Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

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As a fan of biographies, I was thrilled to discover this book that details both the lives of eighteenth century writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights Mary Wollstonecraft, and her daughter Mary Shelley, author of the classic novel Frankenstein. Romantic Outlaws reads like a gripping historical fiction as the remarkable storyteller and historian, Charlotte Gordon, examines both of the lives of these incredibly influential literary voices. Weaving the lives of these two women in alternating chapters, the reader is provided with a window into the social and political atmosphere of Western Europe during the late eighteenth century as Mary Wollstonecraft experiences both the glory and the terror of the French Revolution, while struggling to promote the equality of the sexes. Gordon simultaneously explores the life of Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary, focusing on the romantic relationship between Mary and the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Gordon presents the reader with the lives of these women who paved the way for the future of feminism, as the themes that are present in the work of both women are still highly relevant in today’s society where women still struggle for equal representation socially, politically, and economically. This was a riveting read! (Submitted by Sarah)

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H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

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Enjoyed reading this book of nonfiction, which has three story-lines. The first storyline involves the author’s lifelong fascination with the sport of falconry, and how she comes to own and train a goshawk named Mabel. The book is also a memoir of grief: MacDonald makes the decision to purchase and train Mabel as she deals with the sudden death of her father, which leaves her lost and unmoored. Yet another storyline is a sort of mini-biography of TH White, the author best known for writing The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone. As well as these Arthurian novels, White wrote a work of non-fiction titled The Goshawk about trying and ultimately failing to train a hawk. MacDonald writes about White’s tortured life, and how his own struggles and shortcomings impacted his efforts to train his hawk. You’ll enjoy this if you like literary fiction or non-fiction, memoirs, or well-written nature writing. (Submitted by David)

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Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936

mary_astor_purple_diaryThis book caught my eye because of the cover; yes I judge books by their cover. The author, Edward Sorel, is a cartoonist, illustrator, and caricaturist whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and many other magazines. Given his career he chose to do an illustrated biography on the actress Mary Astor after a serendipitous find while renovating his New York apartment in the 1960’s. I found it refreshing to read a bio where the author intersperses his subject’s life with anecdotes of his own; it gave a context to both. The fact that he illustrated it was icing on the cake. Many of the scandals we hear about in the entertainment field now are nothing new, it appears they have been around since there are been actors on stage – just a play being reworked and put back on view again for a new generation (Submitted by RZW)

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The Girl With No Name: The True Story of A Girl Who Lived With Monkeys

 

The-Girl-with-No-Name1It’s one of those books that you may wish you haven’t started reading (it can be painful to read some parts of this book), but then, all of a sudden- you can’t let go of it. It’s suspensefully captivating.

The book, written by Marina Chapman, is based on a true survival story of Marina, who was kidnapped at the age of 5, and abandoned in the jungles of Colombia. Miraculously, Marina lived on and found a ‘family’ in a troop of monkeys that she befriended. One day, everything changes and Marina returns back to civilization, yet she faces a lot of trials and great misfortunes.

Regardless of all the challenges depicted in the book, there is always optimism and something good invisibly present at all times. The beauty of this narrative is in how strong the main character turns out to be and although Marina is quite agnostic, there is a powerful presence of faith and hope throughout her life’s journey. It’s a story of not giving up, discovering the world, and building oneself from scratch. The novel reads with ease and simplicity; author’s choice of diction creates a vivid picture out of everything. (Submitted by Mariya)

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They Called Me Number One by Bev Sellars

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If you are looking to learn more about First Nations in BC, check out author Bev Sellars.  Her childhood memoir They Called Me Number One about life in a church-run residential school is powerful and easy to read.  Continue your learning with Sellars’ second book  Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival.  Price Paid is a personal view of First Nations history in Canada and helps explain the historic reasons for First Nations issues today.  Highly recommended! (Submitted by Kristen).

 

 

 

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Many of us in our `middle ages` are dealing with aging parents in various stages of decline.  Roz Chast, the writer and New Yorker cartoonist, uses the graphic novel format to document her journey through this challenging time in her memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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From first noticing that things seem to be `falling apart`, to realizing that she must take control of the uncontrollable, and then on through moving her parents into care, and experiencing their passing, Chast weaves her story with humour, grace, and brutal honesty.

The most important messages I took from this endearing memoir are that:

  • we are not alone,
  • having a sense of humour is a survival skill, and,
  • in the midst of complicated family relationships and challenging situations there is still, always, love.

(Submitted by KS).

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Gorge, my journey up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds by Kara Richardson Whitely

Image result for Gorge, my journey up KilimanjaroTo hike Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, is already an accomplishment. To do it twice is a triumph, but to do it while weighing 300 pounds, well, that was thought to be impossible. Kara’s struggling story of food addiction, family problems, low self-image, and her raw feelings of failure and shame are honest and unforgettable. The way that she was able to overcome these challenges are an inspiration. (Submitted by YR.)

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