Best Biography & Memoir Books of the Month March 2013

Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel and Bret Witter

Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy

Until I Say Good-Bye

Book Description
Release date: March 12, 2013
Susan Spencer-Wendel’s Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy is a moving and inspirational memoir by a woman who makes the most of her final days after discovering she has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

After Spencer-Wendel, a celebrated journalist at the Palm Beach Post, learns of her diagnosis of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, she embarks on several adventures, traveling toseveral countries and sharing special experiences with loved ones. One trip takes Spencer-Wendel and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Marina, to New York City’s Kleinfeld’s Bridal to shop for Marina’s future wedding dress—an occasion that Susan knows she will never see.

Co-written with Bret Witter, Until I Say Good-Bye is Spencer-Wendel’s account of living a full life with humor, courage, and love, but also accepting death with grace and dignity. It’s a celebration of life, a look into the face of death, and the effort we must make to show the people that we love and care about how very much they mean to us.

 

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Book Description
Release date: March 5, 2013
On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. In this brave and searingly frank memoir, she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since. She has written an engrossing, unsentimental, beautifully poised account: as she struggles through the first months following the tragedy, furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny; and then, over the ensuing years, as she emerges reluctantly, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she’s mourning, from her family’s home in London, to the birth of her children, to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge, to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her.

 

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

The Still Point of the Turning World

Book Description
Release date: March 7, 2013
Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan. He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, and level-headed, but fun. He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father. He would be an avid skier like his mother. Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education.

But all of these plans changed when Ronan was diagnosed at nine months old with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder. Ronan was not expected to live beyond the age of three; he would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months. Rapp and her husband were forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about parenting. They would have to learn to live with their child in the moment; to find happiness in the midst of sorrow; to parent without a future.

The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother’s journey through grief and beyond it. Rapp’s response to her son’s diagnosis was a belief that she needed to “make my world big”—to make sense of her family’s situation through art, literature, philosophy, theology and myth. Drawing on a broad range of thinkers and writers, from C.S. Lewis to Sylvia Plath, Hegel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rapp learns what wisdom there is to be gained from parenting a terminally ill child. In luminous, exquisitely moving prose she re-examines our most fundamental assumptions about what it means to be a good parent, to be a success, and to live a meaningful life.

 

With or Without You: A Memoir by Domenica Ruta

With or Without You: A Memoir by Domenica Ruta

With or Without You

Book Description
Release date: February 26, 2013
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A haunting, unforgettable mother-daughter story for a new generation—the debut of a blazing new lyrical voice

Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving town north of Boston, in a trash-filled house on a dead-end road surrounded by a river and a salt marsh. Her mother, Kathi, a notorious local figure, was a drug addict and sometimes dealer whose life swung between welfare and riches, and whose highbrow taste was at odds with her hardscrabble life. And yet she managed, despite the chaos she created, to instill in her daughter a love of stories. Kathi frequently kept Domenica home from school to watch such classics as the Godfather movies and everything by Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, telling her, “This is more important. I promise. You’ll thank me later.” And despite the fact that there was not a book to be found in her household, Domenica developed a love of reading, which helped her believe that she could transcend this life of undying grudges, self-inflicted misfortune, and the crooked moral code that Kathi and her cohorts lived by.

With or Without You is the story of Domenica Ruta’s unconventional coming of age—a darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit ’90s youth and the necessary and painful act of breaking away, and of overcoming her own addictions and demons in the process. In a brilliant stylistic feat, Ruta has written a powerful, inspiring, compulsively readable, and finally redemptive story about loving and leaving.

 

Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani

Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani

Her: A Memoir

Book Description
Release date: March 5, 2013
A blazingly passionate memoir of identity and love: when a charismatic and troubled young woman dies tragically, her identical twin must struggle to survive

Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful twins were able to create a private haven of splendor and merriment between themselves and then earn their way to a prestigious college and to careers as artists (a photographer and a writer, respectively) and to young marriages. But, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and further damaged by being raped as a young adult, Cara veered off the path to robust work and life and in to depression, drugs and a shocking early death.

A few years after Cara was gone, Christa read that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, 50 percent of the time the surviving twin dies within two years; and this shocking statistic rang true to her. “Flip a coin,” she thought,” those were my chances of survival.” First, Christa fought to stop her sister’s downward spiral; suddenly, she was struggling to keep herself alive.

Beautifully written, mesmerizingly rich and true, Christa Parravani’s account of being left, one half of a whole, and of her desperate, ultimately triumphant struggle for survival is informative, heart-wrenching and unforgettably beautiful.

 

Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Shelden

Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Shelden

Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill

Book Description
Release date: March 12, 2013
In modern memory, Winston Churchill remains the man with the cigar and the equanimity among the ruins. Few can remember that at the age of 40, he was considered washed up, his best days behind him. In Young Titan, historian Michael Shelden has produced the first biography focused on Churchill’s early career, the years between 1901 and 1915 that both nearly undid him but also forged the character that would later triumph in the Second World War.
Between his rise and his fall, Churchill built a modern navy, experimented with radical social reforms, survived various threats on his life, made powerful enemies and a few good friends, annoyed and delighted two British monarchs, became a husband and father, took the measure of the German military machine, authorized executions of notorious murderers, and faced deadly artillery barrages on the Western front. Along the way, he learned how to outwit more experienced rivals, how to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, how to question the assumptions of his upbringing, how to be patient and avoid overconfidence, and how to value loyalty.

He also learned how to fall in love. Shelden gives us a portrait of Churchill as the dashing young suitor who pursued three great beauties of British society with his witty repartee, political f lair, and poetic letters. In one of many never-before-told episodes, Churchill is seen racing to a Scottish castle to prepare the heartbroken daughter of the prime minister for his impending marriage.

This was a time of high drama, intrigue, personal courage, and grave miscalculations. But as Shelden shows in this fresh and revealing biography, Churchill’s later success was predicated on his struggles to redeem the promise of his youth.

 

Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer by Alan Huffman

Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer by Alan Huffman

Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington

Book Description
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) was one of the world’s most distinguished and dedicated photojournalists, whose career was tragically cut short when he died in a mortar blast while covering the Libyan Civil War. Tim won many awards for his war reporting, and was nominated for an Academy Award for the critically acclaimed documentary, Restrepo. Hetherington’s dedication to his career led him time after time into war zones, and unlike some other journalists, he did not pack up after the story had broken.

In Here I Am, journalist and freelance writer Alan Huffman tells Hetherington’s life story, and through it analyzes what it means to be a war reporter in the twenty-first century. Huffman recounts Hetherington’s life from his first interests in photography, through his critical role in reporting the Liberian Civil War, to his tragic death in Libya. Huffman also traces Hetherington’s photographic milestones, from his iconic and prize-winning photographs of Liberian children, to the celebrated portraits of sleeping U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Here I Am explores the risks, challenges, and thrills of war reporting, and is a testament to the unique work of people like Hetherington, who risk their lives to give a voice to people ravaged by war.

 

Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home by Leigh Newman

Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home by Leigh Newman

Still Points North

Book Description
Release date: March 19, 2013
Part adventure story, part love story, part homecoming, Still Points North is a page-turning memoir that explores the extremes of belonging and exile, and the difference between how to survive and knowing how to truly live.

Growing up in the wilds of Alaska, seven-year-old Leigh Newman spent her time landing silver salmon, hiking glaciers, and flying in a single-prop plane. But her life split in two when her parents unexpectedly divorced, requiring her to spend summers on the tundra with her “Great Alaskan” father and the school year in Baltimore with her more urbane mother.

Navigating the fraught terrain of her family’s unraveling, Newman did what any outdoorsman would do: She adapted. With her father she fished remote rivers, hunted caribou, and packed her own shotgun shells. With her mother she memorized the names of antique furniture, composed proper bread-and-butter notes, and studied Latin poetry at a private girl’s school. Charting her way through these two very different worlds, Newman learned to never get attached to people or places, and to leave others before they left her. As an adult, she explored the most distant reaches of the globe as a travel writer, yet had difficulty navigating the far more foreign landscape of love and marriage.

In vivid, astonishing prose, Newman reveals how a child torn between two homes becomes a woman who both fears and idealizes connection, how a need for independence can morph into isolation, and how even the most guarded heart can still long for understanding. Still Points North is a love letter to an unconventional Alaskan childhood of endurance and affection, one that teaches us that no matter where you go in life, the truest tests of courage are the chances you take, not with bears and blizzards, but with other people.

 

Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace by Beverly Donofrio

Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace by Beverly Donofrio

Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace

Book Description
Release date: March 7, 2013
A bestselling memoirist bravely tells the story of the night evil paid her a visit—and how prayer chased evil away

Beverly Donofrio had already lived two lives, first as a scrappy young mother on the streets of the East Village and later as the bestselling author of Riding in Cars with Boys. By the time she reached her fifties, she thought she had seen it all.

Now, even though she was living in a vibrant, picturesque Mexican town, where she practiced yoga, drank margaritas in her backyard, and took salsa lessons, she felt lost and was searching for monasteries to visit. The religious practice that had nourished her for several years had faded. She missed God. Then one night she woke to find a rapist holding a knife to her throat. So begins the memoir that charts Donofrio’s journey—a long and twisting road through denial, mourning, anger, vulnerability, and retreat at five very different monasteries.

Told through Donofrio’s brutally honest, often ribald, emotionally unsparing voice, Astonished is a tender and hopeful narrative of healing and learning to love life again.

 

The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych by Doug Wilson

The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych by Doug Wilson

The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych

Book Description
Release date: March 26, 2013
The first biography of the eccentric pitcher, rookie All-Star starter, 70s pop icon, and first athlete on the cover of Rolling Stone

For those who remember him, Mark Fidrych is still that player who brings a smile to your face, the irresistibly likable pitcher whose sudden rise brightened the star-spangled season of 1976 and reminded us of the pure joy of the game.

Lanky, mop-topped, and nicknamed for his resemblance to Big Bird on Sesame Street, Fidrych exploded onto the national stage during the Bicentennial summer as a rookie with the Detroit Tigers. He won over fans nationwide with his wildly endearing antics such as talking to the ball—and throwing back the ones that “had hits in them”; getting down on his knees to “manicure” the mound of any cleat marks; and shaking hands with just about everyone from teammates to groundskeepers to cops during and after games. Female fans tried to obtain locks of his hair from his barber and even named babies after him.

But The Bird was no mere sideshow. The non-roster invitee to spring training that year quickly emerged as one of the best pitchers in the game. Meanwhile, his boyish enthusiasm, his famously modest lifestyle, and his refusal to sign with an agent during the days of labor disputes and free agency made him such a breath of fresh air for fans that not only did attendance in Detroit increase—by tens of thousands—for games he pitched, opposing teams would specifically ask the Tigers to shuffle their rotation so Fidrych would pitch in their cities, too. A rare player who transcended pop culture, Fidrych was named starting pitcher in the All-Star Game as a rookie (the first of his two All-Star nods) and became the first athlete to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Baseball researcher Doug Wilson delivers the first biography of this once-in-a-lifetime player. Through extensive interviews and meticulous research, the author recounts Fidrych’s meteoric rise from Northborough, Massachusetts, to the big leagues, his heartbreaking fall after a torn knee ligament and then rotator cuff, his comeback attempts with the Tigers and in the Red Sox system, and one unforgettable night when The Bird pitched a swan song for the Pawtucket Red Sox against future star Dave Righetti in a game that remains part of local folklore. Finally, Wilson captures Fidrych’s post-baseball life and his roles in the community, tragically culminating with his death in a freak accident in 2009.
The Bird gives readers a long-overdue look into the life of a player whom baseball had never seen before—and has never seen since.

 

 

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