Book List, Indie Next

Holiday Gift Giving: Memoirs & Biographies

It’s time for our annual holiday gift giving recommendations! Check out all of the picks on display in the front corner of the store across from the wine bar!

Bourdain edited by Laurie Woolever

Since I will never read a new book of Tony’s again, this is the next best thing – a comprehensive portrait of the man by those who knew him best. It is, thankfully, not a hagiography – he was no saint. I’m also glad that the focus is not on his death but him as a person and, mostly, the twenty years of his life after Kitchen Confidential. The parts that are “missing” I’m glad are missing – there is nothing from Eric Ripert about his final days and his girlfriend at the time of his death is not included at all. Ariane, his daughter, has the closing reflection of the book, a fitting tribute to her dad. For the past three years we’ve been searching for his voice as we all navigate through this crazy world and I finally feel like I can stop looking – he’s gone, and this book will help everyone appreciate him, but acknowledge that there will never be another like him and for his fans, we just need to take his message, “be a traveler not a tourist” to heart and travel in his memory and finally say goodbye.

Sarah

An unprecedented behind-the-scenes view into the life of Anthony Bourdain from the people who knew him best 

When Anthony Bourdain died in June 2018, fans around the globe came together to celebrate the life of an inimitable man who had dedicated his life to traveling nearly everywhere (and eating nearly everything), shedding light on the lives and stories of others. His impact was outsized and his legacy has only grown since his death.

Now, for the first time, we have been granted a look into Bourdain’s life through the stories and recollections of his closest friends and colleagues. Laurie Woolever, Bourdain’s longtime assistant and confidante, interviewed nearly a hundred of the people who shared Tony’s orbit—from members of his kitchen crews to his writing, publishing, and television partners, to his daughter and his closest friends—in order to piece together a remarkably full, vivid, and nuanced vision of Tony’s life and work. 

From his childhood and teenage days, to his early years in New York, through the genesis of his game-changing memoir Kitchen Confidential to his emergence as a writing and television personality, and in the words of friends and colleagues including Eric Ripert, José Andrés, Nigella Lawson, and W. Kamau Bell, as well as family members including his brother and his late mother, we see the many sides of Tony—his motivations, his ambivalence, his vulnerability, his blind spots, and his brilliance.

Unparalleled in scope and deeply intimate in its execution, with a treasure trove of photos from Tony’s life, Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a testament to the life of a remarkable man in the words of the people who shared his world.

Broken by Jenny Lawson

I absolutely love Jenny’s books and I think it is safe to say that Broken is my favorite of them all. I laughed, I cried, all in one long marathon sitting where I alternated chapters between reading and listening. Struggling with my own mental health during the past year, it was such a soothing balm to have Jenny tell me it’s okay that it’s not okay and that my feelings will pass. I also enjoyed continuing my tradition of reading her conversations with her husband out loud to my husband and seeing him react similarly to Victor once again!

Sarah

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened comes a deeply relatable book filled with humor and honesty about depression and anxiety.

As Jenny Lawson’s hundreds of thousands of fans know, she suffers from depression. In Broken, Jenny brings readers along on her mental and physical health journey, offering heartbreaking and hilarious anecdotes along the way.

With people experiencing anxiety and depression now more than ever, Jenny humanizes what we all face in an all-too-real way, reassuring us that we’re not alone and making us laugh while doing it. From the business ideas that she wants to pitch to Shark Tank to the reason why Jenny can never go back to the post office, Broken leaves nothing to the imagination in the most satisfying way. And of course, Jenny’s long-suffering husband Victor—the Ricky to Jenny’s Lucille Ball—is present throughout.

A treat for Jenny Lawson’s already existing fans, and destined to convert new ones, Broken is a beacon of hope and a wellspring of laughter when we all need it most.

Includes Photographs and Illustrations

Home by Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews has been one of my idols since I was very young. The Sound of Music is one of my all-time favorite musicals. Homedetails Julie’s life, growing up during WWII, in a dysfunctional family. Coming from a musical, entertainment family, Julie started singing training at age 9 and 1/2, even singing for Queen Elizabeth! At the age of 12, she began her career in London musicals, the beginning of a charmed life where she met many famous actors. At age 14, she finds out a secret about her father. Marriage to Tony Walton and the birth of their daughter Emma close this phase of her story. If you are like me, you may want to continue with Home Work, a sequel!

Mary

Since her first appearance on screen in Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews has played a series of memorable roles that have endeared her to generations. But she has never told the story of her life before fame. Until now.

In Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie takes her readers on a warm, moving, and often humorous journey from a difficult upbringing in war-torn Britain to the brink of international stardom in America. Her memoir begins in 1935, when Julie was born to an aspiring vaudevillian mother and a teacher father, and takes readers to 1962, when Walt Disney himself saw her on Broadway and cast her as the world’s most famous nanny.

Along the way, she weathered the London Blitz of World War II; her parents’ painful divorce; her mother’s turbulent second marriage to Canadian tenor Ted Andrews, and a childhood spent on radio, in music halls, and giving concert performances all over England. Julie’s professional career began at the age of twelve, and in 1948 she became the youngest solo performer ever to participate in a Royal Command Performance before the Queen. When only eighteen, she left home for the United States to make her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend, and thus began her meteoric rise to stardom.

Home is filled with numerous anecdotes, including stories of performing in My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison on Broadway and in the West End, and in Camelot with Richard Burton on Broadway; her first marriage to famed set and costume designer Tony Walton, culminating with the birth of their daughter, Emma; and the call from Hollywood and what lay beyond.

Julie Andrews’ career has flourished over seven decades. From her legendary Broadway performances, to her roles in such iconic films as The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hawaii, 10, and The Princess Diaries, to her award-winning television appearances, multiple album releases, concert tours, international humanitarian work, best-selling children’s books, and championship of literacy, Julie’s influence spans generations. Today, she lives with her husband of thirty-eight years, the acclaimed writer/director Blake Edwards; they have five children and seven grandchildren.

Featuring over fifty personal photos, many never before seen, this is the personal memoir Julie Andrews’ audiences have been waiting for.

This Will All Be Over Soon by Cecily Strong

I am a huge fan of Cecily’s work on SNL and while I knew she was a writer, I had never realized just how amazing she is. Having lost family right before the pandemic started, I could relate to Cecily’s guilt over being grateful that her cousin could have family around them when they passed, as well as overwhelmingly to the anxiety at the start of the pandemic with just needing to make sure everyone was okay. I was immediately drawn in and am looking forward to putting this book in the hands of readers who I know will be able to relate and appreciate it.

Sarah

A powerful memoir from the Saturday Night Live cast member Cecily Strong about grieving the death of her cousin—and embracing the life-affirming lessons he taught her—amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cecily Strong had a special bond with her cousin Owen. And so she was devastated when, in early 2020, he passed away at age thirty from the brain cancer glioblastoma. Before Strong could attempt to process her grief, another tragedy struck: the coronavirus pandemic. Following a few harrowing weeks in the virus epicenter of New York City, Strong relocated to an isolated house in the woods upstate. Here, trying to make sense of Owen’s death and the upended world, she spent much of the ensuing months writing. The result is This Will All Be Over Soon—a raw, unflinching memoir about loss, love, laughter, and hope.

Befitting the time-warped year of 2020, the diary-like approach deftly weaves together the present and the past. Strong chronicles the challenges of beginning a relationship during the pandemic and the fear when her new boyfriend contracts COVID. She describes the pain of losing her friend and longtime Saturday Night Live staff member Hal Willner to the virus. She reflects on formative events from her life, including how her high school expulsion led to her pursuing a career in theater and, years later, landing at SNL.

Yet the heart of the book is Owen. Strong offers a poignant account of her cousin’s life, both before and after his diagnosis. Inspired by his unshakable positivity and the valuable lessons he taught her, she has written a book that—as indicated by its title—serves as a moving reminder: whatever challenges life might throw one’s way, they will be over soon. And so will life. So make sure to appreciate every day and don’t take a second of it for granted.

The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder with Jessica Anya Blau

Continuing with my love of books about women doing amazing things in the modern day post-9/11 Middle East, when the Unexpected Spy came up in the catalog, I couldn’t resist. I found myself pulled into Tracy’s story immediately, and enjoyed the similarities to Caroline Johnson’s Jet Girl and Amaryllis Fox’s Life Undercover as I’m quickly becoming more and more familiar with the goings on in that particular part of the world. Tracy’s story is it’s own, however, and the presence of stricken information is a constant reminder of such. (While I understand the reasoning for leaving it in, visually it is incredibly distracting on the page to included the redaction black bars and they break up the flow of the writing)

Sarah

When Tracy Walder enrolled at the University of Southern California, she never thought that one day she would offer her pink beanbag chair in the Delta Gamma house to a CIA recruiter, or that she’d fly to the Middle East under an alias identity.

The Unexpected Spy is the riveting story of Walder’s tenure in the CIA and, later, the FBI. In high-security, steel-walled rooms in Virginia, Walder watched al-Qaeda members with drones as President Bush looked over her shoulder and CIA Director George Tenet brought her donuts. She tracked chemical terrorists and searched the world for Weapons of Mass Destruction. She created a chemical terror chart that someone in the White House altered to convey information she did not have or believe, leading to the Iraq invasion. Driven to stop terrorism, Walder debriefed terrorists—men who swore they’d never speak to a woman—until they gave her leads. She followed trails through North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, shutting down multiple chemical attacks.

Then Walder moved to the FBI, where she worked in counterintelligence. In a single year, she helped take down one of the most notorious foreign spies ever caught on American soil. Catching the bad guys wasn’t a problem in the FBI, but rampant sexism was. Walder left the FBI to teach young women, encouraging them to find a place in the FBI, CIA, State Department or the Senate—and thus change the world.

Radiant by Liz Heinecke

Part hidden history, part love letter to creative innovation, this is the true story of an unlikely friendship between a dancer, Loie Fuller, and a scientist, Marie Curie, brought together by an illuminating discovery.

At the turn of the century, Paris was a hotbed of creativity. Technology boomed, delivering to the world electric light, the automobile, and new ways to treat disease, while imagination blossomed, creating Art Nouveau, motion pictures, and modernist literature. A pivotal figure during this time, yet largely forgotten today, Loie Fuller was an American performance artist who became a living symbol of the Art Nouveau movement with her hypnotic dances and stunning theatrical effects. Credited today as the pioneer of modern dance, she was perennially broke, never took no for an answer, spent most of her life with a female partner, and never questioned her drive. She was a visionary, a renegade, and a loyal friend. In the early 1900s, she heard about Marie Curie’s discovery of a glowing blue element and dreamed of using it to dazzle audiences on stage. While Loie’s dream wouldn’t be realized, her connection with Marie and their shared fascination with radium endured. Radiant is the true story of Marie Curie and Loie Fuller, two revolutionary women drawn together at the dawn of a new era by a singular discovery, and the lifelong friendship that grew out of their shared passion for enlightenment.

The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Cornelia Fort was already in the air. At twenty-two, Fort had escaped Nashville’s debutante scene for a fresh start as a flight instructor in Hawaii. She and her student were in the middle of their lesson when the bombs began to fall, and they barely made it back to ground that morning. Still, when the U.S. Army Air Forces put out a call for women pilots to aid the war effort, Fort was one of the first to respond. She became one of just over 1,100 women from across the nation to make it through the Army’s rigorous selection process and earn her silver wings.

The brainchild of trailblazing pilots Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) gave women like Fort a chance to serve their country—and to prove that women aviators were just as skilled as men. While not authorized to serve in combat, the WASP helped train male pilots for service abroad, and ferried bombers and pursuits across the country. Thirty-eight WASP would not survive the war. But even taking into account these tragic losses, Love and Cochran’s social experiment seemed to be a resounding success—until, with the tides of war turning, Congress clipped the women’s wings. The program was disbanded, the women sent home. But the bonds they’d forged never failed, and over the next few decades they came together to fight for recognition as the military veterans they were—and for their place in history.

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world.” She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.

It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.

When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after countless rounds of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized that she had no idea how to live.

How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death-row inmate in Texas who’d spent his own years confined to a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives. Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, tender, and inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s