Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kate M. Is Recommending Some Great New Non-Fiction

A major biography--intimate, gripping, revelatory--of an artist who revolutionized American comedy.

Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family's brothels, he grew up an outsider to privilege. He took to the stage, originally, to escape the hard-bitten realities of his childhood, but later came to a reverberating discovery: that by plunging into the depths of his experience, he could make stand-up comedy as exhilarating and harrowing as the life he'd known. He brought that trembling vitality to Hollywood, where his movie career--Blazing Saddles, the buddy comedies with Gene Wilder, Blue Collar--flowed directly out of his spirit of creative improvisation. The major studios considered him dangerous. Audiences felt plugged directly into the socket of life.

Becoming Richard Pryor brings the man and his comic genius into focus as never before. Drawing upon a mountain of original research--interviews with family and friends, court transcripts, unpublished journals, screenplay drafts--Scott Saul traces Pryor's rough journey to the heights of fame: from his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the Army, and his apprentice days in Greenwich Village to his soul-searching interlude in Berkeley and his ascent in the "New Hollywood" of the 1970s.

Becoming Richard Pryor illuminates an entertainer who, by bringing together the spirits of the black freedom movement and the counterculture, forever altered the DNA of American comedy. It reveals that, while Pryor made himself a legend with his own account of his life onstage, the full truth of that life is more bracing still.

A working father whose life no longer feels like his own discovers the transforming powers of great (and downright terrible) literature in this laugh-out-loud memoir.

Andy Miller had a job he quite liked, a family he loved, and no time at all for reading. Or so he kept telling himself. But, no matter how busy or tired he was, something kept niggling at him. Books. Books he'd always wanted to read. Books he'd said he'd read that he actually hadn't. Books that whispered the promise of escape from the daily grind. And so, with the turn of a page, Andy began a year of reading that was to transform his life completely.

This book is Andy's inspirational and very funny account of his expedition through literature: classic, cult, and everything in between. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, this is a heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader, and a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.

In Her Brilliant Career, acclaimed journalist Rachel Cooke goes back in time to offer an entertaining and iconoclastic look at ten women in the 1950s--pioneers whose professional careers and complicated private lives helped to create the opportunities available to today's women. These intrepid and ambitious individuals--among them a film director, a cook, an architect, an editor, an archaeologist, and a race car driver--left the house, discovered the bliss of work, and ushered in the era of the working woman.

Daring and independent, these remarkable, unsung heroines--whose obscurity makes their accomplishments all the more astonishing and relevant--loved passionately, challenged men's control, made their own mistakes, and took life on their own terms, breaking new ground and offering inspiration. Their individual portraits gradually form a landscape of 1950s culture, and of women's unique--and rapidly evolving--role.

Before there could be a Danica Patrick, there had to be a Sheila van Damm; before there was Barbara Walters, there was Nancy Spain; before Kathryn Bigelow came Muriel Box. The pioneers of Her Brilliant Career forever changed the fabric of culture, society, and the workforce. This is the Fifties retold: vivid, surprising, and, most of all, modern.

A thrillingly intimate portrait of one of history's most illustrious knights--William Marshal--that vividly evokes the grandeur and barbarity of the Middle Ages

William Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era--a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry--yet over the centuries, the spectacular story of his achievements passed from memory. Marshal became just one more name in the dusty annals of history. Then, in 1861, a young French scholar named Paul Meyer made a startling discovery during an auction of rare medieval manuscripts. Meyer stumbled upon the sole surviving copy of an unknown text--the first contemporary biography of a medieval knight, later dubbed the History of William Marshal. This richly detailed work helped to resurrect Marshal's reputation, putting flesh onto the bones of this otherwise obscure figure, yet even today William Marshal remains largely forgotten.

As a five-year-old boy, Marshal was sentenced to execution and led to the gallows, but this landless younger son survived his brush with death and went on to train as a knight. Against all odds, Marshal rose through the ranks--serving at the right hand of five English monarchs--to become a celebrated tournament champion, a baron and politician and, ultimately, a regent of the realm.

William Marshal befriended the great figures of his day, from Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine to the infamous King John, and helped to negotiate the terms of Magna Carta--the first "bill of rights." By the age of seventy, the once-forsaken child had been transformed into the most powerful man in England, yet he was forced to fight in the front line of one final battle, striving to save the kingdom from a French invasion in 1217.

In The Greatest Knight, renowned historian Thomas Asbridge draws upon the thirteenth-century biography and an array of other contemporary evidence to present a compelling account of William Marshal's life and times. Asbridge follows Marshal on his journey from rural England onto the battlefields of France, to the desert castles of the Holy Land and the verdant shores of Ireland, charting the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honor, yet driven by unquenchable ambition.

This knight's tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of the royal court, and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history, when the West emerged from the Dark Ages and stood on the brink of modernity. It is the story of one remarkable man, the birth of the knightly class to which he belonged and the forging of the English nation. 

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