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A thoughtfully engaging memoir of a life in books.

The editor of the New York Times Book Review writes about a book journal begun in adolescence that unexpectedly came to chronicle her own life story.

As a child, Paul (Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children, 2008, etc.) found her greatest solace in books. They were private spaces where she could safely indulge her most intimate obsessions with and curiosities about any topic. The author’s first effort at writing her own narratives ended with her feeling disgusted at the angst-ridden teen humiliations she routinely “vomit[ed]” into her diary. Her second, more successful effort consisted of a list that cataloged every book she had read, her “Book of Books,” or “BOB.” On this plain, gray book's unlined pages, Paul was able to “take charge of my own story and make it better” while maintaining both the objectivity and anonymity she prized. It was only much later that she realized Bob also granted access to “where I’ve been, psychologically and geographically,” at different periods in her life. The Norton Anthology of English Literature recalled her college years and how the university was “full of lessons about just how much I didn’t know.” A memory of how she had mistranslated another title, The Grapes of Wrath (“what had I said? The Plums of Fury”), for her French study-abroad host family reminded her of the escape Paris would come to represent after she started her professional life. Some books, like Thalia Zapatos’ A Journey of One’s Own, inspired Paul to take leaps of faith that led to several years of traveling around the world and temporary residence in Thailand. Others, like Lucy Grealy’s The Autobiography of a Face, helped her cope with major life crises. Intelligent, unique, and wise, Paul’s book not only remembers a life lived among and influenced by books. It also reveals how the most interesting stories exist less as words printed on pages and more as “stories that lie between book and reader.”

A thoughtfully engaging memoir of a life in books.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-631-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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