Biography & Memoirs Book Discussion Group

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Join us as we discuss great lives and times as presented in biographies and memoirs. All discussions are free and there is no registration required Meets the 2nd Thursday of each month @ 10:30 am Katy Geissert Civic Center Library Community Meeting Room.

Katy Geissert Civic Center Library
3301 Torrance Blvd. Torrance, CA 90503 (310) 618-5959

View our previous selections here. 

February 8th, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
The Quartet : Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J Ellis

The prizewinning author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinx now gives us the unexpected story--brilliantly told--of why the thirteen colonies, having just fought off the imposition of a distant centralized governing power, would decide to subordinate themselves anew. The Quartet is the story of this second American founding It was these men who shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation, manipulating the political process to force a calling of the Constitutional Convention, conspiring to set the agenda in Philadelphia, orchestrating the debate in the state ratifying conventions, and, finally, drafting the Bill of Rights to assure state compliance with the constitutional settlement.

March 8th, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
American Jezebel : the Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman who Defied the Puritans by Eve LaPlante

Until now, Hutchinson has been a polarizing figure in American history and letters, attracting either disdain or exaltation. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was haunted by the "sainted" Hutchinson, used her as a model for Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. Much of the praise for her, however, is muted by a wish to domesticate the heroine. Her detractors, starting with her neighbor John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts, referred to her as "the instrument of Satan," the new Eve, the "disturber of Israel," a witch, "more bold than a man," and Jezebel -- the ancient Israeli queen who, on account of her tremendous political power, was "the most evil woman" in the Bible. American Jezebel brings both balance and perspective to Hutchinson's story. It captures this American heroine's life in all its complexity, presenting her not as a religious fanatic, a cardboard feminist, or a raging crank -- as some have portrayed her -- but as a flesh-and-blood wife, mother, theologian, and political leader.

April 12th, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
Prince of Darkness : the Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire by Shane White

In Prince of Darkness, a groundbreaking and vivid account, eminent historian Shane White reveals the larger than life story of a man who defied every convention of his time. He wheeled and dealed in the lily white business world, he married a white woman, he bought a mansion in rural New Jersey, he owned railroad stock on trains he was not legally allowed to ride, and generally set his white contemporaries teeth on edge when he wasn't just plain outsmarting them. An important contribution to American history, Hamilton's life offers a way into considering, from the unusual perspective of a black man, subjects that are usually seen as being quintessentially white, totally segregated from the African American past.

 May 10th, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir by Terry Gilliam

The screenwriter, innovative animator, highly acclaimed visionary film director, and only non-British member of Monty Python offers an intimate glimpse into his world in this fascinating memoir illustrated with hand-drawn sketches, notes, and memorabilia from his personal archive.

June 14th, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
Captain Sir Richard Burton: A Biography by Edward Rice
(In honor of the Adult Summer Reading Program theme, “Reading Takes You Everywhere”)

A New York Times best-seller, Rice's biography is the gripping story of a fierce, magnetic, and brilliant man whose real-life accomplishments are the stuff of legend. Rice retraces Burton's steps as the first European adventurer to search for the source of the Nile; to enter, disguised, the forbidden cities of Mecca and Medina; and to travel through remote stretches of India, the Near East, and Africa. From his spying exploits to his startling literary accomplishments (the discovery and translation of the Kama Sutra and his seventeen-volume translation of Arabian Nights), Burton was an engrossing, larger-than-life Victorian figure, and Rice's splendid biography lays open a portrayal as dramatic, complicated, and compelling as the man himself.

July 12th, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu by Laurence Bergreen
(In honor of the Adult Summer Reading Program theme, “Reading Takes You Everywhere”)

As the first European to travel extensively throughout Asia, Marco Polo was the earliest bridge between East and West. His famous journeys took him across the boundaries of the known world, along the dangerous Silk Road, and into the court of Kublai Kahn, where he won the trust of the most feared and reviled leader of his day. Polo introduced the cultural riches of China to Europe, spawning centuries of Western fascination with Asia.

In this lively blend of history, biography, and travelogue, acclaimed author Laurence Bergreen separates myth from history, creating the most authoritative account yet of Polo's remarkable adventures. Exceptionally narrated and written with a discerning eye for detail, Marco Polo is as riveting as the life it describes.


August 9th, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
Thomas Cook: The Holiday Maker by Jill Hamilton
(In honor of the Adult Summer Reading Program theme, “Reading Takes You Everywhere”)

Thomas Cook, the father of tourism, is a forgotten hero of his age. When he was born, neither of the words 'tourism' or 'sightseeing' had been invented. Driven by his Baptist faith and the promotion of Temperance, Cook founded the travel industry - now one of the world's biggest sectors. One hundred and fifty years after his first overseas conducted tour, Jill Hamilton brings to life the complex man behind the famous name. There have been many accounts of the history of his firm, but this book is the first full-length biography of Cook himself.


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