Tag Archives: autobiographies

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.

Rereading: I, Asimov: A Memoir, by Isaac Asimov

I, AsimovYesterday, after reading this review of The God Themselves by Isaac Asimov at Rhapsodyinbooks, I succumbed to a very insistent urge to dig out my copy of I, Asimov, Isaac Asimov’s memoir.

I didn’t actually have to dig it out. I have a bookshelf devoted to favorite authors’ autobiographies. So it was really easy to give in to the urge.

I read a lot of Asimov when I was growing up. I enjoyed his science fiction, but I’ve always been nuts for mysteries, so one of my favorite books was Murder at the ABA; I have always loved witty little footnotes in novels ever since. If you’ve never read Murder at the ABA, and you enjoy mysteries as well as humor, I highly recommend you check your library for a copy. (And now I’m feeling an insistent urge to dig out my copy of Murder at the ABA …)

Asimov influenced me greatly when I was young. He was my favorite science fiction writer. I was an avid short story reader back then, and whenever I had any money on me, I would be off to the store to grab copies of Analog and The Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy (and, of course, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine). I wrote scores of short stories during this period in my life, and at least half of them were science fiction.

It’s funny, but these days I very rarely read science fiction.

Anyway, I am now rereading I, Asimov, and enjoying once again the glimpses into this great author’s life.

From the introduction:

In 1977, I wrote my autobiography. Since I was dealing with my favorite subject, I wrote at length and I ended with 640,000 words. Since Doubleday is always overwhelmingly kind to me, they published it all – but in two volumes. The first was In Memory Yet Green (1979), the second In Joy Still Felt (1980). Together, they described the first fifty-seven years of my life in considerable detail.

It had been a quiet life and there was no great excitement in it, so even though I made up for that by what I considered a charming literary style (I never bother with false modesty, as you will quickly discover), the publication was not a world-shaking event. However, some thousands of people found pleasure in reading it, and I am periodically asked if I will continue the tale.

My answer always is: “I have to live it first”

So what I intend to do is describe my whole life as a way of presenting my thoughts and make it an independent autobiography standing on its own feet. I won’t go into the kind of detail I went into in the first two volumes. What I intend to do is to break the book into numerous sections, each dealing with some different phase of my life or some different person who affected me, and follow it as far as necessary – to the very present, if need be.

I trust and hope that, in this way, you will get to know me really well, and who knows, you may even get to like me. I would like that.

And yes, I did like him, the first time I read I, Asimov. Of course, I already knew I would.

Incoming! Audition, by Barbara Walters

Incoming! is a feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles new books that have arrived in the Ms. Bookish household. Here’s the latest new arrival:

Audition, by Barbara Walters

AuditionAbout the Book:

Barbara Walters, arguably the most important woman in the history of television, has had an amazingly full life. In the bestselling Audition, she describes her extraordinary public and private journey.

Initial thoughts:

I picked this up at Costco – I confess, I make the bulk of my impulse book purchases at Costco. We go weekly (we live in the suburbs, and shopping is just about the only form of entertainment around here – it’s a good thing I’m bookish), and the book tables are always so enticing.

I have this thing about memoirs and autobiographies – I love reading them, but it often takes me a while to get through one. I’ve learned that it’s better for me to just get my own copy rather than borrow it from the library. I’m not exactly stellar about remembering due dates and when I should be renewing, so to be honest, I end up racking up nearly enough late fees to have purchased a book in the first place!

This is a memoir I’ve had on my TBR list for a while now. Barbara Walters is an intriguing woman, and I know I will enjoy this book. Glancing through the chapter titles only serves to confirm this: “A very normal girl”, “Don’t let the bastards get your down”, “Heads of State: The Good, the Bad, and the Mad” – they make me want to pop straight into various chapters.

Related Links and other Fun Stuff

Here’s Barbara Walters talking about Audition:

Where to buy Audition:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review: Up Till Now, by William Shatner

Up Till NowUsually when I finish reading a memoir or an autobiography, I come away with a sense of connection of sorts with the author, a feeling that I’ve shared in some of the personal details of his or her life. This wasn’t quite the feeling I got with Up Till Now, William Shatner’s autobiography; however, the book is uproariously funny and highly entertaining, with occasional flashes of something deeper.

In Up Till Now, Shatner covers all of his acting career, from his start in theatre in Montreal to his most current role on Boston Legal. Shatner’s in his 70s now, so it’s been a very long career, and for many years, even with all the television parts he was getting, it was very much about working to pay the next lot of bills. Despite this, though, it’s clear that Shatner has enjoyed his career thoroughly.

He adroitly handles various criticisms that have been aimed at him by gently poking fun at himself. For example, on his well-known tendency to pause when he’s saying his lines:

Part of the reason I was becoming better known was what people perceived to be an unusual. Speech. Pattern. Apparently I was becoming known for. Pausing, between words, in. Unusual places. People have commented that it calls attention to the. Words, I’m saying. It provides a different kind of emphasis on a line. I have no idea where that. Came from. Possibly it came from the fact I was working so often in so many different types of plays and television program and movies that at times I did need to hesitate to remember my next words. Possibly, that’s just an assumption, but the reality is that I don’t even hear it. I can mock the idea. I understand people hear me speaking. That way. They’ve even put a name to it, calling it Shatnerian. As in, ah yes, the character spoke with true Shatnerian eloquence.

Shatner only touches on certain things that might have provided more of an insight into who he is. For example, he mentions that many of the Star Trek cast members disliked him, but he really doesn’t seem to know why. About his previous marriages, he admits that he didn’t know how to be married, but he doesn’t explore his relationships much beyond this.

For much of his career, Shatner did not consider himself to be a star, although everyone was always promising to make him a star. It’s apparent that his rise to stardom, through his role of Kirk on Star Trek, came as a complete surprise to him; it wasn’t until he accepted the first invitation to a Star Trek convention that he realized what an impact the series had had on people. To him, Kirk had been just a role, and he was a seasoned television actor who had played many, many roles.

It was impossible to truly grasp what was happening, because nothing like it had ever happened before. A failed television show was becoming a cultural phenomenon. While we were making the series I had often been recognized, but suddenly it started happening all the time and in strange places. People would come up to me in airports and recite ten pages of dialogue word-for-word from a specific episode they loved – and I would have absolutely no concept of what they were doing.

One thing I really took away from the book was the rigor involved in the filming of a television series; despite Shatner’s often very humorous look at his television career, it’s clear that being on a television show isn’t all glamour and roses. It’s hard work – and hard work and a disciplined work ethic is one thing Shatner definitely seems to have.

Stylistically, I could have done without the first chapter of false starts. I didn’t like muddling through any of that, but once all the fun was wrung out of that, the real fun began in earnest. I also didn’t really enjoy the little cliffhangers that occurred, when Shatner would discuss a particular anecdote and then break off right in the middle to go off on a very deliberate tangent. The “commercial breaks”, on the other hand, were quite funny; I couldn’t help but laugh at the plugs for his online store, for example. And the various sections where he pauses to list all the types of Star Trek memorabilia one can buy had me grinning.

He admits near the beginning of the book that he loves to make things up; this colored my perception of the rest of the book somewhat. I was never too sure when he was pulling the reader’s leg …

Mostly, though, there is an exuberance to the writing that made this a very fun book to read. What I came away with most of all was an overall view of Shatner the entertainer. It’s not that there’s no ego involved; in fact, there’s quite a bit of ego involved! But he is, after all, in show business. And while Up Till Now doesn’t illuminate the soul of the man for readers, neither do I think that to be its intention. Up Till Now sets out to entertain us, and it does its job very, very well. I laughed out loud frequently while reading the book, and I was still smiling when I closed the book. Deep and complex? Not at all. But definitely a very fun read.

Related Links and Fun Stuff

Shatner talks about his performance of “Rocket Man” on the Science-Fiction Movie Awards in 1978:

For two decades stories about this performance have been passed down from father to son and rare bootleg copies of the video were passed around. Men boasted of owning a first-generation copy and invited women home to see it. Parodies of my performance have been done on several shows, including Family Guy and Futurama. But now several dozen versions of it can routinely be accessed on the Internet, particularly on YouTube – and with more than a million people a year still mystified by it. And about that, I am not kidding.

Really, how could I resist? I’m not much of a pop culture kind of person, so I for one hadn’t heard about “the best-known performance of the song “Rocket Man” ever done”. Here it is:

Where to buy Up Till Now:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Thomas Dunne Books, 2008, hardcover, 342 pages