Sunday, December 5, 2010

Memoirs: suggestions from loved librarian Nancy Pearl

Blue Blood

Thank you to my friend Cheryl for sending me this link to Nancy Pearl's suggestions for wonderful memoirs to read.

All descriptions were written by Nancy Pearl.

I listed the three memoirs that I am really interested in reading.

NPR's link to Nancy Pearl's full article

Blue Blood

By Edward Conlon; paperback, 576 pages; Riverhead Trade, list price: $17

If you, like me, could watch Law & Order reruns eight hours a day, or if you've ever been curious about the inner workings of police departments, you'll want to rush right out and read Edward Conlon's Blue Blood. After graduating from Harvard, Conlon came home and joined the New York City Police Department, walking a beat in some of the worse housing projects in the South Bronx. His wide-ranging book is partly a memoir of his experiences (he is now working as a detective for the NYPD); the effects — pro and con — of the Giuliani anti-crime years; the Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo cases; Sept. 11; and the scandals and the triumphs, both large and small, that mark the history of the NYPD. Nicely written (some of it appeared in The New Yorker as "Cop Diary" under the pseudonym Marcus Laffey) and filled with interesting characters (both cops and perps — wait, make that suspected perps), this is both a pleasure and an education to read.(Nancy Pearl)

Cakewalk: A Memoir

Cakewalk: A Memoir

By Kate Moses; hardcover, 368 pages; The Dial Press, list price: $26

I am not a foodie, although some of my best friends are. Thus, there's no way I would have picked up Kate Moses' Cakewalk to read but for the photograph on the cover, which made me smile. (See, you can judge a book by its cover!) I continued reading it because Moses is a writer of salutary talents. And if I hadn't read it, I would have missed not only an affecting memoir but also some recipes that I feel sure — if I were a baker — I would immediately try out. If my oven even works. Luckily, those friends of mine who do bake have, in return for lending them the book, let me try samples of the ever-so-tasty results of several of Moses' recipes. Mainly focused on her life during the 1960s and '70s, her memoir is marked by parental discord and differences (her mother and father were spectacularly unsuited to one another), frequent moves, and a thorny family history. Cooking and reading were her lifelines out of the unhappy situations she found herself in. Each chapter includes a recipe, and each — from cheesecake to linzer tort, from spiced pecan cake to chocolate truffles — sounds more scrumptious than the one before. One bit of advice I feel compelled to give: brownies, page 209. Thanks to my friend Jeanette, I know the first version (with walnuts) is amazing.(Nancy Pearl)

Stuffed: Adventures Of A Restaurant Family

Stuffed: Adventures Of A Restaurant Family

By Patricia Volk; paperback, 256 pages; Vintage, list price: $13.95

In Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family, Patricia Volk delivers an affection-filled tribute to both family and food. In a series of vignettes, she lovingly describes her adored extended family. Each chapter, titled for a different food, from Butter Cookies to Caviar, is primarily devoted to one of her relatives. Among them are her great-grandfather, who was the first to import pastrami to New York; her grandfather, who invented the wrecking ball; her mother, forever trying to improve her daughters ("Mom made me, and now she will make me better"); her beautiful and best beloved older sister, Jo Ann; her embittered Aunt Lil, who embroidered a pillow with the phrase, "I've never forgotten a rotten thing anyone has done to me"; and her magnetic father, who taught her:

how to swim, speak French, drive, eat using the utensils American-style (which nobody in America seems to do), spot weld, solder, emboss, ride English, ride western, merengue, sing pop songs from World War I's "Keep Your Head Down Fritzie Boy" up through his favorite — the one that chokes him up, although he's not sure why — "Younger Than Springtime," remove a splinter, sap a blister by sticking a sterilized threaded needle through it then tying the exposed ends in a knot, carve a Thanksgiving turkey, chop, dice, and mince, make canapes, deglaze a pan, suck meat off a lobster a lobster doesn't know it has, blind a mugger, kill a rapist with a rabbit punch, remove stains, cloisonne, and intimidate a tennis opponent by clenching my teeth then drawing my lips back and growling like a gas-station dog.

Volk's family is sufficiently odd enough to keep anyone's attention, while her writing (she's also the author of a novel and two collections of stories) is both witty and tender. I pored over the all-too-few family photographs, wished that there was a family tree that I could refer back to, and most of all wished that I, too, could be part of the whole Volk/Morgen clan. (Nancy Pearl)

Happy reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Marce said...

Memoirs is going to be my out of norm try next year, I have a list of ones I will decide with. I have never heard of those ones.

Staci said...

These all sound really interesting and I trust Pearl!!

StephTheBookworm said...

Awesome! Memoirs are one of my favorite kinds of books to read. I'm going to add these to my TBR!

Ryan said...

Blue Blookds is going on my wish list.

Tales of Whimsy said...

That Cake Walk cover is precious :)

CailinMarie said...

Oh Hello! I am very excited to find this blog! I clicked on over after I read a comment you left refering to "The Spirited Child" my favorite parenting book EVER-
I absolutely want to run out and buy these books. And I shall have to find time for them soon. I am reading "Decision Points" out of curiosity - and my book club meets Friday and the book is sitting on my bed side table. Oh dear.

TheBookGirl said...

I don't read alot of memoirs, but when I do, they are usually of "regular" people, or if not, then they are for the most part, either related to food or sports.

I had seen Cakewalk, but have never heard of Stuffed -- that is definitely one I will check out, thanks!

Gina said...

Ooh..nice choices! Within the past year or two, I've gotten into readin memoirs from time to time. The trick for me is to be selective as to which I choose since my fav genre still remains firmly grounded in fiction. Certainly a nice selection you have an interest in curious to see what you think of them. Happy reading!