I am probably being redundant when I say this, but this was a profound book. This was a rare look into the life of a Jew living in hiding during NaziI am probably being redundant when I say this, but this was a profound book. This was a rare look into the life of a Jew living in hiding during Nazi occupation that shaped the worlds understanding of this dreadful persecution. Anne begins as a spoiled and restless child, but her time in hiding definitely changes her. She becomes more precocious and reflective, sharing her insightful thoughts with her diary. She comments on her parents, her living conditions, her learning pursuits, politics and the war, her desire to be loved, among many other things. Of course, there is great conflict in the “Secret Annex” with eight people living in such close quarters for over two years, but it reveals the fragility of human nature when confronted with such tension. Anne’s descriptions allow the reader to easily imagine their plight and her writing matures throughout. Anne’s diary is a timeless and necessary piece of literature. The tragedy of her death is nothing compared to her devotion to humanity....more
This was a very inspiring little book that looks at two very different men’s approach to faith. One, a rabbi who is coming to terms with the end of hiThis was a very inspiring little book that looks at two very different men’s approach to faith. One, a rabbi who is coming to terms with the end of his life, and the other a former criminal turned pastor who strives for redemption and gives hope to his community. I adored Rabbi Albert Lewis and his stoic optimism; he was insightful and endearing, lending a wisdom representative of his faith and age. He knew what mattered in life and appreciated every small moment while maintaining his relationship with God and the long-honored traditions of Judaism. Reverend Henry Covington’s motives were considerably different than the Rabbi’s. I found it interesting that he thought the atrocities and sins he committed as a younger man were so great that whatever good he did going forward, they would never cancel out his past and he would not achieve salvation. He seemed to have missed out on the fundamental message of Christianity in its emphasis of forgiveness, yet he inspired so many and made such huge contributions to his community. Both of these men were selfless and left me with a feeling of hope. I also must mention that Albom’s writing is as engaging as his subjects....more
This is the second time I’ve read Death Be Not Proud and it hasn’t lost its poignancy. It is a timeless narrative that reflects Gunther’s sense of losThis is the second time I’ve read Death Be Not Proud and it hasn’t lost its poignancy. It is a timeless narrative that reflects Gunther’s sense of loss, but at the same time, his sense of wonder in his son’s ability to cope with his illness. When Johnny is diagnosed at age 16 with a brain tumor, Gunther and his ex-wife explore every possibility to make their son well. It was especially interesting to see the way this type of ailment was treated sixty years ago and the medical community’s view of cancer. One aspect that I had conflicting emotions about was Gunther’s decision to not tell Johnny that he was dying of a brain tumor. At times, Johnny was led to believe that he was going to be cured and that he would have his whole life ahead of him. I don’t know if that was the right approach, but then again, not telling Johnny he was dying preserved his optimism and motivation. This is such a compelling memoir that anyone who has encountered loss can relate to....more
This book has totally enriched my life. I was so captivated by Tammet’s story and I feel everyone should read this for the incredible experiences he sThis book has totally enriched my life. I was so captivated by Tammet’s story and I feel everyone should read this for the incredible experiences he shares with his readers. From infancy though his school years, adolescence and young adulthood, Tammet takes us into his world with a cohesiveness that surpasses most savant’s abilities as he attempts to communicate the workings of his mind. His straightforward style is refreshing and not burdened with excessive emotion or embellishments. I highly recommend this for its unique perspective, its inspiration, and for the experience of getting to know Tammet....more
This book is a must-read for any avid Simpsons fan, giving a unique perspective behind the scenes and a personal look into the life of Bart’s voice, NThis book is a must-read for any avid Simpsons fan, giving a unique perspective behind the scenes and a personal look into the life of Bart’s voice, Nancy Cartwright. Her enthusiasm is splashed across the pages (with gratuitous exclamation points) and it’s refreshing to read about someone who is truly grateful for her position in life. I loved that she is a total fan of guest stars, gushing over the likes of Tom Jones and Mel Gibson, and is vastly generous with her celebrity, freely signing autographs and giving of her time and talent. But she is not a typical celebrity, as she does not often get recognized or stopped on the street by fans. She has fame with luxury of anonymity as one of the most recognizable voices in the world. Cartwright not only shares her experiences, but takes us through the production process which allows the reader to garner an appreciation for all of the pieces that need to be formed and fitted together to create the show. It is a great read that gave me so many “Oh yeah!” and “I didn’t realize that!” moments that I think all Simpsons fans would relish....more
This book was selected for my book club, and I was indifferent about the subject matter, but Pat Conroy's writing, his unique voice, enthusiasm and huThis book was selected for my book club, and I was indifferent about the subject matter, but Pat Conroy's writing, his unique voice, enthusiasm and humor quickly drew me in. His memoir is an unabashed testimony of the socioeconomic status of an isolated black community on an island off the coast of South Carolina during the tumultuous year of 1969. When he accepts a teaching job on the island, Conroy is confronted with the inadequacies of a system that does not regard the education of black children as a priority. In a south that is warily transitioning to integration, racism remains prevalent. Conroy deviates from the role of disciplinarian and textbook driven curriculum to transform illiterate children into students who care about education and bettering their lives. He is truly inspiring as he encourages the children to become fervent about learning.
At times I was confused by the bureaucracy of the administration and frustrated by the chain of command, but Conroy defiantly challenges the status quo when defending his methods and his students. The students themselves are a riot and Conroy conveys their ignorance to expose an innocence that is uncorrupted and malleable. The dialogue is humorous and Conroy effectively delivers the local color in his portrayal of the island and its inhabitants. I was so enamored with the story that it left me wanting more. I would have loved if there were an epilogue that depicted the island or Conroy's students ten or twenty years later. Regardless, this was a moving and inspirational tale of one man's effort to change lives. ...more
This is a nice little book that any lover of reading will relate to. The motivation and adventure of reading and the comfort of a book are extolled, aThis is a nice little book that any lover of reading will relate to. The motivation and adventure of reading and the comfort of a book are extolled, and Quindlen reflects on her history as a lover of the written word. My only grievance was in her discussion of technology and its eventual submission of the physical book. Written in 1998, it is a bit out dated, as electronic reading technology has evolved tremendously in the last 11 years. However, I was extremely pleased that Quindlen included a few Top 10 book lists in the back, knowing readers well enough to fulfill their appetite for reading lists....more
I don’t typically read memoirs, but there were a number of components to this one that I could relate to. First and foremost, the theme of friendshipI don’t typically read memoirs, but there were a number of components to this one that I could relate to. First and foremost, the theme of friendship resonated with me and made me reflect on my most precious relationships. Gail narrates her unique friendship with Caroline and explores how Caroline’s death affects her. Other aspects I could connect with were Caroline and Gail as writers, drinkers and dog lovers, although Gail’s diatribe on her own recovery as an alcoholic was a bit tedious and did not contribute to the overall narrative. It seemed to be her own version of Caroline’s acclaimed book, Drinking: A Love Story. The conclusion is extremely emotional, although, admittedly, I was more upset by the fate of Gail’s dog then by Caroline’s demise. Gail’s observations and commentary are relevant and often poetic, but there were also times when I wished she’d elaborated more on events in her and Caroline’s relationship. Overall, it was moving tribute to Caroline’s memory and a testimony of true friendship.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads program. ...more
I thought the premise of this memoir sounded interesting, like it would be a blend of the dysfunctional family of Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle aI thought the premise of this memoir sounded interesting, like it would be a blend of the dysfunctional family of Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle and the author’s account of her strange neurological disorder like Daniel Tammet’s Born on a Blue Day. However, it completely lacked the humor of Walls and the insightfulness of Tammet. Right away I felt I was thrust into the middle of Seller’s own self-pity party. She overanalyzes everything from her relationship to her fiancé turned husband and his sons, her mother’s possible paranoid schizophrenia and her own inability to foster social relationships due to her face blindness. She constantly justifies her parents’ erratic behavior, not wanting to place blame on anyone other than herself due to her oppressive need to please everyone. I was more interested in the second half of the book when she actually seeks help because I wanted to see her make progress in her life. Her initial self-deprecation was too tedious and depressing. Her insecurity and indecisiveness affects every part of her life, especially her marriage. She doesn’t seem to have her own distinct opinions, though when she mentions that her husband is a libertarian, she acts as though she just uttered a four-letter word.
What really upset me about this book though, was the writing. How can someone with a PhD in writing, who teaches writing, and who’s written books on writing be such an ineloquent writer? I was not impressed or engaged with Seller’s disjointed thoughts and lack of structure, as she bounces around her own narrative, reflecting on her childhood one minute, then analyzing her current situation the next. She mentions that she has a brother, and a sibling relationship must have had some impact on her upbringing, but she only mentions his existence in passing, and it’s difficult to determine if he really meant that little to her or if she was protecting his privacy. There were just too many flaws to elicit any strong emotions in me while I was reading. While writing about her life may have been therapeutic to Sellers, I don’t think it was written well enough to engage readers.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads program. ...more
My childhood was filled with songs from the soundtrack of The Sound of Music and I’m surprised the VHS tape of the movie we owned lasted as long as itMy childhood was filled with songs from the soundtrack of The Sound of Music and I’m surprised the VHS tape of the movie we owned lasted as long as it did. So what a delight it was to read Maria’s own memoir and learn the true story of the von Trapps. Maria is the most pious, devoted, and enthusiastic soul, and that comes across in her recollections. Her instant love of the 7 von Trapp children in her charge is sweet, but it’s even more darling how the widowed patriarch becomes besotted with her. She integrates seamlessly with the existing family and she adds three more children to their charming brood.
It is their love of music that comes to define them. When financial ruin and German aggression force them to go on concert tours, they eventually find their way to America. One of the cutest parts was Maria’s awe and curiosity having arrived in New York City to all the wonders of a metropolis. And her determination to learn English is so endearing. In their adopted home, they use their unique gifts to fund their lives Stateside, eventually falling in love with a piece of property in Vermont. They are quite industrious, building a house basically with their bare hands and limited materials and funds. They develop a farm, growing crops, raising livestock, harvesting orchards, and they even create a music camp on their property. Maria’s narrative is somewhat saturated with gospel lessons and prayers (she was almost a nun, after all), but that just demonstrates her devotion to her faith. More than anything, though, this is a truly inspiring story about family and love. ...more
There have been few memoirs that I have really enjoyed, and this one ranks high in my estimation. McBride’s mother Ruth defied convention when she shuThere have been few memoirs that I have really enjoyed, and this one ranks high in my estimation. McBride’s mother Ruth defied convention when she shunned her Jewish roots and married a black man. This is the story of her life and the struggles that come with being a mixed race couple raising 12 children, and it’s also McBride’s own attempt to come to terms with his confused identity. The ferocity of Ruth’s devotion to her family, her beliefs, and her faith are truly inspirational. The success of her children is a testament to her courage and her and determination. My one complaint is that I wish there were pictures. I had a difficult time visualizing Ruth, and my mind conjured a collage of a woman with both Jewish looks and a black voice. Then again, that defines Ruth: a Jewish woman who denied her heritage and embraced her black soul and Christian heart.
I admit, I would not have given any consideration to this book had it not been selected for my book club by another member. Now, I look forward to discussing Ruth’s life and McBride’s tribute to her at our next meeting. ...more
The most enjoyable aspect of Herrer’s memoir is his straightforward approach and the accessibility of his narrative. While he is very matter-of-fact iThe most enjoyable aspect of Herrer’s memoir is his straightforward approach and the accessibility of his narrative. While he is very matter-of-fact in recounting his experiences, he also expresses his awe and wonder of a land so few westerners have had access to. I initially thought the book would be more about his personal relationship with the Dalai Lama, but Herrer doesn’t even reach Lhasa until halfway through the book and does not meet His Holiness in person until the last quarter. It is remarkable how over the course of seven years, Herrer went from a destitute escaped POW, traversing the Himalaya in search of safe passage, to a respected member of the Lhasa community and a confidante of the Dalai Lama.
I appreciated the way he portrayed the Tibetans, acknowledging that though they are superstitious and often uneducated, they are intelligent and resourceful in their own right. I was especially moved by the Dalai Lama’s endearing curiosity and aptitude for learning. But as the Chinese encroach upon Tibet’s borders, it is clear that the way of life the natives have known for centuries is threatened.
“…in the old scriptures it was prophesied that a great power from the north would overrun Tibet, destroy religion, and make itself master of the whole world.” The fate of the nation is certainly tragic, and it was heartbreaking that the Dalai Lama had to flee upon reaching his majority and ascending to his throne. Herrer gives a voice to the occupied and exiled Tibetans and it is and enduring testament to the plight of his adoptive country. ...more
I don’t typically read this type of book, but it was loaned to me by a friend I very much respect and whose sense of humor I appreciate. It seemed likI don’t typically read this type of book, but it was loaned to me by a friend I very much respect and whose sense of humor I appreciate. It seemed like Weigel was taking a cue from M. Night Shyamalan with her themes of “I see dead people” and reading “signs” when others would have simply seen them as coincidence. There were some funny and clever anecdotes, but I felt she spent a good deal of the book discussing her connections and her career (or lack of steady employment and insurance). She does try to explain her beliefs, but never defines them. It seems that if she doesn’t have a prayer or mantra or positive thought, things are doomed to fail. She is constantly thanking the universe for giving her what she needs in the immediate or near future or pouring buckets of “flashdance” light over herself to improve her mood and circumstances. These techniques seem to work for her, but I found Weigel to be inconsistent. Her efforts to be positive, though usually effective, often seemed desperate, while at other times she was cynical, negative, or filled with self-doubt.
Mind you, I am relatively open-minded when it comes to spirituality, the afterlife, past lives and all that. She does a good job outlining why everything is interconnected and that some people are more “gifted” than others with their intuitive skills. While I don’t distrust her theories, I maintained a certain amount of incredulity while reading her book. I appreciated some of the humor and the fact that she’s from Chicago, but overall, it didn’t resonate with me as much as had hoped. ...more
It is heartbreaking reading a memoir when you know the tragic outcome, but it’s so worth it for the beauty of Patchett’s writing. Her devotion to herIt is heartbreaking reading a memoir when you know the tragic outcome, but it’s so worth it for the beauty of Patchett’s writing. Her devotion to her friend Lucy is evident, even when Lucy is exasperating, needy, or desperate. They fostered one another’s talent, each becoming famous in her own right, but they dealt with their own ambitions in completely different ways. Patchett often refers to herself as the Ant and Lucy as the Grasshopper from Aesop’s fables. Lucy’s physical insecurities (stemming from cancer treatment, removal of jaw bone, constant reconstructive surgeries) manifested into despair and loneliness, but Patchett remained a constant source of support. It was a remarkable friendship, having endured decades, but the end result was devastating. Patchett doesn’t linger over her personal grief; she simply presents the relationship to her readers as a thing of beauty to be admired. ...more