How are you supposed to act when a friend hands you a copy of celebrated psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and exclaims, "This is a book for you!” Read it, obviously. That's how Amazon editor Erin Kodicek discovered it, writing in her review, "Everybody, this is a book for you." In addition to that, this month's picks for the best in biographies and memoirs includes: former Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl; a Woman of No Importance who was one of the Allies' most important spies; and a countercultural coming-of-age story that should have ended in disaster, but somehow didn't. And if those don't grab you, we have a lot more.
Giving the reader a behind-the-scenes peek from both sides of the couch, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a witty, relatable, moving homage to therapy—and just being human. While therapists are required to see a counselor themselves as part of their training, Gottlieb enlists an experienced ear when an unexpected breakup lays her flat. Working through her issues with the enigmatic “Wendell” helps Gottlieb process her pain, but it also hones her professional skills; after all, a good therapist possesses the ability to empathize with their patients (four of whom she chronicles in funny, frustrating, heartbreaking and profoundly inspiring detail). Like Gottlieb, you will see yourselves in them—in all their self-sabotaging, misunderstood, unlucky, and evolutionary glory. So, for those of you thinking: self-help books are just not my jam… they aren’t mine either. But Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is so much more expansive than that. Everybody, this is a book for you. —Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
When Gourmet magazine closed its doors, no one was more surprised than its editor-in-chief, Ruth Reichl. Save Me the Plums is a memoir of how Reichl came to be at the magazine she’d pored over as a child, how she transformed it from a stuffy relic of the old guard into a publication that embraced a new culinary era, and how Gourmet magazine met its end. Reichl is a marvelous writer, and readers will experience her exhilarating journey from New York Times restaurant critic to the farm-to-table movement of Los Angeles, and finally to the job she never expected to get: editor-in-chief of Gourmet. Reichl’s passion for the role food plays in our lives is evident on every page, including a smattering of recipes that complement the narrative. Save Me the Plums is a book not only about a changing food culture, but also about a woman taking on new challenges, pushing boundaries, and hanging onto the sense of wonder that started her on this road to begin with. A memoir to savor. —Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review
In this fast-paced biography, Sonia Purnell tells the story of Virginia Hall, an American spy who worked undercover in France during World War II for Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). Her story is a surprising one: She began her life in the United States with a mother who wished for the perfect debutante, but Hall was more comfortable studying languages. She was living abroad and working for the State Department when she lost half her leg in a hunting accident, but this setback didn’t slow her down at all—she named her wooden prosthetic Cuthbert, drove ambulances in France, and was recruited by a recently formed SOE as a spy in occupied France. Hall posed as a newspaper reporter, enlisting civilians for the French Resistance and establishing an underground network of allies, becoming one of the most important spies during World War II. Purnell brings Hall’s exploits to life, crafting a gripping and cinematic biography for an unsung hero of wartime espionage. —Alison Walker, Amazon Bookstores
The Light Years: A Memoir by Chris Rush
The son of wealthy, connected, and deeply Catholic parents, Chris Rush's world exploded in a thousand directions when, at the tender age of 12, a family "friend" placed LSD on his tongue with the invocation "This is sacrament. You are one of us now.” Later, following expulsion from school, Rush headed west chasing a drug deal, becoming enmeshed in a counterculture of kindred spirits all on a mission for enlightenment. Then the '70s happened, and things got dark. The Light Years could have been—probably should have been—a harrowing cautionary tale. And to an extent, it is. But Rush's memoir is also a nakedly honest act of self-examination, an ultimately triumphant elegy to a misbegotten childhood.
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Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport by Yvon Chouinard
Among other things, Yvon Chouinard is or has been: A pioneering rock climber during Yosemite's "Golden Age" of the 1950s and '60s; an alpinist with several notable, occasionally hair-raising first ascents to his credit; a master/philosopher/acolyte of tenkara, the art of "simple fly fishing"; the founder of the Southern California Falconry Club; a devotee of surfing; a fearless, influential environmental activist; and a forger of pitons and innovator of climbing gear, which led him to establish Chouinard Equipment, Ltd. and later, Patagonia, Inc. The nearly 500 pages of Some Stories is more "collected works" than autobiography, but the through lines of his life can be traced through these articles, reminiscences, letters, and photographs spanning his unique career as an adventurer and businessman. —Jon Foro, Amazon Book Review
More of the best biographies and memoirs of April:
- The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees by Meredith May
- Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks by Ron Rapoport
- Colin Powell: Imperfect Patriot by Jeffrey J. Matthews
- Women's Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home by Megan K. Stack
- Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi
- Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer
- Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America by Jared Cohen
- Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement by Rich Karlgaard
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