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.
by Walter Isaacson
May 9, 2019
Isaacson's writings of late have been concerned with genius: biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. Now he takes on perhaps the ultimate genius, a man whose interest in art and science intertwined in spectacular ways. On the surface, the book doesn't seem to reveal much more about the man personally illegitimate, gay, sometimes unfocused than does a solid encyclopedia entry. But when Isaacson discusses da Vinci's artistic and scientific endeavors, all manner of fascinating connections begin to emerge Leonardo's fascination with anatomical structure informed his paintings; his profound interest in math and the transformation of shapes influenced his inventions. His delight in staging theatricals led to dramas that offered interpretations of his allegorical art and drawings. Encompassing in its coverage, robust in its artistic explanations, yet written in a smart, conversational tone, this is both a solid introduction to the man and a sweeping saga of his genius.
by David Michaelis
June 13, 2019
No other cartoonist tapped the nation's psyche, or touched its heart, like Charles Schulz, who wrote and drew Peanuts for 50 years. While Schulz's gentle humor and endearing characters are what made Peanuts arguably the most beloved comic of all time, it's the strip's psychological insights and underlying melancholy that turned it into enduring art. As Michaelis reveals in this exhaustively researched biography, Schulz's shy, self-effacing exterior hid a complicated, troubled figure who was dogged by overwhelming feelings of inadequacy even as his work appeared in thousands of newspapers worldwide, spawned television and Broadway spin-offs, and generated over $1 billion annually.
Autobiography of William Allen White
edited by Sally Forman Griffith
July 11, 2019
At the time of his death in 1944, William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette, was a national celebrity, proclaimed one of the truly great Americans of his age. Life magazine called him "a living symbol of small-town simplicity and kindliness and common sense."
First published posthumously in 1946, White's Autobiography was immediately hailed as a classic portrait, not simply of White himself, but of the men and women who transformed America from an agrarian society to a powerful industrial nation in the years before World War I. A bestselling Book-of-the-Month Club selection, the Autobiography was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.
by Barbara Walters
August 8, 2019
Although Walters writes, It was not in my nature to be courageous, to be the first, her compulsively readable memoir proves otherwise. No one lasts on TV for more than 45 years without the ability to make viewers feel comfortable, and Walters's amiable persona perfectly translates to the page. She gives us an entertaining panorama of a full life lived and recounted with humor and bracing honesty. She vividly recounts her decision to leave NBC's Today Show after 14 years to become the first female nightly news co-anchor, and tells of the firestorm of criticism she endured for accepting that pioneering position and its million-dollar salary. Alternating between tales of her personal struggles, professional achievements and insider anecdotes about the celebrities and world leaders she's interviewed, this mammoth memoir's energy never flags.
Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir
by Linnie Marsh Wolfe
September 12, 2019
All who have admired John Muir's ruggedly individualistic lifestyle, or who desire a greater appreciation of the history of environmental preservation in America, will be enthralled and enlightened by this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography. Following Muir from his ancestral home in Scotland, through his early years in the harsh Wisconsin wilderness, to his historic pilgrimage to California, Linnie Marsh Wolfe creates a full and rounded portrait of her subject-not only as America's firebrand conservationist and founder of the national park system but as a committed husband, father, and friend. Muir was a multifaceted character, shaped as much by his stern and liberty-loving Scottish heritage as by his love of all things wild and free. His battles against the encroachment of civilization were actually born of his love for it, for he was one of the few to realize that the destruction of the wilderness would diminish man himself.
by James Reston
October 10, 2019
Although a self-described unreconstructed Scotch Calvinist, the 82-year-old Reston clearly has mellowed, by evidence of this captivating memoir. Perceptive, frank, uncommonly interesting, avuncular, he relates with seemingly total recall "everything he saw" during 50 years with the New York Times as correspondent, D.C. bureau chief, executive editor, columnist. We learn much from Reston's close readings of the characters of our era's major political figures: the 10 presidents he has covered, cabinet members, presidential advisers, legislators, international leaders. His shop talk of the Times , revealing of internal workings, analyzes coverage of various controversial events and profiles colleagues. The integrity of the Times , Reston writes, has been one of the "dominant forces" in his life, along with his wife and the stern teaching of his parents. "Don't breathe on the window, ye'll get it dirty," his mother was wont to chastise, but "Scotty" gives the admonition no mind in his impressive memoirs.
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China
by Jung Chang
November 14, 2019
Born in 1835 to a prominent Manchu family, Cixi was chosen in 1852 by the young Chinese Emperor Xianfeng as one of his concubines. Literate, politically aware, and graceful rather than beautiful, Cixi was not Xianfeng's favorite, but she delivered his firstborn son in 1856. When the emperor died in 1861, he bequeathed his title to this son, with regents to oversee his reign. Cixi did not trust these men to competently rule China, so she conspired with Empress Zhen, her close friend and the deceased emperor's first wife, to orchestrate a coup. Memoirist Chang (Wild Swans) melds her deep knowledge of Chinese history with deft storytelling to unravel the empress dowager's behind-the-throne efforts to "Make China Strong" by developing international trade, building railroads and utilities, expanding education, and constructing a modern military.
by Eugene Burns
December 12, 2019
A colorful biography of a colorful man who lived in an equally vivid time and place. David Kalakaua, the last king of Hawaii, ruled in the latter half of the 19th century until his death in 1896, and was survived in monarchy only by the short reign of his sister Liliuokalani who was ousted from her throne before Hawaii became a United States territory in 1900. Eugene Burns' lively style does justice to his hero and to the significance of the period so important in the growth of the Pacific and the study of western impact on native culture.