kay Redfield Jamison

The best-selling author of An Unquiet Mind now gives us a groundbreaking life of one of the major American poets of the twentieth century that is at the same time a fascinating study of the relationship between manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, creative genius, and character. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, Robert Lowell (1917-1977) put his manic-depressive illness into the public domain. Now Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison brings her expertise to bear on his story, illuminating the relationship between bipolar illness and creativity, and examining how Lowell's illness and the treatment he received came to bear on his work. His New England roots, early breakdowns, marriages to three eminent writers, friendships with other poets, vivid presence as a teacher and writer refusing to give up in the face of mental illness.

by John J. Winters

Throughout this new biography, John J. Winters gets to the heart of the enigma that is Sam Shepard, presenting an honest and comprehensive account of his life and work.

by Eric Burns

Eleanor Roosevelt's loveless marriage with FDR was no secret, and she had a cold relationship with most of her family, as well. Yet she was a warm person, beloved by friends, and her humanitarian work still influences the world today. Burns shows how Eleanor was shaped by her father Elliott, a lost spirit with a bittersweet story. Brother to Theodore Roosevelt, Elliot would eventually succumb to alcoholism and would be exiled to the Virginia countryside. But he kept up a close correspondence with his daughter. Burns reveals new facets to the lives of these pillars of American history.

by Yvette Johnson

In this moving memoir, Yvette Johnson travels to the Mississippi Delta to uncover true the story of her late grandfather Booker Wright whose extraordinary act of courage would change both their lives forever.

by Itamar Rabinovich

An insider's perspective on the life and influence of Israel's first native-born prime minister, his bold peace initiatives, and his tragic assassination. More than two decades have passed since prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995, yet he remains an unusually intriguing and admired modern leader. A native-born Israeli, Rabin became an inextricable part of his nation's pre-state history and subsequent evolution. This revealing account of his life, character, and contributions draws not only on original research but also on the author's recollections as one of Rabin's closest aides.

by Sherman Alexie

A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, loss, and forgiveness from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award-winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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.

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