There’s no shortage of fine biographies to give this holiday season, and no better reading.
Chris Matthews has done the near impossible; he’s actually written a new book about JACK KENNEDY: ELUSIVE HERO, and told us what we didn’t already know. Matthews is the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” and NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show.” He’s been able to access sources that would be denied someone less well connected. We’ve all heard of the close bond between the 35th President and his father; here, there’s focus on the degree to which they disagreed. We’re all familiar with his famous debates with Nixon, but unaware of their first debate in 1947. Matthews tells these stories and many more, giving us a whole new insight to a man we thought we knew.
Another President, Ulysses S. Grant, is the subject of Charles Bracelen Flood’s GRANT’S FINAL VICTORY. In 1884, Grant not only lost all his money due to a swindle, but also learned that he was dying of throat and mouth cancer. When we think of his photos, always with the omni-present cigar in his mouth, this is understandable. Grant made up his mind to guarantee that his family would be provided for, and worked ceaselessly to finish his memoirs; he died three days after they were completed. They were published posthumously by his good friend, Mark Twain, and did indeed secure the financial future of Grant’s family. A hero in war, the General’s final valiant year became as tough a fight as any he’d faced on the battlefield.
Another patriot unafraid to risk everything was Patrick Henry, whom historian Harlow Giles Unger labels “LION OF LIBERTY.” This acclaimed biography of one of our fieriest Founding Fathers is now available in paperback. We all know his famous cry of “Give me liberty, or give me death,” but almost nothing about his personal life. Raised on the edge of the Virginia frontier, father of eighteen children, failed tobacco farmer, Henry rose to become one of the most prominent men of his time, and served four terms as governor of Virginia.
TRUST ME, I’M DR. OZZY is subtitled “Advice from Rock’s Ultimate Survivor.” Who ever thought that Ozzy Osbourne would be dispensing medical advice, let alone still be alive at sixty-three? After forty years of abusing his body with every drug known to man, breaking his neck, and being declared dead twice, Osbourne had his DNA tested. The results astounded doctors and scientists, and led the rocker to write an outrageously hilarious column for “Rolling Stone.” Really raunchy, so gift with care.
Speaking of raunchy rockers, Osbourne’s former band mate, Tony Iommi has written IRON MAN/ MY JOURNEY THROUGH HEAVEN AND HELL WITH BLACK SABBATH. Fans of modern music don’t need to be told that Iommi, the only original member still with the band, is known as the Father of Heavy Metal, a title he wears proudly. Black Sabbath is nearly as well-known for pulling bizarre stunts as for migraine inducing recordings and concerts. Ozzy Osbourne once fished out of a hotel window and hauled in a shark; Iommi set drummer Bill Ward’s beard on fire, inflicting third degree burns. Satanist, genius, drug addict, idol; Iommi has packed several lifetimes into his days on this planet.
Kevin Sorbo has written a far gentler autobiography, TRUE STRENGTH. While starring as the invincible hero in the number one worldwide syndicated series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” Sorbo suffered three major strokes. Everything possible was done to hide his condition from the public, but eventually, the truth became evident. The actor battled baffling symptoms, terrifying hospitalizations, and persistent depression. The story of his harrowing journey is told with humor and honesty. An inspiring book for everyone who’s battled health issues, or watched a loved one suffer debilitating illness.
When Roxanne Bok and her husband decide to take on the burden of keeping a farm from going under, they have no idea what HORSEKEEPING actually involves. Beginning as city slickers and ending up as the proud owners of the restored Weatogue Farm, Bok and her family must deal with everything involved with country living, and with running a successful small business. Great gift for horse lovers, and anyone who’s gone through the challenging process of renovation.
Why not introduce friends and family to these interesting people for the holidays?
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. 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