The wildly successful bingo bonanza ends after the Labor Day weekend so we’re here with more suggestions to fill out your cards. This week we look at Biographies, which we’ll include in that category memoirs:
Stephen Greenblatt’s thoroughly readable look at Shakespeare’s life, Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare is worth taking to the beach for that last long breather before fall hits. Greenblatt effortlessly puts Shakespeare within the context of his contemporaries. The milieu is rough as only 16th century London could be, and Greenblatt brings it to life. While Greenblatt has to approach Shakespeare’s life speculatively (there’s scant few original documents from Shakespeare), he does so with engagement, learned scholarship, and a bit of brio. I think Shakespeare would have approved.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot is one of those sweeping biographies that wraps up whole cloth all the world surrounding a life. Mesmerizing, unbelievable, and utterly unstoppable, this story encompasses a tale from slave quarters to polio vaccines to cloning cells. A powerfully informative biography of a woman, a family, and the intersection of history and modern medicine.
Jonathan Eig’s, Ali: A Life, harnesses what is certainly one of America’s most astonishing figures. In or out of the ring, Ali embodied greatness, veracity, bombardment, bravery, and was an enigma that will live on. To understand the 60s and 70s and all the turmoil of America during those times, you have to deal with Ali and his journey from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. No one was so hated and beloved as Ali in those times, and no one quite conquered the world as Ali did on his own terms.
A slight tack on the bio scenario brings us the wonderful world of Wonder Woman with Jill Lepore’s fascinating look at The Secret History of Wonder Woman. As Lepore sketches out Wonder Woman’s life as seen through the comic strip, she ties this fully fleshed out chronology with the creation of the character, the lives of the people surrounding the strip, and the way the strip remarkably reflected and influenced the times drawn upon.
David McCullough is always a fresh breeze in the sometimes murky waters of the subjects he shines a light on. As monumental as McCullough’s history of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge is (I highly recommend The Great Bridge as an audiobook), Truman stands right up there. A deeply moving book of the life of the US President, and as such, comes in at a hefty number of pages. But don’t despair, Truman’s life was astounding, and possessed a strength of character not often seen these days in the political arena.
One of the best memoirs in recent history is Roxane Gay’s Hunger. An intimate and searing memoir of Gay’s life living in a body she calls “wildly undisciplined.” With unrestrained candor and authority, Gay examines what it’s like to live in an overweight body in a world where the bigger you are, the less you’re seen. Brutally frank, intimate, and validating as no other book in recent times, Gay brings it all in this memoir.
Lives not to be missed:
Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This?, by Marion Meade
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One, by Blanche Wiesen Cook