Memoirs by rock icons of the 1960s and ’70s are flying fast and furious these days. This is one of the best, lively and...

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BOYS IN THE TREES

A MEMOIR

Understated but revealing memoir by the long-absent but still much-played pop star.

The daughter of a Simon & Schuster co-founder of demanding disposition (“my nose wasn’t the only way I disappointed him”), Simon grew up both privileged and beset by all manner of neuroses, traumas, and challenges. Not least of them, she would discover, were anxiety attacks and near-debilitating stage fright, which, in a particularly memorable moment here, an audience in Pittsburgh helps her work her way through: “Anyone who knew what a serious bundle of nerves I was should never have allowed me to leave home, much less perform,” she writes, good-natured as always. Another was a severe stutter that her boyfriend, the writer Nicholas Delbanco, would find charming but that led to her career as a singer, since she could sing her way through a sentence (or, in college, an Italian poem) unimpeded. Simon is perhaps best known for her tumultuous marriage to fellow singer James Taylor, and her account of their time together is both rueful and unsparing of either of them. “From the beginning,” she writes, “James and I were linked together as strongly as we were not just because of love, and music, but because we were both troubled people trying our best to pass as normal.” The best parts of the book are when the author describes how her songs came into being, while the few tedious ones are moments when names are dropped right and left: McCartney, Kristofferson, Nicholson, Dylan, Jagger. But, after all, she’s allowed: Dylan did adapt a song for her, and Jagger did help her sing through the song that began its life as “Ballad of a Vain Man,” wherein hangs a wonderful tale of “Narcissus and Goldmund desiring ourselves in each other.”

Memoirs by rock icons of the 1960s and ’70s are flying fast and furious these days. This is one of the best, lively and memorable. Check the new album that accompanies the book, too.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-09589-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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BECOMING

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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