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Old 07-11-2012, 09:38 AM
Status: "Trump: Herd Mentality!" (set 14 days ago)
 
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Interesting thread, giving me several autobiographies to seek out.

I guess my favorite of all time is Mark Twain's autobiography. I have found that the 'new' expanded edition that came out last year (or 2010) is not necessary; I think the edition put together by Charles Neider is best (it contains most of the more interesting parts of Twain's idea of an autobiography).

Otherwise, I love "The Education of Henry Adams". If nothing else, at the bookstore, read the preface by Mr. Adams, who starts out by noting that Jean Jacques Rousseau began his 'Confessions' by stating "I have shown myself as I was; contemptible and vile when I was so; good, generous, sublime when I was so..."

However, Mr. Adams wrote that Mr. Rousseau's 'peculiar method of improving human nature has not been universally admired. Most educators of the nineteenth century have declined to show themselves before their scholars as objects more vile or contemptible than necessary..."

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful autobiography, although he (I guess) left out the vile parts of his nature.
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Old 07-13-2012, 10:00 AM
 
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Most of the books I read are non-fiction and included in that are a lot of biographies and autobiographies. I can't recall recently one that stands out but I do think one I found had a great impact was Cupcake Brown's memoir A PIECE OF CAKE.

I think I read so much I can say at the time "That was a good book" but then move on to the next and can't remember them all.

I did read another one about an Asian lady, can't remember the title, who was an orphan in Korea, then brought to the USA and raised by abusive religious people, went on to marry an abusive man, had a child who was her only sanity, and went on to be a college professor and get away from the abusive man.

Very moving.
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Old 07-13-2012, 04:54 PM
 
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Gavin Maxwell was a fairly well-known British writer in the 50s and 60s, famous for his book "Ring of Bright Water" which is partially about his life with an otter, and which was made into a movie. I saw the movie as a child, and immediately fell in love with all things otter, and read an abridged version of "Ring" in my teens.

It wasn't until I was in my forties that I read the full-length version and fell absolutely in love with the book. It is beautifully written, and includes more about his travels in addition to the otter story. I was so taken by this book that I read the sequel, "The Rocks Remain" and a novel about his childhood in the family estate on the lonely Scottish moors, "The House of Elrig."

Intrigued even further, I picked up Douglas Bottings' biography of Maxwell, "The Saga of Ring of Bright Water - The Enigma of Gavin Maxwell." I was enthralled. The man lived a very interesting and painful life - a closeted homosexual (homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967, and in Scotland until 1980), member of a titled family, he tried many different ventures trying to make a living, including poetry, painting, buying an island and starting a whale hunting business which failed, and finally, writing (one of his books was about the failed whaling business, "Harpoon at a Venture.) He traveled through what were the marshes of the Tigris and Euphrates (90% of which were destroyed by Saddam Hussein), where he obtained his first two otters and documented the lives of the Marsh Arabs. He traveled to the High Atlas mountains in Morocco and lived in Sicily gathering material for two other novels. He suffered from crippling depressions and the highest of highs, undoubtedly suffering from bipolar disorder. He spent his youth hunting to excess, yet he was a naturalist and spent the latter part of his years devoted to the animals that came into his life. His interaction with animals would be considered controversial today, even illegal, but those were different times and there is no doubt that he loved his animal companions and inspired many conservationists, among them Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the movie "Ring of Bright Water," who founded the Born Free Foundation.

Gavin Maxwell was a person with many flaws, and is not particularly likable, but I found his story fascinating and unforgettable.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Saga-Ring-.../dp/1897784856

Last edited by C2ShiningC; 07-13-2012 at 05:08 PM..
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Old 07-13-2012, 06:30 PM
 
Location: the living desert
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Yes, I remember the Ring of Bright Water...sounds interesting. Speaking of persons with flaws, the Charles Lindbergh autobio "the Spirit of St. Louis" is fantastic. Lindbergh had the idea, and stuck with it, never giving up. It's actually pretty amazing how one thing after another fell into place after the big aircraft manufacturers turned him down. The highlight of course is the flight, or I suppose I should call it THE FLIGHT. The fact that he took that little single engine plane across the Atlantic still rates as an amazing achievement. He didn't even have a window in the front cockpit to see where he was going. One of the best autobiographies.
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Old 07-18-2012, 01:11 PM
 
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"White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth Century India" by William Dalrymple. I have Kirkpatricks in my family line which is why I read it.

Lauren Bacall's "By Myself and Then Some," which is her updated autobiography.

My brother is not a big reader but he loved "One Man's Wilderness" by Sam Keith, which is on my list to read as well.
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:12 PM
 
Location: The Jar
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I remember reading a biography about the Howard Brothers (AKA: Mo, Curly, Shemp/The Three Stooges).

I not only found it fascinating, but also very enlightening! In their actual personal lives, they were extremely loving fellas.

They were not at all like the characters they created on screen. In fact, they were all polar opposites in many ways! It was a nice surprise.

Conversely, bio about crooner Bing Crosby revealed him to be a very abusive father.
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Old 07-19-2012, 04:50 PM
 
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One of the best biographies I've ever read was "Matriarch" by Anne Edwards, about Queen Mary (the grandmother to the present day Queen Elizabeth). She was engaged to marry Prince Edward, the Duke of Clarence (arranged, of course), but he died under mysterious circumstances. It's rumored he was Jack the Ripper - the author goes into this theory in some detail. After his death, she married his younger brother, who became King George V. Her place in the monarchy from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth's reign was a fascinating read - Germany's attacks on England during WWI (while she was queen) and WWII, and her son's abdication from the throne for the "woman he loved". I wonder what she would have thought about the royal family's scandals of recent years. I've read it three times.
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Old 07-19-2012, 04:54 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by picklejuice View Post
I remember reading a biography about the Howard Brothers (AKA: Mo, Curly, Shemp/The Three Stooges).

I not only found it fascinating, but also very enlightening! In their actual personal lives, they were extremely loving fellas.

They were not at all like the characters they created on screen. In fact, they were all polar opposites in many ways! It was a nice surprise.

Conversely, bio about crooner Bing Crosby revealed him to be a very abusive father.
Is that the book on which the TV movie was based? It depicted Moe as a very nice guy, faithful to his wife, and very frugal with his money, "Curly" as very troubled (drinking and womanizing), Larry a gambler and spendthrift, and Shemp as somewhat neurotic. The studio system took advantage of them.

I read the book "Going My Own Way", about Bing - written by his son Gary. It seems he treated his second family completely differently from his first. I believe two of his sons from his first marriage committed suicide? I know Gary died of cancer. I remember the "second" family from those Christmas specials.
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Old 07-19-2012, 07:25 PM
 
Location: The beautiful Rogue Valley, Oregon
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In honor of his "100th birthday," two Woody Guthrie biographies. They are painful reads, both through his childhood and young life and then what was clearly early-onset Huntington's Disease, which he tried to self-medicate with alcohol. It wasn't a pretty or particularly happy life - some of that was self-inflicted, but a lot of it wasn't.

Woody Guthrie: a life by Joe Klein has, I think the better story of his childhood, while Rambling Man, the life and times of Woody Guthrie by Ed Cray has the more complete story of his life, as Cray had access to the entire trove of Guthrie Library material AND the FBI case files.

Woody Guthrie's own autobiography, Bound For Glory, is actually fairly fictionalized - it's an interesting read, but I'd say stick with the documented biographies.

I'd also recommend The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan for Dust Bowl panhandle history.
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Old 07-20-2012, 12:04 PM
 
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I'm currently reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." It's very fascinating!
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