Living Large

Biographies and memoirs that are PageTurners.

This is a sampling of those biographies and memoirs that are included in the Tucson-Pima Public Library's Web site: There you'll find recommended books in categories including Audiobooks, Beach Books, Far East, Literary Fiction, Southwestern and, the latest, True Crime. They are all purported to be PageTurners. Reviewers' names are in parentheses.

Caldwell, Daniel, The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky: Insights into the Life of a Modern Sphinx, 2000.

This collection of personal reminiscences paints a vivid picture of an extraordinary and controversial figure. Relatives, acquaintances, friends and enemies give an account of not only her personality, but also a glimpse into the historical milieu of the late 1800s. The accounts of the psychic phenomena of the time include incidents that are sometimes humorous and frequently controversial. (Jimmie Bevill)

Cramer, Richard Ben, Joe DiMaggio: the Hero's Life, 2000.

Amidst all the success and adulation, Joe DiMaggio had an overweening need to have others serve him--to take all the good will extended to him and to give so very little back. The hero America created and held on to for so long was actually a cheapskate, a terrible father and friend and, as Marilyn Monroe once confided to an intimate, a wife beater. A truly superb biography that will keep you reading into the wee hours. (Kathleen Dannreuther)

Dolan, J.D., Phoenix: A Brother's Life, 2000.

Dolan portrays his brother as both saint and sinner. The typical product of a dysfunctional family, he has not spoken to his brother for five years when the brother is critically injured in an explosion. While the family converges at the hospital and engages in denial of imminent death, Dolan reviews the good and bad of his life. And, as is often the case in such situations, much is said without words. The author's clean and acute writing make this a compelling read. (Jeanne Michie)

Eggers, Dave, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, 2000.

At the age of 22, Eggers becomes both an orphan and the unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher, when his parents die within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. An often hilarious account, Eggers delivers a hip, flippant, observant and staggeringly well written memoir of how a Gen-Xer deals with the challenges of "single motherhood." (Kathleen Dannreuther)

Du Pre, Jon, The Prodigal Father: a True Story of Tragedy, Survival, and Reconciliation in an American Family, 2000.

Reading like fiction, this is a true story of a dysfunctional family and the author's attempts to deal with the unresolved pain of an unsettled past. Coming to terms with his father's frailties and strengths, Jon Du Pre's journey back, and his ultimate resolution, is both insightful and uplifting. A portion of the book takes place in Tucson, where the author eventually locates his father and makes his peace. (Jimmie Bevill)

Fisher, Antwone Quenton, Finding Fish: A Memoir, 2001.

The uplifting story of Antwone "Fish" Fisher begins as a tragedy, with the African American boy shuttled between orphanages and an abusive foster home until age 17 when he becomes homeless. His resilience is remarkable. He joins the Navy to obtain shelter, and the rest is an amazing journey towards outstanding achievement as a Hollywood screenwriter. You'll want to shake his hand by the time you finish the book. (Kathleen Dannreuther)

Gillman, Peter and Leni, The Wildest Dream: the Biography of George Mallory, 2000.

In this well-researched biography, the Gillmans' chronicle the intricate and diverse life of the man who lost his life on Mount Everest. Known from childhood as the boy who climbed everything that was possible to climb, this book portrays Mallory not only as an adventurer, but as a scholar, teacher, father, and loving husband. Mallory's insatiable appetite for risk and danger make this climactic biography a true page-turner. (Gabriella Reznowski)

Hillenbrand, Laura, Seabisquit: An American Legend, 2001.

This thrilling biography of the little, knobby-kneed racehorse that could is a lesson in courage, perseverance and humility that will keep you reading into the wee hours. Meticulously researched, it is also a social history of the 1930s, and how dual heroes of horse and jockey captured, against phenomenal odds, the nation's imagination. (Kathleen Dannreuther)

Kimmel, Haven, A Girl Named Zippy, 2001.

This good-humored memoir chronicles a girl growing up in a small Indiana town in the 1960's and '70s. A child whose first spoken words were "I'll make a deal with you," at the tender age of three, Zippy has a great tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and an eye for the little details that make up a good story. Zippy takes the reader back to a kinder, gentler time and place- a place many of us remember fondly. (Jeanne Michie)

Knipfel, Jim, Slackjaw, 2000.

A darkly humorous memoir from an alternative-press columnist who spares himself the drudgery of self-pity. Knipfel is a victim of a slowly advancing blindness, yet he keeps his mind's eye sharply focused on the absurdity of life. Beginning with the most humorous attempted suicide in my recollection, this memoir will appeal to those who refuse to take things too seriously. (Jeanne Michie)

Lauck, Jennifer, Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found, 2000.

A stunning memoir of Lauck's first 11 years of life--and what a life it was! At age 5, Lauck played nursemaid to her partially paralyzed mother. When her mother dies, dad remarries a woman of questionable judgment, then dies of a heart attack leaving the children in the care of the stepmother. By age 10, Lauck finds herself working as a cook's assistant at a church-run haven for the homeless, where she rises at 6 to begin the day, walks 40 blocks to school, then returns to help with the evening meal. The author's clarity of vision and insight transform this breathtaking tale of resilience. A sequel is promised. (Jeanne Michie)

Nasdijj, The Blood Runs Like A River Through My Dreams: A Memoir, 2000.

A beautiful, harsh memoir of the lifestyles of the not so rich or famous. Nasdijj tells the heroic tale of his adopted son, Tommy Nothing Fancy, who is dead of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome induced seizures by his seventh birthday. A victim of FAS himself, Nasdijj was living on the streets prior to publication. He is a tender writer with an eye for what is true; he has written a lovely book. (Jeanne Michie)

Sachs, Dana, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam, 2000.

This book offers a glimpse into Vietnam more than 20 years after the war. Author Sachs foregoes the history lesson and instead takes us into the day-to-day lives of working-class people attempting to succeed in a fledgling capitalist economy. She's in Hanoi to teach English-as-a second-language, has a romantic and illegal affair with a native bicycle mechanic and comes to love and respect the people who populate her close-knit neighborhood. (Kathleen Dannreuther)

Thompson, Hunter S., Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist 1968-1976, 2000.

An extensive collection of letters from a great literary and cultural icon of our time. Provocative and revealing, Thompson shares his incisive thoughts and wicked humor with the likes of Jimmy Carter, Tom Wolfe and Kurt Vonnegut. (David Uhe)

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Tucson Weekly

Best of Tucson Weekly

Tucson Weekly