Colour me intrigued, but there’s something about a well-written memoir… Even if it’s a person who might be outside my area of awareness, their memoir might grab my interest and keep me intrigued for 500 pages or more. A few days ago I talked about Alan Doyle’s wonderful autobiography, Where I Belong, published by Random House of Canada, but there are so many more to consider! Here, then, is just a sampling of some wonderful memoirs or autobiographies that came out this year.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I’ll confess that I “read” this one by audiobook, because I couldn’t resist hearing Amy narrate it herself, and because I had heard that there were a tonne of little extras within the audio version. I loved every minute of this book – so much great advice and honesty mixed in with humour and even a little pathos. The write-up describes a “big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious”. She is a very passionate person, who believes in staying true to the person you are, and this comes through in her writing. Published by HarperCollins Canada
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come. Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years! Published by Simon & Schuster Canada
I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short
Martin Short is an incredibly private man, so it was a surprise to find out that there is so much intimate personal detail contained in this very revealing memoir. Between sharing fascinating details about his history with Second City, SCTV and his time in the movies, as well as on the stage. Short also brings us into the circle of his family life, from raising his children to the legendary parties he and his wife have hosted. He recounts the pain of losing a brother and both parents by the time he was 20, and of the devastating death of Nancy, his wife of thirty years, in 2010. Despite the hardships, Short’s life has been full of laughter, and he remains perennially upbeat. Again, I “read” this on audio, and having Short read it aloud made it all the more poignant. Published by HarperCollins Canada
I Work at the Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan
Working in a public library is one of my favourite things to do, but I will admit that some of the questions I’m asked can veer to the … unusual. From a patron’s missing wetsuit to the scent of crab cakes wafting through the stacks, I Work at a Public Library showcases the oddities that have come across Gina Sheridan’s circulation desk. Throughout these pages, she catalogs her encounters with local eccentrics as well as the questions that plague her, such as, “What is the standard length of eyebrow hairs?” Whether she’s helping someone scan his face onto an online dating site or explaining why the library doesn’t have any dragon autobiographies, Sheridan’s bizarre tales prove that she’s truly seen it all. Published by Adams Media and distributed by F & W.
Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
With an abusive father who made his childhood a nightmare, you would think that the last thing Alan Cumming would want to do would be to revisit his past. However, when television producers approached Alan to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show in 2010, he enthusiastically agreed. He hoped to solve the mystery of his maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, who had disappeared into the Far East after WWII. Alan’s mother knew very little about him—he had been a courier, carrying information between battalions on his motorbike. With ribald humor, wit, and incredible insight, Alan seamlessly moves back and forth in time, integrating stories from his childhood in Scotland and his experiences today as the celebrated actor of film, television, and stage. At times suspenseful, at times deeply moving, but always incredibly brave and honest, Not My Father’s Son is a powerful story of embracing the best aspects of the past and triumphantly pushing the darkness aside. Published by HarperCollins Canada
Coming Ashore by Catherine Gildiner
For fans of “Too Close to the Falls” and “After the Falls” comes the final book in the trilogy of Gildiner’s memoirs, and takes us to age twenty-five. Picking up her story in the late ’60s at age 21, Cathy Gildiner whisks the reader through five years and three countries, beginning when she is a poetry student at Oxford. After Oxford, Cathy returns to Cleveland, Ohio, where she teaches at a high school where police escort teachers through the parking lot. In 1970, Cathy moves to Canada. While studying literature at the University of Toronto, she rooms with members of the FLQ (Quebec separatists) and then with one of the biggest drug dealers in Canada. Along the way, she falls in love with the man who eventually became her husband and embarks on a new career in psychology. Gilder’s humour and knack for storytelling makes this a fantastic read for all ages. Published by ECW Press
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves. Published by Candlewick Press, and distributed by Random House of Canada
What are your favourite autobiographies of the year? What did I leave out? What do I still need to read? Leave your comments below, as I love to receive more suggestions!