Friday, February 22, 2013

2012: A Year in Books (Memoir and Nonfiction Edition)

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
I received this book from my sweet Mickey's brother, Michael as part of a Christmas present.  It came with the absolute best inscription inside, which included  disparaging comments about Holden Caufield and praise for the story in the book about the Mermaid.

Fulghum can really spin an anecdote.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent curled up with this book.  And, Michael was totally right about Holden Caufield and the mermaid story.

 Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Oh my God this woman is a nut! In the good way and the possibly mentally ill way, all at the same time.  I do not know how I never knew about Ms. Lawson, or The Bloggess, as she's known to her gajillion followers.

In this book, Lawson (which I listened to, read by the author herself) details stories of growing up poor with a taxidermist father who woke Jenny and her sister up with puppet shows using extremely recently deceased animals.  She covers college and meeting her husband, Victor and their struggles to have a child.  She doesn't shy away from her faults or vices and she can tell a story.  It's all very conversational and despite the fact that I'm sure there was much editing between her first scribbles and publication, the whole book comes off very extemporaneously.  You feel like she's telling you her story right now.  According to her website, the trade paperback is printed up and ready to go. If you haven't read this yet, do.

 Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs
Burroughs is another man with a life that I can not imagine. Luckily, he's made that unnecessary with his many published accounts of his life.  He claims that his mother gave him to her therapist, who was more in need of treatment than qualified to give it.  He dropped out of school, but was turned out to be some kind of advertising genius.

While he's certainly not short on quirks, he's definitely smart and self-aware and someone who managed to grab a hold of life, despite his many issues and challenges.  This is the kind of guy who you wouldn't want to emulate, but you'd definitely like to sit down and chat with in front of the fire.

Role Models by John Waters
While I'm pretty sure that I would not choose any of  Mr. Waters' role models as my own, I have to say that I liked how he presented his case.  Leslie Van Houten of the Manson family, Little Richard, Johnny Mathis... the list goes on.  Waters spent some real time with each of his chosen subjects and his knowledge of them and the way they opened up to him is fascinating.  Whether or not you are a fan of Waters and his work, he has a very interesting take on the world around him and I, for one, enjoyed the time I got to spend in it, vicariously.
The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams
This isn't technically a memoir and much of it is fiction, but I'm not sure what category this would fit in.  I am a huge fan of Adams and his work.  He was a philanthropist, a humorist and an absolute genius, as far as I'm concerned.  This book is a collection of his papers and unpublished works that were left after his death.  His friends culled all of the papers and documents he left on his many electronic devices and pieced together this book honoring him.  It includes speeches he gave, as well as letters, articles and story pieces that he wrote. As far as I'm concerned, I would read this man's to do lists if they were available. This book felt like a lovely farewell to an incredibly gifted man.
 Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
I've read all of Martin's fiction and enjoyed it.  I knew he could write and his talents and interests have always been so varied and eclectic, that I figured this memoir would shed light on the mind responsible.  Here he outlines his beginnings, life with his family as a child, his first jobs and developing love for magic and humor.  It follows him through the awkward years of the 60s and 70s and the birth of stand up comedy as an actual career after the struggles of its early years.

Martin is smart and funny and he tells his story with warmth and intelligence.

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell
I loved this book.  In fact, all the way through, I thought I knew whose story McDonnell was telling, and by the time I flipped to the photograph of Jane at the end, I had the chills.

This is the story of Jane Goodall and her love of animals and her journey to become the noted scientist that she is.  Read it to your kids.  If you don't have kids, then just read it for yourself.

Next Post: Another selection of books read in 2012

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