Biography & Memoir Book Reviews

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Far less edifying than the Constitutional Convention but equally crucial, the colorful machinations of our first Congress receive a delightful account that will keep even educated readers turning the pages."
While the Constitution outlined the theory of our nation, the obstreperous first Congress converted it to reality. It was not a pretty picture, and popular historian Bordewich (America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union, 2012, etc.) delivers an entertaining description of how "it transmuted the Constitution from a paper charter and a set of hopeful aspirations into the machinery of a functioning government."Read full book review >
THE BATTLE FOR ROOM 314 by Ed Boland
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"An unflinchingly honest account of one man's experiences with inner-city education."
A nonprofit executive tells the story of the year he spent as a teacher in a struggling urban high school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Read full book review >

IN OTHER WORDS by Jhumpa Lahiri
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"An honest, self-deprecating, and very moving account of a writer searching for herself in words."
In a perfectly titled memoir, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist chronicles her efforts to learn and write Italian. Read full book review >
LIAR by Rob Roberge
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Roberge acknowledges his editor for helping 'find the book within the book,' but that book still has a cut-and-paste quality as it arbitrarily leaps back and forth across decades."
It would be hard to imagine a less reliable narrator for this disjointed memoir, but the shaky perspective adds to the emotional power and unflinching honesty. Read full book review >
THE SILK ROAD by Bill Porter
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Fans of Owen Lattimore, The Road to Oxiana, Aurel Stein, and other like-minded ventures and adventurers will find Porter's latest a pleasure and an inspiration."
In this latest installment in his decadeslong journey through China, Porter (South of the Clouds, 2015, etc.) wanders westward into the mountains, never quite courting danger, never quite avoiding it.Read full book review >

LOVE AND SCIENCE by Jan Vilcek
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Vilcek artfully joins the chronicle of his scientific work and the dramatic events that punctuated his life under two totalitarian regimes, culminating in his flight to freedom. An inspiring page-turner."
A memoir of the extraordinary life and circumstances that led the author to the groundbreaking discovery of Remicade, which successfully treats two previously untreatable autoimmune diseases, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Read full book review >
MY FATHER, THE PORNOGRAPHER by Chris Offutt
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Though his relationship with his father was distant, melancholic, and precarious, Offutt quite movingly weaves his personal history into a fascinating tapestry of a compulsive writer with a knack for the naughty."
A fond memoir of life with a prolific writer of science fiction and pornography. Read full book review >
NEMESIS by Misha Glenny
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Glenny does an admirable investigative job, delving deeply into the complicated causes and effects of Rio's drug trafficking."
A page-turning chronicle of the life and career of a favela don illustrates the larger challenges of a deeply impoverished, class-ridden Brazilian society.Read full book review >
WEST OF EDEN by Jean Stein
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Slips occasionally into hearsay and grievance but rivets readers with 'a kind of fascinated horror.'"
Through interviews with remnants of a long-gone Hollywood, a vivid sense of some of the great formative families emerges. Read full book review >
SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS by Dave Stewart
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Amid the glut of music veteran memoirs, this holds more interest than most, though Stewart admits that he isn't very reflective and he too rarely goes deeper than surface anecdote."
A rock star who realizes that he's a very lucky man shares how he made his own luck. Read full book review >
THE GIRL BEHIND THE DOOR by John Brooks
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Brooks explains Casey's disorder and available help in terms that will help anyone struggling with a difficult child. Teachers, analysts, and parents alike can find relief and hope in this book."
In his first book, Brooks shares his search for answers about his adopted daughter and the unknown childhood trauma that drove her to suicide at age 17. Read full book review >
THE PASSION OF MADEMOISELLE S. by Jean-Yves Berthault
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"A sad history of a woman consumed by passion and despair."
Steamy sex in 1920s Paris. Read full book review >
Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >