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Topic: For the biography challenge--who's first on your agenda?

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Subject: For the biography challenge--who's first on your agenda?
Date Posted: 1/2/2013 10:07 AM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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I'm going to read The Life of Alcibiades by E.F. Benson (for the statesman category). Benson has been my favorite author since I was in high school, decades ago. I've read his Lucia and Miss Mapp series a zillion times, and they still delight me. 

Benson also wrote several biographies (Magellan, Charlotte Bronte, Queen Victoria, and others), and dozens of novels--satires about social climbers and others about the darker forces in life (one book features a man taken over by the power of Pan; it's a mystical, yet grim, book).

Anyway, which persons are the rest of you going to learn about?

Date Posted: 1/2/2013 2:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
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I'm reading Jason Emerson's Giant in the Shadows, biography of Robert T. Lincoln.  I read anything connected to Abraham Lincoln that I can get my hands on & have been wanting to learn more about his son Robert.  I had thought of him as being a bit of a lightweight, but he was anything but that.  This is 1 of my free choices.

Date Posted: 1/2/2013 6:19 PM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2008
Posts: 210
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I think I'll start with Write It When I'm Gone: Conversations with Gerald Ford.

Date Posted: 1/5/2013 1:33 AM ET
Member Since: 5/4/2009
Posts: 87
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I am going to start with Alfalfa Bill Murray by Keith Bryant for the statesman category. Alfalfa Bill was the governor of my state, Oklahoma, during the Dust Bowl. I first heard about him while reading a book for the History Challenge last year (Egan's The Worst Hard Time). In that book, he sounded a bit *ahem* colorful. lol I can't wait to read more about him!

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 1/5/2013 9:45 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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I've started with This Child Will Be Great by Ellen Sirleaf. It's about Liberia and it's history which is so far pretty boring. I guess it's necessary to get to the part where she comes into politics but I never cared for the subject much. It's one of those things where I want to have the knowledge so I'll push through it but I don't particularly enjoy the process. I had no idea America pretty much created Liberia as a place to "return our freed slaves". The ways America as a country has messed with black people is just...astounding.

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 1/8/2013 11:03 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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I snuck this one in since I listed it in a book swap and had to get it done so I used it for my free choice. Halfway through the history leson that is the Ellen Sirleaf book, lol.

Dear Cary by Dyan Cannon - A memoir but very much focused on her relationship with Cary Grant, who as we all know is probably about the most desirable man in history. If you're a big fan you might want to skip this book though, he had some serious flaws in his relationships with women. I guess it's to be expected, she was his 4th wife, and any man that handsome has to have some problems. I think she did well not blaming him though, the fault was spread around. And she also gave a pretty good demonstration of why he had these issues, his childhood was messed up. It's easy to see why he had abandonment issues with women. He did some awful mean stuff to her though, and she let him. According to some other reviews I have seen she left out a lot of stuff but there's plenty here to give a decent impression. He was an incredibly romantic, demonstrative and loving man who had some deep seated problems, but don't we all. It was hardly a hatchet job on him, I thought she was pretty fair, and probably more forgiving than I would have been over a couple incidents. I don't want to spoil anything but the dog incident would have made me leave him right then and there. This book will shatter some images, but I think we all know deep down that no one is that perfect, and it can be awfully hard trying to live up to that image.

Subject: First biography of year
Date Posted: 1/9/2013 6:26 PM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2011
Posts: 56
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I just started Winston and Clementine: the Personal Letters of the Churchills .   I hope I can manage all 650 pages and have time left for my other challenges!  Luckily, it's interesting and reads well.               

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 1/10/2013 10:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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finished another one.

 

This Child Will Be Great by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Oh boy, what a chore this was. It was like a Liberian history course with a particularly boring instructor. I learned a lot about Liberian history, including how the US helped screw up the country, but man was it dry and boring. Very little about her life outside of the political realm, although it didn't sound like she had much private life. It is one of those books that I'm glad I have the knowledge now but there is no enjoyment in the reading.

Date Posted: 1/13/2013 9:15 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
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I've been on a history reading tear since the year began and have finished 3 books on my challenge list!

  • Free choice - Jason Emerson's Giant in the Shadows:  The Life of Robert T. Lincoln.  I loved it.  Emerson depicts Lincoln as a very honorable man, with integrity and respectful and protective of his father's legacy.  His coverage of Mary Todd Lincoln's insanity legal proceedings was interesting and fairly presented.  I found his presentation logical and convincing. 
  • Person with disability - Juliette Gordon Low:  The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, Stacy A. Cordery.  Low experienced increasing deafness through her life.  I enjoyed the biography.  I was in Girl Scouts when growing up, & I have visited her childhood home in Savannah.  Her family was very interesting, and she met many interesting English individuals after her marriage.  I enjoyed especially the description of how Low expanded the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah to a national institution. 
  • Statesman - Seward:  Lincoln's Indispensable Man, Walter Shahr.  I read anything connected with Abraham Lincoln that I get my hands on.  I enjoyed the biography. 
Date Posted: 1/15/2013 12:41 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 26,635
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I'm in the midst of reading My Mother Was NutsAuthor: Penny Marshall  and thoroughly enjoying it!

Date Posted: 1/15/2013 5:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
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I've finished my read for the Person of the Cloth category - Augustine Thompson's Francis of Assisi:  A New Biography - B.  Thompson's biography is about Francis the man, not the legend.  The writing was dry, but I gained a good understanding of the man.

Date Posted: 1/16/2013 2:37 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,914
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Read two at once:  Biography/Memoirs:   I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood AliDelphine Minoui which was recommended to my by someone on goodreads and Sports/Recreation/Physical Fitness:  Downhill Lies and Other Falsehoods by Rex Lardner (golf) which was a humorous take on playing golf.  Having finished both, I must say I liked Nujood because I so enjoy books that give me a view of another culture and the life of those who live in it.  However, I feel soso about Downhill Lies, maybe because I am not a golfer.  I did learn much about golfing terms and the game itself but can't say that I will ever want to chase a little white ball around the green.



Last Edited on: 1/19/13 8:47 PM ET - Total times edited: 5
Date Posted: 1/16/2013 5:27 PM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2008
Posts: 210
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I just finished Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford by Thomas DeFrank.  It was a series of interviews done between 1974 and Ford's death in 2006 made with the understanding that they wouldn't be published until after the death of President Ford.  He was very open in the interviews, giving his opinions on everything from Watergate and its aftermath to presidents and political situations over the years.  I enjoyed it very much.



Last Edited on: 1/16/13 5:27 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/17/2013 2:39 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
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I've finished Gandhi & Churchill:  the Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged our Age by Arthur Herman for the Collective category and rate it A-.  I listened to the audiobook of it, 25 CDs.  I listen to audiobooks in the car to keep myself calm during rush hour traffic and awake during long drives.  Herman provided a very realistic picture of both Gandhi & Churchill, through the filter of India.  Neither of the men were saints.  Churchill is depicted more harshly.  His heroic actions during WWII are largely ignored, as the book covers WWII as it impacted India. 

Date Posted: 1/17/2013 2:51 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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Tess, your book sounds fascinating!

                                             Rose

Date Posted: 1/20/2013 1:00 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
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Finished The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap:  A Memoir of Friendship,Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch, for the Ordinary Person category.  It was charming & kept me interested throughout the entire book.  Welch & her husband quit their jobs and left the rat race to purchase a large house in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, an Appalachian coal town.  They open a used bookstore in the 1st floor of the home.  The memoir describes how they started the book store, made it successful, and the friends and customers they met along the way.

I've read a lot this weekend.  I replaced the tires on my car yesterday & was there for 4 hours!  I had several books with me and did quality reading during my wait.



Last Edited on: 1/20/13 1:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/20/2013 2:25 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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Tess, now you've enticed me with The Little Bookstore selection. I guess I should just go check out your whole list!

                                                                                                                           Rose

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 1/20/2013 2:29 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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We read a fiction but based on reality book by a woman who grew up in Big Stone Gap for the book club in the basement. She has a series of them if you're interested in the place. The secondary character is the lady who drove the bookmobile, they didn't have a bookstore at the time the series starts, it's been awhile but I think it was set in the 70's. She was a real person and collaborated with the writer. It's basically a true story of the town and people with a fictional but semi-autobiographical romance thrown in. http://www.paperbackswap.com/Big-Stone-Gap-Adriana-Trigiani/book/0345459202/

That's the one we read.



Last Edited on: 1/20/13 2:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/30/2013 9:04 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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For my first biography, I read Thomas Jefferson:  The Art of Power by Jon Meacham.  It's really a look at how the people and events over the course of Jefferson"s life shaped his philosophies and leadership style. Not sure what's up next.

Date Posted: 1/30/2013 3:54 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
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Barb, I've read the Big Stone Gap trilogy by Adriana Trigiani.  I'd love to visit the town & visit the sites described by Trigiani and the writer of the memoir I read, especially the used bookstore!

Donna, I started to listen to the audiobook of Meacham's Jefferson book yesterday.  It's an interesting angle to look at Jefferson's life through the prism of power. 

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 2/2/2013 12:09 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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"ordinary" person

The Long Journey Home by Margaret Robison - I've read most of Augusten Burroughs books about his crazy childhood and his brother's book about his crazy childhood and living with Asperger's so when I saw their mother wrote a memoir I had to get it, compare stories. Talk about crazy by the bucketfull. It's mostly about her very crazy family, her very crazy husband, and her very crazy life. Seriously, everyone is completely bats***. In a serious, if they weren't hospitalized they should have been, mentally disturbed. How these people all found each other and concentrated the crazy by breeding together is just scary. It's amazing Augusten and John Elder turned out as functional as they did, although they both certainly have their problems. John Elder has an adult son, can't wait for his book.

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 2/14/2013 11:20 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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Performing/visual arts

Just Kids by Patti Smith - A memoir by Patti Smith (the singer) of her relatioship with the controversial gay photographer Robert Maplethorpe in their youth. I was completely surprised by this book, and not just because I didn't know Robert wasn't always gay. Or he didn't always realize it, not sure how that works, but he seems to have switched teams in the middle of the game. I'm not a big fan of poetry or poets or avant garde type artists but the way she tells the story is just wonderful. How lovely to have lived at the Chelsea in the early 70's. Talk about the place to be. She pretty much sticks to just her life with Robert, keeping the time before and after to a minimum and there's not much at all about her music career. Lots about how she got to it, but it really took off as they parted and the story is about over. What an amazing relationship, not all roses but all consuming. It must be something to be that intune with someone, that comfortable. The last few pages were hard to read through the tears, as we all know Robert dies at the end. Unfortunately AIDS was a guaranteed death sentence in those days. Well worth the story even if you aren't a fan.

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 3/12/2013 3:18 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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Villain

Mr Big by Don Arden - Memoir by Sharon Osborne's father who was a music promoter and the 'Godfather of Rock and Roll' in the UK. It's a very interesting tale of his youth as a performer, stint in the army, and the creation of the music business. He was in it from the ground floor, and was a self-described thug. He talks about mafia connections later in his career and tells a couple tales where he really hurt a couple people. One guy he really messed up in UK and was prosecuted for it but he got off. The only problem is I get the feeling you can't believe a lot of what he says. Maybe he paints too good a picture, of how he did everything right and knew everything and could predict everything. He does discuss a couple times he blew it but either he's the luckiest SOB alive or some of his stories are not quite the truth.

Date Posted: 4/20/2013 8:43 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
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Last Edited on: 2/8/15 1:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/20/2013 8:48 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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@ Tess, I'm reading Woodrow Wilson now - just about 6 chapters in.  I didn't know much at all about Wilson so I'm learning a lot.  I agree that Cooper seems to be overly positive about Wilson.  I have already read a book for the president category so I think this will have to go in "reader's choice."

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