Biography and Memoir
Call Me American by Abdi Nor IftinWhat it is: the stirring chronicle of Abdi Nor Iftin's remarkable immigrant success story, beginning with his impoverished childhood in war-torn Somalia, his painstaking self-education in English (which he learned through consuming American pop culture), and his flight from religious extremism in Mogadishu -- first to a refugee camp in Kenya, and eventually to the U.S. as a recipient of the Green Card Lottery.
Read it for: Iftin's clear prose and inspiring perseverance in the face of adversity.
In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Fiona SampsonWhat it is: a perceptive biography of author Mary Shelley, written to coincide with Frankenstein's bicentennial.
Who it's for: readers who appreciate literary histories and episodic storytelling.
What sets it apart: With little surviving primary source material at her disposal, poet Fiona Sampson's resonant, speculative prose "succeeds in bringing an unconventional woman to vivid life" (Publishers Weekly).
Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life by Amanda SternWhat it is: a conversational, attention-grabbing memoir of coping with lifelong mental illness, written by novelist Amanda Stern (The Long Haul), who lived with untreated panic disorder for almost 25 years until she was properly diagnosed by a therapist.
Chapters include: the immersive "Countdown to Karen Silkwood," in which Stern invites readers into her head for a detailed day-by-day account of a typical week, demonstrating how she battles her anxieties.
Try this next: Andrea Petersen's On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety.
Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival by Kelly SundbergWhat it's about: In her haunting debut memoir, Kelly Sundberg bravely chronicles her abusive eight-year marriage and the shock, grief, and confusion that accompanied her journey toward healing.
Book buzz: Goodbye, Sweet Girl is an expansion of Sundberg's viral 2014 essay "It Will Look Like A Sunset."
Is it for you? Though the subject matter may be difficult for some readers, Sundberg's invaluable insights and candid prose illuminate various aspects of domestic abuse, including how to recognize the signs.
Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection... by Zachary R. WoodWhat it's about: Frustrated with his classmates' close-mindedness, Zachary R. Wood initiated Williams College's Uncomfortable Learning, a speaker series meant to provoke honest debate by hosting controversial presenters whose ideological perspectives often vastly differed from the campus community's -- and Wood's own.
Reviewers say: "A must-read for young social activists, free speech crusaders, and fans of inspirational memoirs" (Library Journal).
Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last by Patience BloomWhat it is: a whimsical, lighthearted memoir of Harlequin editor Patience Bloom's romantic history -- at work and after-hours.
Why you might like it: Bloom skillfully deploys her knowledge of romance novel tropes, juxtaposing them with her own real-life romantic entanglements -- she refers to one ex-boyfriend as "The Secretive Hero (Who May Be Hiding Something Really Bad)."
For fans of: Bridget Jones's Diary and romantic comedies.
American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury with Kevin MaurerWhat it is: a layered and compelling reconstruction of pseudonymous FBI agent Tamer Elnoury's infiltration of an al-Qaeda unit.
Why it's significant: This intimate account provides an insightful look into the worldview of al-Qaeda operatives, perfect for fans of Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower.
Don't miss: Elnoury's reflections on what it means to be a Muslim American patriot and the dangers of enacting xenophobic policy.
Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle KuoWhat it's about: the transformative power of literature, movingly experienced by Teach for America volunteer-turned-law student Michelle Kuo and her former pupil Patrick Browning, who met regularly for book discussions while the latter was in jail on a murder charge.
On the syllabus: the two discussed works by Frederick Douglass, Rita Dove, C.S. Lewis, Marilynne Robinson, Derek Walcott, and Walt Whitman, among others.
Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlinWhat it's about: On the cusp of her 30th birthday, dissatisfied journalist Nina MacLaughlin quit her job at the Boston Phoenix to become a carpenter's assistant, despite having no previous experience in the trade.
Did you know? Only 2% of carpenters are women.
Reviewers say: "Book groups will love this engaging and entertaining chronicle" (Booklist); "effortless blending of literary craft with woodcraft" (Library Journal).
Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike MassiminoWhat it is: a humble and endearing memoir from retired astronaut Mike Massimino, recounting his unlikely two-decade career at NASA (he was rejected by the agency three times before receiving a job offer).
Topics include: the impact of the Challenger explosion on Massimino's burgeoning career; his under-the-wire repair of the Hubble Telescope in 2002; becoming the first person to tweet from space.
Read it for: Massimino's childlike sense of wonder and excitement; his remarkably detailed yet straightforward prose.
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