A bio-memoir book recommendation: Major/Minor by Alba Arikha

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iFsoGX.
Arikha intertwines her story with the story she draws from her father. She tells both carefully, pacing out the lines so that at times they look and sound like poetry. It’s not, though, nor is it meant to be.
Book description from Google Books:
Alba Arikha’s father was the artist, Avigdor Arikha; her mother the poet, Anne Atik; her godfather, Samuel Beckett. Their apartment/studio, where Alba and her sister grew up, was a hub of literary and artistic achievement, which still reverberates today. Alba’s tale is played out against the family memories of war and exile and the ever present echoes of the European holocaust. Alba Arikha has previously published a novel, Muse, and a collection of short stories, Walking on Ice, under the name Alba Branca.
The book is rated 3.47/5 at goodreads.com, from 17 ratings. See 1 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iCuTtT.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iFszC7.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h64vIk.
Bass unearths the heretofore undocumented story of Caliph Washington and his trek through the depths of Jim Crow justice. The complex lives that populate his jailhouse journey from segregation through civil rights braid the movement’s gains and limitations into a red thread tracing the current crisis of race and criminal justice.
Book description from Google Books:
Caliph Washington didn’t pull the trigger but, as Officer James “Cowboy” Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the “lightning” of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass’s account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington’s saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables–most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate’s life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington’s execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.Other details make Washington’s story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass’s account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington’s native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.By rescuing Washington’s unknown life trajectory–along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington’s bride upon his release–Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.
The book is rated 3.87/5 at goodreads.com, from 52 ratings. See 21 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h9dWqh.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2ixeF53.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family by Bruce D. Haynes

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2j1jvrl.
In this thoughtfully conceived and crafted memoir, the authors offer evocative, relentlessly honest portrayals without judgment. In doing so, they encourage the reader to ponder the variables in her own life, the tides and forces that help or hinder her pursuit of the sweet life.
Book description from Google Books:
Down the Up Staircase traces the social history of Harlem through the lens of one family across three generations, connecting their journey to the larger historical and social forces that shaped and transformed Harlem. Sociologist Bruce D. Haynes and coauthor Syma Solovitch capture the sweeping tides of change that pushed blacks forward through the twentieth century—the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the early civil rights victories, the Black Power and Black Arts movements—and the many social forces that ravaged black communities, including Haynes’s own. As an authority on race and urban communities, Haynes brings unique sociological insights to the American mobility saga and examines the tenuous nature of status and success among the black middle class. In many ways, Haynes’s family defied the odds. All four great-grandparents on his father’s side owned land in the South as early as 1880. His grandfather, George Edmund Haynes, was the founder of the National Urban League and a protégé of the eminent black sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois; his grandmother, a noted children’s author of the Harlem Renaissance and a prominent social scientist. Yet these early advances and gains provided little anchor to the succeeding generations. This story is told against the backdrop of a crumbling three-story brownstone in Sugar Hill that once hosted Harlem Renaissance elites and later became an embodiment of the family’s rise and demise. Down the Up Staircase is a stirring portrait of this family, each generation walking a tightrope, one misstep from free fall.
The book is rated 4.08/5 at goodreads.com, from 24 ratings. See 4 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zOLToR.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2zNIqqt.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: Island Home: A landscape memoir by Tim Winton

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h7iWfp.
Island Home is a delight to read and a reminder that Australia and the UK are separated by distance and seasons – not to mention our common language…
Book description from Google Books:
“‘I grew up on the world’s largest island.’ This apparently simple fact is the starting point for Tim Winton’s beautiful, evocative, and sometimes provocative, memoir of how this unique landscape has shaped him and his writing. For over thirty years, Winton has written novels in which the natural world is as much a living presence as any character. What is true of his work is also true of his life: from boyhood, his relationship with the world around him – rockpools, seacaves, scrub and swamp – was as vital as any other connection. Camping in hidden inlets of the south-east, walking in the high rocky desert fringe, diving at Ningaloo Reef, bobbing in the sea between sets, Winton has felt the place seep into him, with its rhythms, its dangers, its strange sustenance, and learned to see landscape as a living process. ‘Island Home’ is the story of how that relationship with the Australian landscape came to be, and how it has determined his ideas, his writing and his life. It is also a passionate exhortation for all of us to feel the ground beneath our feet” — Provided by publisher’s website.
The book is rated 4.00/5 at goodreads.com, from 865 ratings. See 144 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h5Egln.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h7iQV5.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family by Bruce D. Haynes

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2j1jvrl.
In this thoughtfully conceived and crafted memoir, the authors offer evocative, relentlessly honest portrayals without judgment. In doing so, they encourage the reader to ponder the variables in her own life, the tides and forces that help or hinder her pursuit of the sweet life.
Book description from Google Books:
Down the Up Staircase traces the social history of Harlem through the lens of one family across three generations, connecting their journey to the larger historical and social forces that shaped and transformed Harlem. Sociologist Bruce D. Haynes and coauthor Syma Solovitch capture the sweeping tides of change that pushed blacks forward through the twentieth century—the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the early civil rights victories, the Black Power and Black Arts movements—and the many social forces that ravaged black communities, including Haynes’s own. As an authority on race and urban communities, Haynes brings unique sociological insights to the American mobility saga and examines the tenuous nature of status and success among the black middle class. In many ways, Haynes’s family defied the odds. All four great-grandparents on his father’s side owned land in the South as early as 1880. His grandfather, George Edmund Haynes, was the founder of the National Urban League and a protégé of the eminent black sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois; his grandmother, a noted children’s author of the Harlem Renaissance and a prominent social scientist. Yet these early advances and gains provided little anchor to the succeeding generations. This story is told against the backdrop of a crumbling three-story brownstone in Sugar Hill that once hosted Harlem Renaissance elites and later became an embodiment of the family’s rise and demise. Down the Up Staircase is a stirring portrait of this family, each generation walking a tightrope, one misstep from free fall.
The book is rated 4.08/5 at goodreads.com, from 24 ratings. See 4 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zOLToR.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2zNIqqt.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton

A critic review (source Globe and Mail) can be read at: https://tgam.ca/2hatvhK.
His latest book, which follows his similarly brisk, comprehensive history of Twitter, will surely emerge as the definitive account of the Silk Road saga.
Book description from Google Books:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. The unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom–and almost got away with it In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything–drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons–free of the government’s watchful eye. It wasn’t long before the media got wind of the new Web site where anyone–not just teenagers and weed dealers but terrorists and black hat hackers–could buy and sell contraband detection-free. Spurred by a public outcry, the federal government launched an epic two-year manhunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, with no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. All the investigators knew was that whoever was running the site called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts. The Silk Road quickly ballooned into $1.2 billion enterprise, and Ross embraced his new role as kingpin. He enlisted a loyal crew of allies in high and low places, all as addicted to the danger and thrill of running an illegal marketplace as their customers were to the heroin they sold. Through his network he got wind of the target on his back and took drastic steps to protect himself–including ordering a hit on a former employee. As Ross made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren’t sure even existed, searching for a needle in the haystack of the global Internet. Drawing on exclusive access to key players and two billion digital words and images Ross left behind, Vanity Fair correspondent and New York Times bestselling author Nick Bilton offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It’s a story of the boy next door’s ambition gone criminal, spurred on by the clash between the new world of libertarian-leaning, anonymous, decentralized Web advocates and the old world of government control, order, and the rule of law. Filled with unforgettable characters and capped by an astonishing climax, American Kingpin might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction. But it’s all too real.
The book is rated 4.28/5 at goodreads.com, from 4360 ratings. See 399 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2hatzy0.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: Ernest Hemingway: A Biography by Mary V. Dearborn

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2hbs2aO.
She engages the reader with both the well-known stories and references to his writings, as well as many little known facts. This is a worthy biography.
Book description from Google Books:
The first full biography of Ernest Hemingway in more than fifteen years; the first to draw upon a wide array of never-before-used material; the first written by a woman, from the widely acclaimed biographer of Norman Mailer, Peggy Guggenheim, Henry Miller, and Louise Bryant. A revelatory look into the life and work of Ernest Hemingway, considered in his time to be the greatest living American novelist and short-story writer, winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Mary Dearborn’s new biography gives the richest and most nuanced portrait to date of this complex, enigmatically unique American artist, whose same uncontrollable demons that inspired and drove him throughout his life undid him at the end, and whose seven novels and six-short story collections informed–and are still informing–fiction writing generations after his death.
The book is rated 4.04/5 at goodreads.com, from 136 ratings. See 30 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iEGicn.
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A bio-memoir book recommendation: On Fire: A Personal Account of Life and Death and Choices by Larry Brown

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2hd4kuF.
Among Southern writers, Brown was one of those who didn’t have too much syrup in him. His prose in “On Fire” is fresh, light on its feet, ready for anything. If this book were a restaurant, I’d eat there all the time.
Book description from Google Books:
On January 6, 1990, after seventeen years on the job, award-winning novelist Larry Brown quit the Oxford, Mississippi, Fire Department. With three published books to his credit and a fourth nearly finished, he made the risky decision to try life as a full-time writer. On Fire, his first work of nonfiction, looks back on his life as a full-time firefighter. Unflinching accounts of daily trauma–from the blistering heat of burning trailer homes to the crunch of broken glass at crash scenes–catapult readers into the hard reality that has driven Larry Brown.As firefighter and fireman-turned-author, as husband and hunter, and as father and son, Brown offers insights into the choices men face pursuing their life’s work. And, in the forthright style we expect from Larry Brown, his diary builds incrementally and forcefully to the explanation of how one man who regularly confronted death began to burn with the desire to write about life.On Fire is a book in which an extraordinarily gifted writer looks back and reflects on the violence of his life as a fireman. Thoreau said it one way: “However mean your life is, meet it and live it.” Larry Brown says it another:You have to meet the thing, is what it is . . . and for the firefighter it is fire. It has to be faced and defeated so that you prove to yourself that you meet the measure of the job. You cannot turn your back on it, as much as you would like to be in cooler air.”Larry Brown has an ear for the way people talk, an eye for their habits and manners, a heart for the frailties and foibles, and a love for their struggles and triumphs. His fireman’s diary is a wonderful book.” –John Grisham, author of The Firm and The Client”Larry Brown is never romantic about danger and . . . in this book he goes through his life with the same meticulous attention with which Thoreau circled the woods around Walden Pond.” –The New York Times Book Review.
The book is rated 4.03/5 at goodreads.com, from 523 ratings. See 41 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iB7GZ0.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2hbXPsn.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior by Robert O’Neill

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2hcBoD6.
Written from the vantage point of a warrior who was there, “The Operator” is an interesting and insightful book about some of the most historic moments in modern American military history.
Book description from Google Books:
New York Times Bestseller A stirringly evocative, thought-provoking, and often jaw-dropping account, The Operator ranges across SEAL Team Operator Robert O’Neill’s awe-inspiring four-hundred-mission career, which included his involvement in attempts to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell and abducted-by-Somali-pirates Captain Richard Phillips and which culminated in those famous three shots that dispatched the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.In these pages, O’Neill describes his idyllic childhood in Butte, Montana; his impulsive decision to join the SEALs; the arduous evaluation and training process; and the even tougher gauntlet he had to run to join the SEALs’ most elite unit. After officially becoming a SEAL, O’Neill would spend more than a decade in the most intense counterterror effort in US history. For extended periods, not a night passed without him and his small team recording multiple enemy kills—and though he was lucky enough to survive, several of the SEALs he’d trained with and fought beside never made it home. The Operator describes the nonstop action of O’Neill’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, evokes the black humor of years-long combat, brings to vivid life the lethal efficiency of the military’s most selective units, and reveals firsthand details of the most celebrated terrorist takedown in history.
The book is rated 4.34/5 at goodreads.com, from 2818 ratings. See 569 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2hcBw5y.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iFYbrh.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: The Gastronomical Me by M. F. K. Fisher

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h5dKZn.
Reading it again in this handsome new edition I am struck by the fact that it is, above all, a queer book. I mean the term not so much as Fisher used it colloquially and carelessly in the middle of the last century but how we employ it today…
Book description from Google Books:
In 1929, a newly married M.F.K. Fisher said goodbye to a milquetoast American culinary upbringing and sailed with her husband to Dijon, where she tasted real French cooking for the first time. The Gastronomical Me is a chronicle of her passionate embrace of a whole new way of eating, drinking, and celebrating the senses. As she recounts memorable meals shared with an assortment of eccentric and fascinating characters, set against a backdrop of mounting pre-war tensions, we witness the formation not only of her taste but of her character and her prodigious talent.
The book is rated 4.24/5 at goodreads.com, from 2790 ratings. See 202 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iwJuGY.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iyNk2e.