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 www.womensvote100.org and www.2020centennial.org. 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

Biographies of Writers

Why do so many of us enjoy reading biographies, especially biographies of writers? Currently, I’m reading Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life by Carol Sklenicka, recognized in The New York Times Book Review as one of the “10 Best Books of 2009.” A few months ago I took home Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch, a book that made it to The New York Times Best Seller List. We’re loving them!

 When I open a writer’s biography, I turn first to the index and search out WRITING, then terms like: “composition process,” “development of work,” “ground breaking aspects of,” “literary influences,” “notebooks,” “subordination of everything to writing” (ooh this is going to be good), “on writing,” “writing as a vocation”—well, you get where I’m going: I think a lot of us readers are looking for the answer, the secret. If only we can understand how Carver, for instance, does what he does, then maybe we can, too. If he can turn his life experiences into stories, well, why not try? And if he can sum up the last years of his life in one word: “Gravy”—and mean it—doesn’t that make each of us want to choose our word? Maybe when we pick up a writer’s biography, we’re looking for that similarity, that connection to greatness: Carver drinks coffee; I drink coffee; I, too, can be a famous writer.