A pleasure for fans and encouragement for novices to tune in.




A memoir of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll that’s long on wry humor and short on—well, sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.

North Carolina–raised Folds describes himself, with a kind of literary crooked smile, as the sort of person who’s likely to be seen pacing around in his boxer shorts in his front yard, coffee cup in hand, working out the lyrics or melody to one of his songs. A master of the short story in song—see “Army” on the 1999 album The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner—Folds writes of growing up obsessed by music and bursting with creativity, which landed him in a psychologist’s office in a blue-collar South in which “ ‘artsy’ things would normally have been written off as being ‘for queers.’ ” A fierce advocate and ally was his mother, who, with his father, indulged him “as I terrorized the household with painfully long sessions of repeated phrases at the piano or snare drum.” Clearly gifted, he enrolled in an alternative high school with patient music teachers. Later in the book, the author encourages his fellow musicians to take up the cause of music teachers “unless you really believe you learned nothing from them,” in which case, he gamely ventures, they should take up the cause of reforming anti-marijuana laws. There are nice notes throughout the text, including an early pledge to himself not to perform anyone’s songs but his own and the excitement of releasing his first album, which, he writes, might not be a masterpiece but still found his band, Ben Folds Five, giving their all: "From then on we would only do exactly what felt right.” What felt right led him to a kind of cult-classic status, to say nothing of friendships with the likes of Neil Gaiman and William Shatner, the latter of whom provides some entertaining anecdotes. Ultimately, Folds delivers an amiable and low-key memoir without the tawdry pyrotechnics of most rock biographies.

A pleasure for fans and encouragement for novices to tune in.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984817-27-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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