Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Memoirs I've Read Recently

I have always been fascinated by people, and so memoirs, biographies, conversion stories, pop psychology, educational theory and such are some favorite reading categories for me.

A Grief Unveiled: One Father's Journey Through the Death of a Child (15 Years Later) by Gregory Floyd

This an extremely, almost uncomfortably, intimate relating of the grief of a dad and his family over the loss of his six year old son in a car accident. Comes from a profoundly Catholic perspective. What I found perhaps most interesting was the "15 Years Later" part, in which each family member reflects back on their son and brother and what he has meant to them, even after death.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachia Trail by Bill Bryson

Entertaining, edifying, educational, and sometimes a little crude, Bill Bryson paints a picture of a rather hidden part of our world while relating the story of his adventures along a substantial portion of the Appalachian Trail. I found his commentaries on how people today (and in the past) tend to interact with and treat nature to be thoughtful and balanced.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

This was an engrossing, heart-wrenching - and at times depressing - memoir of a young woman whose life is torn apart by the untimely death of her beloved mother. After four years of destructive behavior (extreme promiscuity, drug experimentation, etc.), she sets off for a solo three-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, through California and Oregon, to try to "find her way".

I enjoy memoirs partly because their perspective is different than my own. That is certainly the case here, where, for example she justifies her own abortion because of her mother's difficult history. But these differences bring into sharper focus the parts I especially relate to, such as an understated and touching theme of reverence that runs throughout the book.

Mature content.

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West

In watching a DVD on White House history a few years ago, I became fascinated by the human stories behind the presidency, which were told primarily through the staff. (I think it was National Geographic: Inside the White House - oops! I sat down and watched this one and it was interesting, but not the same one). So when this book showed up on BookBub (which is a subject for a different post), I jumped on it. I was not disappointed. It was a welcome diversion during a sick week. J.B. West was a White House usher (and chief usher for many of those years) from 1941-1967, who shares interesting and very human insights into the presidents (FDR thru Nixon) and their families, as well as a substantial bit of history surrounding them and their temporary home. Not a must-read, but a good read.

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