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Biographies & Memoirs

Video: Interview with Gary Vikan and Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director

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Sacred and Stolen is the memoir of an art museum director with the courage to reveal what goes on behind the scenes. It lays bare the messy part of museums: looted antiquities, crooked dealers, deluded collectors, duplicitous public officials, fakes, inside thefts, bribery, and failed exhibitions. These back stories, at once shocking and comical, reveal a man with a taste for adventure, an eagerness to fan the flames of excitement, and comfort with the chaos that often ensued. This is also the story of a Minnesota kid who started out as a printer’s devil in his father’s small-town newspaper and ended up as the director of a the Walters, a gem of an art museum in Baltimore. Of his quest…

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4 Books about Music City until Nashville returns

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I have always been fascinated by musical TV shows. I’ve watched Glee with, well, glee. I was probably the only person on earth who was sad when Smash got canceled. But no melodious show has hooked me quite the way Nashville has. Can you blame me? The music, the romance, the drama…did I mention the music? On Nashville it is unapologetically good. As in, downloading and playing on repeat for hours good. Just listen to this song and try not to love it:   Aside from the songwriting, there’s a never-ending roller coaster of drama to keep you hooked. The show follows a large cast, all at different stages of the country music industry. Legendary singer Rayna Jaymes (played by…

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John Cleese and Martin Short: Memoirs by your humble comedy legends

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As I was growing up, two famous comic troupes worked from different sides of the pond. On public television, Britain’s renowned Monty Python’s Flying Circus dazzled us with a singularly bizarre brand of humor that at any time might feature exploding penguins, singing lumberjacks, Spam-loving Vikings, or a pantomime Princess Margaret. Back home, each week, LIVE FROM NEW YORK! came Saturday Night Live, with its Coneheads, Blues Brothers, Land Sharks and Killer Bees. Some tried to argue over which series was funniest. The rest of us were content just to enjoy what we knew was a golden age of televised comedy. Now, we can take a look at these celebrated series and two of the men behind each with the…

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4 Classic rock histories with a backbeat

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Have someone on your Christmas list who has a hankering for classic rock? Sometimes, these people are the most difficult to find a gift for. You want to help them indulge their musical passion, but what do you get that special someone when you know they already have all the albums by their favorite artist? Thanks to a spate of new books, you can help that hard-to-shop-for someone do more than just listen to their favorite performers. Within these books can be found these artists’ life stories, the sagas of their incredible careers, and the background behind the hits that have become the soundtrack of our lives. So this year, try rockin’ around the Christmas tree with these books. Yule…

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Haul-a-day 22: Notable Lives

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As the eminently quotable Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Here are four true-to-life stories of real people who lived amazing lives. A cinematic dissertation on the many faces of South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela The true story of a respected map dealer who spent years living a double life as a map thief The life of an acclaimed British author who didn’t even begin her career until her sixth decade A memoir about a WWII casualty of war, and the family that was left behind These are lives to which we all can relate, and stories that help us see the exceptional…

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Haul-a-Day 16: Thanks for the Memoirs

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We all need some inspiration right now. So how about these amazing women? The manual laborer who inspired his four daughters to break down barriers to become doctors. The first Filipina-American physician to American presidents. The pioneer in cystic fibrosis awareness as told by her devoted sister. The journey from editor of international Vogue to living in a mud hut in Ghana to help save children’s lives. Sticking to your New Year resolutions will seem like child’s play after reading their memoirs.     To learn more about our Holiday Haul-a-Day click here.    

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Rocking around the holidays with groovy photos of music icons

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I love holiday music—ALL holiday music, from the schmaltzy versions of 50s and 60s pop artists singing carols to the revered orchestral renderings of The Messiah. When it comes to music around the holidays, the more “sing we joyous all together, heedless of the wind and weather,” the better. But at heart, the music that’s imprinted into my DNA, the music that’s formed the soundtrack of my life, is rock ‘n’ roll. Fortunately, there are three new, beautiful coffee table books out this season that will jingle the bells of anyone who loves their music with a heavy backbeat. With any luck, the Big Guy in Red will take a long look at these books when he’s deciding whether I’ve…

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A rabbi reveals the colorful history of the Jews of Asia

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In his latest book, Pepper, Silk and Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East (Gefen Publishing House, 2014), Rabbi Marvin Tokayer regales the reader with stories of Jews who traversed the Far East—from Burma, China and Japan to all points in between—and who made significant contributions in ancient lands. The book, co-authored with Ellen Rodman, Ph.D., is replete with stories of Jews who left their mark on societies normally considered outside the Jewish cultural orbit. Colorful characters, such as Morris “Two Gun” Cohen (the first and only Jewish general in the Chinese army) and Moe Berg (the major leaguer who was a U.S. spy in Japan), illustrate the Jews’ ability to adapt and contribute while maintaining allegiance to…

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The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart heads to the big screen: Political drama Rosewater

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On the one hand, it might seem like an odd choice for a satirical comedian with his own cable show to tackle weighty material like the hotly contested 2009 elections in Iran between the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his liberal challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. On the other hand, anyone who’s seen Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show will know that its creator delivers harder hitting news on Comedy Central than most talking heads do on CNN, MSNBC, and most certainly Fox News. Stewart makes his directorial debut with Rosewater, which he adapted from Maziar Bahari’s 2011 memoir, Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival. Documentary filmmaker and Newsweek correspondent Bahari tells the story of his incarceration…

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On Pluto: A journalist reports on the Alzheimer’s battle from the inside

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Those of us fighting Alzehiemer’s Disease on a daily basis are running in place, trying desperately to find a way to cope. It’s a death in slow motion, like having a sliver of your brain shaved every day. The dying part comes later. With the launch of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November, millions across the country are focused not only on finding a cure, but on better care for those affected with the disease, as well as for the caregivers who struggle to provide support and guidance. The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund of Boston and other researchers have made impressive strides, but far more needs to be done. Meanwhile, doctors scramble to slay this demon—one that’s expected to bankrupt…

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12 fascinating things about Judy Garland

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There’s a lot we don’t know about Judy Garland since she never wrote an autobiography, but Judy Garland on Judy Garland; Interviews and Encounters, edited by Randy L. Schmidt (Chicago Review Press, 2014) is the closest we’ll ever get to a Garland memoir. It’s a collection of terrific articles about Garland through the years—including gems she penned herself. In the book, a picture emerges that’s wholly different from the tragic myth that frustrated Judy herself. “People think I’m either a breakable Dresden doll or a wide-eyed Kansas teenager,” she said in 1963. “I haven’t been a teenager for a long time and if I were breakable, I wouldn’t be here now.” Indeed, we get to know a woman who was…

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Tom Maxwell remembers “Hell” with the Squirrel Nut Zippers in his new memoir

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Tom Maxwell rose to fame writing and playing for the interestingly named band, Squirrel Nut Zippers. With his help, the band’s hit “Hell” rocketed them to new heights, bringing their retro-swing sound to big stages in venues such as Los Angeles and Europe. Fast forward almost 20 years, and Maxwell is still writing, but this time it’s not just song lyrics. He is a recurring contributor for the news site Al Jazeera America and has appeared on popular sites like Salon and Oxford America. We talked with the new author about writing his first memoir, Hell: My Life in the Squirrel Nut Zippers and got inside the mind of the lively musician who says writing this book was a freeing…

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Liz Prince’s Tomboy looks at growing up outside of gender norms

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Liz Prince’s graphic memoir Tomboy opens with the cartoonish 4-year-old Liz screaming and crying as her parents huddle around her. “I’m just trying to get her to wear this dress,” her exasperated mother reports about the garment sent by her grandmother. Two pages later, after unsuccessful coaxing, her mother turns to her father and instructs him, “Tell your mom, ‘No more dresses,’ OK?” On its own, this early memory stands as something of an amusing anecdote. But soon after, we witness the ways that Liz’s peers are much less understanding than her parents when it comes to gender norms and expectations. The book takes us through incident after incident in which Liz is shamed, taunted, questioned, and even abused because…

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Telling her own secrets: MariNaomi’s autobiographical comics

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Humor and occasional heartbreak marked MariNaomi’s first book, Kiss & Tell, a graphic memoir of the author/cartoonist’s love interests from ages 5 to 25 (topics ranged from chapters titled “The Most Beautiful Penis I’ve Ever Seen” to “My Dad is So Naïve!”). In her second graphic memoir, Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories (2D Cloud and Uncivilized Books, 2014), MariNaomi once again mines her own life for memorable events, this time in episodes revolving around family matters, friendships, work, and the occasional romantic interlude. In this book, the illustrations are somewhat haphazardly broken into short and long vignettes that vary in style, sometimes sparse, at other times more text-heavy. Collectively, the stories leave the reader with the sense of a…

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Catching up with Frances Kuffel after the search for Mr. Good Enough

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Frances Kuffel has a killer sense of humor, which you need if you’re a 53-year-old female writer living in New York City, wear size 22, eke a living from irregular adjunct teaching and regular dog walking, live in an apartment nicknamed ‘the Bat Cave’ (just as dark, but a lot smaller) with a shedding, large, racist, ageist Labrador retriever named Daisy. It’s even more stressful if you’re using online dating services to find a nice, single guy “whose baggage,” as she puts it, “can be wedged into the overhead compartment.” There are many ironic moments in Kuffel’s fourth memoir, Love Sick: A Memoir of Searching for Mr. Good Enough (Berkely Trade, 2014). Set four years ago, it follows Kuffel as…

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Spiritual teacher Francine Vale on healing in the long, dark shadow of 9/11

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Francine Vale is a spiritual teacher who has helped many repair emotional and physical scars through her healing sessions and widely sought-after workshops. Her memoir, Song of the Heart: Walking the Path of Life (World of Love), shares the story of how she came to learn what she was meant to do: help others let go of fear and frustration and open their hearts to love and healing. To mark the 13th anniversary of 9/11, Vale spoke about paths to healing on the anniversary of this national trauma. BOOKTRIB: September 11 remains a difficult day nationally and individually. How can we continue to honor those we lost without losing ourselves in grief? FRANCINE VALE: The creation of day-long memorials may…

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