A bio-memoir book recommendation: So They Call You Pisher?: A Memoir by Michael Rosen

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2DqtEHW.
From memories of his Shakespeare-quoting father, to forging his own path towards becoming a professional writer, this memoir is also a powerful love letter to literature.
Book description from Google Books:
The brilliant family memoir of the much-beloved poet and political campaigner In this hilarious, moving memoir, much-loved children’s poet and political campaigner Michael Rosen recalls the first twenty-three years of his life. He was born in the North London suburbs, and his parents, Harold and Connie, both teachers, first met as teenage Communists in the Jewish East End of the 1930s. The family home was filled with stories of relatives in London, the United States and France and of those who had disappeared in Europe. Different from other children, Rosen and his brother, Brian, grew up dreaming of a socialist revolution. Party meetings were held in the front room. Summers were for communist camping holidays. But it all changed after a trip to East Germany when, in 1957, his parents decided to leave ‘the Party’. From that point, Michael followed his own journey of radical self-discovery: running away to Aldermaston to march against the bomb; writing and performing in experimental political theatre at Oxford; getting arrested during the 1968 movements. The book ends with a letter to his father, and the revelation of a heartbreaking family secret.
The book is rated 3.40/5 at goodreads.com, from 5 ratings. See 1 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2D096VR.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: No Apparent Distress: A Doctor’s Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine by Rachel Pearson

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2CUzEYD.
Pearson’s vivid writing sometimes lulls you into the trance of a good story — character, voice, plot, conflict — but there’s always the sucker punch at the end to remind you of the gruesome endpoint of the American health care system…
Book description from Google Books:
A brutally frank memoir about doctors and patients in a health care system that puts the poor at risk. In medical charts, the term “N.A.D.” (No Apparent Distress) is used for patients who appear stable. The phrase also aptly describes America’s medical system when it comes to treating the underprivileged. Medical students learn on the bodies of the poor—and the poor suffer from their mistakes. Rachel Pearson confronted these harsh realities when she started medical school in Galveston, Texas. Pearson, herself from a working-class background, remains haunted by the suicide of a close friend, experiences firsthand the heartbreak of her own errors in a patient’s care, and witnesses the ruinous effects of a hurricane on a Texas town’s medical system. In a free clinic where the motto is “All Are Welcome Here,” she learns how to practice medicine with love and tenacity amidst the raging injustices of a system that favors the rich and the white. No Apparent Distress is at once an indictment of American health care and a deeply moving tale of one doctor’s coming-of-age.
The book is rated 4.13/5 at goodreads.com, from 317 ratings. See 70 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CWGT2l.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2CZlJAl.
Riot Days could so easily have been a straightforward, from-the-horse’s-mouth confessional account of one of the most publicised political protests of recent years. Alyokhina takes on a far greater challenge: creating a text that is not just a reflection on a piece of art, but becomes one itself…
Book description from Google Books:
A Pussy Rioter’s riveting, hallucinatory account of her years in Russia’s criminal system and of finding power in the most powerless of situationsIn February 2012, after smuggling an electric guitar into Moscow’s iconic central cathedral, Maria Alyokhina and other members of the radical collective Pussy Riot performed a provocative “Punk Prayer,” taking on the Orthodox church and its support for Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.For this, they were charged with “organized hooliganism” and were tried while confined in a cage and guarded by Rottweilers. That trial and Alyokhina’s subsequent imprisonment became an international cause. For Alyokhina, her two-year sentence launched a bitter struggle against the Russian prison system and an iron-willed refusal to be deprived of her humanity. Teeming with protests and police, witnesses and cellmates, informers and interrogators, Riot Days gives voice to Alyokhina’s insistence on the right to say no, whether to a prison guard or to the president. Ultimately, this insistence delivers unprecedented victories for prisoners’ rights.Evocative, wry, laser-sharp, and laconically funny, Alyokhina’s account is studded with song lyrics, legal transcripts, and excerpts from her jail diary—dispatches from a young woman who has faced tyranny and returned with the proof that against all odds even one person can force its retreat.
The book is rated 4.03/5 at goodreads.com, from 203 ratings. See 68 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2D0HHmt.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: Lights On, Rats Out: A Memoir by Cree LeFavour

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2CTgSAW.
This is a courageous and unsettling memoir, infused with humor as well as pain, and marked throughout by a survivor’s wry insight.
Book description from Google Books:
“Lights On, Rats Out is unlike anything I’ve ever read–a powerfully, staggeringly honest book that is excruciating in places, and also completely haunting. LeFavour’s intimate account of her relationship with her psychiatrist is intensely compelling, forthright, and brave. Did he overstep? Was he somehow pulled in by her beyond what was therapeutically appropriate or helpful? This is a fascinating memoir in a category of its own.”–Dani Shapiro As a young college graduate a year into treatment with a psychiatrist, Cree LeFavour began to organize her days around the cruel, compulsive logic of self-harm: with each newly lit cigarette, the world would drop away as her focus narrowed on the blooming release of pleasure-pain as the burning tip was applied to an unblemished patch of skin. Her body was a canvas of cruelty; each scar a mark of pride and shame. In sharp and shocking language,Lights On, Rats Out brings us closely into these years. We see the world as Cree did–turned upside down, the richness of life muted and dulled, its pleasures perverted. The heady thrill of meeting with her psychiatrist, Dr. Adam N. Kohl–whose relationship with Cree is at once sustaining and paralyzing–comes to be the only bright spot in her days. Lights On, Rats Out describes a fiercely smart and independent woman’s charged attachment to a mental health professional and the dangerous compulsion to keep him in her life at all costs.
The book is rated 3.43/5 at goodreads.com, from 79 ratings. See 18 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DmIuPG.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn by Margaret Willes

A critic review (source The Economist) can be read at: http://econ.st/2DrDjOK.
Margaret Willes’s new book shows more clearly and more engagingly than most previous works how this friendship developed, and offers a vivid and subtle depiction of her subjects’ sensibilities.
Book description from Google Books:
An intimate portrait of two pivotal Restoration figures during one of the most dramatic periods of English history Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn are two of the most celebrated English diarists. They were also extraordinary men and close friends. This first full portrait of that friendship transforms our understanding of their times. Pepys was earthy and shrewd, while Evelyn was a genteel aesthete, but both were drawn to intellectual pursuits. Brought together by their work to alleviate the plight of sailors caught up in the Dutch wars, they shared an inexhaustible curiosity for life and for the exotic. Willes explores their mutual interests–diary-keeping, science, travel, and a love of books–and their divergent enthusiasms, Pepys for theater and music, Evelyn for horticulture and garden design. Through the richly documented lives of two remarkable men, Willes revisits the history of London and of England in an age of regicide, revolution, fire, and plague to reveal it also as a time of enthralling possibility.
The book is rated 3.69/5 at goodreads.com, from 16 ratings. See 9 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CZraiT.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman

A critic review (source The Economist) can be read at: http://econ.st/2DpGkis.
Yet, revealing as the book is about Mr Gorbachev’s ability to overcome ideological dogmas that required squaring up to the West, it is equally revealing about how Western leaders were unable or unwilling to believe him.
Book description from Google Books:
The definitive biography of the transformational world leader by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Khrushchev. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the USSR was one of the world’s two superpowers. By 1989, his liberal policies of perestroika and glasnost had permanently transformed Soviet Communism, and had made enemies of radicals on the right and left. By 1990 he, more than anyone else, had ended the Cold War, and in 1991, after barely escaping from a coup attempt, he unintentionally presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union he had tried to save. In the first comprehensive biography of the final Soviet leader, William Taubman shows how a peasant boy became the Soviet system’s gravedigger, how he clambered to the top of a system designed to keep people like him down, how he found common ground with America’s arch-conservative president Ronald Reagan, and how he permitted the USSR and its East European empire to break apart without using force to preserve them. Throughout, Taubman portrays the many sides of Gorbachev’s unique character that, by Gorbachev’s own admission, make him “difficult to understand.” Was he in fact a truly great leader, or was he brought low in the end by his own shortcomings, as well as by the unyielding forces he faced? Drawing on interviews with Gorbachev himself, transcripts and documents from the Russian archives, and interviews with Kremlin aides and adversaries, as well as foreign leaders, Taubman’s intensely personal portrait extends to Gorbachev’s remarkable marriage to a woman he deeply loved, and to the family that they raised together. Nuanced and poignant, yet unsparing and honest, this sweeping account has all the amplitude of a great Russian novel.
The book is rated 4.23/5 at goodreads.com, from 137 ratings. See 34 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DmwQnX.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2DrMXkt.
…The Epic City is a wonderful, beautifully written and even more beautifully observed love letter to Calcutta’s greatness: to its high culture, its music and film, its festivals, its people, its cuisine, its urban rhythms and, above all, to its rooted Bengaliness.
Book description from amazon.com:
Shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the YearA masterful and entirely fresh portrait of great hopes and dashed dreams in a mythical city from a major new literary voice.Everything that could possibly be wrong with a city was wrong with Calcutta.When Kushanava Choudhury arrived in New Jersey at the age of twelve, he had already migrated halfway around the world four times. After graduating from Princeton, he moved back to the world which his immigrant parents had abandoned, to a city built between a river and a swamp, where the moisture-drenched air swarms with mosquitos after sundown. Once the capital of the British Raj, and then India’s industrial and cultural hub, by 2001 Calcutta was clearly past its prime. Why, his relatives beseeched him, had he returned? Surely, he could have moved to Delhi, Bombay or Bangalore, where a new Golden Age of consumption was being born. Yet fifteen million people still lived in Calcutta. Working for the Statesman, its leading English newspaper, Kushanava Choudhury found the streets of his childhood unchanged by time. Shouting hawkers still overran the footpaths, fish-sellers squatted on bazaar floors; politics still meant barricades and bus burnings, while Communist ministers travelled in motorcades. Sifting through the chaos for the stories that never make the papers, Kushanava Choudhury paints a soulful, compelling portrait of the everyday lives that make Calcutta. Written with humanity, wit and insight, The Epic City is an unforgettable depiction of an era, and a city which is a world unto itself.
The book is rated 3.99/5 at goodreads.com, from 70 ratings. See 17 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CUs2W0.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War by Deborah Campbell

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2CXqcUe.
This important book opens our eyes to the lives of the people who are trying to find peace in a world of chaos.
Book description from Google Books:
Winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionWinner of the Freedom to Read AwardWinner of the Hubert Evans PrizeIn the midst of an unfolding international crisis, renowned journalist Deborah Campbell finds herself swept up in the mysterious disappearance of Ahlam, her guide and friend. Campbell’s frank, personal account of a journey through fear and the triumph of friendship and courage is as riveting as it is illuminating.The story begins in 2007, when Deborah Campbell travels undercover to Damascus to report on the exodus of Iraqis into Syria, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. There she meets and hires Ahlam, a refugee working as a “fixer”—providing Western media with trustworthy information and contacts to help get the news out. Ahlam has fled her home in Iraq after being kidnapped while running a humanitarian center. She supports her husband and two children while working to set up a makeshift school for displaced girls. Strong and charismatic, she has become an unofficial leader of the refugee community.Campbell is inspired by Ahlam’s determination to create something good amid so much suffering, and the two women become close friends. But one morning, Ahlam is seized from her home in front of Campbell’s eyes. Haunted by the prospect that their work together has led to her friend’s arrest, Campbell spends the months that follow desperately trying to find Ahlam—all the while fearing she could be next.The compelling story of two women caught up in the shadowy politics behind today’s most searing conflict, A Disappearance in Damascus reminds us of the courage of those who risk their lives to bring us the world’s news.
The book is rated 4.26/5 at goodreads.com, from 217 ratings. See 38 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DrOaIo.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2CV2doF.
If Handy is not always ambitious or thorough, he puts extraordinary care into replicating and preserving those feelings. “Myself, I wouldn’t eat a Sendak,” he writes, “but I honor the gesture.”
Book description from Google Books:
An irresistible, nostalgic, insightful—and totally original—ramble through classic children’s literature from Vanity Fair contributing editor (and father) Bruce Handy. “Consistently intelligent and funny…The book succeeds wonderfully.” —The New York Times Book Review “A delightful excursion…Engaging and full of genuine feeling.” —The Wall Street Journal “Pure pleasure.” —Vanity Fair “Witty and engaging…Deeply satisfying.” —Christian Science MonitorIn 1690, the dour New England Primer, thought to be the first American children’s book, was published in Boston. Offering children gems of advice such as “Strive to learn” and “Be not a dunce,” it was no fun at all. So how did we get from there to “Let the wild rumpus start”? And now that we’re living in a golden age of children’s literature, what can adults get out of reading Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, or Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prairie? In Wild Things, Bruce Handy revisits the classics of American childhood, from fairy tales to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and explores the backstories of their creators, using context and biography to understand how some of the most insightful, creative, and witty authors and illustrators of their times created their often deeply personal masterpieces. Along the way, Handy learns what The Cat in the Hat says about anarchy and absentee parenting, which themes link The Runaway Bunny and Portnoy’s Complaint, and why Ramona Quimby is as true an American icon as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby. It’s a profound, eye-opening experience to reencounter books that you once treasured after decades apart. A clear-eyed love letter to the greatest children’s books and authors, from Louisa May Alcott and L. Frank Baum to Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mildred D. Taylor, and E.B. White, Wild Things will bring back fond memories for readers of all ages, along with a few surprises.
The book is rated 3.77/5 at goodreads.com, from 575 ratings. See 163 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DjPEnP.
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Google Books preview available in full post.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve by Lenora Chu

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2Ds5sFa.
Chu vividly sketches these differences in terms that will make readers ponder what they actually think about rote memorization and parents question their preferences for their own children.
Book description from Google Books:
New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice; Real Simple Best of the Month; Library Journal Editors’ PickIn the spirit of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Bringing up Bébé, and The Smartest Kids in the World, a hard-hitting exploration of China’s widely acclaimed yet insular education system—held up as a model of academic and behavioral excellence—that raises important questions for the future of American parenting and education.When students in Shanghai rose to the top of international rankings in 2009, Americans feared that they were being “out-educated” by the rising super power. An American journalist of Chinese descent raising a young family in Shanghai, Lenora Chu noticed how well-behaved Chinese children were compared to her boisterous toddler. How did the Chinese create their academic super-achievers? Would their little boy benefit from Chinese school? Chu and her husband decided to enroll three-year-old Rainer in China’s state-run public school system. The results were positive—her son quickly settled down, became fluent in Mandarin, and enjoyed his friends—but she also began to notice troubling new behaviors. Wondering what was happening behind closed classroom doors, she embarked on an exploratory journey, interviewing Chinese parents, teachers and education professors, and following students at all stages of their education. What she discovered is a military-like education system driven by high-stakes testing, with teachers posting rankings in public, using bribes to reward students who comply, and shaming to isolate those who do not. At the same time, she uncovered a years-long desire by government to alleviate its students’ crushing academic burden and make education friendlier for all. The more she learns, the more she wonders: Are Chinese children—and her son—paying too high a price for their obedience and the promise of future academic prowess? Is there a way to appropriate the excellence of the system but dispense with the bad? What, if anything, could Westerners learn from China’s education journey? Chu’s eye-opening investigation challenges our assumptions and asks us to consider the true value and purpose of education.
The book is rated 4.15/5 at goodreads.com, from 352 ratings. See 73 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CZPFfO.
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