Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, was born to gifted and well-to-do parents. Her mother was a singer and her father was a well-known preacher who marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights movement. Life wasn’t a piece of cake. Aretha’s mother left the family when she was young leaving the father as a single parent. Her father showcased her childhood talent by waking her up in the middle of the night to play piano and sing for his party guests.
Diego Rivera was twice the size and age of Frida Kahlo when they married in August of 1929 but they seemed destined to be together. Rivera was a famous Mexican muralist who used the fresco method of painting on wet plaster. Kahlo was known for her self-portraits showing her suffering due to internal injuries resulting from a bus accident and for her depictions and deep love of animals. As a child, she contracted polio. She had always been sickly. Reef has written a book about one of the most interesting artist couples in history.
Janet Leigh was best known for her portrayal of Marion Crane in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic thriller, Psycho and her eleven-year marriage to Tony Curtis. She starred in mostly low-budget films throughout her film career which spanned from 1947-1999. Hollywood film moguls were attracted to her natural beauty. She endured the unwanted attention of Howard Hughes.
"Unbroken" is the story of an undaunted human spirit presented by author Laura Hillenbrand; who chronicles the extraordinary life of Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini. When faced with supposed insurmountable obstacles, Louie proves to be a survivor and an example of the power one person can have over his own destiny.
Those of us of a certain age grew up to the strains of comma comma down dooby doo down down, comma comma, down dooby doo down down, breaking up is hard to do. That is Neil Sedaka’s signature song, Breaking up is Hard to do. It was released in 1962. Podolsky tells the story of Neil’s early days in Brooklyn. He started his musical training at the prestigious Juilliard School at the tender age of seven.
He was honest, witty, loyal, brilliant, and indefatigable.He was also pompous, arrogant, insecure, petty, and cranky.He probably did more than anyone else to persuade Congress to declare American independence, bu
Richard Nixon graduated number three from his Duke University Law School class. Thelma (Pat) Ryan was an orphan in Depression-era California yet she attained the equivalent of a master’s degree in merchandising and she taught high school typing and shorthand classes. Swift tells the story of the Nixon courtship, political life and death after 53 years of marriage. Along the way we read about Nixon’s involvement with the Communist scare, 1960 presidential election footing Nixon against John F.
This is a fab(ulous) and funny book about John, Paul, George and Ringo—four lads from Liverpool, England who together, achieved worldwide fame and admiration as the Beatles, rock music band extraordinaire.
Hilburn delivers a highly detailed but readable account of the legendary country singer, Johnny Cash. Virtually every aspect of his career and personal life is covered including his boyhood in Dyess, Arkansas, his admiration for Jimmie Rodgers, the start of his recording career with Sun Records, Cash’s first gold record (the album Ring of Fire), his marriage into the Carter family, and his highly acclaimed video of Hurt which was produced by Rick Rubin.
This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography was also the best book I’ve listened to in 2013. The Black Count by Tom Reiss is both informative and entertaining. Read by Paul Michael, an actor who gave the story even more depth with his expressive style and excellent pronunciation, this book is a step above the average biography. I was enthralled not only by the amazing adventures of the man who was the inspiration for the Count of Monte Cristo but by the writing style of the author.
Almost everyone has heard of Amelia Earhart, but Ruth Elder is a new name to many. Ruth wanted to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo in 1927, just like Charles Lindbergh. Unfortunately, after 36 hours in the air, Ruth had serious trouble with an oil line rupture and had to abandon her plane in the ocean. Fortunately, there was a ship nearby to rescue her. Ruth charmed her way into the public's eyes, and by 1929 forty women met to begin a cross country race.
At the time that Mary Ellin Barrett’s parents met, her father Irving Berlin was the world’s most popular, famous, and financially successful songwriter. He had started as a penniless Russian Jewish immigrant, an uneducated child who had scrounged for a living by singing to the drunken wastrels of New York’s sleazy bowery. A dozen years after the death of his first wife (who passed away just months after their marriage), Berlin met the much younger Ellin Mackay, daughter of Clarence Mackay, a fabulously wealthy businessman. Ellin was Catholic, well educated, socially promin
This bilingual English/Spanish book celebrates the life of the great Latin Jazz musician Ernest “Tito” Puente (1923-2000). Readers learn about Tito in different stages of his life: as a baby (in New York City of Puerto Rican parents), banging out rhythms on pots and pans; as a kid drumming and dancing his way to talent show success (but still finding time to play baseball with the neighborhood kids); as a young man in the Navy serving his country while developing his gift of playing and writing music; and as a professional musician who wins fame, fortune, love and admiration by using
The author of “Manson: The life and times of Charles Manson” brings us a life story, rather than the history of the Manson murders.
Charles Manson was born in 1934 to a teenaged mother. He often said that his mother was a prostitute, but here was no evidence of that. She did get pregnant at 15 and when the father didn’t want any part of the baby, she somehow talked William Manson into marrying her before Charlie was born. Kathleen Manson was a party girl who liked a good time and drinking and dancing, which her Nazarene mother strongly objected to.
This outstanding non-fiction picture book for older readers tells the story of African American artist Horace Pippin. A quote from the book: "Pictures just come to my mind...and I tell my heart to go ahead," is touching when you think of a child who did not have real art supplies of his own until he won a contest. During World War I Horace was wounded in the right shoulder, and was unable to draw the way he had loved to so much.
This superb factual tale of John Price is fascinating. John Price escaped from slavery in January 1856. After crossing the frozen Ohio River, he was in Ohio, was slavery was not allowed. He wasn't completely safe though, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed slave owners to capture their runaway slaves anywhere in the United States, even in states where slavery was against the law, like Ohio. Canada was Price's destination; slavery was completely outlawed there. Price stopped for the winter in Oberlin, Ohio.
Donald Spoto’s account of the Redgraves has the feel of a readable “intellectual” soap opera, for the talented Redgraves were well known for their work in the theatre and film world but their private lives were anything but conventional. There are many instances of infidelity, divorce, dysfunctional parenting, and the insecurities that resulted from these issues.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of biographies have been written about Winston Churchill, but none are as insightful, or as gracefully written, as this brilliant work by William Manchester. The book is in two parts: Visions of Glory, which covers the first 58 years of Churchill’s life; and Alone, detailing the 1930s, when Churchill was out of government.
“Why do it?” I asked myself. “Just months ago, you reviewed a book about a dog with a second chance at a happy life (Saving Audie by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent), so why do another so soon?” “I can’t help it!” was my reply. “I’ve fallen in love, and people in love can do foolish things. So there!”
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was a former one-term congressman and two-time failed senate candidate from Illinois. Despite this feeble resume, he managed to outmaneuver the top leaders of the Republican party—all far more experienced and better known than Lincoln—and win the nomination for president. Once elected, and as the southern states began pulling out of the Union, Lincoln selected these same political rivals as the members of his new cabinet.
The state legislature has declared 12/12/12 “Aaron Rodgers Day” in Wisconsin, in honor of the Green Bay Packers star quarterback with the uniform number 12. Young readers can celebrate the success of this remarkable athlete with two books added to the library’s collections this past year.
When informed that George Gershwin had died, the novelist John O’Hara wrote, “I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.” Gershwin was only 38 at the time of his death, and had been widely seen as the future of American music.
Young children will delight in this charming story of the famous American cook Julia Child living in Paris with her husband Paul and her mischievous tortoiseshell cat, Minette. Julia Child learns to cook with passion and endless energy. Minette inhales the delicious aromas and dines on the most scrumptious meals, yet being a cat, still prefers a good fresh mouse.
Tony Sarg (1880 – 1942) was the master puppeteer who invented the first huge animal puppets that floated in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. This is the story of a creative little boy who wondered at how things moved and worked, and who grew up to become the puppeteer of Macy’s parade.
Illustrator Ed Young, winner of the Caldecott Medal for his book Lon Po Po, tells the unique story of his childhood in wartime China through award-winning author Libby Koponen. Young’s father, Baba, an engineer, devises a way of protecting his wife and five children and numerous other relatives and friends by constructing a bomb-proof house that becomes a playground for the children complete with a swimming pool.
An inspirational and engaging biography of award-winning author, Avi. The story of how he became fondly known as only “Avi”, which is not his real name, is revealed. It describes his poor childhood in New York during the war years and how he learned to survive. He fights a lifelong battle with dysgraphia. (“Dysgraphic people have trouble writing. They mix up or invert letters and misspell words.” p.
If you listen to NPR on Friday mornings, you may be familiar with the interviews from David Isay’s StoryCorps Project. Shortly after 9/11, David Isay decided he wanted to record an oral history of America. Not just any history, mind you, he set out to capture the lives of everyday Americans --- your average John & Jane Doe, not the elite upper-crust celebrities that traditionally dominate the media. He set up a recording booth in Grand Central Station in New York City where family members and friends can record interviews with each other. It became so popular tha