Book List, Holiday, Seasonal Picks

Jólabókaflóð: Biographies & Memoirs

The last few holiday seasons at the store, we’ve really embraced the idea of celebrating Jólabókaflóð, an Icelandic tradition of giving your loved ones a book and hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. It just feels like a tradition that fits an indie bookstore so perfectly. This morning we’re sharing the biographies & memoirs we have on display!

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon

Blue Highways is a very special book to me and one that conjures up all sorts of nostalgic feelings. This book explores the story of a man who has spent his life building the type of world he was always told to but when it all comes crashing down he decides to follow his heart and run. Part travelogue, part coming of age story (for young and old) I cannot recommend this book enough!

Drew

Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation’s backroads.
William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about “those little towns that get on the map — if they get on at all — only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi.”
His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.

A Team of Their Own by Seth Berkman

Oh how I wish I had gotten to this book sooner. It is absolutely wonderful, a great addition to any sports, sociology, history or women’s studies shelf in any bookstore, large or small. What the women of the united Korean hockey team managed to accomplish is absolutely amazing and commendable.

Sarah

The inspiring, unlikely story of the American, Canadian, South Korean and even North Korean women who joined together to form Korea’s first Olympic ice hockey team.
Two weeks before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, South Korea’s women’s hockey team was forced into a predicament that no president, ambassador or general had been able to resolve in the sixty-five years since the end of the Korean War. Against all odds, the group of young women were able to bring North and South Korea closer than ever before.
The team was built for this moment. They had been brought together from across the globe and from a wide variety of backgrounds–concert pianist, actress, high school student, convenience store worker–to make history. Now the special kinship they had developed would guide them through the biggest challenge of their careers. Suddenly thrust into an international spotlight, they showed the powerful meaning of what a unified Korea could resemble.
In A Team of Their Own, Seth Berkman goes behind the scenes to tell the story of these young women as they became a team amid immense political pressure and personal turmoil, and ultimately gained worldwide acceptance on a journey that encapsulates the truest meanings of sport and family.

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Notorious RBG is the awe-inspiring and eye-opening story of what one woman had to do just to be taken seriously in her chosen profession. RBG still IS a force of nature, a force for change, and a pioneer not only for female lawyers, but women of all ages, races, and professions. This is an absolute MUST READ for everyone who cares about social justice.

Sarah

“It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the ‘Notorious RBG.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2019
She was a fierce dissenter with a serious collar game. A legendary, self-described “flaming feminist litigator” who made the world more equal. And an intergenerational icon affectionately known as the Notorious RBG. As the nation mourns the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, discover the story of a remarkable woman and learn how to carry on her legacy.
This runaway bestseller, brought to you by the attorney founder of the Notorious RBG Tumblr and an award-winning feminist journalist, is more than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg’s family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well as an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcended divides and changed the world forever.

Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran

Phuc Tran is an AMAZING writer and while I selfishly wanted to read his memoir because we grew up in the same small town and my mother was a teacher at Carlisle High School when he was a student, I didn’t expect to be so blown away by his story. Sigh, Gone paints a portrait of my hometown that I always knew existed in the back of my mind, but never really saw or acknowledged. Touching and eye opening, I cannot wait to share Phuc’s memoir with customers at the store!

Sarah

For anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong, Sigh, Gone shares an irreverent, funny, and moving tale of displacement and assimilation woven together with poignant themes from beloved works of classic literature.
In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, Phuc Tran immigrates to America along with his family. By sheer chance they land in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a small town where the Trans struggle to assimilate into their new life. In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books such as The MetamorphosisThe Scarlet LetterThe Iliad, and more, Tran navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, and teenage rebellion, all while attempting to meet the rigid expectations set by his immigrant parents.
Appealing to fans of coming-of-age memoirs such as Fresh Off the Boat, Running with Scissors, or tales of assimilation like Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Displaced and The Refugees, Sigh, Gone explores one man’s bewildering experiences of abuse, racism, and tragedy and reveals redemption and connection in books and punk rock. Against the hairspray-and-synthesizer backdrop of the ‘80s, he finds solace and kinship in the wisdom of classic literature, and in the subculture of punk rock, he finds affirmation and echoes of his disaffection. In his journey for self-discovery Tran ultimately finds refuge and inspiration in the art that shapes—and ultimately saves—him.

A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost

I actually laughed out loud twice in the prologue. I don’t remember the last time I actually laughed out loud while reading, and the laughs kept coming the further I got into the book. As an AVID SNL fan (it’s been my way of dealing with grief in the past few years) and political/news junkie, I’ve read every book by an SNL alum that I can get my hands on with Bossypants, up until now, being my favorite. And Tina’s from Philly, I didn’t think she’d be succeeded by, well, her successor at SNL. Huh. Probably should have seen it coming really. Anyway, Colin’s hysterical both on screen and in book form. His ability to mock himself is unparalleled and I eagerly anticipate every episode of SNL and try to pick out which sketches he wrote. I look forward to putting his memoir into not only the hands of Tina & Amy fans, but Nick Offerman and Eric Idle fans as well. What a great display all those titles would make together… 

Sarah

If there’s one trait that makes someone well suited to comedy, it’s being able to take a punch—metaphorically and, occasionally, physically. 
From growing up in a family of firefighters on Staten Island to commuting three hours a day to high school and “seeing the sights” (like watching a Russian woman throw a stroller off the back of a ferry), to attending Harvard while Facebook was created, Jost shares how he has navigated the world like a slightly smarter Forrest Gump.
You’ll also discover things about Jost that will surprise and confuse you, like how Jimmy Buffett saved his life, how Czech teenagers attacked him with potato salad, how an insect laid eggs inside his legs, and how he competed in a twenty-five-man match at WrestleMania (and almost won). You’ll go behind the scenes at SNL and Weekend Update (where he’s written some of the most memorable sketches and jokes of the past fifteen years). And you’ll experience the life of a touring stand-up comedian—from performing in rural college cafeterias at noon to opening for Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall.
For every accomplishment (hosting the Emmys), there is a setback (hosting the Emmys). And for every absurd moment (watching paramedics give CPR to a raccoon), there is an honest, emotional one (recounting his mother’s experience on the scene of the Twin Towers’ collapse on 9/11). Told with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, A Very Punchable Face reveals the brilliant mind behind some of the dumbest sketches on television, and lays bare the heart and humor of a hardworking guy—with a face you can’t help but want to punch.

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb

This is one of the most enjoyable memoirs I’ve ever read. Kalb, a popular Twitter personality and writer for Jimmy Kimmel, tells her family’s story in the voice of her beloved and late grandmother, Bobby. With transcripts of voice mails and imagined conversations with the wise and humorous Bobby, Kalb shows us a fierce and loving Jewish family, from its roots in a village in Russia to Brooklyn to LA.

Jennifer

Bess Kalb, Emmy-nominated TV writer and New Yorker contributor, saved every voicemail her grandmother Bobby Bell ever left her. Bobby was a force–irrepressible, glamorous, unapologetically opinionated. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then, at ninety, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more, in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life.
Recounting both family lore and family secrets, Bobby brings us four generations of indomitable women and the men who loved them. There’s Bobby’s mother, who traveled solo from Belarus to America in the 1880s to escape the pogroms, and Bess’s mother, a 1970s rebel who always fought against convention. Then there’s Bess, who grew up in New York and entered the rough-and-tumble world of L.A. television. Her grandma Bobby was with her all the way–she was the light of Bess’s childhood and her fiercest supporter, giving Bess unequivocal love, even if sometimes of the toughest kind.
In Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, Bobby reminds Bess of the experiences they shared, and she delivers–in phone calls, texts, and unforgettable heart-to-hearts brought vividly to the page–her signature wisdom:
If the earth is cracking behind you, you put one foot in front of the other.
Never. Buy. Fake. Anything.
I swear on your life every word of this is true.
With humor and poignancy, Bess Kalb gives us proof of the special bond that can skip a generation and endure beyond death. This book is a feat of extraordinary ventriloquism and imagination by a remarkably talented writer.

Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars by Kate Greene

This book is for space nerds like me and anyone who’s been in isolation for the past few months (so everyone :). In 2013 Green spent four months in a geodesic dome on a Hawaiian island, pretending that she and her five crewmates were on Mars as part of NASA’s HI-SEAS project. Green supplements her tale of a simulated Mars experience with historical notes of NASA’s missions and of many famous astronauts’ observances.

Jennifer

When it comes to Mars, the focus is often on how to get there: the rockets, the engines, the fuel. But upon arrival, what will it actually be like?
In 2013, Kate Greene moved to Mars. That is, along with five fellow crew members, she embarked on NASA’s first HI-SEAS mission, a simulated Martian environment located on the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawai’i. For four months she lived, worked, and slept in an isolated geodesic dome, conducting a sleep study on her crew mates and gaining incredible insight into human behavior in tight quarters, as well as the nature of boredom, dreams, and isolation that arise amidst the promise of scientific progress and glory.
In Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars, Greene draws on her experience to contemplate humanity’s broader impulse to explore. The result is a twined story of space and life, of the standard, able-bodied astronaut and Greene’s brother’s disability, of the lag time of interplanetary correspondences and the challenges of a long-distance marriage, of freeze-dried egg powder and fresh pineapple, of departure and return.
By asking what kind of wisdom humanity might take to Mars and elsewhere in the Universe, Greene has written a remarkable, wide-ranging examination of our time in space right now, as a pre-Mars species, poised on the edge, readying for launch.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

Brosh is back with another heartbreaking and relatable book about childhood, humorous animals, and life’s absurdities. But she also covers an episode of overwhelming loss and grief that is a gut punch when it’s revealed. With her signature MS Paint cartoons she takes us on an analytical journey of her frustrations and heartache, and in insightful longer pieces she delves deeper into what causes her confusion and pain and how she copes with it all.

Jennifer

After waiting for years for Solutions and Other Problems, and wondering if Allie herself was doing okay, I couldn’t believe it when it arrived at the store for me to read. Full of Allie’s signature illustrations and humor, it’s the book her fans have been waiting for, answering many questions about how her life has been since Hyperbole and a Half, and also full of all sorts of stories from her life as a whole, from childhood through elder-millennial-hood. I can’t wait to share this book with her existing fans and new readers alike. I laughed out loud so hard I cried, and I teared up at the serious parts in the middle, the chapters where she recounts what happened when and after her sister died. Allie has delivered a book that will encourage you to cry out “me too!”, particularly when it comes to all instances relating to the small children she’s interacted with over the years.

Sarah

For the first time in seven years, Allie Brosh—beloved author and artist of the extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller Hyperbole and a Half—returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays.
Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life.
This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art. Solutions and Other Problems marks the return of a beloved American humorist who has “the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian” (Bill Gates).

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Who doesn’t enjoy a book about astronauts? This is the true story of the seven test pilots selected by NASA for the Mercury space program.

Pam

From “America’s nerviest journalist” (Newsweek)–a breath-taking epic, a magnificent adventure story, and an investigation into the true heroism and courage of the first Americans to conquer space. “Tom Wolfe at his very best” (The New York Times Book Review)
Millions of words have poured forth about man’s trip to the moon, but until now few people have had a sense of the most engrossing side of the adventure; namely, what went on in the minds of the astronauts themselves – in space, on the moon, and even during certain odysseys on earth. It is this, the inner life of the astronauts, that Tom Wolfe describes with his almost uncanny empathetic powers, that made The Right Stuff a classic.

Action Park by Andy Mulvihill

This book is CRAZY. This is the absolutely stranger-than-fiction story about how a New Jersey father with boundless dreams founded the Disneyworld of the Tri-state area… except the park had rides made of asbestos tubes that launched people into nearby trees. Mulvihill’s witty humor and baffling first-hand experience with his father’s disregard for sanity makes this book my favorite piece of nonfiction I’ve read in a very long time. I cannot recommend this one enough.

Christopher

The outlandish, hilarious, terrifying, and almost impossible-to-believe story of the legendary, dangerous amusement park where millions were entertained and almost as many bruises were sustained, told through the eyes of the founder’s son.
Often called “Accident Park,” “Class Action Park,” or “Traction Park,” Action Park was an American icon. Entertaining more than a million people a year in the 1980s, the New Jersey-based amusement playland placed no limits on danger or fun, a monument to the anything-goes spirit of the era that left guests in control of their own adventures–sometimes with tragic results. Though it closed its doors in 1996 after nearly twenty years, it has remained a subject of constant fascination ever since, an establishment completely anathema to our modern culture of rules and safety. Action Park is the first-ever unvarnished look at the history of this DIY Disneyland, as seen through the eyes of Andy Mulvihill, the son of the park’s idiosyncratic founder, Gene Mulvihill. From his early days testing precarious rides to working his way up to chief lifeguard of the infamous Wave Pool to later helping run the whole park, Andy’s story is equal parts hilarious and moving, chronicling the life and death of a uniquely American attraction, a wet and wild 1980s adolescence, and a son’s struggle to understand his father’s quixotic quest to become the Walt Disney of New Jersey. Packing in all of the excitement of a day at Action Park, this is destined to be one of the most unforgettable memoirs of the year.

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond & Adam Horovitz

Mike D and Ad-Roc have been part of the hip-hop landscape since the beginning, when they were just a couple of NYC kids hanging out with the late, great MCA. They exploded on the scene and brought a new musical genre to the masses. This is the story of their raucous 30+ year career in the music industry. Time to get ill!

Charlie

Formed as a New York City hardcore band in 1981, Beastie Boys struck an unlikely path to global hip hop superstardom. Here is their story, told for the first time in the words of the band. Adam “ADROCK” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond offer revealing and very funny accounts of their transition from teenage punks to budding rappers; their early collaboration with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin; the debut album that became the first hip hop record ever to hit #1, Licensed to Ill—and the album’s messy fallout as the band broke with Def Jam; their move to Los Angeles and rebirth with the genre-defying masterpiece Paul’s Boutique; their evolution as musicians and social activists over the course of the classic albums Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty and the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits conceived by the late Adam “MCA” Yauch; and more. For more than thirty years, this band has had an inescapable and indelible influence on popular culture. 
With a style as distinctive and eclectic as a Beastie Boys album, Beastie Boys Book upends the typical music memoir. Alongside the band narrative you will find rare photos, original illustrations, a cookbook by chef Roy Choi, a graphic novel, a map of Beastie Boys’ New York, mixtape playlists, pieces by guest contributors, and many more surprises.

150 Glimpses of the Beatles by Craig Brown

The Beatles were the first (and only) band my father and I bonded over. We’ve been to countless tribute band concerts, we danced to George’s Here Comes the Sun at my wedding, and he frequently adds Beatles books to my growing collection. After reading Craig Brown’s book on Princess Margaret, I was immediately interested in this book. It’s a great trip through the years and members of the Beatles’ lives – I laughed, I cried, I enjoyed the journey of reading it tremendously.

Sarah

Though fifty years have passed since the breakup of the Beatles, the fab four continue to occupy an utterly unique place in popular culture. Their influence extends far beyond music and into realms as diverse as fashion and fine art, sexual politics and religion. When they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, fresh off the plane from England, they provoked an epidemic of hoarse-throated fandom that continues to this day.
Who better, then, to capture the Beatles phenomenon than Craig Brown—the inimitable author of Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret and master chronicler of the foibles and foppishness of British high society? This wide-ranging portrait of the four lads from Liverpool rivals the unique spectacle of the band itself by delving into a vast catalog of heretofore unexamined lore.
When actress Eleanor Bron touched down at Heathrow with the Beatles, she thought that a flock of starlings had alighted on the roof of the terminal—only to discover that the birds were in fact young women screaming at the top of their lungs. One journalist, mistaken for Paul McCartney as he trailed the band in his car, found himself nearly crushed to death as fans climbed atop the vehicle and pressed their bodies against the windshield. Or what about the Baptist preacher who claimed that the Beatles synchronized their songs with the rhythm of an infant’s heartbeat so as to induce a hypnotic state in listeners? And just how many people have employed the services of a Canadian dentist who bought John Lennon’s tooth at auction, extracted its DNA, and now offers paternity tests to those hoping to sue his estate?
150 Glimpses of the Beatles is, above all, a distinctively kaleidoscopic examination of the Beatles’ effect on the world around them and the world they helped bring into being. Part anthropology and part memoir, and enriched by the recollections of everyone from Tom Hanks to Bruce Springsteen, this book is a humorous, elegiac, and at times madcap take on the Beatles’ role in the making of the sixties and of music as we know it.

Austen Years by Rachel Cohen

After telling our wonderful rep, Carin, how terrible my January had been, she gave me Austen Years and said I must read. She was absolutely right. Rachel helped me, a fellow Austenite, understand my feelings of grief, joy, and sense of upheaval by reminding me to go back and read Jane’s words. I read the only one of Austen novels Rachel didn’t in the 7 years she spent rereading, Northanger Abbey, my personal favorite, and it was a great joint read.

Sarah

In the turbulent period around the birth of her first child and the death of her father, Rachel Cohen turned to Jane Austen to make sense of her new reality. For Cohen, simultaneously grief-stricken and buoyed by the birth of her daughter, reading Austen became her refuge and her ballast. She was able to reckon with difficult questions about mourning, memorializing, living in a household, paying attention to the world, reading, writing, and imagining through Austen’s novels.
Austen Years is a deeply felt and sensitive examination of a writer’s relationship to reading, and to her own family, winding together memoir, criticism, and biographical and historical material about Austen herself. And like the sequence of Austen’s novels, the scope of Austen Years widens successively, with each chapter following one of Austen’s novels. We begin with Cohen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she raises her small children and contemplates her father’s last letter, a moment paired with the grief of Sense and Sensibility and the social bonds of Pride and Prejudice. Later, moving with her family to Chicago, Cohen grapples with her growing children, teaching, and her father’s legacy, all refracted through the denser, more complex Mansfield Park and Emma.
With unusual depth and fresh insight into Austen’s life and literature, and guided by Austen’s mournful and hopeful final novel, Persuasion, Rachel Cohen’s Austen Years is a rare memoir of mourning and transcendence, a love letter to a literary master, and a powerful consideration of the odd process that merges our interior experiences with the world at large.

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley has written many illustrated memoirs that have, together, become a sort-of guidebook to life for me. Displacement was the first I read after my grandfather had to move into a nursing home and we had to acknowledge his deteriorating mental state. Lucy writes about her own grandparents and the trip she takes with them as they are getting older with so much care and love. It’s the perfect book for anyone having to come to terms with the mortality of the people they love.

Sarah

In the latest volume of her graphic travelogue series, New York Times-best selling cartoonist Lucy Knisley must care for her grandparents on a cruise.
In her graphic memoirs, New York Times-best selling cartoonist Lucy Knisley paints a warts-and-all portrait of contemporary, twentysomething womanhood, like writer Lena Dunham (Girls). In the next installment of her graphic travelogue series, Displacement, Knisley volunteers to watch over her ailing grandparents on a cruise. (The book’s watercolors evoke the ocean that surrounds them.) In a book that is part graphic memoir, part travelogue, and part family history, Knisley not only tries to connect with her grandparents, but to reconcile their younger and older selves. She is aided in her quest by her grandfather’s WWII memoir, which is excerpted. Readers will identify with Knisley’s frustration, her fears, her compassion, and her attempts to come to terms with mortality, as she copes with the stress of travel complicated by her grandparents’ frailty.

Eat a Peach by David Chang

I find myself starting every chef memoir in the last 20 pages for it is there that I’ve come to expect their recollections of their time spent with my hero, Tony, “Tony time” as Chang puts it. I ask our reps constantly about every chef memoir that comes to print, “yes, it looks good, but does it come even close to Tony?” With a best friend in Brooklyn and brother in-law in Manhattan, I made a point in the last few years of visiting the big names of the NYC culinary world. And I love Momofuko. To read Chang’s story was a privilege and it brought me to tears and laughter. And while no one writes a culinary memoir quite like Tony, David Chang is certainly the closest I’ve come across in the last two years.

Sarah

From the chef behind Momofuku and star of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious—an intimate account of the making of a chef, the story of the modern restaurant world that he helped shape, and how he discovered that success can be much harder to understand than failure.
In 2004, Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in a tiny, stark space in Manhattan’s East Village. Its young chef-owner, David Chang, worked the line, serving ramen and pork buns to a mix of fellow restaurant cooks and confused diners whose idea of ramen was instant noodles in Styrofoam cups. It would have been impossible to know it at the time—and certainly Chang would have bet against himself—but he, who had failed at almost every endeavor in his life, was about to become one of the most influential chefs of his generation, driven by the question, “What if the underground could become the mainstream?”
Chang grew up the youngest son of a deeply religious Korean American family in Virginia. Graduating college aimless and depressed, he fled the States for Japan, hoping to find some sense of belonging. While teaching English in a backwater town, he experienced the highs of his first full-blown manic episode, and began to think that the cooking and sharing of food could give him both purpose and agency in his life.
Full of grace, candor, grit, and humor, Eat a Peach chronicles Chang’s switchback path. He lays bare his mistakes and wonders about his extraordinary luck as he recounts the improbable series of events that led him to the top of his profession. He wrestles with his lifelong feelings of otherness and inadequacy, explores the mental illness that almost killed him, and finds hope in the shared value of deliciousness. Along the way, Chang gives us a penetrating look at restaurant life, in which he balances his deep love for the kitchen with unflinching honesty about the industry’s history of brutishness and its uncertain future.

Jet Girl by Caroline Johnson

Since reading In Extremis in September 2018, I’ve been looking for the next (auto)biography that captures me so completely that I can’t stop thinking about it. When it comes to current Middle East based nonfiction, I typically go for the war correspondent/journalist POV, but I’ve always been a touch obsessed with female aviators. Jet Girl knocked me off my feet from the very first sentence and I hardly put it down before turning the last page. I absolutely loved it, a favorite of the year so far!

Sarah

A fresh, unique insider’s view of what it’s like to be a woman aviator in today’s US Navy—from pedicures to parachutes, friendship to firefights.
Caroline Johnson was an unlikely aviation candidate. A tall blonde debutante from Colorado, she could have just as easily gone into fashion or filmmaking, and yet she went on to become an F/A-18 Super Hornet Weapons System Officer. She was one of the first women to fly a combat mission over Iraq since 2011, and one of the first women to drop bombs on ISIS.
Jet Girl tells the remarkable story of the women fighting at the forefront in a military system that allows them to reach the highest peaks, and yet is in many respects still a fraternity. Johnson offers an insider’s view on the fascinating, thrilling, dangerous and, at times, glamorous world of being a naval aviator.
This is a coming-of age story about a young college-aged woman who draws strength from a tight knit group of friends, called the Jet Girls, and struggles with all the ordinary problems of life: love, work, catty housewives, father figures, make-up, wardrobe, not to mention being put into harm’s way daily with terrorist groups such as ISIS and world powers such as Russia and Iran.
Some of the most memorable parts of the book are about real life in training, in the air and in combat—how do you deal with having to pee in a cockpit the size of a bumper car going 600 miles an hour?
Not just a memoir, this book also aims to change the conversation and to inspire and attract the next generation of men and women who are tempted to explore a life of adventure and service.

Renia’s Diary by Renia Spiegel

Wow. Just wow. I haven’t felt this particularly distinctive feeling since reading The Diary of a Young Girl. There is something both terrifying and thrilling in reading the works of someone you know is gone, to see first hand what their daily life was like in the midst of tremendous changes worldwide, and in their own lives. Renia’s diary has an air of prescience that the countless WWII memoirs I’ve read can’t convey. It is a breathtaking and moving account and I’m honored to have the opportunity to read it.

Sarah

Renia Spiegel was born in 1924 to an upper-middle class Jewish family living in southeastern Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. At the start of 1939 Renia began a diary. “I just want a friend. I want somebody to talk to about my everyday worries and joys. Somebody who would feel what I feel, who would believe me, who would never reveal my secrets. A human being can never be such a friend and that’s why I have decided to look for a confidant in the form of a diary.” And so begins an extraordinary document of an adolescent girl’s hopes and dreams. By the fall of 1939, Renia and her younger sister Elizabeth (née Ariana) were staying with their grandparents in Przemysl, a city in the south, just as the German and Soviet armies invaded Poland. Cut off from their mother, who was in Warsaw, Renia and her family were plunged into war.
Like Anne Frank, Renia’s diary became a record of her daily life as the Nazis spread throughout Europe. Renia writes of her mundane school life, her daily drama with best friends, falling in love with her boyfriend Zygmund, as well as the agony of missing her mother, separated by bombs and invading armies. Renia had aspirations to be a writer, and the diary is filled with her poignant and thoughtful poetry. When she was forced into the city’s ghetto with the other Jews, Zygmund is able to smuggle her out to hide with his parents, taking Renia out of the ghetto, but not, ultimately to safety. The diary ends in July 1942, completed by Zygmund, after Renia is murdered by the Gestapo.
Renia’s Diary has been translated from the original Polish, and includes a preface, afterword, and notes by her surviving sister, Elizabeth Bellak. An extraordinary historical document, Renia Spiegel survives through the beauty of her words and the efforts of those who loved her and preserved her legacy.

Salt in My Soul by Mallory Smith

Salt in My Soul is a heartbreaking yet hopeful posthumously published memoir of a young woman who had cystic fibrosis. It’s the perfect book for anyone who loved Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness and it is an incisive look into the millennial soul.

Sarah

The diaries of a remarkable young woman who was determined to live a meaningful and happy life despite her struggle with cystic fibrosis and a rare superbug—from age fifteen to her death at the age of twenty-five.
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of three, Mallory Smith grew up to be a determined, talented young woman who inspired others even as she privately raged against her illness. Despite the daily challenges of endless medical treatments and a deep understanding that she’d never lead a normal life, Mallory was determined to “Live Happy,” a mantra she followed until her death. Mallory worked hard to make the most out of the limited time she had, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, becoming a cystic fibrosis advocate well known in the CF community, and embarking on a career as a professional writer. Along the way, she cultivated countless intimate friendships and ultimately found love.
For more than ten years, Mallory recorded her thoughts and observations about struggles and feelings too personal to share during her life, leaving instructions for her mother to publish her work posthumously. She hoped that her writing would offer insight to those living with, or loving someone with, chronic illness.
What emerges is a powerful and inspiring portrait of a brave young woman and blossoming writer who did not allow herself to be defined by disease. Her words offer comfort and hope to readers, even as she herself was facing death. Salt in My Soul is a beautifully crafted, intimate, and poignant tribute to a short life well lived—and a call for all of us to embrace our own lives as fully as possible.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

This is one of my husband’s favorite books of the last few years, and when I decided to start a nonfiction book club here at the store, he recommended it for the group. The group wound up loving it, and it became on of my favorite books I read in 2019. I never thought about animals the way Sy does – as if they have a greater intelligence and soul, and I have to say, I have a whole new outlook on animal life.

Sarah

Another New York Times bestseller from the author of The Good Good Pig, this “fascinating…touching…informative…entertaining” (Daily Beast) book explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.
In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food.
Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Who Thought This Was a Good IDea? is a fun and enlightening read by Obama staffer Alyssa Mastromonaco. her stories are not only entertaining, but include wisdom about how to be professional, even when you don’t feel like a grown-up. It also includes stories of her own missteps and what not to do should you find yourself in the position to meet Queen Elizabeth!

Sarah

If your funny older sister were the former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, her behind-the-scenes political memoir would look something like this . . .
Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, and long before his run for president. From the then-senator’s early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders.
But for every historic occasion — meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm — there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren’t nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.
Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a “White House official” is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).
Told in a smart, original voice and topped off with a couple of really good cat stories, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is a promising debut from a savvy political star.

Conversations with RBG by Jeffrey Rosen

Since I first began to study US legal history in 2007 at Pitt, I have looked up to and admired RGB, even when my professors and fellow students thought her decisions and dissents were not worth their time. When she became thoroughly meme-able, thank you Shana Knizhnik, I was afraid she was going to be commodified and my interest in and respect for her would still be sneered at. But now, we live in an age with a plethora of RBG books and this one is one of my favorites – accessible and understandable for most and a great interview based format.

Sarah

In her own words, Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers an intimate look at her life and career, through an extraordinary series of conversations with the head of the National Constitution Center.
This remarkable book presents a unique portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, drawing on more than twenty years of conversations with Jeffrey Rosen, starting in the 1990s and continuing through the Trump era. Rosen, a veteran legal journalist, scholar, and president of the National Constitution Center, shares with us the justice’s observations on a variety of topics, and her intellect, compassion, sense of humor, and humanity shine through. The affection they have for each other as friends is apparent in their banter and in their shared love for the Constitution—and for opera.
In Conversations with RBG, Justice Ginsburg discusses the future of Roe v. Wade, her favorite dissents, the cases she would most like to see overruled, the #MeToo movement, how to be a good listener, how to lead a productive and compassionate life, and of course the future of the Supreme Court itself. These frank exchanges illuminate the steely determination, self-mastery, and wit that have inspired Americans of all ages to embrace the woman known to all as “Notorious RBG.”
Whatever the topic, Justice Ginsburg always has something interesting—and often surprising—to say. And while few of us will ever have the opportunity to chat with her face-to-face, Jeffrey Rosen brings us by her side as never before. Conversations with RBG is a deeply felt portrait of an American hero.

The Nine of Us by Jean Kennedy Smith

While every biography of the Kennedys I’ve read is full of gossip and salacious details (Marilyn Monroe always comes up), it was refreshing to read about the nine siblings as a close knit family. And Jean might be the writer and it is clearly from her perspective as one of the younger siblings, it’s not really her memoir, all of her siblings feature prominently throughout the book – it truly is a memoir of a family.

Sarah

In this evocative and affectionate memoir, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, the last surviving child of Joe and Rose Kennedy, offers an intimate and illuminating look at a time long ago when she and her siblings, guided by their parents, laughed and learned a great deal under one roof.
Prompted by interesting tidbits in the newspaper, Rose and Joe Kennedy would pose questions to their nine children at the dinner table. “Where could Amelia Earhart have gone?” “How would you address this horrible drought?” “What would you do about the troop movements in Europe?” It was a nightly custom that helped shape the Kennedys into who they would become.
Before Joe and Rose’s children emerged as leaders on the world stage, they were a loving circle of brothers and sisters who played football, swam, read, and pursued their interests. They were children inspired by parents who instilled in them a strong work ethic, deep love of country, and intense appreciation for the sacrifices their ancestors made to come to America. “No whining in this house!” was their father’s regular refrain. It was his way of reminding them not to complain, to be grateful for what they had, and to give back.
In her remarkable memoir, Kennedy Smith—the last surviving sibling—revisits this singular time in their lives. Filled with fascinating anecdotes and vignettes, and illustrated with dozens of family pictures, The Nine of Us vividly depicts this large, close-knit family during a different time in American history. Kennedy Smith offers indelible, elegantly rendered portraits of her larger-than-life siblings and her parents. “They knew how to cure our hurts, bind our wounds, listen to our woes, and help us enjoy life,” she writes. “We were lucky children indeed.”

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