Incoming! The Memoirs Edition

Incoming! is a regular feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles some of the recent new book arrivals at the Ms. Bookish household.

Initially I had planned these posts to focus on one book at a time, but have just realized that writing up individual posts for each book was just too overwhelming – in some cases, by the time I got to the Incoming! post for a book I’d either already read it, or had to return it to the library (in the case of library books)!

So I’ve decided to group books related in some sort of way together for each of my Incoming! posts. Today, I bring you: memoirs!

Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy, by G. G. Husak

Passeggiata: Strolling Through ItalySynopsis (from the back cover):

Ms. Husak’s memoir of travels to Italy with her husband will appeal to those who love travel in general and Italy in particular. Their journeys are both personal and universal. From their first shared trip to Italy in 1993, which marked the first of their empty nest years, their annual passeggiata reflects the shift in their lives through the next decade.

On their spring pilgrimages to major tourist centers, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples, they develop appreciation for Italy’s art, music and architecture. Wandering together along out of the way paths in tiny hill towns and seacoast villages, they explore breathtaking scenery. By traveling light and learning the vagaries of Italian life, they have become Italian in spirit. The book provides many practical hints on how to travel like the locals, reminding us that even novice travelers can learn valuable lessons from immersion in another way of life, and that one’s companion can be an essential part of the pleasure of a journey.

First line(s): We left Houston on a sunny spring day in March. Al had been working long hours, which was nothing new, and I was ready for a break from teaching. Although pulled between the excitement of visiting one daughter and the worry of leaving our younger one behind, we were energized by the anticipation of our Italian adventure.

Where I got this book: Sent to me by the author.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 355

Ms. Bookish says: Travel memoirs are among my favorite types of memoirs. In Passeggiata, I’m looking forward to exploring more of Italy; I’m hoping there will be a lot of talk about food, too!


Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography, by P. D. James

Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of AutobiographySynopsis (from the back cover):

Taking to heart Samuel Johnson’s advice that at age seventy-seven it is “time to be in earnest,” the much-loved and internationally acclaimed author of mysteries undertook a book unlike anything she had written before. Beginning on her 77th birthday in August 1997 and ending in August 1998, P.D. James engaged the daily events and reflections of the present as a springboard into her extraordinary, sometimes painful and sometimes joyful, past.

Here are vivid accounts of school days in 1920s and 1930s Cambridge, of the war, of the tragedy of her husband’s mental illness, and of her determined struggle to support a family alone. Along the way, with insight and warmth, she offers views on everything from author tours to the problems of television adaptations, from book reviewing to her obsession with Jane Austen.

First line(s): I am writing this sitting in an almost empty first-class compartment of the 3:32 train from Newton Abbot to Paddington, and staring out at the red Devon Countryside, now blurred and seeming to dissolve in rain; even the eagerly awaited stretch of coast at Dawlish and Teignmouth failed in its usual magic.

Where I got this book: Library

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 259 pages

Ms. Bookish says: Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that P.D. James is one of my favorite mystery authors. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with this one!


Don’t Call Me a Crook!: A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky and Crime, by Bob Moore

rook!: A Scotsman's Tale of World Travel, Whisky and CrimeSynopsis (from the back cover):

In your hands is a lost literary treasure and a tribute to one man’s triumph over the police, morals, and sobriety.

The 1920s didn’t roar for this Glaswegian: They exploded. Sailing around the world seven times as a marine engineer (among other, less honorable vocations), Bob Moore was in the thick of high-society orgies, ship disasters, and pitched battles with bandits on the Yangtze. Cheeky, charming and larcenous, Moore “swiped” (but not stole) whatever he wanted, drank like a fish, and always kept one step ahead of the law, Prohibition, and the women he conned. Clearly, he loved life.

Originally published three-quarters of a century ago, Don’t Call Me a Crook! is an overlooked gem. Just a few seem to have known of it. What became of its author after its release is uncertain. Don’t Call Me a Crook! is a lost confession of a youth lawlessly lived that will be crowned a classic.

First line(s): It is a pity there are getting to be so many places that I can never go back to, but all the same, I do not think it is much fun a man being respectable all his life.

Where I got this book: Sent to me by the publisher.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 255 pages

Ms. Bookish says: Moore sounds like quite the conman charmer, doesn’t he? This will be an interesting read, I think.


French Milk, by Lucy Knisley

French MilkSynopsis (from the back cover):

Through delightful drawings, photographs, and musings, twenty-three-year-old Lucy Knisley documents a six-week trip she and her mother took to Paris when each was facing a milestone birthday. With a quirky flat in the fifth arrondissement as their home base, they set out to explore all the city has to offer, watching fireworks over the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve, visiting Oscar Wilde’s grave, loafing at cafés, and, of course, drinking delicious French milk. What results is not only a sweet and savory journey through the City of Light but a moving, personal look at a mother-daughter relationship.

First line(s): During January of 2007, my mother and I lived in a small rental apartment in Paris to celebrate my mother’s turning fifty (and my turning twenty-two). The following is the Drawn journal that I kept in the course of the trip.

Where I got this book: Library

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 193 pages

Ms. Bookish says: A travel memoir, in graphic novel format! I discovered this gem recently on another blog (I can’t remember whose – I really must start keeping track) and knew I just had to read it. I was in luck – my library had a copy, so I put in a request for it right there on the spot. Now that I have it in my hands, I have a feeling I might want to buy myself a copy, too. For those of you in the States who are interested in this book, it looks like Amazon has it on right now as a bargain book!


Confessions of a Bad Mother, by Stephanie Calman

Confessions of a Bad MotherSynopsis (from the back cover):

Read Confessions of a Bad Mother … You have nothing to lose but your guilt. Are you a super-duper, totally fulfilled mother 24 hours a day? Do you give your children home-made risotto, help them with their homework, read them a fairy tale and sing them to sleep? Or do you give them chicken nuggets in front of the telly, herd them into bed and slump down exhausted with a drink?

Do you feel that other mothers are Doing It Properly while you’re getting it All Wrong? Do you wish there could just, please, be a little less pressure? If you try your best but frequently feel a failure, if you – or your children – are in any way imperfect, then join the club: the Bad Mothers Club. Stephanie Calman has broken every rule and done it All Wrong. From giving birth with her pants on to making her kids watch more telly, she has persistently defied all accepted wisdom and professional advice. Outrageous, funny, and hideously true, Confessions of a Bad Mother is her story. Read it, and know – at least – that you are Normal.

First line(s): I wasn’t going to have children. I was too frightened to have them, and I was sure I was physically and emotionally incapable of looking after them. Following the terrifying assault of birth, it would be one long, ever-repeating loop between the A&E department and the washing machine. And anyway, I wasn’t the Maternal Type.

Where I got this book: Bought this one at Costco.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 306 pages

Ms. Bookish says: I ask you, how could I resist?? Obviously, I couldn’t. And in case anyone is wondering, Costco also sneakily had a copy of Confessions of a Failed Grown-Up, the sequel, right next to the copies of Confessions of a Bad Mother, and yes, I picked that one up, too.

21 thoughts on “Incoming! The Memoirs Edition

  1. Margot

    I am envious of your new arrivals. I love memoirs too and I’d love to read Passeggiata. You know I love to travel and I also love that new word. I’m interested in the P.D. James memoir as well. I have put a hold on French Silk at my daughter’s library. It will be my first graphic novel. Enjoy all your great finds.
    .-= Margot´s last blog ..Wondrous Words #35 =-.

  2. Robyn Campbell

    I have never read too many memoirs. And it isn’t because I don’t like them .I’ve just never really known which would be for me. I’m going to buy Confessions of a Bad Mother for sure. Thanks Belle. :)

    Great reviews. Anymore books come in don’t forget to let us know. I’m always ready for a great read.
    .-= Robyn Campbell´s last blog ..Will you be the same? =-.

  3. molly

    WOW — well, let me first say that I absolutely loved French Milk and I am sure you will too.

    The travel memoir about Italy sounds absolutely perfect. My husband and I are two years away from the empty nest (but who’s counting) and I am hoping that finances are such that we can take an overseas trip at least every other year. Italy is at the TOP of the list!

    Finally, as much as I love mysteries, I am ashamed to say that I have yet to read P. D. James. If she is one of your favorites, then I simply must check her out. Do you have a favorite that you would recommend I read first?
    .-= molly´s last blog ..Audiobook Recommendations…..? =-.

    1. Belle

      I think I might have discovered French Milk through you, Molly!

      I think you can read P.D. James out of order, because it’s really the mystery in each book that stands out – the personal stories of the continuing characters are like the gravy, in a way. While her earlier Dalgliesh mysteries are good, I like her later ones a lot – they are a lot thicker and to my mind, more complex than the earlier books in the series. Here’s a list of her works, so you can see the earlier ones as well as the later ones:

      We are sort of going to have an empty nest in two years (my older two will both be in university then). There’s still the little one, but since we’re homeschooling him, there’s a lot more flexibility built in!

  4. Celia

    I’ve been hearing good things about French Milk…I’ll have to get to that. Have you read/heard of Stephanie Snowe’s Meeting Mr. Wrong? That’s a candidate for amazing memoir. It’s also humor, so you’ve been warned. :) Happy reading!
    .-= Celia´s last blog to steal a car =-.

    1. Belle

      Meeting Mr. Wrong looks hilarious! My library doesn’t have it – I’ve added it to my list and will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the recommendation – I really like humorous memoirs!

    1. Belle

      I’m glad Confessions of a Bad Mother was hilarious – it definitely looks like a fun read. I’m looking forward to dipping into it. The sequel looks just as funny!

  5. Trish

    I’m pretty obsessed with memoirs–like maybe 15-20% of my reads this year? There’s just something about reading about someone else’s life and knowing it’s true. Unless your James Frey and waste a few days of my life. :) I haven’t read any of the ones you’ve mentioned here, but I’ve been hearing good things about French Milk. Enjoy!!
    .-= Trish´s last blog ..The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón =-.

  6. Single Mom Seeking

    I love memoirs, too! They account for about 75 percent of my reading….

    “French Milk” sounds amazing, I agree. I’m curious to know if she delves into any mother-daughter conflict. (Just curious…). GREAT post. Thanks.
    .-= Single Mom Seeking´s last blog ..A lurking ex? =-.

  7. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    ‘French Milk’ was a lovely memoir. I felt like it didn’t really say as much as it could have, but I enjoyed it anyway. I loved the drawings and journal format though — I’ve always wanted to keep a diary like that, but I can’t draw… so that’d be hard :)


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