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    Hillbilly Elegy
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    Option B
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    The Glass Castle


    1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
    by J. D. Vance
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    Category: Hardcover Brand: HarperCollins
    (2016-06-28)
    Publisher: Harper
    ISBN: 0062300547
    Sales Rank: 6
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    #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF "6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP'S WIN" AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

    "You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist

    "A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

    "Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

    From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

    Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

    The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

    But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

    A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

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    10. A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety .

    2. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
    by Al Franken
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    Category: Hardcover Brand: TWELVE
    (2017-05-30)
    Publisher: Twelve
    ISBN: 1455540412
    Sales Rank: 17
    Lowest New Price: $6.00
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    #1 New York Times Bestseller

    "Flips the classic born-in-a-shack rise to political office tale on its head. I skipped meals to read this book - also unusual - because every page was funny. It made me deliriously happy." - Louise Erdrich, The New York Times

    From Senator Al Franken - #1 bestselling author and beloved SNL alum - comes the story of an award-winning comedian who decided to run for office and then discovered why award-winning comedians tend not to do that.


    This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect.

    It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.

    It's a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.

    In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics.

    Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves.



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    • TWELVE

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    3. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
    by Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant
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    Category: Hardcover Brand: Knopf
    (2017-04-24)
    Publisher: Knopf
    ISBN: 1524732680
    Sales Rank: 16
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    #1 New York Times Best Seller

    From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.

     
    After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.
    Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart—and her journal—to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.
    Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.
    We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

    Amazon.com Review

    An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: After the unexpected passing of her beloved husband, Facebook COO and bestselling author of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, feared that she and her children would never find joy again. Fortunately this fear was unfounded. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy--co-authored with psychologist and friend Adam Grant--shows you how Sandberg, and many others who have overcome a wide range of profound hardships, triumphed over tragedy. The book posits that it’s helpful to think of resilience like a muscle, one that atrophies in the calm between the storms of our lives. But there are things we can do to develop it, so we’re better prepared when adversity strikes. In America, culture can put a kink in this plan. Processing a painful event can be hindered when you’re wired not to talk about it. We all know that when someone asks how we’re doing, the expected response is “fine,” no matter if we’ve just lost a limb, or had a cancer scare. We will grin, and we will bear it, and we will go back to work too soon and burst into tears in the copy room when confronted by a malevolent stapler (or maybe that’s just me). Recently, Sandberg helped to enact a new employee benefit at Facebook: 20 days of paid bereavement leave, twice the amount that was offered previously. As she explains in Option B, it’s the humane thing to do, and it also makes good business sense; compassionate companies engender more loyal employees. In this way, Option B is more than a little revolutionary. It challenges us to change systems that don’t always take our humanness into account. And that’s something we need to do on a personal level as well. None of us are immune to misfortune and heartbreak. We need to cut ourselves some slack when times get tough, and, as Sandberg discovered, flip the golden rule: When a loved one is in distress, instead of treating them how you would want to be treated, consider how they want to be treated, which may be quite different. Option B starts an (oftentimes) uncomfortable but important conversation. If we lean in to the numerous lessons it has on offer, there’s a lot more joy to be found. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review

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    • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

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    4. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
    by Gary Chapman
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    Category: Paperback Brand: Moody Publishing
    (2015-01-01)
    Publisher: Northfield Publishing
    ISBN: 080241270X
    Sales Rank: 14
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    - Over 11 million copies sold

    - #1 New York Times Bestseller for 8 years running

    - Now celebrating its 25th anniversary

     

    Simple ideas, lasting love

    Falling in love is easy. Staying in love—that’s the challenge. How can you keep your relationship fresh and growing amid the demands, conflicts, and just plain boredom of everyday life?

    In the #1 New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.

    The 5 Love Languages is as practical as it is insightful. Updated to reflect the complexities of relationships today, this new edition reveals intrinsic truths and applies relevant, actionable wisdom in ways that work.

    Includes the Couple's Personal Profile assessment so you can discover your love language and that of your loved one.

    Amazon.com Review

    Unhappiness in marriage often has a simple root cause: we speak different love languages, believes Dr. Gary Chapman. While working as a marriage counselor for more than 30 years, he identified five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. In a friendly, often humorous style, he unpacks each one. Some husbands or wives may crave focused attention; another needs regular praise. Gifts are highly important to one spouse, while another sees fixing a leaky faucet, ironing a shirt, or cooking a meal as filling their "love tank." Some partners might find physical touch makes them feel valued: holding hands, giving back rubs, and sexual contact. Chapman illustrates each love language with real-life examples from his counseling practice.

    How do you discover your spouse’s – and your own – love language? Chapman’s short questionnaires are one of several ways to find out. Throughout the book, he also includes application questions that can be answered more extensively in the beautifully detailed companion leather journal (an exclusive Amazon.com set). Each section of the journal corresponds with a chapter from the book, offering opportunities for deeper reflection on your marriage.

    Although some readers may find choosing to love a spouse that they no longer even like –hoping the feelings of affection will follow later– a difficult concept to swallow, Chapman promises that the results will be worth the effort. "Love is a choice," says Chapman. "And either partner can start the process today." --Cindy Crosby. This text refers to the Amazon.com Exclusive Journal & Paperback Book Set.

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    • The 5 Love Languages The Secret to Love That Lasts

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    5. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
    by David Grann
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    Category: Hardcover Brand: Doubleday Books
    (2017-04-18)
    Publisher: Doubleday
    ISBN: 0385534248
    Sales Rank: 44
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    "Disturbing and riveting...Grann has proved himself a master of spinning delicious, many-layered mysteries that also happen to be true...It will sear your soul." Dave Eggers, New York Times Book Review

    From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

           
    In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
          Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
          In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection.  Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. 
          In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

    Amazon.com Review

    An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: In the 1920s, the Osage found themselves in a unique position among Native Americans tribes. As other tribal lands were parceled out in an effort by the government to encourage dissolution and assimilation of both lands and culture, the Osage negotiated to maintain the mineral rights for their corner of Oklahoma, creating a kind of “underground reservation.” It proved a savvy move; soon countless oil rigs punctured the dusty landscape, making the Osage very rich. And that’s when they started dying.

    You’d think the Osage Indian Reservation murders would have been a bigger story, one as familiar as the Lindbergh kidnapping or Bonnie and Clyde. It has everything, but at scale: Execution-style shootings, poisonings, and exploding houses drove the body count to over two dozen, while private eyes and undercover operatives scoured the territory for clues. Even as legendary and infamous oil barons vied for the most lucrative leases, J. Edgar Hoover’s investigation – which he would leverage to enhance both the prestige and power of his fledgling FBI - began to overtake even the town’s most respected leaders.

    Exhuming the massive amount of detail is no mean feat, and it’s even harder to make it entertaining. But journalist David Grann knows what he’s doing. With the same obsessive attention to fact - in service to storytelling - as The Lost City of Z, Killers of the Flower Moon reads like narrative-nonfiction as written by James M. Cain (there are, after all, insurance policies involved): smart, taut, and pacey. Most sobering, though, is how the tale is at once unsurprising and unbelievable, full of the arrogance, audacity, and inhumanity that continues to reverberate through today’s headlines. --Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review

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    6. Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)
    by David Sedaris
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    Category: Hardcover Brand: Ingramcontent
    (2017-05-30)
    Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
    ISBN: 0316154725
    Sales Rank: 57
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    One of the most anticipated books of 2017: Boston Globe, New York Times Book Review, New York's "Vulture", The Week, Bustle, BookRiot

    David Sedaris tells all in a book that is, literally, a lifetime in the making

    For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences.

    Now, Sedaris shares his private writings with the world. Theft by Finding, the first of two volumes, is the story of how a drug-abusing dropout with a weakness for the International House of Pancakes and a chronic inability to hold down a real job became one of the funniest people on the planet.

    Written with a sharp eye and ear for the bizarre, the beautiful, and the uncomfortable, and with a generosity of spirit that even a misanthropic sense of humor can't fully disguise, Theft By Finding proves that Sedaris is one of our great modern observers. It's a potent reminder that when you're as perceptive and curious as Sedaris, there's no such thing as a boring day.

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    7. I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons
    by Kevin Hart
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    Category: Hardcover Brand: ATRIA
    (2017-06-06)
    Publisher: Atria / 37 INK
    ISBN: 1501155563
    Sales Rank: 160
    Lowest New Price: $11.69
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    INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    Superstar comedian and Hollywood box office star Kevin Hart turns his immense talent to the written word by writing some words. Some of those words include: the, a, for, above, and even even. Put them together and you have the funniest, most heartfelt, and most inspirational memoir on survival, success, and the importance of believing in yourself since Old Yeller.

    The question you’re probably asking yourself right now is: What does Kevin Hart have that a book also has?

    According to the three people who have seen Kevin Hart and a book in the same room, the answer is clear:

    A book is compact. Kevin Hart is compact.

    A book has a spine that holds it together. Kevin Hart has a spine that holds him together.

    A book has a beginning. Kevin Hart’s life uniquely qualifies him to write this book by also having a beginning.

    It begins in North Philadelphia. He was born an accident, unwanted by his parents. His father was a drug addict who was in and out of jail. His brother was a crack dealer and petty thief. And his mother was overwhelmingly strict, beating him with belts, frying pans, and his own toys.

    The odds, in short, were stacked against our young hero, just like the odds that are stacked against the release of a new book in this era of social media (where Hart has a following of over 100 million, by the way).

    But Kevin Hart, like Ernest Hemingway, JK Rowling, and Chocolate Droppa before him, was able to defy the odds and turn it around. In his literary debut, he takes the reader on a journey through what his life was, what it is today, and how he’s overcome each challenge to become the man he is today.

    And that man happens to be the biggest comedian in the world, with tours that sell out football stadiums and films that have collectively grossed over $3.5 billion.

    He achieved this not just through hard work, determination, and talent: It was through his unique way of looking at the world. Because just like a book has chapters, Hart sees life as a collection of chapters that each person gets to write for himself or herself.

    “Not only do you get to choose how you interpret each chapter, but your interpretation writes the next chapter,” he says. “So why not choose the interpretation that serves your life the best?”

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    8. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
    by Roxane Gay
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    Category: Hardcover Brand: HARPER
    (2017-06-13)
    Publisher: Harper
    ISBN: 0062362593
    Sales Rank: 106
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    From the New York Times best-selling author of Bad Feminist, a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself.

     

    “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

     

    New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life.

     

    With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.  

     

    Amazon.com Review

    An Amazon Best Book of June 2017: If you’re a woman in America, chances are, no matter your size, you probably have a somewhat fetishistic relationship with food. We obsess over having too much, too little (to a lesser degree); we use terms like stealing a bite and guilty pleasure--things that evoke shame, and are meant to keep our bodies in line. For those that fit that (ever narrowing) bill, congratulations! Clothes are designed to fit you, kale growers love you, and so does society. You bask in its glow. The rest risk being in shadow, which is exactly where Roxane Gay wanted to be. In her brutally honest and brave memoir Hunger, Gay recounts a childhood sexual assault that led her to purposely gain weight in order to be unseen and therefore “safe.” Gay warns at the beginning of the book that if you’re looking for a triumphant weight loss memoir, this is not it. But Hunger is a triumph nonetheless. It’s a story not easily told, but the telling set her free. And through Gay’s experience we learn one of lessons she eventually did, that “all of us have to be more considerate of the realities of the bodies of others,” and more accepting of our own. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review

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    9. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
    by Trevor Noah
    List Price:
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    US$28.00
    US$16.77
    US$11.23 (40%)
    Category: Hardcover Brand: Trevor Noah
    (2016-11-15)
    Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
    ISBN: 0399588175
    Sales Rank: 117
    Lowest New Price: $6.34
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    Product Description

    #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed

    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
    Michiko Kakutani, New York TimesNewsdayEsquire • NPR • Booklist

    Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

    Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

    The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

    Praise for Born a Crime

     “[A] compelling new memoir . . . By turns alarming, sad and funny, [Trevor Noah’s] book provides a harrowing look, through the prism of Mr. Noah’s family, at life in South Africa under apartheid. . . . Born a Crime is not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

    “[An] unforgettable memoir.”Parade

     “What makes Born a Crime such a soul-nourishing pleasure, even with all its darker edges and perilous turns, is reading Noah recount in brisk, warmly conversational prose how he learned to negotiate his way through the bullying and ostracism. . . . What also helped was having a mother like Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. . . . Consider Born a Crime another such gift to her—and an enormous gift to the rest of us.”—USA Today

    “[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar.”—People

    “[Noah’s] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class.”Booklist (starred review)

    “A gritty memoir . . . studded with insight and provocative social criticism . . . with flashes of brilliant storytelling and acute observations.”Kirkus Reviews

    ... Read more

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    • Born a Crime Stories from a South African Childhood

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    10. The Glass Castle: A Memoir
    by Jeannette Walls
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    US$17.00
    US$10.57
    US$6.43 (38%)
    Category: Paperback Brand: Scribner
    (2006-01-17)
    Publisher: Scribner
    ISBN: 074324754X
    Sales Rank: 61
    Lowest New Price: $6.51
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    Product Description

    Soon to be a major motion picture from Lionsgate starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts.

    MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST
    The perennially bestselling, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, “nothing short of spectacular” (Entertainment Weekly) memoir from one of the world’s most gifted storytellers.

    The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

    The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

    The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

    Amazon.com Review

    Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

    Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

    What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

    For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

    An exclusive Q&A with Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

    Q: How long did it take you to write The Glass Castle and what was that process like?

    A: Writing about myself, and about intensely personal and potentially embarrassing experiences, was unlike anything I’d done before. Over the last 25 years, I wrote many versions of this memoir -- sometimes pounding out 220 pages in a single weekend. But I always threw out the pages. At one point I tried to fictionalize it, but that didn't work either.

    When I was finally ready, I wrote it entirely on the weekends, getting to my desk by 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and continuing until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. I wrote the first draft in about six weeks -- but then I spent three or four years rewriting it. My husband, John Taylor, who is also a writer, observed all this approvingly and quoted John Fowles, who said that a book should be like a child: conceived in passion and reared with care.

    Q: How did you decide to follow The Glass Castle with Half Broke Horses?

    A: It was completely at the suggestion of readers. So many people kept saying the next book should be about my mother. Readers understood my father's recklessness because they understood alcoholism, but Mom was a mystery to them. Why, they would ask, would someone with the resources to lead a normal life choose the existence that she did?

    I would tell them a little bit about my mother’s childhood. She not only knew that she could survive without indoor plumbing, but that was the ideal period of her life, a time that she tries to recreate. I think that for memoir readers, it's not about a freak show– they’re just looking to understand people and get into a life that’s not their own. I thought, let me give it a shot, let me ask Mom. And she was all for it. But she kept insisting that the book should really be about her mother. At first I resisted because my grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, died when I was eight years old, more than 40 years ago. But I have a very vivid memory of this tough, leathery woman; she sang, she danced, she shot guns, she’d play honky tonk piano. I was always captivated by her. Lily had told such compelling stories—I was stunned by the number of anecdotes, and that Mom knew so much detail about them. Half Broke Horses is a compilation of family stories, stitched together with gaps filled in. They're the sort of tales that pretty much everyone has heard from their parents or grandparents. I realized that in telling Lily's story, I could also explain Mom's.

    Q: Why did you decide to write Half Broke Horses in the first person, and how much of this "true-life novel" is fiction?

    A: I set out to write a biography of Lily, but sometimes books take on a life of their own. I told it in first person because I wanted to capture Lily’s voice. I’m a lot like my grandmother, so it came easily to me. I planned to go back and change it from first person to third person and put in qualifiers so the book would be historically accurate, but when I showed it to my agent and publisher, they both said to leave it as it is. By doing that, I crossed the line from nonfiction into fiction. But when I call it fiction it’s not because I tarted it up and tried to embellish things, but wanted to make it more readable, fluid, and immediate. I was trying to get as close to the truth as I could.

    Q: How has your relationship with your mother changed in recent years?

    A: Several years ago, the abandoned building on New York’s Lower East Side where Mom had been squatting for more than a decade caught fire and she was back on the streets again at age 72. I begged her to come live with me. She said Virginia was too boring, and besides, she's not a freeloader. I told her we could really use help with the horses, and she said she'd be right there. I get along great with Mom now. She's a hoot. She's always upbeat, and has a very different take on life than most people. She's a lot of fun to be around -- as long as you're not looking for her to take care of you. She doesn’t live in the house with us-- I have not reached that level of understanding and compassion-- but in an outbuilding about a hundred yards away. Mom is great with the animals, loves to sing and dance and ride horses, and is still painting like a fiend.

    Q: What do you hope readers will gain from reading your books?

    A:Since writing The Glass Castle, so many people have said to me, "Oh, you’re so strong and you’re so resilient, and I couldn’t do what you did." That’s very flattering, but it’s nonsense. Of course they’re as strong as I am. I just had the great fortune of having been tested. If we look at our ancestry, we all come from tough roots. And one of the ways to discover our toughness and our resiliency is to look back at where we come from. I hope people who read The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses will come away with that. You know, "Gosh, I come from hearty stock. Maybe I’m tougher than I realize."


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