Remembering Robin Williams

Today marks eight years since the passing of Robin Williams. An actor, comedian, legend, hero to many, we’ve all experienced Robin Williams in some way through his work. He was first introduced to me as Genie from Aladdin (1992), though I picture him as the English professor from Dead Poet’s Society (1989) more often now. Whether you laughed along to Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) or enjoyed a more dramatic performance in Good Will Hunting (1997), he certainly has left his mark in Hollywood.  

Plenty of biographies have been written about Robin Williams. Here are few books with different perspectives: 

Robin by Dave Itzkoff 

If you’re looking for a definitive biography, this will be the one. 

Robin Williams, American Master: The Movies and Art of a Lost Genius by Stephen J. Spignesi

More interested in facts and trivia about Robin Williams’ films and life? Then you’ll enjoy Spignesi’s biography. 

Robin Williams: A Singular Portrait, 1986-2002 by Arthur Grace

Arthur Grace has created a biography told in a series of photographs, taken over decades. 

And of course, here are a few of his films to remember him by: 

Popeye (1980) 

Hook (1991) 

Jumanji (1995) 

Happy Feet (2006)

Happy Feet Two (2011)

Pride Month: Memoir Spotlight

Memoirs pull back the curtain on a person’s life, providing a look into certain experiences that shaped the person they’ve become. They help readers find solace, knowing that someone has similar experiences, interests, or circumstances. Even if you can’t exactly relate to a person being a television star, or growing up with 19 siblings, or working on Human Rights campaigns, most will be able to identify with being left out, feeling disconnected from peers, and trying to figure out who they are. These LGBTQ+ memoirs tackle heavy topics but are important reads in better understanding facets of LGBTQ+ experiences, building empathy, and learning about someone who may be different from yourself. They also provide necessary representation for those in the LGBTQ+ community that haven’t seen themselves in books. 

I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the names on the selections here, and there are certainly many more to explore! 

Tomorrow Will be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride 

“In her first book, activist McBride (national press secretary, Human Rights Campaign) shows self-awareness and purpose. Cognizant of the many positives in her life—supportive family, friends, and coworkers—McBride has devoted her career to ensuring equal rights for LGBTQ people. By sharing her own story of coming out, the author illuminates the pain that can come along with that process, and how she has arrived at accepting (and living) her life. She writes movingly of her experience transitioning from a man to a woman, and her political activism, along with falling in love and then losing her love to cancer. Statistics about the marginalization of and discrimination against the LGBTQ community, especially those who are transgender, are brought to life by her voice. The importance of telling these experiences in order to combat demonizing stereotypes is stressed by the author’s experiences in passing civil rights legislation in Delaware, as well as her activism nationwide. The pressing need for broad antidiscrimination protection for the entire LGBTQ community is made clear. All readers will find this book enlightening. Those struggling with gender identity, and their families and friends, will find hope in McBride’s words.”

-Library Journal, vol. 143, issue 4 

Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter 

“Television and stage star Porter opens his soul in this memoir about his life and career, from his childhood in Pittsburgh, to his recent award-winning roles in the stage musical Kinky Boots and on the FX series Pose. Porter writes candidly about growing up Black and gay, his current fears about living during the time of Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic, and how his own hard work, luck, and the generosity of others provided the stepping stones for his current success. Reflecting on the title of the book, Porter tells of moments in his life when he felt unprotected, as both a child and an adult. His fearlessness in discussing the darker parts of his past (including sexual abuse by his stepfather and being diagnosed with HIV) is remarkable, but equally as impressive is the narrative of his decades-long dedication to hone his talent and make a space for himself in a racist and homophobic entertainment industry and society. This memoir, as exceptional as Porter himself, should please not only devotees of the actor and his work but readers interested in a story of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds.”  

– Library Journal, vol. 146, issue 10 

Love That Story: Observations from a Gorgeously Queer Life by Jonathan Van Ness 

“Known for his tasteful grooming counseling on Queer Eye, Van Ness moves past the triple trauma of publicly acknowledging his HIV-positive status, surviving sexual abuse, and overcoming drug addiction to explore ways to cultivate personal happiness. Despite support from fans who had experienced similar struggles, some of that support came with massive amounts of transphobic vitriol. The author offers advice on navigating the ever critical social media platforms, writing about grief, family matters, hometown pride for Quincy, Illinois, confronting and vanquishing internalized shame, and the surprisingly precarious professional and social politics of hairdressing and stand-up comedy. He also authentically tackles hot topics like the vilification of marijuana, body-shaming, homophobia, transphobia, and, in a section that will resonate with many readers, gender dysphoria: “I’ve always known I didn’t feel completely male or female, but in those early days of having gay men reject me because of my femininity, I learned fast to masculinize.” In lighter moments, Van Ness gushes over his role on Queer Eye and shares humorous behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the show. His ebullient sense of humor and his passion for LGBTQ+ rights and social justice for an increasingly marginalized transgender population inform with spirited ease. The narrative is equal parts anecdotal whimsy and social criticism, and Van Ness remains reflective, sincere, and cathartic throughout, reiterating that “the darkness I’ve survived doesn’t define me.” Rather, it motivates him to “process the noise” and “grow and be a better person.” Inspirational motivation and counsel primarily for fans who can’t get enough of the Van Ness experience.”  

-Kirkus Reviews 

Black Boy Out of Time by Hari Ziyad 

“Racebaitr editor-in-chief Ziyad merges astute sociopolitical analysis with soul-baring honesty in their striking debut memoir. Drawing on their family’s strong religious beliefs and the traumas of growing up poor in Cleveland as a young Black queer person, Ziyad charts their search for self-understanding and liberation from their guilt-ridden first experiences with boys in high school, to moving to New York City for college, to their early career as a screenwriter and essayist. Along the way, they extrapolate on how each of their experiences has roots in colonialism, white supremacy (“were raised in the same America. The America that demonizes all Black children”), and capitalism. The idea of “misoafropedia” (or “the anti-Black disdain for children and childhood that Black youth experience”) is a unique framework from which they analyze their youthful attempts to assimilate into whiteness at school, the carceral logic that led them to punish other Black children for the crime of being “ghetto,” and their relationship with their own inner child. With its candidness and sharp prose that doggedly links the personal to the political, Ziyad’s tale is engrossing and necessary.”  

-Publisher’s Weekly vol. 267, issue 47 


10 Great Biographies & Memoirs to Celebrate the 19th Amendment

Did you know that 2020 marks 100 years of women having the right to vote in the United States? You can find more information, including great reading lists for all ages, educational videos, and how to get involved in the celebration at and Special events have been happening all year! On August 26, 2020 buildings and landmarks across the country lit up in purple and gold as part of the nationwide Forward Into Light Campaign, named in honor of the historic suffrage slogan, “Forward through the Darkness, Forward into Light.”

One way you can help to celebrate this awesome and important anniversary is to read a book about a suffragist! Below you will find 10 great biographies and collected biographies that reveal more about U.S. suffragists of note and a few contemporary feminist titles as well.

If you are a fan of biographies and memoirs, we have an exciting virtual event next week with Eliese Colette Goldbach, the talented and acclaimed author of Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit. There are still spots open for this Zoom program- register here!

Imagine Your Story -The Honorable John Lewis

U.S. Representative from the 5th Congressional District of Georgia, The Honorable John Lewis, passed away Friday, July 17. The positive impact Congressman Lewis had on America, with his words and actions, have helped shape America into a better place to live. His personal story is powerful and his leadership is inspirational. If you’d like to learn more about The Honorable John Lewis, please consider watching John Lewis: Get in the Way on PBS, read his book Across that Bridge, or his story in March: book one, March: book two, March: book three in a graphic novel format, or a simple biography, John Lewis, you want something you can share with a younger reader. Mr. Lewis, we thank you for decades of service on behalf of us all and we miss you already.

Take care everyone

Imagine Your Story-Audiobooks

Audiobooks are a great way to enjoy a story. Their portable format allows for them to be enjoyed while on the move.Whether you are exercising, gardening, or working on your newest creative project, audiobooks can make for a great addition.

If you are new to audiobooks why not try our pick for our upcoming:

Imagine Your Story Virtual Book Discussion

Listen to this family memoir about how 81-year-old Jay Mendelsohn, who had been a professor of mathematics, enrolls in his son Daniel’s class on The Odyssey. Later, the two men take Mediterranean cruise, retracing the mythical journeys of Odysseus.

Register and you will be emailed a link to join the virtual event on Monday, June 22, 2020 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM.

Or checkout the selection of biographical audiobooks over at Overdrive!

Gina’s 2016 Top 10 Books!

I’m still trying to find my reading style. This past year it has been a mix of nonfiction and fiction. I generally enjoy reading books before it is adapted into a movie, that way I can see the differences.

Yes, My Accent Is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo

Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

On My Own by Diane Rehm


I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! Happy Holidays!



First comes a Debate, Second comes a book!

Like many Americans, you may be planning to watch the first Presidential Debate tonight at 9pm between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. After all the dust has cleared, come check out the Biography section here in the library to read about the past presidents. Browse the New Nonfiction displays, I think I see a new book about Clinton and Trump every week! There are many titles on Audiobooks and the OverDrive and Hoopla applications in case you would rather listen than read.


Your Book Your Brew

Both the brews and the books were flowing when the Your Book Your Brew group met Friday, October 23 at Tommy’s Summer Place. We each shared 2 to 3 books that we’d enjoyed and then the discussion took off!

Here’s the list:



The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman and Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave



Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit



Torch by Cheryl Strayed and The Camilla Lackberg series



Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans, Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery and Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy



Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal



Purity by Jonathan Franzen, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Luminaries by Eleanor Cotton and Lord Fear and Class A, both by Lucas Mann



Nemesis by Catherine Coulter, Beach Town by MaryKay Andrews, Liar by Nora Roberts and Alert by James Patterson

Other books that came up in the conversation were two books by food guru Ruth Reichl, her new memoir My Kitchen Year and her foray into fiction, Delicious. We reminisced about the children’s book All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor and discussed a few biographies, including those about Johnny Carson and Charles Manson and a memoir by actress Jennie Garth (yes, that’s how it goes when you’re talking books – all over the map!). We also talked about The Women’s Room, a feminist novel published in the late 70s, The Library at Mount Char, a weird but really good new science fiction book that Stacey and I listened to and heard raves about Tampa, by Alisa Nutting.

Thanks to Ann, Ed, Sarah, Sarah, Donna and Mike for joining us and we hope more folks will come along and share some book recommendations at our next meeting on Friday, December 11th at 5pm at Erie Island Coffee Co.


A Funny Beach Read If Ever…

I’ve always appreciated the way Joan Rivers could turn her personal tragedies around by finding a sliver of humor in whatever came her way. It seems like her daughter Melissa has that same gift. Melissa adds her own witty comments to her Mom’s to make her new book, The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation by Melissa Rivers a really funny book. Rather than share some of my favorite lines/stories, I’ll let you find your own given that we all don’t laugh at the same things. Trust me, you’ll find plenty.


What’s Your (life) Story?

I’m sure you’ve heard at least one variation of the saying: if you want to understand someone you should walk a mile in their shoes, right? And I agree! But if you’re a little tired and you still want to get to know someone better? How about a biography or autobiography! At our most recent genre book discussion we shared books about the lives of real people and I learned a lot -without much walking… Are you interested? Excellent! Here they are:

Donna: Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand was first published in 2010 but has remained on the New York Times Bestsellers List for over 160 weeks. This heartbreaking captivating biography is about World War II prisoner of war survivor Louis Zamperini who is still alive today at a robust age of 97! After his plane crashed in the Pacific, he remained alive for 47 days adrift in a life boat with no food and water until he was captured by the Japanese. He spent the rest of the war in Japanese POW labor camps. As he was tortured and starved, he struggled to keep his sanity and to keep his spirit unbroken. Returning to the United States after the war was not easy for Louis and again he struggled to find his own path in life. Louis Zamperini’s life story is truly an inspiration for all of us. This book will soon be out in a movie that was directed by Angelina Jolie.

Lauren: Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers, tells the story of Syrian-born Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his American wife Kathy’s struggle to survive through the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, only to face a much larger battle in the aftermath of the storm. Kathy and the couple’s children evacuate before Katrina hits, but Zeitoun stays behind. When the worst is over, he uses a canoe to paddle around flooded New Orleans, connecting with other survivors and helping those he can. After a few weeks and daily check-ins with Kathy by a lone working telephone, Zeitoun suddenly disappears. The struggle of being a Muslim man in America compounded by the nation’s ongoing war on terror have devastating implications for Zeitoun and his family. I highly recommend.

Carol: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman is a memoir based on the author’s time served in a federal prison for money laundering. A graduate of Smith College, Piper makes a mistake and gets involved in a relationship with a Nora, a woman who is involved in laundering money and smuggling drugs for an international drug ring. Years after their short-lived relationship, which included an ill-advised transport of money overseas by Piper, Piper is visited by Federal Agents and indicted. Sentenced to 15 months at Danbury Correctional Institution, Piper arrives there a full 10 years after her crime has been committed and she’s a very different woman with a loving fiancé and many supportive friends. Soon, Piper is submerged in the culture of prison, navigating the unspoken rules of institutionalized life and eventually having to do time alongside of Nora, the woman she feels is responsible for putting her there. This is a fascinating book about life behind bars.

Chris: Abigail Adams by Bancroft Award-winning historian Woody Holton takes a comprehensive look at Adams’ life and of women’s roles in the creation of the republic. From a young age and throughout her life, Abigail’s wit and intelligence opened many doors, to the powers that be, and to her husband’s heart, who affectionately called her “Miss Adorable.” She spent her life campaigning for woman’s education and denouncing sex discrimination. She was a savvy investor, and wrote her own will leaving her property to her granddaughters; this done at a time when husbands were legally assigned their wives’ properties. She was really knowledgeable about politics and had a huge influence on her husband and our second President. Abigail Adams truly was a unique and remarkable woman who made a difference.

Emma: Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin is Johnny’s story at the pinnacle of his career through the eyes of his lawyer, tennis partner, and friend. Bushkin quickly learned that he needed to be available for Carson 24 hours a day. The book contains lots of Hollywood insider information and name dropping. Johnny was successful, brilliant, shy, moody, generous, and sometimes cruel. There were always consequences for crossing Carson. Bushkin went behind Carson’s back on a business deal, and their relationship ended abruptly after 18 years. This is a close look at a man who in the public eye had everything but who never seemed to find contentment and happiness with his family and friends.

Steve: A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley, by Neil Thompson, details the very interesting but very odd life of Ripley. He started out poor, painfully shy, and very self-conscious of his large teeth and stutter. A caring teacher took note of his artistic talents and allowed him to draw his reports, rather than write and speak about them, saving him the embarrassment of his stutter. As Ripley grew older, he honed his skills and began his career as a newspaper cartoonist, later stumbling onto his wildly popular “Believe It or Not!” fame after first showcasing odd sports feats. As his life progressed, Ripley became rich, famous, odd and erratic. A thorough and enjoyable read!

Megan: Stories I Only Tell by Friends by Rob Lowe provides a thoughtful glimpse into the life of a young teen idol and describes the challenges involved in creating a successful and meaningful career as well as a satisfying private life. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, a move to Hollywood when he was ten set the stage for a career path that has stood the test of time. From the Brat Pack to the West Wing, Lowe has managed evolve and succeed in a business that is not always kind to child actors. Fan already know that Lowe is charming, charismatic, and quite hilarious and this book will just confirm this!

Ann: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen is a dual biography- of Bob the Cat and James Bowen. When they meet, James Bowen is a down and out busker on the streets of London. James sees a tom cat hanging around inside his apartment building and the cat appears to be in bad physical shape. James decides he has to help the cat, whom he names Bob, and takes him to the vet and nurses him back to health. James is recovering from drug addiction, and as a street musician, he can barely afford to feed himself much less a pet. James figures Bob is used to the street and will go on his way when he feels better. Wrong. James cannot shake Bob, who follows him down the street toward his music playing gigs. The two basically adopt each other, and Bob soon becomes a regular with James as they set up and play music in the street. The people love Bob, and so will you!

Dori: Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure: A Memoir is both laugh out loud funny and touchingly poignant. As a child in the Soviet Union, novelist Shteyngart was a fragile asthmatic from a Jewish family that had suffered from the evils of Hitler and Stalin. Once settled in New York, he was bullied for his difference, suffering panic attacks and making few friends. At Oberlin College, he floated along in a haze of alcohol and drugs and started to fall in love with writing, though it takes years of psychoanalysis to pull him through. In this mesmerizing autobiography, he’s able to explain the relationship between himself and his parents, capturing the divide that many immigrants have with their American children, whose ambitions and grievances are often at odds.

Stacey: Jim Henson: the biography, by Brian Jay Jones, provides complete coverage, from birth to untimely death and reveals unexpected contradictions behind the legend. Mr. Henson was a creative genius who could bring simple pieces of felt to life while equally fascinated by new technological toys; he believed a simple handshake could seal the deal but understood the value of owning the rights to his original works. He wasn’t perfect but he was always true to himself, that’s pretty impressive.

And next up? We’ll be reading first novels! If you want to read along with us, find the debut book by an author -hopefully someone who has just recently been published for the first time. It’s always fun to find someone who’s just getting started, then when they’re super popular you can look back and say, “I found them!” So hurry up and search out the next big thing! We’ll be waiting…

— Stacey