Blog

This Is Me

Chrissy Metz writes in a relatable way. This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today (2018) is an inspiring and heartwarming read. Through her story, you learn that you can change and achieve what you desire in life, simply by being your best self.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the woman behind the character Kate on This Is Us. It was heartbreaking to read of her abuse and uplifting how she treated those who bullied her.

Chrissy Metz writes in a way that makes you feel like you're sitting and talking with a good friend. She does a wonderful job of inspiring others to be themselves.

Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook on Overdrive today.



Me

I really enjoyed reading the book Me by Elton John (2019). It was incredibly interesting learning about his entire life, from his humble beginnings to his extravagant rock star life. There are many twists and turns along his life's journey. He describes in detail the many places and people he encountered along the way.

Elton writes about how and why certain songs were written and the meaning behind many of them. He recalls the many famous friends he had from rock stars to royalty, to average people that he met along the way. The stories he lived are unbelievable and are a joy to learn about. I found this to be very inspirational in finding love and a purpose in life.

Check out the autobiography on Overdrive—you can read or listen to the memoir today.



Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns)

Mindy Kaling (star of The Mindy Project and numerous other TV and film credits) gives us a hilarious inside look at her life. Kaling not only shares stories of what it is like being a strong woman in Hollywood, she also dishes on her childhood, including what it was like for her growing up with immigrant parents. She also invites us to take an in-depth look at her personal life, which includes dating anecdotes, buying her first house, and admirable and envious work ethic.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) (2011) is a well written, laugh out loud book that moves with seamless transitions and is the perfect way to bring your spirits up. Borrow it today from Overdrive—read or listen.

Also check out our list of Celebrity Memoirs Read by the Author for inside peeks into the lives of other stars.



Where Am I Now?

Did you enjoy Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, or the remake of Miracle on 34th Street? These 90s films feature a delightful performance by the adorable Mara Wilson. She's all grown up now, and has written an engaging series of essays. In Where Am I Now?True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (2016), Wilson covers her childhood in the spotlight (both good and bad), her struggles with OCD and depression, and coming of age as an aspiring storyteller in New York City.

Don't let the childhood stardom fool you. Wilson pursued the creative arts (both performing and writing) in high school and in college at NYU. She is a gifted writer and experienced storyteller, and those talents shine throughout her memoir. It is full of heart, featuring both heartbreaking and humorous stories.

Listen to her memoir via Overdrive. Watch a video with Mara on mental health for Project UROK. 



The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton (2018)

An unforgettable, haunting, and especially inspirational memoir by Anthony "Ray" Hinton, an innocent man who spent almost 30 years in solitary confinement on death row. What makes The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row so powerful is his enduring faith, hope, and compassion while living in the depths of "hell."

His friendships, family, and capacity to forgive are on display in this compelling work. His best friend, Lester, visited him every week for 30 years! Ray adopted the other death row inmates as his new family. He brought inspiration, laughter, and faith to them, and started a book club, which encouraged many of them to read.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, eventually became Ray's lawyer and was instrumental in getting his release. I especially appreciate Stevenson's quote: "I believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done." Listen to his TED Talk to get an inspiring and personal glimpse into his motivation for his life work. 

There are many disturbing and heartbreaking elements to this story as well – deep-seated racism and discrimination, inhumane treatment of prisoners, and our damaged, and often corrupt, judicial system, to name a few. However, Hinton's positive inspiration definitely outweighs the negative details. I highly recommend this book, which was also one of Oprah's Book Club Picks.




Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016)

Trevor Noah has a gift for storytelling (which makes it no surprise that he is now a comedian). I would have liked this book more if it were told in chronological order, but ultimately, I assume the order in which it is presented goes back to the fact that he's a comedian and likely thinks anecdotally vs. chronologically. That said, Noah tells such fascinating stories of his childhood, teen years, and young adult life, all while intertwining the cultural setting of South Africa while he was growing up. I highly recommend the audio to fully appreciate both the variety of languages Noah references and the emotion and humor in his storytelling.

Check out Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood and other titles on this year's 2019 Lincoln Award (PDF): Illinois Teen Readers' Choice nominee list.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (2018)

educatedTara Westover’s Educated is the fascinating true story of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in the southern mountains of Idaho. Throughout her childhood, Tara’s father uses end-of-days fear, isolation, and the threat of eternal damnation to maintain control over his family. Every decision the family makes is informed by their father’s religious doctrine, so formal education is out of the question. Tara’s interest in the outside world combined with a desire to escape a life of working in the family’s scrapyard leads her to challenge her father’s ideas and, eventually, the lifestyle her family leads.

This compelling book is at times both heartbreaking and horrifying, but Westover’s matter-of-fact style of storytelling makes the reader feel right at home in this extreme, unfamiliar world.

 
 
 
 

Ugly by Robert Hoge (2016)

uglyhogeIn this real-life Wonder story, Robert Hoge describes his early life being born with not only a large tumor on his face affecting the placement of his facial features, but also legs which were underdeveloped. While he addresses some of the surgeries he underwent as baby up through high school, this autobiography centers around his family life and his determined spirit, despite challenges with his physical appearance and abilities along the way. I highly suggest the audiobook, read by the author himself.

Check out Ugly and other titles on this year's 2019 Bluestem nominee list targeted for grades 3-5.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

51v55l2fxflWhen I checked out Born a Crime, I knew vaguely that Trevor Noah was a comedian. I even remembered sharing a post of his on social media since I thought it was funny. Yet somehow, I did not expect to have to pull my car over to the shoulder to finish listening to one of Noah's stories. I was laughing so hard, I was crying.

And if that's not a ringing endorsement of an audiobook, I don't know what is.

I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of this book because you hear Noah speaking the different South African languages with accuracy. And you get to hear Noah's voice imitation of his mother, among other people in his memoir.

Oh? And the story I had to pull over to finish on the road? I've been telling it to everyone, convincing them to read the book. If you do read Born a Crime, stop by the K&T desk upstairs and see if you can guess which story made me laugh so hard I cried.

Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me by Lorina Mapa (2017)

When Rina learns that her beloved father has passed away unexpectedly, she flies to Manila to attend his funeral. This graphic novel memoir is told in flashbacks as Rina recalls aspects of her childhood growing up in the Philippines.

Lorina Mapa skillfully illustrates emotion in her panels which change between grief and humor, always with love for her family, friends, and country. I laughed out loud more than once as I recalled some of my own memories of growing up -- who didn't have a pop culture inspired haircut that didn't quite work out? (Mine was the bangs from The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

I would recommend Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me for fans of Lucy Knisley, Ramsay Beyer, and Alison Bechdel.

 
 

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

At turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, Trevor Noah’s candid memoir is a powerful, moving story of his life as a mixed race child growing up during apartheid. Told in vignettes, Born a Crime documents his relationship with his mother, his childhood and teenage antics, and his struggle to fit into a world that considered him a crime (at the time of his birth, interracial relationships were illegal).

Perhaps best known as the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Noah does infuse humor into his stories, but this is not your typical comedian’s memoir. Listen to the audiobook: the author’s command of multiple languages and skill at impersonations shine in his engaging narration.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander (2012)

Dr. Eben Alexander was close to death for a week. The memories from that week have changed his life and the way he thinks about life after death. In Proof of Heaven, Alexander pulls the reader into his drama and can cause a life changing shift in perspective. Listening to Alexander's own voice recount his experiences made it all the more powerful a message.

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill (2012)

mrskennedyThis book is a wonderful accolade to Jacqueline Kennedy. Clint Hill's story is beautifully written as he relives the happiness and agony of his time spent as Mrs. Kennedy's secret service agent.

Watch Clint Hill discuss Mrs. Kennedy and Me on C-SPAN.

The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China by Chen Guangcheng (2015)

barefootlawyerAlthough blind from a very young age and without any formal legal training, Chen Guangcheng became known as the “barefoot lawyer” from his persistent assertion of legal rights for ordinary Chinese citizens. Chen was a thorn in the side of local authorities when first he insisted on free public transportation and tax exemptions for the disabled, obtained a grant for a deep water well from British funding, and then opposed what he believed to be excessive enforcement of China’s one child policy.

Local Chinese authorities seem to ignore published law when subjected to party pressure, but Chen persisted in favor of those he wants to help. When a rally against the one child policy disrupts traffic and property is damaged, Chen is arrested and sentenced to four years in prison. After his release, he and his family are kept under house arrest from 2010 to 2012 when he makes a daring escape and with the help of friends seeks refuge in the U. S. embassy in Beijing. After some stressful negotiations and a stay in a Beijing hospital, Chen is accepted as a visiting scholar in the U.S where he remains and has written this memoir The Barefoot Lawyer. With the U.S. presidential election on the horizon, will political bloggers take interest in the actions of the U.S. State Department towards Chen?

Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale (1980)

catchmeThis true life adventure is almost too over the top to be believed. The movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio pales in comparison to the book. At a very young age, Frank Abagnale set out on a life of crime that took him all over the world as he impersonated a Pan Am pilot, masqueraded as a supervising resident of a hospital, and practiced law without a license. He cashed over $2.5 million in forged checks and was known by the police of 26 foreign countries and all fifty states as "The Skywayman." His descriptions of narrowly escaping capture will make your jaw drop. When he is ultimately captured, he pays a heavy price. Catch Me If You Can is an exciting real story which will keep you on the edge of your seat.