Leonardo Lucarelli has always liked to cook. His father was an exceptional cook, but passed away young. His mother tried, but could never make anything that transcended the merely edible. As a teen, Leo spent free afternoons at home cooking for himself and friends; he realized he was good, but never considered it more than a useful skill. When he received a scholarship to study in Rome, he jumped at the opportunity to leave his home in the country; when that scholarship covered little more than his books, he walked into a restaurant kitchen and asked for a job. So began “the education of an Italian chef,” the subtitle of Lucarelli’s illuminating autobiography, Mincemeat.
Gizelle’s Bucket List was a fun, fast read. I laughed, a lot. OK, right up until I needed tissues and a couple days away from the book for my mental health. The story centers on Lauren (Fernie) and Gizelle, her 160 pound Mastiff. Woven around this central pillar are ribbons of side story about family dynamics, friendships, adventure, boyfriends, love (or at least like), loss, self-discovery, and slobber. Lots and lots of slobber. Actually, there is really only one story about slobber. It’s not bad.
We get to be with Fernie when, at the behest of her Mother, she finds, falls in love with, and brings home Gizelle. Leave to get doughnuts, come home with a giant breed puppy.
I came across The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan one day as I was doing personal research for my book on the topic. Upon reading the introduction to the New York Times bestselling book, I was captivated, intrigued and sold. Now, I do not say this quite often at all. I firmly believe that every single human being walking on planet Earth should read this book. It is not only life-transformative, it’s life-enlightening.
The concept of The Gratitude Diaries was an idea that came to Kaplan on New Year’s Eve. With the hustle and bustle of society, especially in New York City, Kaplan made it her personal resolution to dedicate 365 days to gratitude and appreciation. Rather than finding fault in things the way so many people do, Kaplan’s intention was to see the silver lining and the bright side of everything.
Rich Israel’s playful, bright and fantastical memoir of the 1960’s experience is a fun, well-written read for fans of counterculture and coming-of-age tales. Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes is raucous, trippy and expressive, full of adventure, hijinks and personal discoveries. From hitchhiking, to a month long horseback riding adventure out west, Rich takes the reader through a time that many can only read about and others will remember fondly.
The book reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, full of crazy characters, road trips, adventures and drugs, but peppered with self- reflection, excellent insight and the running political commentary in the background.
Four Seasons of Loneliness is comprised of four different stories which, to my understanding, are all actual true case studies that the author chronicled over his many years as a lawyer. Each of the stories is quite different, but they all have one central theme–loneliness, and the different forms it can take.
I found this book to be quite remarkable. I was drawn in to each of the different stories completely, and found myself fascinated by some stories and enraged by others.
The first story centers around two children from an incestuous family. Their grandparents and mom had been having sexual orgy-type interactions with the children since they were babies, and they were placed with an adoptive family after their birth family relinquished their rights to the children after being caught.
In 2015, terrorists attacked six different sites in Paris, killing 130 people. A large number of those victims came from the Bataclan Theater, where Helene Muyal-Leiris was attending a concert. While there were survivors of the attack on the Bataclan, Helene was not among that number. With Helene’s death, Antoine Leiris lost his wife and the mother of his child. It is this tragic loss and Antoine’s struggle to move forward that serves as a backdrop for the raw, powerful emotions that are portrayed throughout the beautiful, heart-wrenching You Will Not Have My Hate.
The memoir is structured in short, conversational passages that begin on the night of the attack and end two weeks later. Antoine details everything from his initial concern and then panic on the night of the attacks, to the deep sorrow, desire for isolation, and appreciation for support in the days that followed. Each passage builds a portrait of a man who lost half his heart, but recognized the need to remain strong to raise his son, Melvil.
I’m not the one to read memoirs, especially not ones with heavy topics like cancer, but Rob Rufus’ Die Young With Me turned out to be the perfect exception to my rule. Mixed with teen angst and underground punk culture, this book enticed me until the end.
Rob and Nat Rufus live in a typical little town in West Virginia where punk is nothing but noise. It’s not until the twins visit a relative that they find out how punk truly can be a way of life. After that, the brothers and a few friends start a band and never look back. When Rob, young, angry, and full of potential, is diagnosed with cancer, the dreams the Rob had fought so hard to achieve turn into a life or death battle.
Reviewed by Nina Longfield
Hound of the Sea by Garrett McNamara is a memoir that delves into the hypnotic draw of big wave surfing. This book, however, is also a look back to an unconventional childhood. McNamara was born at the tail end of the flower power era with parents who embraced the concepts of peace, love, sex, drugs, and communal experimentation. Throughout his memoir, McNamara dips into his past sharing vignettes of memories. Using his own recollections as well as stories he heard from others, McNamara creates a picture of a boy with an unconventional childhood growing into a man with an exceptional occupation.
As a woman of a certain age (or even beyond) I have the greatest admiration and respect for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. From the get-go, she had the wherewithal to do more than just dream–she did!!! And didn’t she just?
Justice Ginsburg has been writing all of her life, with one of her first published pieces happening while in the eighth grade, which is included in this book, as is one of her most recent writings for the Supreme Court, the highlights of the 2015-2016 Term, which just ended about four months ago! In case you’re curious, that covers a span of some seventy years, and she’s not about to run out of words anytime soon, considering the content of that recent piece.
Decca Aitkenhead’s second book is the account of her partner Tony Wilkinson’s death, and its illuminating aftermath. While the impetus for All At Sea was his death (and her loss), Aitkenhead delves into every aspect of her life that was affected by her tragedy, and allows herself to explore the scope of it. Nothing about the book was overly dramatic or emotional, but she still allowed herself to explore her grief, in a self-aware way. The prologue also helped set the tone by explaining what it’s like to be a victim of random tragedy, and how sudden loss and freak accidents “happen to other people,” until they happen to you. I think the two main things that elevated this story from the expected “woe is me” tale were her unique love story with Tony, and the fact that Aitkenhead’s own mother died of cancer when she was a child. Her unconventional approach to the situation subconsciously shaped Aitkenhead’s own understanding of death, loss, and grief.