This week's episode of the Amazon Book Review Podcast discusses books about people's lives that have made a big impact on us this year. Chris Schluep, Jon Foro, and Erin Kodicek talk about 12 biographies and memoirs that span a wide variety of life experiences, from being a fire-eater in a circus, to patrolling the border between the U.S. and Mexico, to being, well, one of the Beastie Boys. (Like I said: a wide variety of experiences.)
In the second half of the episode, Adrian sits down with Liane Moriarty, the author of Big Little Lies, to talk about her newest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers, as well as get a peek at how the story line for season two of Big Little Lies is being created, since HBO doesn't have a book plot to follow. (Or does it…?) The Amazon Book Review featured excerpts from this interview earlier this week; this is the interview in full.
Our show notes are below for those who want to remind themselves of the titles and authors we discussed.
Chris Schluep, Erin Kodicek, and Jon Foro talk about biographies and memoirs they read and loved in 2018.
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú – "The meat of the book is about his job, and his job is to patrol the [southern] border" … "His prose is direct and not sensational at all….He's just laying it out there, telling it how it is. You see the entirety of the issue."
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover – "This story is how she managed to extricate herself from this life [in a survivalist household]" … "It's a miraculous feat, and it’s a miraculous story."
The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles by Gary Krist – "The author takes three different characters from the [early] 1900s to the 1930s: The beginning of Los Angeles" … "It's one of those books where you realize that a place exists not necessarily because it needed to exist but because people willed it to exist."
Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna – "It's a very steam-of-consciousness format which is absolutely perfect for him. The book is 600 pages long; you would think it would be fairly dense. But, man, I can't remember reading a book faster than this."
The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts by Tessa Fontaine – "A lot of people threaten to join the circus. Not a lot of people actually follow through on that threat, but she did" … "Also an ode to unconditional love."
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope – "You have on one side the extravagant lifestyle that you're reading about, and on the other side, you have some real journalistic ardor behind it. It's a fascinating read, it's entertaining, it's enlightening…and Jho Low is actually still at large."
Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz - "What it's like to be ridiculously famous, rich, and get to fulfill every childish fantasy that you ever had."
Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by Jeff Tweedy – "It's kind of the opposite book of Beastie Boys Book" … "He's a very honest and forthright writer. He's basically everything he is as a songwriter turned into prose."
Swell: A Sailing Surfer's Voyage of Awakening by Liz Clark – "She sails around the world and surfs the best beaches…it's amazing."
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight – "He was one of the greatest thinkers of his time but he was also a real man, and this book drove that home."
…Mark Twain wrote, "Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written." But that doesn't mean that biographies aren't a great thing to sit down with, because it's really wonderful to immerse yourself in the life of another person for a while.
Adrian Liang's interview with Liane Moriarty:
Liane Moriarty on her new novel, Nine Perfect Strangers: "There are nine perfect strangers altogether who go to Tranquillum House. And they assume they are there for hot stone massages, maybe some mindfulness and meditation, perhaps some gentle fasting, but it turns out to be rather a different experience than what they thought they'd signed up for."
… "With each character I'm trying to be as authentic as I can be. I think most of us have flaws and most of us are different than what we appear to be. There's the front that we show the world. And then there's who we really are. As a novelist I'm allowed to explore both."
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