The Longest Road by Philip Caputo (2013)

Caputo, his wife, and his two hunting dogs travel from the southernmost to the northernmost point of the U.S. trying to answer the question: what is the glue that holds Americans together? We are such a diverse people spread out over such a diverse landscape from sea to shining sea.

Historical trivia, local color, and a few laughs follow Philip Caputo on his long trip. It's all in the journey, not the destination. Also, it is a very personal journey. Each one of us could write a very different memoir about the same trip. I anxiously await my opportunity.

The Longest Road is the 2014 Big Read selection. Find discussions, programs, and author visit information here, he’ll be at Ashton Place on May 1.

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer (2011)

In Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer recounts his experiences preparing for the U.S. Memory Championship. He includes extensive information on the brain as well as his personal anecdotes and personalities encountered along the way. With Kevin Trudeau behind bars, we may be looking to Foer for tips on how to develop a superior memory.
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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013)

Daniel James Brown captures the essence not only of this story but also of the sport of crew—the physical strength of the rowers, the strategy of the coxswain, the design of the boat. The author’s eye for detail is reminiscent of the writing of Laura Hillenbrand.
The Boys in the Boat focuses on the life of Joe Rantz, who, like his teammates, grows up during the Depression and struggles just to survive. These eight young, powerful rowers guided by a brilliant coxswain rose from humble beginning to win the gold at the 1936 Olympics. You will be cheering them on all the way to the finish.

Spotlight: American Musicals

Do you love the American musical? If so, then don’t miss the series of books on Broadway musicals by Ethan Mordden. The first book of the series, Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s (1997) tells about all the composers, directors, and stars of the era. The series continues with a book for every decade up through the 1970s and ending with The Happiest Corpse I’ve Ever Seen: The Last 25 Years of the Broadway Musical (2004).

Here’s the books in between:

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (2000)

Me Talk Pretty One Day is a series of funny essays by David Sedaris. In the first half of the book, he recounts humorous anecdotes about his life in the United States, but my favorite is an essay about his time living in France and trying to learn French with transplants from around the world. The class eagerly attempts, in very broken French, to try to describe to a Muslim woman what Easter is. It is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and misunderstood) Pet by Kevin Foster (2012)

The book is a collection of stories about pit bulls and how they are misunderstood. I loved Kevin Foster’s I’m a Good Dog because it gave so many examples of how, if given the right/correct way to rehabilitate any dog, they can give back to their owner’s community.

The Four Agreements: a practical guide to personal freedom by Miguel Ruiz (1997)

A quick read from the self-help section with four very simple guidelines for life. Use it to simplify your life and foster a strong sense of well-being. Check out The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz today.
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Seriously, I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres (2011)

The audio version of Seriously, I’m kidding is hilarious due to the fact that it is narrated by Ellen DeGeneres.  Her comedic timing coupled with her funny stories make this audiobook of her reflections on life “laugh out loud.”

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain (2012)

This book might be interesting for those who are interested in psychology issues. Quiet discusses introverts and extroverts, plus how introverts can be “pretend” extroverts.  Susan Cain includes a lot of interesting stories including how extroverts crashed the financial market.

We think there’s a lot in this book to discuss. That’s why the GenLit Book Group for 20-30somethings will be talking about the book at their meeting on August 19, 2013 at 6:30pm at Taste of India.
 
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No Easy Day by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer (2012)

No Easy Day is a firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden from the point of view of the Navy SEALs who were there. The story begins as the team is about to fast rope down into the Bin Laden compound when the helicopter starts to spin out of control headed for an inevitable crash. Mark Owen then backtracks and describes his entire training from testing to qualify as a Navy SEAL through missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The story will capture your attention throughout, but especially at the climax as the author retraces every step of the raid that ultimately killed the most notorious terrorist of our time.
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Paris in Love by Eloisa James (2012)

Eloisa James wrote this memoir based on her blog and Twitter posts during a sabbatical in Paris. The entries are filled with wit, wisdom, and insights into motherhood and life in general. Tidbits on daily life in Paris abound. The patient reader is rewarded with a sense of character development in each of her family members over the year. The author even throws in a few recipes, reminiscent of Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, but it is a very different type of memoir.

After the last tear has been shed, the last laugh chuckled, and the family is safe and sound stateside, James adds "My Very Idiosyncratic Guide to a Few Places in Paris" for all of us who dream of visiting Paris someday. She recommends museums, galleries, boutiques, salons, eateries, chocolate shops, and the like that she frequented during her stay in the acclaimed city. Many include websites, just in case we can't wait for our next trip abroad.

Paris in Love is my first taste of the author's work and seems to be atypical. I may have to read one of Eloisa James's (also known as Mary Bly) essays on Shakespeare or romance novels to complete the picture.

Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton (2012)

Kati Marton is an award-winning author, a successful news correspondent, and a woman with a past worth writing about.  In her memoir Paris: A Love Story, Paris symbolizes an environment of love, adventure, and finally of healing.

Married twice to men, prominent on the world stage, Kati writes candidly of her glamorous life, magically without offending anyone.  Now a widow, she looks over shoulder to a life, filled with passion, service, and possibly integrity.

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (2001)

In this memoir, Haven Kimmel recounts her small town Indiana childhood where her father took a gun to his factory job every day, and her mother read science fiction novels in her corner of the couch. A delightful, humorous read.

Check out A Girl Named Zippy and these discussion questions.

Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson (2012)

Bill Veeck was at different times the owner of the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns, and the Chicago White Sox (twice). Many people remember Bill Veeck as the baseball owner who brought Eddie Gaedel, a 3’7” tall man in as a pinch hitter in a baseball game between the St. Louis Browns and the Detroit Tigers in 1951, or as the White Sox owner responsible for Disco Demolition Night. Still others may remember him for the funny and outrageous but harmless promotions he conducted as owner of the Indians, Browns, and White Sox.

But he was much more than that.  He was a great humanitarian, an advocate of civil rights, a baseball fan's owner who cared about the fans, a player's owner who cared about his players, an employer who cared about his employees, an innovator who introduced many changes in the game, a patriot, a thinker, a listener, an avaricious reader and man who despite a severe physical handicap would never quit.

This is easily the best biography I have read in the last twenty years and maybe the best ever.  This book is especially for White Sox, Indians, and Browns fans. It's for Cub fans too, as Veeck and his father had a profound influence on the Cubs as well (the ivy on the walls, Harry Caray and the singing of  "Take out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch and others.)  But it is also for any baseball fan and for anyone who appreciates the story of man who lived a truly remarkable life. Read Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson.

It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell (2012)

This collection of hundreds of anecdotes illustrates the rules and values which helped Colin Powell rise to the highest ranks of military leadership. Not merely a primer on what it means to be a good leader, It Worked for Me, is an intimate walk through the life of a military man who also helped shape a great deal of foreign policy in recent history.

With reminiscences of encounters from Reagan to Princess Diana to foreign heads of state, the book delivers a treasure trove of interesting and unique experiences which are sure to whet the palate of any political reader.