Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Book Reviews | Memoir & Biography

It looks like many of us around the world will continue to spend a good bit of time at home in the coming weeks as we see spikes in the number of new coronavirus cases. During the past several months, I've been reading through the books on my to-read bookshelf as well as re-reading books from our personal library here at home. So, this week I'll be catching up and sharing reviews of the books I've read this year with the hope that you'll find one or two of interest to keep you inspired or entertained in the days ahead. Today's offering includes several memoirs and a biography.

A memoir is a collection of memories written by an individual about an important part of their life.


The Alpine Path was written in 1917 by Lucy Maud Montgomery. She shares the story of her writing career from its beginnings when she resolved as a child to become a writer through the success of the Anne of Green Gables books. She chose the title to refer to the long climb she had on her way to success. This thin volume, which I purchased earlier this year, is a quick look into the life of this famous author.

Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, the twin daughters of former US President George W. & Laura Bush (and, therefore, granddaughters of former US President George H.W. & Barbara Bush), is a delightful read about growing up in a political dynasty. The twins were in elementary school when their grandfather became president and had no idea how important he was in our country at that time. Barbara recounts the story of his inaugural parade and how she wondered when all the other children's grandfathers would have a parade. Jenna shared how she was so impressed with all the six graders who lined the hallways (along with all the lower grades) when her grandmother came to visit her school. I've read several of the Bush family autobiographies and thoroughly enjoyed this candid look into their lives through the growing lens of the twins.

Letters from Lillian is a small book put out by the Assemblies of God sharing letters written by missionary Lillian Trasher who founded the first orphanage in Egypt in 1911. These letters chronicle her life and God's faithfulness throughout her 50-years of service to orphans, widows, and the blind. I've had this book for many years and thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it this spring.

We first heard about the book Being Caribou when we visited Alaska in the summer of 2018. The author and his wife spent their honeymoon following a herd of caribou from their winter feeding grounds to their summer calving grounds. "For five months, they traveled an uncharted course on foot over mountains, through snow, and across frozen rivers, with only three semi-scheduled food drops for support." I have to admit that this sounded much more intriguing than it turned out. This was a very slow read - part memoir, part attempt to stop oil exploration on the portion of lands that are currently unprotected, and (small) part education about the caribou.

We picked up several of Ryan Leak's books after hearing him speak at a church service a couple of years ago, so Chasing Failure has been on my to-read shelf for a while. In this thin book, the author asks the question, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" He then chronicles his experience of chasing his dream of playing for the NBA. This was a quick read, but it fell short of being motivating. While his premise of removing excuses to pursue the life you want to live is a good one, I felt his example was meaningless because he approached it knowing he was going to fail, even presenting his request to try out for an NBA team as a research project for this book.

The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom was written by Corrie's companion, Pamela Rosewell Moore, who traveled with her and cared for her during the final years of her life. Corrie suffered a stroke and lost her ability to speak, "but the ministry that had touched millions continued as Corrie communicated through her eyes, through elaborate guessing games with those around her, through silent intercession for people God brought to mind. For those five silent years of imprisonment, Corrie's spiritual depth offered mute testimony to her ongoing trust in her heavenly Father." If you've been around my blog for a while, you already know that I am a huge fan of Corrie ten Boom and count her as one of my spiritual mentors. This book was a Christmas gift from Robbie that I'm thrilled to add to my collection of books by and about this beautiful woman of God.

A biography is the life history of an individual, written by someone else.

I think I first heard about The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King on Stacy Julian's podcast. I had it on pre-order, so it arrived in our mailbox on the date of publication last September. This is a very well-written biography about a man who devoted his life to children and taking their questions and feelings seriously. I honestly did not know much about Mr. Rogers other than that he was the host of the TV show (Mr. Roger's Neighborhood) I'd watched some as a child. Not only did I learn more about him and his life, I also learned a good bit about the beginning of the television industry and the public broadcasting service. I'm especially glad I read this informative book. I was also glad I read it before we watched the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which portrays one story from this book to illuminate the character and life of Fred Rogers. With the background of the book, I had a better understanding of some of the seemingly insignificant details in the movie.

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments, along with your suggestions for additional memoirs and biographies.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting. Memoir and biography are two of my favorite genres, yet I haven't read any of these. Thanks for the reviews.


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