Humanity in print – May Biography picks

Books are humanity in print“. So says the celebrated American historian Barbara Tuchman. Of course she means books of all stripes, but we biography-lovers feel that our chosen genre has  a  special place in the lexicon — perhaps with a passing nod to fiction. In this month’s parade of people we feature Hunter Davies’ account of growing up in the north of England after the war, a  Guardian journalist’s much lauded account of a terrible personal tragedy, a new book about the English countryside by Laurie Lee and a celebration of the Queen at 90.

Syndetics book coverThe Co-op’s got bananas! : a memoir of growing up in the post-war North / Hunter Davies.
“Despite the struggle to make ends meet during the tough years of warfare in the 1940s and rationing persisting until the early 1950s, life could still be sweet. Especially if you were a young boy, playing football with your pals, saving up to go to the movies at the weekend, and being captivated by the latest escapade of Dick Barton on the radio.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll at sea / Decca Aitkenhead.
“On a hot still morning on a beautiful beach in Jamaica, Decca Aitkenhead’s life changed for ever. Her four-year-old boy was paddling peacefully at the water’s edge when a wave pulled him out to sea. Her partner, Tony, swam out and saved their son’s life – then drowned before her eyes. When Decca and Tony first met a decade earlier, they became the most improbable couple in London.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRoyal album : the queen at 90 / Sam Wilkinson.
“On April 21, 2016, Queen Elizabeth II will turn 90 years old. She will be the only British monarch to have ever lived to 90, and the UK is preparing to celebrate the occasion in style. Royal Album: The Queen at 90 is the latest edition in Wilkinson Publishing’s popular Royal Album series. Take a look back at Queen Elizabeth II’s life, from her early years, to her marriage, her coronation, the birth of her children, and all the other highs and lows of a remarkable life. The Queen at 90 also looks at what the Queen and the Royal family have been up to in 2014 and 2015.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLove, loss, and what we ate / Padma Lakshmi.
“A vivid memoir of food and family, survival and triumph, Love, Loss, and What We Ate traces the arc of Padma Lakshmi’s unlikely path from an immigrant childhood to a complicated life in front of the camera–a tantalizing blend of Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home–and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDimestore / Lee Smith.
“For the inimitable Lee Smith, place is paramount. For forty-five years, her fiction has lived and breathed with the rhythms and people of the Appalachian South. But never before has she written her own story. Set deep in the mountains of Virginia, the Grundy of Lee Smith’s youth was a place of coal miners, tent revivals, mountain music, drive-in theaters, and her daddy’s dimestore. It was in that dimestore–listening to customers and inventing adventures for the store’s dolls–that she became a storyteller.”  (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHeart of glass : a memoir / Wendy Lawless.
“In this edgy and romantic follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut memoir, Chanel Bonfire, Wendy Lawless chronicles her misguided twenties–a darkly funny story of a girl without a roadmap for life who flees her disastrous past to find herself in the gritty heart of 1980s New York City.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe face : a time code / Ruth Ozeki.
“A revelatory short memoir from the bestselling author of A Tale for the Time Being. Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki writes about how her face has shaped and been shaped by her life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVillage Christmas : and other notes on the English year / Laurie Lee.
“From the author of Cider With Rosie, Village Christmas is a moving, lyrical portrait of England through the changing years and seasons. Laurie Lee left his childhood home in the Cotswolds when he was nineteen, but it remained with him throughout his life until, many years later, he returned for good. This collection brings to life the sights, sounds, landscapes and traditions of his home.” (Syndetics summary)

And two good ones in other parts of the library:

Syndetics book coverMigrant journeys : New Zealand taxi drivers tell their stories / Adrienne Jansen and Liz Grant ; portraits by Michael Hall.
Migrant Journeys is about driving taxis in New Zealand cities – and it is about much more than that. Here fourteen migrant taxi drivers talk about their lives – where they came from and why they came here, what it was like to settle in New Zealand, how they got into the taxi business, and how they see this country and its people.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLove + hate : stories and essays / Hanif Kureishi.
“Hate skews reality even more than love. In the story of a Pakistani woman who has begun a new life in Paris, an essay about the writing of Kureishi’s acclaimed film Le Week-End, and an account of Kafka’s relationship with his father, readers will find Kureishi also exploring the topics that he continues to make new, and make his own: growing up and growing old; betrayal and loyalty; imagination and repression; marriage and fatherhood. The collection ends with a bravura piece of very personal reportage about the conman who stole Kureishi’s life savings – a man who provoked both admiration and disgust, obsession and revulsion, love and hate.” (Syndetics summary)