"A Natural Woman: A Memoir" by Carole King
Carole King's "Tapestry" remained fixed on the U.S. album chart for more than six years after hitting stores in 1971. With ballads like "So Far Away" and "Natural Woman," the acclaimed singer-songwriter's musical influence is tremendous and wide-reaching. Even grown men have been known to catch themselves in the throes of a musical lapse in which they're found belting "you maaake me feeel..." before stopping just short of emasculating themselves. In her new memoir, King spotlights the key riffs in her stardom, but also hits the smaller notes that lend a human touch to an otherwise untouchable idol. Elysa Gardner of USAToday waves a lighter in the crowd of praise: "Natural Woman" is a "candid, endearingly chatty memoir that traces King's rise from a precocious Brooklyn girl to one of the world's most beloved singer/songwriters." To Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian, "Natural Woman" has an "earnestness" that "permeates the book," which makes for a "cosy" and "comfortable" read. Summed up by Jim Farber of The New York Daily News: "Like her songs, King’s autobiography soars on an almost impossible level of sincerity. If that doesn’t make for the most nuanced, knowing or insightful of biographies, it does make for one that will win your heart."
"Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir" by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin
Throw a half dollar anywhere in a bookstore and chances are you'll hit a book about the Kennedy family. If not, there's still a 50% chance the coin you threw landed face up, revealing the profile of JFK. The Kennedy legacy is just that inescapable. They're so gravitational that even those on the periphery of the family circle were affected enough to write their own stories. Mimi Alford's recent memoir "Once Upon A Secret," retelling her tryst as JFK's intern is just one example. Another is a new memoir by Mrs. Kennedy's secret service agent, entitled "Mrs. Kennedy and Me." One more story, one more angle from which to view the family. "If you're a Kennedy vulture looking for scandalous scraps of hushed-up affairs, look elsewhere," writes Don Oldenburg of USAToday. "Retired Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill's charming insider's chronicle of the Kennedy years is more of a Driving Miss Daisy tale that contains lots of Secret Service logistical stories and daily-life anecdotes but few startling revelations." To Muriel Dobbin of The Washington Times, Hill lifts the shroud around Jackie and let's us glimpse the First Lady when she isn't striking a pose: In what she calls a "a touching, perceptive and surprisingly funny love story," she continues "Few really knew the first lady of the new frontier. And Clint Hill has offered a fascinating glimpse of what well may have been the real Jackie Kennedy." And most succinctly, Kirkus Reviews is glowing: "Of the many words written about Jacqueline Kennedy, these are among the best."
"Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection" by A. J. Jacobs
A master at self-experimentation put to pen, comic writer A.J. Jacobs has once again pushed himself to the limits with a ripe-for-ridicule self-improvement challenge. This time he aims to become the "healthiest man alive" by trying, well, just about every health how-to known to man. Janet Maslin of The New York Times explains her twofold reasoning as to why this book tops his last two: "The first is that we are all suckers for health tips and pop science; the publishing industry has the sales stats to prove it. The second is that the abundance of how-to and how-not-to books lends itself to a 'Greatest Hits' compilation, and that’s what 'Drop Dead Healthy' is." According to Stefan Beck of The Barnes & Noble Review, Jacobs' "schtick lit" book unfortunately suffers the same fate Jacobs does when hanging from monkey bars: it can't pull itself up. "The cover photo of Jacobs mock-struggling to do a pull-up is a clue to the fatal flaw of this book." He goes on to explain that "if shtick lit is ever to live up to its promise, it'll have to abandon its jokesy 'points for trying' mentality and start attempting the impossible in earnest." But, seriousness aside, if you're just after jokes and a good laugh, "Drop Dead Healthy" is your cup of antioxidant tea. Jay Jennings of the San Francisco Chronicle concludes: "In the end, no matter where you're reading the book - treadmill or toilet - you'll find an entertaining guide to the skinny on a healthy life."