Fall Memoir Must-Reads: Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Hawking and Others Tell All
This season's crop of memoirs is full of revealing must-reads for every reader: debut foodie memoirs, celebrity tell-alls from Anjelica Huston and Corey Feldman, books by comic upstart Rob Delaney and veteran Billy Crystal, soul-searching tributes by Pat Conroy and Julian Barnes, rock sagas from Linda Ronstadt and Graham Nash, life stories of science legends Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins and much more.
The highest-paid woman in rock
Released in 1977 and leading off with her smash pop hit "It's So Easy [to Fall in Love]," Linda Ronstadt's album "Simple Dreams" was her fifth consecutive million-selling platinum record. Ronstadt uses the same title for her fall memoir, the story of how a young woman born in Tucson, Ariz., soared to the peaks of rock and roll, collaborating along the way with artists including Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, The Eagles (who began as Ronstadt's backup band), Neil Young, Frank Sinatra and more. Recently diagnosed with Parkinson's, Ronstadt has had to hang up the mic, but her book helps readers relive her era-defining music.
Grappling with loss
In the tradition of Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking," investigating her grief in the wake of her husband's death, and on the heels of his 2011 Booker Prize-winning novel "The Sense of an Ending," in which a man ponders his friend's suicide, Julian Barnes' new book, "Levels of Life" is a hybrid of memoir, fiction and reportage that weaves stories of ballooning and photography around a central theme: the 2008 death of his wife, literary agent Pat Kavanagh.
Defending O.J. Simpson, Bill Clinton and Julian Assange
Lawyer and frequent political commentator Alan Dershowitz has taken on some of the 20th century's most notorious legal cases, defending O.J. Simpson, Julian Assange, Bill Clinton, Patty Hearst, Jeffrey MacDonald and Mike Tyson, among others. In his memoir, "Taking the Stand," Dershowitz recounts his experiences that helped to shape his legal thinking, his struggles with anti-Jewish discrimination as a young lawyer, his marquee cases and his lifelong fight for civil rights.
Master of the cosmos
Even if you can't remember much from your high school physics class, you're likely to be familiar with Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous physicists since Albert Einstein. Among other scientific theories and discoveries, Hawking is famous for being the first to set forth a cosmology that marries Einstein's general theory of relativity with the modern field of quantum mechanics, as Hawking laid out in his bestselling book, "A Brief History of Time." Hawking is also famous for grappling with Lou Gehrig's Disease, with which he was diagnosed 50 years ago. As he recounts in his memoir, "My Brief History," Hawking may have been destined for astronomy, having been born "exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo."
A comic's Twitter turnaround
When aspiring comedian Rob Delaney met with failure after failure at the start of his career, he decided to take matters into his own thumbs--blasting away at a Twitter account that now boasts nearly 17,000 tweets and a million followers. He writes in his new memoir, "Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage." "My goal as a comedian was to become a Delta Force operator of humor who you could throw into an empty room with nothing and he'd make something funny, and then kill people with it." Delaney has been killing in more arenas than the Twittersphere, with appearances on "Conan," "Chelsea Lately" and other shows, as well as heartfelt essays on addiction, depression and politics that have gone viral.
An actress by birth
Academy Award-winning actress Anjelica Huston may have been born to a life onstage and onscreen as the daughter of famed director John Huston and granddaughter of actor Walter Huston--both Academy Award winners themselves. She has taken on high art--as the lead in her father's adaptation of James Joyce's story, "The Dead"--and pop culture, famously portraying Morticia Addams in "The Addams Family." Now, she's taken up the pen in "A Story Lately Told," in which she recounts a charmed upbringing in Ireland and London--where she was surrounded her father's friends including John Steinbeck, Carson McCullers and Marlon Brando--and moving to New York in the 1970s, where she lived in the Chelsea Hotel and began her storied career.
A Real-Life 'Downton Abbey' full of complex relationships
The popularity of the BBC series "Downton Abbey" attests to the ongoing fascination with wealthy families. As the daughter of the English aristocrats Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Lady Pamela Hicks grew up in the most rarified of worlds: Winston Churchill and Noel Coward were regular houseguests, and she was twice a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. During a stint in India, where her parents were appointed Viceroy and Vicereine, Pamela became friends with Mohandas Gandhi, and later she was sent to New York to live with Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Like "Downton," Hicks' memoir, "Daughter of Empire" paints a rich world now lost to history.
Cooking behind the "Iron Curtain"
Fans of foodie memoirs are often treated not only to delectable depictions of meals, but to enticing food destinations, as well, as in Julia Child's "My Life in France" and Bill Buford's "Heat," which bring the culture and setting of France and Italy to life as much as their cuisines. However, the subject of Anya von Bremzen's memoir is off the beaten culinary path: "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking." Growing up in a communal apartment in 1960s Moscow, von Bremzen shared her kitchen with 18 other families. After she and her mother fled to a freer life in Philadelphia, von Bremzen longed for the Soviet dishes of her childhood, such as blini and her father's "über-borshch." In addition to recipes and stories of defining life moments, Von Bremzen's thoroughly researched memoir serves as a cultural history of the former USSR.
Foodies may also like: "Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris," by Ann Mah.