"Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son" by Anne Lamott and Sam Lamott
Anne Lamott is a grandmother. Lucky for her readers that this beloved author writes what she knows, most always with hilarity and grace. When son Sam, about whom she wrote "Operating Instructions," becomes a father at nineteen, a stunned Lamott begins a journal about her grandson Jax’s first year, struggling with her relationship with her son, who is in college, and the baby’s mother, who has her own ideas about how to raise a child. As expected, Lamott finds joy in the rhythms of this new life, even as it causes her to examine the complex feelings it conjures in her.
"Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" by Jeanette Winterson
When the author left home at sixteen, in love with another woman, her adoptive mother asked, “Why be happy when you could be normal?” Jeanette Winterson, one of the finest writers of our time, has tried to answer her mother’s question, once in the form of a novel, "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit," written when she was 25, and now in a memoir. "For me it all started at 16 when I realized that love could be called perversion and hatred could be called family life." Re-reading her life backwards, Winterson writes the story of the overwhelming presence of one mother -- Mrs. Constance Winterson,and the overwhelming absence of the other -- her birth mother. It is a painstaking journey that in the end, she says, is about love.
"When I Was a Child I Read Books" by Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson, whose second novel "Gilead" won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, is also revered as an incisive essayist. Her latest collection delves into the deeply evocative themes that continue to preoccupy her -- and indeed us all -- probing these issues with a forceful and moving voice. Here she tackles no less than the global debt crisis, social fragmentation in modern America, human frailty, even faith. The title essay is an account of her childhood in Idaho, an insightful rumination on individualism and the myth of the American West.
"Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail" by Cheryl Strayed
Pushcart Prize winner Cheryl Strayed, shattered in her twenties by her mother's death and the disintegration of her marriage, sets out to hike eleven hundred miles along the Pacific Crest Trail alone, having no experience as a long distance hiker. The young woman walks among rattlesnakes and through snow, searing beauty, and devastating loneliness to face her demons and piece her life back together. Strayed, author of the novel "Torch," writes with vigor and authenticity, and under these circumstances her surname surely resonates.
"Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster" by Kristen Johnson
A ferociously honest memoir from Kristen Johnson ("Third Rock from the Sun"). The two-time Emmy winner writes candidly of her life-long battles with alcohol and drug addiction. Desperate to stay on the stage, she was “speeding on the Autobahn toward hell,” and dealing with an exploding stomach ulcer, which, says Johnson, “is what happens when you take a lot of Vicodin, a lot, everyday, with two bottles of wine a night….So that’s what the book is about.” Johnson writes fresh and funny prose, “every page brimming with Kristen’s sexy wit.” (Kate Winslet)
"The Astaires: Fred and Adele" by Kathleen Riley
Before Ginger, Fred Astaire danced with another partner: his sister Adele. Classical scholar and modern theater historian Kathleen Riley chronicles the sibling duo’s rise to dancing fame in those fleeting moments of glamor between the wars, before Fred danced his way onto the silver screen. From Omaha, Nebraska, to their 1917 Broadway debut and until her marriage into the British aristocracy in 1932, the Astaires -- Adele a natural, Fred the more disciplined -- epitomized the Jazz Age in motion. With 50 scrumptious b&w photographs.