The Book Club
User Topic: Memoir/biography recommendations please
Member # 29566
Default  Posted: 11:41 PM, October 28th (Friday)

Does anyone have any memoir or biography recommendations? I love reading about unconventional lives, or people who have been through tragedies. I have a lot of true crime, and natural disaster memoirs and also love reading about 'secretive groups' such as the Amish, or the LDS sects.

Thanks everyone!

Finally respecting him again.I believe that time heals almost all, wish I could fast forward time.
"Hate the sin, Love the sinner" ~Gandhi
Me:31-BS & Him:25-fWS (Irish_guy)
Dday:3/12/10, tt: 4/4/10, 5/22/10
R'ing, & planning our future!

Posts: 870 | Registered: Sep 2010 | From: Northern California
Member # 16024
Default  Posted: 7:09 AM, October 29th (Saturday)

Right now I'm reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand for my book club. She also wrote Seabiscuit. It's a WWII story focused on one particular hero.

Very good so far, and I'm not a fan of war stories.

Take up your space (and do it well).

"That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt."

Posts: 38616 | Registered: Sep 2007
Member # 325
Default  Posted: 8:14 AM, October 29th (Saturday)

You might enjoy "Just Kids" by Patti Smith. Not really a tragedy but a pretty unconventional life.

In Just Kids, Patti Smith’s first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work—from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

Posts: 5632 | Registered: Jul 2002
Member # 1558
Default  Posted: 9:57 AM, October 29th (Saturday)

Favorites of mine:

Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood
This book had me howling from cover to cover. I don't know when I've enjoyed a memoir more for its own sake.

Anything by Wade Rouse
It might be best to start with America's Boy, then move on to Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler. From there you can pick up just about anything, but those two are (IMO) crucial to understanding his "story." I've taken writing classes with him and he's really a wonderful man, and his partner Gary (wait til you read about the early days of their relationship ) is the sweetest man I've ever known. Even sweeter than Mr. T!

If you're into historical figures, anything by Alison Weir is highly recommended. I found The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn ( to be incredibly compelling.

[This message edited by Threnody at 9:58 AM, October 29th (Saturday)]

“If you don't like my opinion of you, you can always improve.” ~ Ashleigh Brilliant
"Great love requires determination." ~ tryingtwo
"Don't try to win over the haters, you're not the jackass whisperer." ~ Brene Brown

Posts: 14040 | Registered: Jun 2003 | From: Middle-of-Diddly, TX
Member # 15256
Default  Posted: 11:04 AM, October 29th (Saturday)

Here's an eclectic assortment of books I've read, and recommend.

The Seabiscuit book by Laura Hillenbrand is very good. I highly recommend it. Very inspirational. The story of a horse who knew his true potential!

Walt Disney - an amazing man. I've read An American Original.

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller.

These 2 by David G. McCullough were slower reads, but good:
-Mornings on Horseback (Theodore Roosevelt).
-John Adams.

The Heroin Diaries - by Nikki Sixx, bass guitarist for Motley Crue. Chronicles a year of his life while addicted to heroin. It's amazing he's still alive today. The album that goes with the book is excellent, too.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

Alive - the story of the soccer team who's plane crashed in the Andes in the 70s. They had to resort to cannibalism to survive.

You didn't ask for natural disaster reads but I read a short book on the New Madrid earthquakes in the 1800s a few years ago which was fascinating. The Johnstown Flood is also good.

D-Day: 5-28-2007
Married: 26 years
Me (BS): 48 (Cancer survivor!)
Him (WS)(Alcoholic): 48
DD: 17
False R for 1.5 yrs+
He moved out 5/10. In limbo.

I was sad because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.

Posts: 2370 | Registered: Jul 2007 | From: MD
Member # 29566
Default  Posted: 11:11 AM, October 29th (Saturday)

Thanks everyone! I want to read ALL of these books now

I recently got an ipad2, and am headed online right now to get started with some of these.

Thanks again, I would have never thought of most of these on my own.

Finally respecting him again.I believe that time heals almost all, wish I could fast forward time.
"Hate the sin, Love the sinner" ~Gandhi
Me:31-BS & Him:25-fWS (Irish_guy)
Dday:3/12/10, tt: 4/4/10, 5/22/10
R'ing, & planning our future!

Posts: 870 | Registered: Sep 2010 | From: Northern California
Member # 28410
Default  Posted: 2:19 PM, October 29th (Saturday)

I recently finished "Growing Up Amish" by Ira Wagler. It was a very interesting read.

Me: BW, 40.......Him: FWH, 40
D-day: 3-22-10
DS1: 11, DS2: crawling
Status: R going well

"When you can tell the story and it doesn't bring up any pain, you know it is healed." - Iyanla Vanzant, Broken Pieces

Posts: 7279 | Registered: Apr 2010 | From: NC
Member # 20097
Default  Posted: 8:08 PM, October 29th (Saturday)

-Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
-Scribbling the Cat

Both by Alexandra Fuller (about her African childhood/she's white)
Fabulous writer! I went to her reading in S. Calif. a few years back.
Read them in the above order.
However, I didn't think her latest book was even close to as good as the first two.

-All Over but the Shoutin':Rick Bragg

-Angela's Ashes

:Frank McCourt

-Three Dog Life :Abigail Adams

-A Year of Magical Thinking: Joan Didion

...Memoir is my favorite genre...I could list you tons but here's a start.

D-D 1: 12/23/06 - Porn (dd bust him on-line)
D-D 2: 4-25-08 - Massage P.'s(new act. in pretend recov.)
D-D 3:9-9-08 Caught call m. girl
D-Day 4: 6/30/09 -: free MP g.f./prost.
D-Day 5: 1-10-10: new mp prost's.

Posts: 1529 | Registered: Jul 2008 | From: S .CALIF.
Member # 33642
Default  Posted: 3:58 AM, November 6th (Sunday)

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James Hornfischer. It's about a small group of navy carriers during WWII. Many of the ships were sunk during the battle. Most of the survivors drowned or were eaten by sharks before rescue ships could arrive. It's a tough read.

"It's a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart."

Posts: 769 | Registered: Oct 2011 | From: Texas
Member # 25382
Default  Posted: 10:03 AM, November 6th (Sunday)

Life - Keith Richards

These are on my list:

Spencer Tracy: A Biography by James Curtis

That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba


Posts: 607 | Registered: Sep 2009 | From: in the void
Member # 26741
Default  Posted: 12:31 PM, November 6th (Sunday)

I'm re-reading "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain. He is wickedly funny, tough on himself and enjoys poking at others. It's very good. And he also gives some good cooking tips. He has also written a couple of others that I have but have not read yet. Hope you enjoy whatever you settle on!

[This message edited by welcome14 at 12:32 PM, November 6th (Sunday)]

Nothing like a trail of blood to find your way back home- nikki sixx

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.

Posts: 1230 | Registered: Dec 2009 | From: clarksville, tn/ Ft Campbell
Member # 26284
Default  Posted: 12:51 PM, November 6th (Sunday)

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

On Dday -BS-me 41 FWS-him 42
Married 19 years 3 kids (16,13,9)
D-Day 10/2/09- TT til Feb. 2010

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.” -CS Lewis

Posts: 1043 | Registered: Nov 2009
Member # 10798
Default  Posted: 2:38 PM, November 6th (Sunday)

I just finished the book about Steve Jobs. It was great.

Act as if what you do matters. It does. William James

Posts: 2140 | Registered: May 2006 | From: Midwest
Member # 33834
Default  Posted: 2:53 PM, November 6th (Sunday)

Memoirs of a Sword Swallower by Daniel Mannix

The true story, complete with photographs of Daniel's 3 year career with a real sideshow.

This is the opening line "I probably never would have become America's leading fire-eater if Flamo the Great hadn't happened to explode that night in front of Krinko's Great Combined Carnival Side Shows." How can you put a book down that starts like that?!

m BS/ FWBF/ F pill addict binge drinker 33 h FWW/ BGF 34
d 5 s 3
My A: ONS 2003 other inappropriate behavior/ poor boundaries
Her A: 5 month EA/PA 2011
DDay 8/30/11 (I caught her and confessed to mine)
married 3 years, together 15 working on R/

Posts: 397 | Registered: Nov 2011 | From: right behind you
Member # 32689
Default  Posted: 7:37 AM, November 7th (Monday)

Just finished "Until Tuesday" by Luis Carlos Montalván. Inspiring read.

Posts: 367 | Registered: Jul 2011 | From: Michigan
Member # 32810
Default  Posted: 10:17 AM, November 7th (Monday)

Wild Swans by Jung Chang is one of my all time favorites.

"You yourself deserve your love and affection as much as anybody in the universe." -Buddha
"Let's face it, life is a crap shoot." -Sad in AZ

Posts: 13855 | Registered: Jul 2011
Member # 8354
Default  Posted: 8:21 PM, November 7th (Monday)

The Real Frank Zappa

Excellent read and immensely funny and… educational.
Remember if you do buy this from Amazon then go to Amazon by clicking on Dr. Phil. I think SI gets some cash every time a purchase on Amazon originates here (correct me if I’m wrong admins).

"If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone." Epictetus

Posts: 5566 | Registered: Sep 2005
Member # 23060
Default  Posted: 2:25 AM, November 8th (Tuesday)

"Living in the Material World" about the late George Harrison.

Me - BS 61
Him - FWS 60
M 28 yrs, together 30 yrs.
2 adult offspring
D-Day: 8-2-07, TT for 6 weeks
15 random sexual encounters over 4 years.

Posts: 891 | Registered: Feb 2009
Member # 25949
Default  Posted: 10:10 PM, November 11th (Friday)

I'm reading Steven Tyler's autobiography. He's the lead singer of Aerosmith and is currently a judge on one of those talent(?) TV shows.

I thought I wasn't going to like it but it's a decent book.

Me - BS
Her - WS
affair length - 6 months with MM
married since 7/92
d-day 4/2002
NC violated 4/02, 6/02, 8/02

Posts: 136 | Registered: Oct 2009 | From: Massachusetts
Member # 20954
Default  Posted: 3:15 PM, November 12th (Saturday)

My all-time favorite biography is "Into The Wild" by John Krakauer. He retraces the path of a young man who after college donated his entire savings to charity, burned all the money in his wallet and set out on a 2 year journey across the western US and eventually turned up dead in the Alaskan wilderness.


Posts: 750 | Registered: Sep 2008
Member # 8873
Default  Posted: 12:49 PM, November 14th (Monday)

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman
Richard Feynman was a physicist, a Nobel prize winner, a participant of the Manhattan project, the founder of quantum mechanics,.... also a prankster, studies how to be a ladies man, and a pretty good safecracker....

"Hey, does this rag smell like chloroform to you?

Posts: 1028 | Registered: Nov 2005 | From: Oklahoma
Member # 20547
Default  Posted: 12:29 PM, December 4th (Sunday)

Anything by Augusten Burroughs, especially Dry. Running with Scissors is good too.

BS- me.
FWS- him.
DDay 6/07 (immediately separated)
RDay 8/07
OC born 3/08
OC Adopted 2014


Posts: 2330 | Registered: Aug 2008 | From: PNW
Member # 28377
Default  Posted: 9:54 PM, December 5th (Monday)

I have always been obsessed with rock stars, so I have read Life by Keith Richards (even posted about it a few months back on here) and also Steven Tyler of Aerosmith's book. I have read my very favorite - Sammy Hagar's bio - very good too. I have a Janis Joplin one right now. I am reading a bio by Christopher Buckley - son of William F. Buckley. Chris lost both his parents within a year of each other and is an only child. Same situation I am in except I don't have his family's money to escape some of it. Still good read tho. And last but not least, I am going to read next the bio of Kirk and Candace Cameron's mom, Barbara Cameron - about their life growing up I think title is "A Full House of Growing Pains" and in just looking thru book when I got it from library (as I always do) I saw that she and her husband (their dad) had separated, maybe even divorced and reconciled and are apparently doing very well now - a bonus on that one. Oh, and one more - "Brady,Brady,Brady" by Sherwood Schwartz and his don Lloyd who created and produced, directed, etc. "The Brady Bunch"...just got it from library to look at the pics but ended up reading it in 2 days - very good book surprisingly.

Biographies are my favorites too - as they say "truth is stranger than fiction".

Me - W - 48
Him - H - 47
Together since we were 14/15
Married 27 yrs in August (renewed our vows in 2011-H's idea!)
DD-23, DS-15
Separated for 7 mos & were 3 wks from divorce when we reconciled
Happily R for almost 4 years

Posts: 1451 | Registered: Apr 2010 | From: MO
solus sto
Member # 30989
Default  Posted: 4:16 PM, December 8th (Thursday)

I'm starting the Abigail Adams one mentioned earlier. She really was a remarkable woman--quite feminist for the era.

She also was my great-great-great-great-great grandmother :)

BS-me, 52
WH (Trac-fone), 53, PD
2 kids-DD25, DS18
multiple d-days
Alone, most strangely, I live on~Rupert Brooke

Posts: 8991 | Registered: Jan 2011 | From: midwest
Member # 34109
Default  Posted: 6:34 PM, December 8th (Thursday)

Have to second on "Alive," anything by Jon Krakauer (I think I read Into Thin Air 4 times; it is phenomenal).

One of my favorite autobiographies is Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng

I've reread it over many years. It's about a middle-aged Chinese woman placed in solitary confinement for being "bourgeois" during the cultural revolution. It is drop-dead inspirational, honest, real. In fact, I think I'll read it again.

Recently read The Glass Castle -- holy cow! Dysfunctional childhood much?

Also, try Paul Bowles's autobiography, "Without Stopping," and the biography of Jane Bowles, "A Little Original Sin."

They were a brilliant, adventurous literary couple with a strange marriage (both bisexual), travel, drug escapades... His novels are ominous and disturbing; several were made into films. Yet a lot of scholars argue that she was the real genius and muse.

Posts: 358 | Registered: Dec 2011
alex mama
Member # 11858
Default  Posted: 11:29 PM, December 8th (Thursday)

I just (tonight) finished "Running with Scissors". It's one of those books that makes you laugh at loud, and makes you feel horrified that you're laughing at this poor person.

I read "Happens Every Day" by the woman who plays Elliot Stabler's wife on Law & Order: SVU. It's her memoir of her husband's affair and the decline of her marriage. The writing wasn't fantastic, and at times it was super triggery, and I can't say that I "enjoyed" it, but I certainly identified with it.

My boss just finished the Steve Jobs book and LOVED it, and just read the new James Garfield biography and said it was FANTASTIC, so both of those are going on my list.

My mom just finished Barbara Walters' biography, and won't stop talking about it, so that's going on my list too.

My all-time favorite memoir, though, is The Tender Bar. I'm a word nerd, and a sucker for a good writer, and this book made me want to run away and find this author and stalk him so he'd marry me.

"Love yourself. Don't take no shit." - my oldest and dearest friend

Posts: 3311 | Registered: Aug 2006
Member # 28753
Default  Posted: 7:56 PM, December 20th (Tuesday)

My favorite is Katherine Graham's Washington. Jimmy Carter's memoirs are good; I find him to be a gentle writer. Any of the McCullough stuff. The biographies that presidential hopefuls put out are usually good for a laugh as long as you're in the mood to be snarky.

Hm. Apparently I'm a fan of politics. Or at least of reading about politicians. Who knew?

ETA: Looking up The Tender Bar right now... thank you, fellow word nerd!

[This message edited by ImNellNow at 7:59 PM, December 20th (Tuesday)]

BS & D
Drinking wine and thinking bliss is on the other side of this.

Posts: 2370 | Registered: Jun 2010 | From: Baby steps on my new path
Member # 6687
Default  Posted: 10:34 AM, December 23rd (Friday)

Just finished "Stories I only tell my friends" by Rob Lowe. It was a really good read.

Also read the Heroin Diaries at the suggestion of someone upthread - pretty good, especially the first half.

I also recently read Bossypants by Tina Fey and didn't love it like I thought I would. I did like parts of it and she's definitely funny, but I think it's hard sometimes for a funny person to feel "real" to me through their humor. Maybe it's just me though.

Posts: 3197 | Registered: Mar 2005
Member # 16725
Default  Posted: 9:17 PM, December 23rd (Friday)

I pretty much only read books about crazy people and natural disasters so I submit:

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic - Alison Bechdel
Drinking: A Love Story and Appetites: Why Women Want - Caroline Knapp
Half-Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls
The Final Frontiersman - James Campbell
In Pharaoh's Army and This Boy's Life - Tobias Wolff
Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies - Annie Lamott
On Writing - Stephen King
Shot in the Heart - Mikal Gilmore
Open - Andre Agassi
Crazy for the Storm - Norman Ollestad
Split: A Memoir of Divorce - Suzanne Finnamore
Isaac's Storm - Erik Larson

“There is a limit to the amount of misery and disarray you will put up with, for love, just as there is a limit to the amount of mess you can stand around a house. You can’t know the limit beforehand, but you will know when you’ve reached it."

Posts: 930 | Registered: Oct 2007
Member # 33681
Default  Posted: 10:38 PM, December 23rd (Friday)

Life by Keith Richards and Open by Agassi were surprisingly good biographies I read a few months ago.

Him WH
Two kids
Dday sept 28 2011
Together since 2000, married 2005
On our way to ??

Posts: 98 | Registered: Oct 2011 | From: Florida
Member # 8142
Default  Posted: 3:48 AM, December 24th (Saturday)

This book stands out in my mind:

"The Bubble Reputation" by Cathy Peletier. Well written!

~XWH told me what I wanted to hear but he always did whatever he wanted to do~

Posts: 25435 | Registered: Sep 2005
Member # 24902
Default  Posted: 6:39 AM, December 24th (Saturday)

Anything by Krakauer....he wrote a book on the FLDS that now escapes my mind.

And for an alternative look @ one of our heroes? The Imperial Cruise about Teddy Roosevelt. Just confirmed my opinion that we need to throw out all our history books.

me BS the Big 6-0!!
him WS 56
married 28 years
together 31
DD 6/10/08
ow #1,2 lta on and off since 1995
ow 3 ons summer 2005
2 D, mine from prior marriage, but he raised them
R'ing...probably not....but then again, maybe....

Posts: 1375 | Registered: Jul 2009 | From: Colorado
Member # 32232
Default  Posted: 7:57 PM, December 24th (Saturday)

Biography of LBJ by Robert Caro. I'm at the other end of political spectrum, but it is so well written that i really enjoyed it.

Posts: 720 | Registered: May 2011
Member # 25341
Default  Posted: 10:32 AM, December 26th (Monday)

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City--A Diary

A blurb:
For eight weeks in 1945, as Berlin fell to the Russian army, a young woman kept a daily record of life in her apartment building and among its residents. "With bald honesty and brutal lyricism" (Elle), the anonymous author depicts her fellow Berliners in all their humanity, as well as their cravenness, corrupted first by hunger and then by the Russians. "Spare and unpredictable, minutely observed and utterly free of self-pity" (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland), A Woman in Berlin tells of the complex relationship between civilians and an occupying army and the shameful indignities to which women in a conquered city are always subject--the mass rape suffered by all, regardless of age or infirmity.

A Woman in Berlin stands as "one of the essential books for understanding war and life" (A. S. Byatt, author of Possession).

Me (BS), Him (WH): early 50's
3 DS: teens!!! :)
M: 25 (19 1/2 at Dday), Together 30
Dday: Dec 2008
Limbo-ish, again (after multiple S) -- weighing my options

Posts: 2651 | Registered: Aug 2009 | From: EU
Member # 7276
Default  Posted: 2:38 PM, December 27th (Tuesday)

Stalking this thread and making a list for my Nook.

Me: BS 48
Him: Doesn't matter any more.
The Royal Court, formerly known as the Princess Posse:
DD31 - Belle
DD23 - Xena
GD10 - Jasmine
GD8 - Ariel
GD Born 9/4/12 - Tink
GS Born 6/23/2014 - Little Prince

Posts: 14400 | Registered: Jun 2005 | From: Massachusetts
Member # 9344
Default  Posted: 11:40 AM, December 29th (Thursday)

Anything by Krakauer....he wrote a book on the FLDS that now escapes my mind.

Under the Banner of Heaven. Great read.

Just finished Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman.


She packed up her potential and all she had learned and headed out to change a few things.

Posts: 7605 | Registered: Jan 2006 | From: Poolside
Member # 33899
Default  Posted: 2:34 PM, December 31st (Saturday)

Steven Tyler: Does the noise in my head bother you? Unbelievable!!

Posts: 190 | Registered: Nov 2011 | From: FLORIDA
Member # 6687
Default  Posted: 6:29 PM, January 1st (Sunday)

Steven Tyler: Does the noise in my head bother you? Unbelievable!!

Thanks for recommending this! I'm reading it right now & knew from a few sentences in I would love it.

Posts: 3197 | Registered: Mar 2005
Member # 10798
Default  Posted: 10:36 PM, January 1st (Sunday)

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck is really good. I'm pretty sure it's by Martha Beck. I think she writes a column for Oprah's magazine.

Act as if what you do matters. It does. William James

Posts: 2140 | Registered: May 2006 | From: Midwest
Member # 21139
Default  Posted: 10:17 AM, January 5th (Thursday)

Smacked by Melinda Ferguson. Her struggles with drug addiction culminating in being gang raped. She has written a follow up book on the various ways in which she has survived and kept drug free. Both great books!

Posts: 637 | Registered: Oct 2008
Member # 28377
Default  Posted: 8:03 AM, January 7th (Saturday)

As I posted awhile back, biographies are my favorites. I ran across "Then, Again" by Diane Keaton. I love her as an actress - but I have to say- I don't think I'd like her IRL. I can't put my finger on why but I wish I had not read this book now. (After I got about 1/2 in, I started just skipping around thru the last half) Just would not recommend it - especially if you like her as an actress.

Sidenote: Do you believe she thinks she is ugly and always has? I think she is one of the classiest, neatest looking women of her age there is around. And she is and always has been preoccupied with not being beautiful???

Me - W - 48
Him - H - 47
Together since we were 14/15
Married 27 yrs in August (renewed our vows in 2011-H's idea!)
DD-23, DS-15
Separated for 7 mos & were 3 wks from divorce when we reconciled
Happily R for almost 4 years

Posts: 1451 | Registered: Apr 2010 | From: MO
Topic Posts: 41