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Staff Reviews: Adult biography

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring books DVDs for adults! (For reviews of books for all ages, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates. The book reviews on this website represent the personal opinions of the individuals who created them and do not represent any official views of the Marathon County Public Library.


Cover: 'Me'

"Me" by Elton John

★★★★★ If you’re an inhabitant of planet Earth, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Elton John. Maybe you’re familiar with some of the wild outfits and costumes he’s worn over the years, or you know a couple of his (many) hit songs. Perhaps you know him from his work on Disney’s The Lion King, or you’ve seen the 2019 biopic Rocketman. If you know anything about...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir, biography and memoir, celebrities

Cover: 'Hungry'

"Hungry" by Jeff Gordinier

★★★★ Step inside the restless, forward-thinking mind of one of the best chefs in the world with author Jeff Gordiner's account of years spent on-and-off with Rene Redzepi. Redzepi is the owner and head chef of Noma, the Copenhagen, Denmark restaurant consistently ranked one of the best (sometimes the best) restaurants in the world. It's difficult to...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir

Cover: 'Furious Hours'

"Furious Hours" by Casey Cep

★★★★★ Author Casey Cep takes a page out of Harper Lee's book to recreate her own fact-checking non-fiction title. The book starts out by detailing the tale of Reverend Willie Maxwell, a man accused of murdering multiple family members in order to claim insurance policies he held in their names. This causes quite the stir as the public starts to believe Maxwell to...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, true crime

Cover: 'Freak Kingdom'

"Freak Kingdom" by Timothy Denevi

★★★★ Hunter S. Thompson was an American journalist who wrote for Rolling Stone and other magazines, and is best known for this books Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. He was one of the pioneers of an immersive style of journalism in which he inserted himself into the events around him and included his own...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography

Cover: 'The Far Away Brothers'

"The Far Away Brothers" by Lauren Markham

★★★★★ Author Lauren Markham's deeply reported book tells the story of identical twins, the Flores brothers, who migrate from their home in El Salvador to California, not only to escape the violence of their native land but also in an effort to help their parents and siblings who stay behind in El Salvador. A mix of Markham's own firsthand accounts and...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography

Cover: 'Year of Yes'

"Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes

★★★ Shonda Rhimes is the creative mind behind of some of the hottest shows on television, including Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Though Rhimes was thriving professionally, her personal life had devolved into a cycle of sleeping, eating, working and just getting by. After being told by her older sister that “You...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, biography and memoir

Cover: 'The Stranger in the Woods'

"The Stranger in the Woods" by Michael Finkel

★★★★ For 27 years, Christopher Knight lived in complete solitude in the woods of Maine, becoming known by locals as the North Pond Hermit. Knight only encountered a handful of wayward hikers in his quarter century in isolation, tucked away in a large camp that he made into his own makeshift home. Year after year, Knight survived on his own, meticulously...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography

Cover: 'Gratitude'

"Gratitude" by Oliver Sacks

★★★★★ It is hard to write a review on a book this brief without spoiling the contents. What I can say is that this short collection of essays, written in the two years leading up to Dr. Sacks’ death, is deeply and beautifully human. These essays show us the depth of coming to terms with death and celebrating, with gratitude, the life that you have lived. There is...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir

Cover: 'H is for Hawk'

"H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald

★★★ Part memoir, part nature essay, and part biography of eccentric author T.H. White, this book is difficult to categorize. Helen Macdonald decides to train a goshawk after her father's unexpected death, and the experience allows her to deal with her loss. Macdonald also writes about the parallels between her goshawk training experience and the English author...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir

Cover: 'Stevie Nicks'

"Stevie Nicks" by Zoë Howe

★★★ As a Stevie Nicks fan, I enjoyed this new biography from British journalist Zoe Howe, but recommend it with some reservations. I was a bit disappointed that most of the material is sourced from published interviews and books, so I would not recommend this book for fans looking for "new" insights about Nicks, especially fans who have already read one of the...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, celebrities, music

Cover: 'Choose Your Own Autobiography'

"Choose Your Own Autobiography" by Neil Patrick Harris, David Javerbaum, Antony Hare

★★★★★ Whether your favorite Neil Patrick Harris character is Barney Stinson, Doogie Howser, or Hedwig, this book is highly recommended. NPH models his autobiography after the "Choose Your Own Adventure" children's series, where readers make a choice at the end of each chapter that will change the outcome of the story. This book is full of humor and quirky details...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, celebrities, humor

Cover: 'Yes Please'

"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler

★★★★★ Are you ready to laugh, learn, and cry? Amy delivers all of this and more in her debut book. Anyone who is a fan of Amy from her television work and comedy will definitely appreciate her humor and stories about trying to make it in the business. She covers her childhood through her time on "Parks and Recreation." What I found to be the best part of this...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir, humor, celebrities, television

Cover: 'The Secret History of Wonder Woman'

"The Secret History of Wonder Woman" by Jill Lepore

★★★★★ Comic book geeks and history buffs alike will enjoy this fascinating story about the creator of Wonder Woman. William Moulton Marston invented the blood pressure-measuring lie detector test, and had a colorful academic career before he created the beloved comic book character. Inspired by the women's suffrage movement, and his own belief that women would...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, superheroes

Cover: 'Dancing with Myself'

"Dancing with Myself" by Billy Idol

★★★★ Billy Idol's memoir is a candid recollection of his life as a bad boy rocker in the 80s and 90s. Unlike some other rock star memoirs, Billy Idol doesn't make excuses for his behavior. He admits fault for the hurt he caused to his longtime girlfriend Perri and his family because of his drug use and infidelity. Idol also discusses his musical influences, and...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, biography and memoir

Cover: 'My Salinger Year'

"My Salinger Year" by Joanna Rakoff

★★★★ Dictaphones and typewriters in 1996? After graduate school, Joanna takes a job as an assistant to the literary agent who represents J.D. Salinger. The office appears stuck in the 1950s, despite the introduction of computers and email to the rest of the world. Joanna's duties include typing out a generic form letter to Salinger's fans, since Salinger will...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography

Cover: 'John Wayne: The Life and Legend'

"John Wayne: The Life and Legend" by Scott Eyman

★★★★★ John Wayne is the most famous American movie star of all time. In a 50-year career, he created memorable characters as the the Ringo Kid, Ethan Edwards, Sean Thornton, Tom Dunston, Kirby Yorke, George Washington McClintock and Rooster Cogburn.  Author Scott Eyman offers up this 658-page biography of the Duke and it's a winner.  Eyman supplies a...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography

Cover: 'Paul'

"Paul" by Tony Scherman

★★★★ In the 50th Anniversary year of the Beatles' conquest of America, LIFE Magazine offers up this breezy photo-guide to the life and times of the most famous member of the Fab Four, Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE. It traces Macca's life, the beginnings of the Beatles, their subsequent fame & fortune and McCartney's post-Beatle career. The book is...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, music, history, biography

Cover: 'LIFE Unseen: Johnny Cash'

"LIFE Unseen: Johnny Cash" by LIFE Magazine

★★★★ The life and time of country music legend Johnny Cash are covered in this nicely-illustrated biography from Life Books. Over 190 black-and-white and color photographs of Cash, his family, friends and fellow musicians compliment an honest yet affectionate narrative that traces Cash's rags to riches story.  The book includes reminiscences by Rosanne Cash...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, celebrities, biography, music

Cover: 'As I Knew Him'

"As I Knew Him" by Anne Serling

★★★★★ In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Rod Serling penned various movie and television scripts that demonstrated the power and majesty of the English language. Though termed "television's angry young man," his scripts consistently displayed a sensitivity, gentleness and perceptive understanding of the human condition. This tender and intimate biography, penned by his...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir, television, celebrities