Book Club Mom’s recommended biographies and memoirs

Here are twelve fascinating biographies and memoirs of important historical and influential figures, and some regular people too. I like reading all kinds of life stories and recommend these:


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – an excellent collection of mini biographies of twelve famous personalities, explaining their known or likely battles with mental illness.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – a remarkable and amusing record of Franklin’s life in America during the mid- to late 1700s.

Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover – Westover’s account of breaking out of an isolated and abusive childhood, with a violent sibling, a controlling and paranoid father and a mother who deferred to her husband.

Helen Keller – The Story of My Life – the story of an American girl from Alabama who lost her sight and hearing as a baby and determinedly overcame these obstacles to become a writer, a social activist and an advocate for the blind and deaf.


Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske – the story of a dashing billionaire inventor, pilot, and a filmmaker who used money to and control his business and personal life.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – I avoided Lab Girl at first because I am not a science person. But this memoir is for all readers. Jahren writes beautifully about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – a great story about being different and making it anyway. In some ways, it is a classic success story about perseverance, but mostly, it’s a shout-out to anyone who’s not mainstream.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Using notes stored away for nearly thirty years, Hemingway began working on a memoir of his days in Paris, where he was part of the expatriate community of writers, artists and creative minds, known now as the “Lost Generation.” He died leaving the book unfinished, but his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, edited the manuscript and the first edition was published in 1964.


Night by Elie Wiesel – Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more.

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore – an in-depth look at the lives of two young men with the same name, who grew up on the same streets in Baltimore, Maryland and took two divergent paths.

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman – a young woman from West Virginia dreams of becoming a concert violinist and gets a job playing in a prestigious touring orchestra, only to discover that the microphones are turned off. Listeners instead hear music that sounds suspiciously like the score of the popular 1997 film, Titanic.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – a young doctor at the crest of a brilliant career as a neurosurgeon and scientist, Kalanithi was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. During the short time he had left, he was determined to live a life with personal meaning, so he continued working, fathered a baby girl and wrote this book.

What biographies and memoirs have you read? What do you recommend?

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Short reviews from 2013: Twisted, The Shoemaker’s Wife and Steve Jobs

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.


Twisted
by
Laurie Halse Anderson

This book is a little bit like a modern Catcher in the Rye and I liked it for that reason. Twisted was on our school district’s summer reading list for rising ninth graders a couple years ago. There is some mature language and content, but I think it is realistic. I think kids want to read something contemporary that has an edge to it and Anderson understands how to incorporate this element into quality writing.

In Twisted, Tyler returns to his senior year of high school, after being punished during the summer for vandalizing the school. He struggles with a poor self-image and how others, most importantly his father, perceive him. Tyler navigates through adolescence and important relationships and, like many coming-of-age stories, learns the true meaning of family and friendship.

Final scenes with his family are raw and emotional and show Anderson at her best.


The Shoemaker’s Wife
by
Adriana Trigiani

I liked this family saga of immigration, near-misses in love and brushes with greatness, with the appropriate doses of disappointment and sadness. It is a light and entertaining read. I enjoyed reading about Italy at the turn of the century and life in the Italian Alps. The author does a nice job bringing the main characters to life.

I think the author’s strengths lie in the story’s initial setting and characters. Her early descriptions of Ciro, Eduardo and their mother are moving. In addition, Trigiani’s descriptions of the Ravanelli family show warmth and devotion. It is the foundation of a really great story.

Ciro’s success as a shoemaker and his assimilation into New York life move at a believable pace. I enjoyed this part of the story much more. Despite the unlikely nature of meeting Enza on her wedding day, we all know it is coming and accept the feel-good moment.

Some other parts I like include Ciro’s relationship with Sister Teresa at the San Nicola Convent. I also like how Ciro is accepted for who he is at the convent, and how the nuns do not force him to be a believer.

An entertaining read and a great way to escape to another time and place!


Steve Jobs
by
Walter Isaacson

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them.

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Book Review: Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

Howard Hughes: The Untold Story
by
Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

Rating:

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about Howard Hughes when I opened this biography. Most of it happened before I was born and I was too young to understand what happened later in his life. But I knew his name and I had a vague knowledge of his involvement in aircraft and the movies. That was it.

Hughes had a lot going on in his life. He was a dashing billionaire inventor and pilot, ran two giant corporations, built a major airline, was a filmmaker and used his money to get and control whatever he wanted, including a shockingly long list of glamourous women.

Born in Texas in 1905, Hughes grew up an only child, smothered by his mother’s obsessive attention and fear of germs. Already different and uncomfortable around other children, he preferred to play alone in the workshop his father built for him, where he tinkered with many inventions. He became a millionaire at nineteen, when his father died and left behind a successful oil drill bit business (Hughes Tool Company). The timing of his life, his engineering genius and business instinct resulted in decades of profits in the tool, aircraft and government contract businesses. With all this going on, he plunged into movie-making and made many successful films.

But there were many things askew in Howard Hughes. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that was less understood at the time and often untreated or self-treated, affected all aspects of his life. More than a dozen head injuries, a syphilis infection and an alarming drug habit no doubt contributed to an increasingly bizarre and reclusive life.

He surrounded himself with staff and security who would do anything he asked, including hunting down beautiful stars and starlets, some of them in their teens, setting them up in bugged apartments, with detectives reporting on their every move. He seduced hundreds of famous women, including Jean Harlow, Kathryn Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, married twice, and was engaged to multiple young women and girls at the same time. He declared his love to all of them and some of them bought it. Hughes’s behavior with women was glamorized at the time, but from a modern reader’s perspective, it is disturbingly predatory.

Despite these conditions, he continued to negotiate huge deals for Hughes Tool Company, Hughes Aircraft, RKO Pictures and Trans World Airlines. He was also a political contributor, sometimes to both parties and had ties to President Richard Nixon’s adversary, Democratic National Committee Chairman Larry O’Brien. It’s believed that Nixon’s interest in knowing more about O’Brien’s relationship with Hughes was one of the reasons for the Watergate break-in.

In his prime, Howard Hughes was deemed an American hero, but in his final years, he was barely lucid. And it turns out, his loyal staff had their sights on his riches and pumped him with shocking amounts of codeine and painkillers. He died at age seventy in 1976.

There is much more in this book, too much to mention and better to read first-hand. There is no question that Hughes’s unbelievable life story fits Mark Twain’s observation that “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

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Books for football fans, and anyone who likes a good story

Image: Pixabay

Football season is almost upon us and there are lots of great football books out there for kids and adults. I’ve added to a previous list to include several biographies and one of the best feel-good stories out there, a memoir by Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles.

You don’t have to be an avid football fan to appreciate these stories, so take a look and see what I mean!


Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds by Nick Foles: a first-person account of the journey that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles experienced in the 2017 season, which culminated in the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory. After entering the season as the backup, he was thrust into the starting role after the starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, tore his ACL. Foles embraced his faith in God and overcame countless odds to achieve the greatest feat in an NFL season—winning a championship.


Football for a Buck by Jeff Pearlman:  This book highlights the rise and fall of the United States Football League (USFL), which lasted for three seasons in the 1980s. It dives into the incredible highs that the league experienced, such as enticing the talents of Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Reggie White to play in the league. But it also goes into detail on the laundry list of reasons why the league failed so quickly, as well as its ties to current US President, Donald Trump, who was one of the league’s team owners.


Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger:  Excellent account of the Permian Panthers high school football team in Odessa, Texas, the “winningest team in Texas history.” Bissinger chronicles the 1988 season and tells the story of the small town that revolves around Friday night games and elevates its players to hero status. If you like to know the real story behind ultra-competitive high school football programs, check out the book and the movie. And for those who like the relationship drama behind any story, the television series is a good choice.


Gunslinger by Jeff Pearlman:  Excellent biography of Brett Favre, one of the most famous NFL quarterbacks to play the game. Favre’s career lasted nearly two decades, playing for the Green Bay Packers and later, the New York Jets and Packers’ rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Pearlman provides an in-depth look at the ups and downs of Favre’s career and the complex character behind the football legend.


Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica:  Great young adult book. A story of 13-year-old Nate, star quarterback for his 8th grade football team. Nate gets a chance to win a million dollars if he throws a thirty-yard pass through a target during half-time at a New England Patriots game. The companion story is about Nate and his best friend Abby who are struggling with health and family issues. Nate’s parents are under financial stress and Abby is losing her eyesight due to a rare condition. These pressures affect Nate’s performance on the football field and, what seemed like a fun contest suddenly becomes too much.


QB1 by Mike Lupica:  a feel-good read geared towards the middle school or early high school reader. Two Texas quarterback brothers, four years apart and sons to a famous quarterback whose NFL career was cut short, Wyatt and Jake Cullen have different challenges. Wyatt is a freshman quarterback for the Texas Longhorns and is living his father’s dream. Younger brother Jake has lived in Wyatt’s shadow for as long as he can remember. The story begins when Jake enters ninth grade as the third-string quarterback, for a coach and team that are still celebrating big brother Wyatt’s leadership the season before.


Sweetness by Jeff Pearlmana post by Austin Vitelli about the life of NFL legend Walter Payton. He wrote it after reading Sweetness by Jeff Pearlman, a biography about Payton. If you’re not a football fan, you may not know the name, but Walter Payton is the namesake of the annual NFL Man of the Year award.

Vitelli writes, “One thing I struggled with throughout the book was weighing the good and bad in Payton’s life. Payton was likely one of the nicest and most genuinely caring NFL players ever. But he also made lots of questionable decisions that seemingly get left out in many people’s stories of him.”


Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow:  Interesting memoir about Tim Tebow’s high school, college and professional football careers. Written during a period of Tebow mania, this book has few surprises, but fills in the details about the famous quarterback’s early life and explains his personal religious beliefs and message. Not all professional athletes want to be viewed as role models, but they are in the public eye anyway and stories about the bad role models make headlines regularly. Tim Tebow wants to be out there in a positive way. He wants to be noticed and, besides sending his religious message, his biggest goal, a kid himself, is to reach out to kids. If you can take the rest of it, then he’s your man.


Check out a comprehensive Amazon list of football books here.

Click here for an Amazon list of children’s football books.

What football books can you add to this list?

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What’s That Book? The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

TitleThe Other Wes Moore – One Name, Two Fates

Author:  Wes Moore

Genre:  Memoir/Biography

Rating:  4 stars

What’s it about?  An in-depth look at the lives of two young men with the same name, who grew up on the same streets in Baltimore, Maryland. One is serving a life sentence for murder, the other (the author of this book) graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University, is a Rhodes Scholar, earned a Master’s at Oxford, was a White House Fellow under Secretary Condoleezza Rice and is a combat veteran.

The author learned about the other Wes Moore after a series of articles in the Baltimore Sun about a jewelry robbery that went bad. The store’s security guard was killed and the other Wes Moore was one of the men convicted of murder.

The author was haunted by this story and determined to make sense of how two people who had very similar childhoods could go in such different directions. He writes, “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.” He wrote to the other Wes in prison and the two men began a years-long correspondence. This book is the result of their unusual relationship.

How did you hear about it?  One of my kids read it for his summer reading assignment about eight years ago. It looked interesting to me so I also read it.

Coincidently, we were at another son’s college graduation last week and the speaker was Wes Moore. Moore is now the CEO of Robin Hood, one of the largest anti-poverty forces in the nation. After hearing him speak about his experiences and listening to his simple and down-to-earth advice to the class, I knew I wanted to talk about the book.

Closing comments: I was glad to be reminded of this book and hear Moore speak. I recommend The Other Wes Moore to readers of all ages. You can read more about Wes Moore and Robin Hood here.

Contributor:  Ginette 😉


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Best nonfiction reads of 2018

Image: Pixabay

Holiday shopping can be stressful and books are good options, but only if you know they’re good! Here are five of my favorite nonfiction reads of 2018. Maybe one of these will be just right for your friends or family.


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – Charles Darwin was a worrier, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a compulsive gambler, and Howard Hughes had OCD. Was Andy Warhol a hoarder or simply a collector? Was Albert Einstein autistic or just focused? In this excellent collection of mini biographies, Claudia Kalb looks at twelve famous personalities and explains their known or likely battles with mental illness.


David Bowie – A Life by Dylan Jones – The story of rock legend David Bowie, who hit the scene in the 1960s and for decades delivered music, art, film and stage performances through ever-changing personas. A compilation of interviews and quotes from nearly two hundred people describing Bowie’s career. It is a terrific view into a complicated and private person.


Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover – a young woman’s fascinating memoir about being raised in isolation by survivalist parents, tolerating her father’s mental illness and a brother’s abuse, and ultimately breaking free. Westover taught herself enough math and grammar to take the SATs and go to college, first at Brigham Young University. She later studied at Cambridge University and earned her PhD at Harvard.


Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann – a true-crime account of a shameful period of American history in which members of the Osage tribe were murdered for the headrights to oil-rich land on their reservation in Oklahoma. David Grann tells this shocking story, including the investigation of the murders led by J. Edgar Hoover’s newly-formed Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – Excellent memoir about being different. Through a rambling, often irreverent and always hilarious “where is this story going?” narration, with plenty of colorful vocabulary, Lawson tells you about her childhood, depression, anxiety and illness, her family, early jobs, marriage, motherhood and how she became a blogger and writer.


What are your favorite nonfiction reads of 2018?

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My NetGalley hauls

Hey readers! You probably already know about NetGalley because I was a late joiner. Not really a trendsetter here! But I signed up about a year ago and it has been great. Since I already write book reviews, having an early look at new titles is a lot of fun, with not too much of an extra commitment. I wasn’t sure how well I would do with turnaround, though, so I limited the number of books I requested and held off on new requests until I read the ones NetGalley approved.

I finally finished the last book from my first haul so this week I went on a NetGalley binge and loaded my digital shelf with some new ones!


Here’s what I picked:

      

   

The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen (pub. 7/10/18)
No Place Like Home by Rebecca Muddiman (pub. 8/6/2019)
Be Still the Water by Karen Emilson (pub. 7/28/2016)
The Space Within the Silence by Bre Woods (pub. 7/24/2018)
Tap: A Love Story by Tracy Ewens (pub. 7/10/2018)

Just like everyone else, I have a huge TBR pile, so I’ll be mixing these in with books already in the queue.


And here are the NetGalley books I’ve already read and reviewed:

      

      

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian – suspense – 4 bookmarks
The Surrogate by Louise Jensen – suspense – 3 bookmarks
Bunny Mellon by Meryl Gordon – biography – 4 bookmarks
Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy – mystery – 4 bookmarks
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – suspense – 3.5 bookmarks
The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin – science thriller – 4 bookmarks
David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones – biography – 4 bookmarks


And if you’re wondering about my bookmark system, here’s a quick run-down:

5 bookmarks – best of the best
4 bookmarks – excellent
3 bookmarks – very good
2 bookmarks – okay
1 bookmark- didn’t enjoy it


For more information about NetGalley, visit their website at netgalley.com. Are you already on NetGalley? How many books on your shelf?

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David Bowie – A Life by Dylan Jones

David Bowie – A Life
by
Dylan Jones

Rating:

Some rock performers are successful because they have a spark and are in the right place at the right time. Rock stars are in a different category. They reach the top because underneath, their image is a genius that propels them. They are vulnerable to the same insecurities and excesses, but their need to create results in an expression that rises to the top.

Dylan Jones brings out this quality in his book about David Bowie, a rock legend who hit the scene in the 1960s and for decades delivered music, art, film and stage performances through ever-changing personas. David Bowie – A Life is a compilation of interviews and quotes from nearly two hundred people and spans the performer’s career until his death in 2016. It is a terrific view into a complicated and private person.

Born in 1947, David Jones grew up in a suburb of London. His father was an entertainment promoter and introduced his son to many types of music, as did his older brother. He attended art school, formed a band called the Spiders from Mars and, in 1969 had his first hit, “Space Oddity.” He married Angie Barnett in 1970 and they had a son in 1971. Their lives were anything but quiet and domestic, however, as they lived in an apartment in Haddon Hall, a large villa outside London, filled with artists and musicians, including the Spiders, and a place that became an intensely creative and collaborative community.

From the beginning, Bowie reinvented himself many times, adapting personas and performing before larger and larger audiences. Anyone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s will remember Ziggy Stardust, glam rock, the Thin White Duke, and many other later shifts in image and music. Bowie had his hand in all types of creative expression. He wrote, painted and appeared in several films and also onstage, including a highly praised Broadway performance in The Elephant Man. He continued to create until just before his death and his final music video, “Lazarus,” is widely viewed as the singer’s ultimate goodbye.

Quotes from band members, friends, agents, producers, journalists and random one-time meet-ups give a big picture of a complex person. While often manipulative of the press, Bowie is credited with, through his androgynous persona, making a generation of youth feel comfortable and accepted with their sexuality.

Readers will also learn about the cutthroat business of rock music, about agents, promoters, being on the road, bad feelings about borrowed ideas, as well as how his records were made. Bowie’s vast amount of knowledge reflects an insatiable curiosity in everything that was going on about him and is part of all his music. I especially enjoyed reading about his competitive friendship with Mick Jagger and about his longtime personal assistant and gatekeeper, Coco Schwab.

Bowie had many demons including lifelong feelings of isolation, a family history of schizophrenia, a failed marriage and a cocaine addiction. These factors both contributed to and taxed his creative years. As for the drug addiction, Bowie admitted that what made him quit was his realization that he had become a horrible person. Bowie married supermodel, Iman, in 1992 and they led a quieter life his later years, however, during that time, he surprised his fans with two albums he had written and recorded in secret.

At 554 pages, this comprehensive book is expertly arranged. I took my time and often jumped onto YouTube to re-watch his many music videos and performances. I recommend David Bowie – A Life to anyone who enjoys music biographies and to anyone who likes to know about creative geniuses, for, whether or not you were a Bowie fan, he was one of those. In addition, while readers may never truly know who the real David Jones was, the universal comment from all was that David Bowie was always a charming man to meet.


I received a copy of David Bowie – A Life  from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


I read David Bowie – A Life as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to read a book about a musician.


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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography – William Finnegan for Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

The Pulitzer Prizes

The winners have been announced and Barbarian Days:  A Surfing Life by William Finnegan has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

William Finnegan youtube.com
Photo: youtube.com

What’s the book about?  Here is a summary from Amazon:

Barbarian Days A Surfing Life

A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer

Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves.

Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites only gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly—he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover, while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji, one of the world’s greatest waves. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.

Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little understood art. Today, Finnegan’s surfing life is undiminished. Frantically juggling work and family, he chases his enchantment through Long Island ice storms and obscure corners of Madagascar.


Want to know more?  Check out this information from The New Yorker:

William Finnegan has been a contributor to The New Yorker since 1984 and a staff writer since 1987. Reporting from Africa, Central America, South America, Europe, the Balkans, and Australia, as well as from the United States, he has twice received the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism and twice been a National Magazine Award finalist. His article “Deep East Texas” won the 1994 Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in the Field of Media; his article “The Unwanted” the Sidney Hillman Prize for Magazine Reporting. His report from Sudan, “The Invisible War,” won a Citation for Excellence from the Overseas Press Club, and he received the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for “Leasing the Rain.” His article “The Countertraffickers” won the Overseas Press Club’s Madeline Dane Ross Award for International Reporting, and his report from Mexico, “Silver or Lead,” won the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Spiers Benjamin Award. Finnegan is the author of five books: “Crossing the Line,” which was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best nonfiction books of the year;  “Dateline Soweto”;  “A  Complicated War”; “Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country,” which was a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism; “Barbarian Days,” his latest.

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

stevejobsSteve Jobs
by
Walter Isaacson

Rating:

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them!

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