When it comes to dropping out, almost everyone has a version of the dream: An off-grid cabin in the mountains; a life on the road in a tricked-out van, preferably with a dog indeterminate bloodlines; or maybe you just want to bunker in place with a cache of freeze-dried foods and ammunition. For most of us, it's just something to fantasize about as we pass the the workaday hours of our daily routines. But Captain Liz Clark made it happen. With the help of a mentor, she realized a lifelong dream when she launched her 40-foot sailboat from Santa Barbara on a voyage in search of beauty, meaning, and surf. Of course, it's not always easy. Swell recounts the crests and troughs of her ongoing adventure, and the accompanying images (taken by Clark) might have you reconsidering that task chair.
In 1993, a private tennis instructor in Manhattan named Gary Wilensky attempted to kidnap a young woman with whom he'd grown obsessed. The crime itself is horrifying, for all the reasons you'd expect. More disquieting, however, are the recollections of Piper Weiss, one of Wilensky's teenaged tennis students—though for reasons you'd not >expect. Weiss's chapters titled "Man" delve into Wilensky's charismatic relationships with his young players. Chapters titled "Girl" explore Weiss's life as she fights with her mom and stumbles through friendships, swinging between anxiety and rebelliousness. Many books have been written about coming of age in the rarefied air of Manhattan prep schools, but Weiss's honesty and willingness to plumb her own off-kilter and dark places make this memoir more viscerally real, less stereotyped. And perhaps only Weiss—always an outsider, emotionally vulnerable even in adulthood—could provide insight into Wilensky, who also never fit in. While this book won't set you jumping at shadows, You All Grow Up and Leave Me will make you shudder and wonder how many shadows linger inside the soul long after the tumult of adolescence has faded into the past. —Adrian Liang
Tim Samaras was something of an amateur tornado chaser, an autodidact armed with a high school diploma and an interest in electronics who sought the secrets of super storms by getting perilously close to them. With success came notoriety, as well as money and opportunities from the likes of National Geographic and The Discovery Channel. Competition for funding and his own obsessions drove him ever closer, until a monster twister—with winds approaching 300 miles per hour—killed Samaras on May 31, 2013, along with his son and a research partner. Brantley Hargrove's account is a deft blend of humanity and science, achievement and tragedy.
More selections for the best biographies and memoirs of April:
- The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
- Creative Quest by Questlove
- The Best Cook in the World by Rick Bragg
- My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
- The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
- Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
- Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters by Freeman Dyson
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