First up, a few nonfiction books staff has recently enjoyed:
After Visiting Friends is a haunting memoir written by journalist Michael Hainey. Just after Hainey turned six, his newspaper reporter father was found dead on the streets of Chicago, of an apparent heart attack. Growing up, Michael had to pry even this much information out of his mother, and he became obsessed with facts that he felt didn’t add up. Then as an adult he spent 10 years trying to reconstruct his father’s life, hunting down evidence, tracking down his father’s friends, and ultimately opening up secrets that had remained long-hidden.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends, an autobiography by the actor Rob Lowe, is “shockingly good,” according to one staff member. He gives an honest, witty and insightful look at the ups and downs of his extraordinary life. From his childhood roots in Ohio, through his years as a teen idol and member of the “brat pack” during the wild eighties, to the quest for a more grounded life, there are many glimpses into both his life and the lives of the many celebrities he has encountered.
Another noteworthy memoir is I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place by Howard Norman. Using five places as starting points, the author shares parts of his life between the ages of 15 and 55, such as growing up in Michigan and working in the Canadian Arctic. This memoir of mostly middle age versus childhood features fabulous writing that will keep you going even when it sags a bit in the middle.
Anglophiles will be glad to discover the author Jane Gardam. Although she has authored over a dozen books, she is much better known in the United Kingdom than over here. Old Filth is the story of Edward Feathers, who has lived much of his life as a judge in Hong Kong. Although those around him perceive his life to have been relatively easy and uneventful, through flashbacks the reader learns about a difficult childhood, etc., that show a different side of Feather. With each revelation another layer is added to the story.
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier is a historical novel about Honor Bright, a recent Quaker immigrant who must rely on strangers in 1850′s Ohio, and begins helping runaway slaves to gain freedom. Honor is very young, resilient, and strong in her Quaker upbringing. She repeatedly relies on this upbringing as she struggles alone in a new country. It is enjoyable appreciating her ability to indulge in the silence of Quaker meetings, which carry her through several challenging situations. It is also a very interesting look at the inner workings of the underground railroad.