getting to know you photo

Getting To Know You: New Must Read Biographies

getting to know you photo

Summer is a great time for getting to know interesting new people, and to find out more about celebrities who fascinate us.

If you enjoyed “Julie and Julia,” but wished there had been more about Julia and Paul Child, you’ll love A COVERT AFFAIR. Here’s the real story behind the scene of Paul’s grueling interrogation by government officials. And if you aren’t familiar with author Jennet Conant, I predict you’ll do what I did after I read her first book; you’ll find yourself reading all of them. After A COVERT AFFAIR, I recommend you buy a copy of “109 East Palace,” hands down the best book ever written about The Manhattan Project. Then, proceed on to “The Irregulars,” about author Roald Dahl’s other career as a spy; equally gripping is the story of “Tuxedo Park,” and the rich guy who helped us win World War II.

You don’t have to be a balletomane to enjoy I WAS A DANCER, the life story of Jacques d’Amboise. This autobiography is just as charming as the man himself. If you’re familiar with dance, his stories about his career with the New York City Ballet will keep you entertained for hours. From the time he dropped out of high school at 15 to join the company, through his stint in Hollywood, to his current love of teaching, this superstar’s journey has been full of excitement, romance, and lots of hard work. Along the way, there are captivating anecdotes about Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and other luminaries of the day. And I can pretty much guarantee that this is the only dance book on the market that includes advice on how to build a zip gun.

Before there was Clooney, and Pitt, and Jackman, there was ROBERT REDFORD. And for some of us, no one will ever take his place in our hearts. In addition to his spectacular good looks and his undisputed mastering of low level reality on screen, there’s always been an air of mystery surrounding him. Michael Feeney Callan conducted hundreds of hours of interviews, and combed through diaries, correspondence, and script notes, to create this portrait of the complex and unique Golden Boy of so many dreams. Academy award winning director, father of Sundance, and movie star extraordinaire, Redford helped define an era in American culture.

When Shirley MacLaine was approached to write another book, several possible subjects were broached. To each she replied I’M OVER ALL THAT. Thus, the title of this, her twelfth tome. Now in what she terms “the third act of my life,” the Academy Award winner (for “Terms of Endearment”) never flinches from expressing her frank observations about life. Her inimitable take on fame, actor’s ego, and the great stars she’s seen up close and personal make for an entertaining read.

What film aficionado wouldn’t want to have CONVERSATIONS WITH SCORSESE? Fortunately, acclaimed movie critic, filmmaker, and writer Richard Schickel did just that, and lets us in on what it’s really like to get inside the mind of this giant of modern cinema. Scorsese openly discusses his personal and private relationships with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, and Robert De Niro. Chocked full with insights about his life and his work. A must-have for every movie buff.

Martin Scorsese is also discussed in Simon Schama’s SCRIBBLE, SCRIBBLE, SCRIBBLE. What I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall when these two geniuses got together to talk about old British movies! In his own sphere, Schama is every bit as much of a luminary. This is not a beach book; to get the full impact of one of the great intellects of our time reflecting on a variety of topics takes the same kind of devotion one would give to savoring a fine wine.

What would life be without the joy of words? And for a writer, what could be more devastating than to lose the ability to form them? Diane Ackerman finds ONE HUNDRED NAMES FOR LOVE in working to help her husband, author Paul West, after his stroke. You’ll never think of language the same way after reading Ackerman’s account of her discovery of a program of word games to help her life partner through his seemingly insurmountable crisis. Anyone in a loving long term relationship will relate to Ackerman’s struggle and determination.

Sandra Steingraber feels strongly that we are all in crisis because of our potentially toxic environment. A scientist as well as a poet, Steingraber is especially interested in RAISING ELIJAH, her son and Faith, her daughter, in a safer, more ecologically sound world. She asserts that we now have the facts we need, and that we can no longer turn away.

Frank Schaeffer has a decidedly offbeat viewpoint on SEX, MOM, AND GOD. His memoir centers around growing up in an Evangelical Christian home, and details how his mother managed to combine her faith with some very original thinking about interpersonal relationships and hygiene. By turns biting, funny, and thought provoking.

In THE HOUSE IN FRANCE, Gully Wells fondly remembers her glamorous mom and esteemed stepfather, and growing up in a notably cosmopolitan household. The 1960’s (and beyond) provided a varied cast of characters, including Robert Kennedy, Mike Tyson, and Claus von Bulow. A veritable bouillabaisse of celebrity, fashion, and times gone by.

At the risk of making the people in our everyday lives seem pale by comparison, get a long cool drink, put your feet up, and take some time this season to visit with some truly fascinating people in current books.

Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com

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