Memoir/Biography

Reading Carrie Fisher’s Last Memoir

There are certain characters that are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine our lives without them. Princess Leia is one such character for me.

To avoid this review becoming a diatribe of Leia’s significance in my life, I will simply say that there has been no character that has inspired, strengthened, and just plain wowed me as Princess Leia has.

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You’ll Want to Read This Book Before You See the Movie

I was scanning the nonfiction aisle at Barnes & Noble, always a sucker for the “dysfunctional family” memoirs, when THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls caught my eye. I picked it up and opened to the dedication page: To John, for convincing me that everyone who is interesting has a past. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a book reel me in by the dedication page, but this one did.

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Where the Wild Birds Are

The tiny country of Belize packs a lot into its 9,000 square miles—an area about the size of New Jersey. The Central American nation boasts stunning Mayan ruins, a vast network of caves, extensive undeveloped regions (more than 60 percent of the country is forested, and much of that area is protected), extraordinarily diverse wildlife and human culture, beautiful beaches, and the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Belize is also home to the scarlet macaw, considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the world.

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Break-Ups, Mess-Ups, and Come-Ups: Wise Words from a Woman Who Knows

There’s an unwritten rule (possibly one I made up myself) that if you’re in a reading rut, it’s best to turn to a book that you’re certain will deliver. I was introduced to the book that rescued me from my latest slump in the middle of a “Parks and Recreation” binge—during which I came to admire Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) aggressive optimism and unfettered ambition (two attributes I was seriously lacking). I picked up Amy Poehler’s bestselling memoir YES PLEASE—and I was not disappointed.

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A Doctor’s Final Reckoning With Death

Paul Kalanithi recounts the story of his own mortality with the precision of a surgeon and the poeticism of a gifted writer—because, of course, he was both.

But his uncanny ability to inhabit two seemingly disparate worlds does not end here; his narrative also straddles the divide between doctor and patient, caretaker and cared for, lackadaisical philosopher and man of reason. At the heart of this reckoning is the battle that consumes his days: “to pursue death: to grasp it, uncloak it, and see it eye-to-eye, unblinking.” WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR is the beautiful, heartbreaking exploration of this very inevitability that we all fear—but that few dare to look straight in the eye.

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A Startling Mosaic of a Life, a Country, a Continent

When we meet Bobo, who is Alexandra Fuller’s younger self in her memoir DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT, it is very late, or very early, and she is in the loo. Her older sister Van is there with her, holding a candle, on the lookout for spiders, snakes, and scorpions, while Bobo pees. Bobo is maybe five, and has woken her sister instead of her parents to accompany her, because waking her parents might mean being mistaken for a “terrorist” and getting shot.

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The Perfect Recipe for a Delicious Life

In 1988, I lived near the Verrazano Bridge, and whenever the temperature was above freezing I’d walk down to the Narrows and read on one of the benches that ran along the bike path. Laurie Colwin’s HOME COOKING quickly became (and remains) one of my favorite bench reads—no surprise, considering I have loved every one of her novels. Her gift for creating authentic characters extends even to herself. At the time, I was 22 years-old and the kitchen in my New York City studio apartment was barely 3 feet wide. It didn’t have an oven or cabinets, and the refrigerator was dorm-sized (with no freezer); but this didn’t stop me from loving my little oasis, and cooking every day.

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I Can Do Anything…Except That

I’ve always enjoyed adrenaline-boosting hobbies—aerial acrobatics, surfing, mountain biking—so as I neared my half-century mark, I thought, Should I thru-hike the Appalachian Trail?

I immersed myself in all things AT (as the trail is affectionately known) and came to the unwavering conclusion that no way in hell could I ever do such a thing.

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A Beautiful Girl, Her Mysterious Death

New York City is rich with fascinating stories. Some are heartbreaking, some funny, and some so mysterious and odd, you would assume they are fictional.

One such story is the tragic tale of Mary Rogers—a young woman whose body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1841. Her story seems to be straight out of a Gothic mystery…perhaps because it inspired one.

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An Introspective Memoir About Navigating Change

My father used to say his dream was to be a hermit in the woods. No cell phone, no emails, no text messages fluttering through the ether demanding his attention and response. Just a cabin and quiet. Howard Axelrod’s 2015 memoir, THE POINT OF VANISHING, captures my father’s idyllic dream.

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