The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6' 4", African American, Heterosexual... by W. Kamau BellW. Kamau Bell, the comedian and star of CNN's United Shades of America, says he's always been awkward. In this humorous and thought-provoking memoir, each chapter title begins with "My Awkward..." (My Awkward Youth, ...Start in Stand-Up Comedy, ...Sexism, ...Awesome Parenting Skills. ...Thoughts about the Democratic Party). This is a must-read if you're a Bell fan or addicted to social and political humor.
Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty by John B. BolesAccording to critic Jonathan Yardley's review in The Washington Post, historian John Boles' Jefferson is "perhaps the finest one-volume biography of an American president." While Boles frankly discusses Jefferson's failures and inconsistencies, he paints a detailed portrait of his entire life and many positive accomplishments. Drawing on standard resources, his own studies, and recent critical assessments (especially Annette Gordon-Reed's Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and The Hemingses of Monticello), Boles offers a comprehensive biography to modern readers.
Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women by Susan Burton and Cari LynnAfter her five-year-old son was killed by a car on their street, author Susan Burton turned to cocaine and then crack to dull her pain. The African American resident of South Los Angeles was inevitably arrested and spent 15 years in and out of prison, until she found a private rehab program that set her straight. Burton then created an organization that offers other previously incarcerated women a lifeline: addiction treatment, education, and a path to employment. In this moving and eye-opening memoir, Burton recounts her experiences while advocating for improvements in the prison system.
Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen RadtkeIn this "subtle dazzler of a debut" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), author Kristen Radtke, the managing editor of a small press, explores the meaning of ruins in various parts of the world and in her own life. Illustrating her memories and observations with simple but elegant black-and-white drawings, this graphic memoir offers a meditation on life, death, and the inevitability of change. Radtke's pared-down style may remind readers of David Small's Stitches, which also recounts personal loss through stark drawings.
Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. RicksEnglishmen Winston Churchill and George Orwell never met; their lives had some parallels, but many more differences. Churchill was an extroverted, aristocratic conservative, while Orwell was an introverted, left-leaning member of the middle class. But they both championed democracy against totalitarianism and emphasized the significance of language in politics, offering their distinctively English worldviews to counter the perils of fascism and communism. In this "bracing" (Publishers Weekly) depiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Ricks provides a biography of each man and assesses their combined impact on 20th-century history.
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris HadfieldAfter watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on television, nine-year-old Chris Hadfield knew absolutely that he wanted to be an astronaut. It was a lofty dream -- for one thing, his native Canada had no space program. Nevertheless, Hadfield achieved his goal, becoming one of his country's few military test pilots before launching a distinguished career at NASA. His inspiring memoir is packed with fascinating details about the International Space Station and everyday life as an astronaut.
A House in the Sky: A Memoir by Amanda Lindhout and Sara CorbettCanadian journalist Amanda Lindhout had an avid desire to travel from the time she was young. Early in her journalism career, she went to Somalia with her friend Nigel Brennan, an Australian photographer. There, they were kidnapped by bandits who demanded impossible sums for ransom and kept them shackled, starved, and in filthy conditions for 15 months. This "well-honed, harrowing account" (Publishers Weekly) details their ordeal and explains how Lindhout found the strength to persevere.
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner with David FisherIn Leonard, Montreal-born actor William ("Captain Kirk") Shatner offers an absorbing remembrance of his friendship with Leonard ("Spock") Nimoy. Unusual for actors, their on-set camaraderie deepened into lifelong devotion through movies and trekker conventions. Shatner's moving reflections will delight general biography readers as well as fans of the Star Trek universe.
Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater by Gail SimmonsIn this "straightforward and relaxed" (Kirkus Reviews) memoir, Toronto native Gail Simmons, a host and judge on television's Top Chef programs, relates details about her life and describes jobs that led her to her current work. If you're curious about the phenomenon of celebrity chefs and internationally famous restaurants, you'll appreciate Talking with My Mouth Full, and you may want to follow up with Padma Lakshmi's Love, Loss, and What We Ate.
Instant Mom by Nia VardalosThe Winnipeg-born and raised actress Nia Vardalos, who wrote and starred in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, enjoyed a happy and productive life, but she longed to be a mother. After years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, she and her husband decided to try the foster-to-adopt plan and (with 14 hours' notice) became the parents of an energetic three-year-old. You'll laugh out loud at Instant Mom, whether you're looking for glimpses of Hollywood behind the scenes or funny and touching parenting adventures.
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