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At the Library: Reading your writes

By Staff | May 27, 2015

If you enjoy reading biographies and memoirs, these titles are for you:

“Rich Man, Poor Man”

by Nick Nolte

“The legendary icon tells his story-a tale of art, passion, commitment, addiction, as intense and hypnotic as the man himself. In a career spanning five decades, Nick Nolte has endured the rites of Hollywood celebrity. Rising from obscurity to leading roles and Oscar nominations, he has been both celebrated and vilified in the media; survived marriages, divorces, and a string of romances; was named the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ by People magazine; and suffered public humiliation over his drug and alcohol issues, including a drug-fueled trip down a ‘long road of nothingness’ that ended in arrest.

Despite these ups and downs, Nolte has remained true to the craft he loves, portraying a diverse range of characters with his trademark physicality and indelible gravelly voice. Already 35 when his performance in the 1976 miniseries ‘Rich Man, Poor Man’ launched him to stardom, Nolte never learned to play by Hollywood’s rules. A rebel who defies expectations, an obsessive method actor who will go to extremes for a role (he lived among the homeless to prepare for ‘Down and Out in Beverly Hills’), Nolte is motivated more by edgier, more personal projects than by boxoffice success. Today he is clean yet still driven, juggling a number of upcoming works and raising his young daughter. A man who refuses to hide his mistakes, Nolte now delivers his most revealing performance yet” *

“Why Not Say What Happened”

by Morris Dickstein

“At once a coming-of-age story, an intellectual autobiography, and vivid cultural history, ‘Why Not Say What Happened’ is an eloquent, gripping account of an intellectual and emotional education from one of our leading critics. In this ‘acutely observed, slyly funny memoir’ (Molly Haskell), Morris Dickstein evokes his boisterous and close-knit Jewish family, his years as a yeshiva student that eventually led to fierce rebellion, his teenage adventures in the Catskills and in a Zionist summer camp, and the later education that thrust him into a life-changing world of ideas and far-reaching literary traditions. Dickstein brilliantly depicts the tension between the parochial religious world of his youth and the siren call of a larger cosmopolitan culture, a rebellion that manifested itself in a yarmulka replaced by Yankees cap, a Shakespeare play concealed behind a heavy tractate of the Talmud, and classes cut on Wednesday afternoons to take in the Broadway theater.

Tracing a path from the Lower East Side to Columbia University, Yale, and Cambridge, Dickstein leaves home, travels widely, and falls in love, breaking through to new experiences of intimacy and sexual awakening, only to be brought low by emotional conflicts that beset him as a graduate student, homesickness, a sense of cultural dislocation, issues that come to a head during a troubled year abroadwe see Dickstein come into his own as a teacher and writer deeply engaged with poetry: the ‘daringly modern’ Blake, the bittersweet ‘negotiations of time and loss’ in Wordsworth, and the ‘shifting turns of consciousness itself’ in Keats. While eloquently evoking the tumult of the sixties and a culture in fluxDickstein crafts memorable portraits of his own mentors and legendary teachers like Lionel Trilling, Peter Gay, F. R. Leavis, and Harold Bloom, who become inimitable role models. They provide him with a world-class understanding of how to read and nourish his burgeoning feeling for literature and historythis frank and revealing story, at once keenly personal and broadly cultural, sheds light on the many different forms education can take.” *

“Screening Room: Family Pictures”

by Alan Lightman

“From the acclaimed author of the international best seller ‘Einstein’s Dreams,’ here is a stunning, lyrical memoir of Memphis from the 1930s through the 1960s that includes the early days of the movies and a powerful grandfather whose ghost remains an ever-present force in the lives of his descendants. Alan Lightman’s grandfather M.A. Lightman was the family’s undisputed patriarch: it was his movie theater empire that catapulted the Lightmans to prominence in the south, his fearless success that both galvanized and paralyzed his children and grandchildren.

In this moving, impressionistic memoir, the author chronicles his return to Memphis in an attempt to understand the origins he so eagerly left behind forty years earlier. As aging uncles and aunts begin telling family stories, Lightman rediscovers his southern roots and slowly recognizes the errors in his perceptions of both his grandfather and his father, who was himself crushed by M.A. The result is an unforgettable family saga that extends from 1880 to the present, set against a throbbing century of Memphis-the rhythm and blues, the barbecue and pecan pie, the segregated society-and including personal encounters with Elvis, Martin Luther King Jr., and E. H. ‘Boss’ Crump. At the heart of it all is a family haunted by the memory of its domineering patriarch and the author’s struggle to understand his conflicted loyalties.” *

“George W. Bush”

by James Mann

“The controversial president whose time in office was defined by the Sept. 11 attacks and the war on terror, George W. Bush stirred powerful feelings on both sides of the aisle. Republicans viewed him as a resolute leader who guided America through the Sept. 11 attacks and retaliated in Afghanistan and Iraq, while Democrats saw him as an overmatched president who led America into two inconclusive wars that sapped the nation’s resources and diminished its stature. When Bush left office amid a growing financial crisis, both parties were eager to move on. In this assessment of the nation’s forty-third president, James Mann sheds light on why George W. Bush made the decisions that shaped his presidency, what went wrong, and how the internal debates and fissures within his administration played out in such a charged atmosphere. He shows how and why Bush became such a polarizing figure in both domestic and foreign affairs, and he examines the origins and enduring impact of Bush’s most consequential actions-including Iraq, the tax cuts, and the war on terror. In this way, Mann points the way to a more complete understanding of George W. Bush and his times.” *

“Bella’s Gift: How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation”

by Rick, Karen and Elizabeth Santorium

“Four days after Rick and Karen Santorum welcomed their eighth baby into the world they were given the devastating news that their little girl, Bella, was going to die. The full story of life with Bella has never been told until now. This inspiring family memoir explores what it means to embrace and celebrate the life of each person, and find hope, even in the midst of painful challenges. ‘Bella’s Gift’ is the story of how the entire family came together to love and care for Bella and how God strengthened them during the storms and blessed their family with grace, peace, and joy. Searchingly honest, faith filled and surprisingly joyfula loving, lived-out testimony to the truth that everyone counts, even ‘the least of these.’ *

“All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found”

by Philip Connors

“In his debut ‘Fire Season,’ Philip Connors recounted with lyricism, wisdom, and grace his decade as a fire lookout high above remote New Mexico. Now he tells the story of what made solitude on the mountain so attractive: the years he spent reeling in the wake of a family tragedy. At the age of twenty-three, Connors was a young man on the make. He’d left behind the Minnesota pig farm on which he’d grown up and the brother with whom he’d never been especially close. He had a magazine job lined up in New York City and a future unfolding exactly as he’d hoped.

Then one phone call out of the blue changed everythinga searingly honest account of the aftermath of his brother’s shocking death, exploring both the pathos and the unlikely humor of a life unmoored by loss. Beginning with the otherworldly beauty of a hot-air-balloon ride over the skies of Albuquerque and ending in the wilderness of the American borderlands, this is the story of a man paying tribute to the dead by unconsciously willing himself into all the wrong places, whether at the copy desk of the Wall Street Journal, the gritty streets of Bed-Stuy in the 1990s, or the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. With ruthless clarity and a keen sense of the absurd, Connors slowly unmasks the truth about his brother and himself, to devastating effecta powerful look back at wayward years-and a redemptive story about finding one’s rightful home in the world.” *

* Book jacket/publisher description

-Senior Librarian Ann Bradley is branch manager Captiva Memorial Library.