I recently finished a biography about Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven.
I started it last Friday, and couldn't seem to put it down in spite of how utterly tragic it was to read.
I come from Kurt Cobain Land, you see. I grew up in a small town in Washington, which at the time was probably not all that different from his coastal town of Aberdeen. He and I were born a year apart, and yet for some reason, I always saw Nirvana as a band of much younger, punk ass kids.
I never felt like he was the voice of my generation at all. But that's probably because I was too busy listening to Frankie Goes to Hollywood and George Michael and R.E.M. Pearl Jam was the closest I ever got to loving grunge. For some reason, Nirvana slipped under my musical radar.
The reason I picked the book up is because Cole is in a big Nirvana phase right now and it has inspired me to actually go back and listen to some of their music.
While I have always been a ginormous fan of Dave Grohl, I am finding a lot of love right now for the music of Mr. Cobain as well.
But his story breaks my heart.
All of this is leading up to the fact that while I'm not a voracious reader by any stretch, I find that biographies are some of my favorite readings.
Which is where you come in: read any riveting biographies lately? And if so, would you care to share your recommendations?
In other news…
Clean & Simple: The Workshop begins tomorrow. Registration will close on April 10 at 10 p.m. P.S.T.
I'm nervous and excited to get it underway, as I've been working on it for the past three months. I look forward to seeing many of you in class as we dive into the content together. My goal with this workshop is to show people not only how I use software to craft well-designed, timeless pages, but to leave you with the confidence to have an idea for a page and know how to use your computer to help you create what you envision.
This is the only time I will be teaching this class during 2013. Once you sign up, you have permanent access to the course materials, so if time is an issue, don't let that deter you.
Hope to see you there!
Scrappybarb in VA says
I too, love biographies. Not lately reads, but you and I are the same age and you may be interested in these two reads. I really enjoyed both. First, Andre Agassi’s bio. Very good read and the whole ‘image is everything’ Canon Rebel ad campaign and his take on it is fascinating. I read it two years ago and still think about that book. Another one that I read last year was Rob Lowe’s bio. Oh, my what a life that man has lead! Loved his story.
Scrappybarb in VA says
Sorry, for the typos. Didn’t proof-read.
If you haven’t already read it, Just Kids by Patti Smith is a great read. And MFK Fisher writes amazing stories about her childhood, but they are much less exciting than Kurt Cobain and Patti Smith. Have you tried Annie Dillard? Good stuff.
A book that reads like a biography but is actually fictional (surrounding actual historic events though) is Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. The story is set in Paris, France and flips between telling the story of little Sarah during the time of the Jewish roundup in Paris and then if flips to somewhat present day with another story line. The two story lines intermingle though. You won’t be able to put it down but it is heartbreaking.
I loved the Rob Lowe bio too! Might have to add the Andre Agassi.
Julie Mitchell says
Keith Richards’ biography called Life.
Megan Anderson says
Can’t wait for the class to start!
Heavier Than Heaven sounds amazing; I’ll have to pick it up.
I just finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Another heartbreaker, but heart-warming by the end…
Hi Cathy! I am enrolled for Clean & Simple. I watched the pre-class video (since I am not terribly familiar with PSE 11) and have to tell you – you rock!! You explain things in a way that I can understand. That makes me happy!! I am headed across the pond (to Dublin) for a quick vacation so I will miss the first couple days, but I am anxious to get started once I return.
Many years ago I listened to Bill Clinton’s autobiography “My Life” as a book on tape. He reads it which was a double bonus! I also really remember liking Katherine Hepburn’s autobiography “Me.”
So excited for class to start!
Beyond belief written by Jenna Miscavige Hill who is the niece of the man who took over Scientology when L. Ron Hubbard passed. I think all religions are interesting and not knowing much about Scientology, I read this. She was born into Scientology and has a very interesting story to tell.
Korey Lindberg says
I have a recommendation for a non- biography book that I finished recently and absolutely loved. It’s written by a MN author named Peter Geye and the book is called “Safe From the Sea”. So, so good and I read it in conjunction with my town’s City Wide Read!!
I just finished Cyndi Lauper’s memoir and I loved it. There was so much about her I didn’t know, some of it very surprising. She’s a terrific lady and it was a great read.
Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford is excellent. Another good one is Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This by Marion Meade. Can’t wait for tomorrow to come!
Thanks for asking the question! I have a couple of recommendations to add to my reading list, now. I just finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed and really enjoyed it!
Janet Kemper says
I would also recommend Wild by Cheryl Strayed and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells….recently read Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan, which was very good.
Well, since I also live in Seattle I’d suggest staying with the Seattle music theme- next up on my “to read” list is Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll – the story of Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. I heard an interview with the writer and now I cant wait to read it.
I love that your son is listening to “our” music. Digital music provides so much more access and seems to close those generation gaps. It somehow feels different than when I played my mom’s Elvis records on my little blue record player.
I haven’t read a ton of non-fiction, but I saw some old 60 minutes on CNN the other night about Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO. Something about her story seemed interesting to me and I’m going to read her memoir, Tough Choices.
And….. I am SO EXCITED for class to start tomorrow !!!!
The John Taylor of Duran Duran bio was a fun quick read. They weren’t as squeaky clean as I had hoped they were.
Maureen Mathis says
It’s simply AMAZING!
I found the bio of Steve Jobs interesting – I’m also really glad that I never ever worked for/with him, though I knew that before reading the book; someone recommended Jeannette Walls’s Glass Castles – she wrote another book about her grandmother [Half Broke Horses, I think]. Laura Hillenbrand’s books [Seabiscuit and Unbroken] are kinda like biographies.
Karen G says
The Stoning of Soraya M was powerful. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom was a surprising excellent Holocaust story. I Am Potential by Patrick Henry Hughes was so uplifting I think you would enjoy it.
I just finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It is technically historical fiction, not a true biography. It is the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley, in the 1920s.
I agree that Jeannette Walls books are very good (tragic that The Glass Castle is actually a true story).
I also agree with the others about the Rob Lowe book. The beauty of book clubs is reading books that I would never have selected on my own! I actually listened to this on CD in my car and it was read by Rob Lowe himself. It felt much more personal this way so would highly recommend listening to it versus reading.
I love nonfiction reads, and biographies are among my favourites. Someone mentioned Agassi — two thumbs up, not just from the tennis addict in me. There were riveting, heart-wrenching and touching stories about all sorts of unexpected things. Another of my all-time faves — John Elder Robinson’s Look Me in the Eye is a fascinating read about growing up different and not knowing why. (He was dx’ed with Asperger’s as an adult.)
4 biographies that I enjoyed: “Three Weeks with My Brother”, Nicholas Sparks (very good!), “Candy Girl”, Diablo Cody (mentions many strip clubs she worked at in Mpls before writing Juno), “A Girl Named Zippy”, Haven Kimmel, and “I Feel Bad about My Neck, and other thoughts on being a woman”, by Nora Ephron.
A good friend recommended Scar Tissue, Anthony Kedis’ biography. Haven’t read it yet, but I’m a huge RHCP fan so it’s on my list.
Kendra B says
I think you’d enjoy Wild by Cheryl Strayed … I loved it 🙂
Heather H. says
I loved Kisses from Katie, Heaven is Here, Until I Say Goodbye…My Year of Living With Joy and I just checked out My Beloved World. Guess I am really into biographies and memoirs right now as well. Happy reading.
The biography of Steve Jobs is very interesting!
I loved The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer. Also second the motions for Wild and The Paris Wife.
Robyn G. says
I just read “What Remains” which is by Carole Radziwell. She was married to JFK Jr’s cousin..found it very interesting.Also already mentioned but another vote for Wild, Three weeks with my Brother and Glass Castles. Also The Middle Place is great!
Janet Kemper says
I LOVED The Middle Place.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson — I listened to the audio read by the author, which was helpful for pronunciation, but I’m sure reading the book would also be enjoyable. I’m not even a foodie — it’s just a remarkable story. He’s not perfect and is pretty candid about his personal failings, but overall it’s an unlikely success story — you can’t help but root for him.
The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison, a memoir about reaching that turning point in parenthood—her oldest was preparing to leave for college and her youngest entering high school.
Bossypants by Tina Fey, Nora Ephron rocks, Basketball Junkie, Glass Castle.
Not a biography exactly, but as a runner you’ll love it: Born to Run!! Definitely you0’ll enjoy it!
I was going to mention this one! I was so in love with John Taylor! It was a quick read, but for some reason it took me forever to finish…I think I was savoring it ha ha ha. And at the mention of any song or video in the book, I would pull it up on youtube and watch the video and smile 😀
It’s not a biography, but I just finished ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S J Watson. I have an almost two year old so really need my sleep but I was reading every night until 3am, completely gripping! It’s about a lady who has no memory beyond about 24 years old, every day she has no idea who she is. Amazing.
Cathy, How much different will this be v your Design Your Life class a couple years ago?
Wild by Cheryl Strayed! Great read!
Barbara Eads says
The Apple loving gal that you are—you MUST read Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson!! Quite a story. I’m one of those crazy groupies that posted a note on our Apple store when he passed! And yet, you could do circles around me with all things MAC!
Home by Julie Andrews is my favorite autobiography
It is definitely has “mature” content but My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler was really funny that I laughed out loud several times. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I still have no idea who she really is…apparently she has a show on E.
christi in ma says
I’m enjoying Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson.
If you watch Top Chef Masters or Chopped, he’ll be familiar to you.
If you like rock and roll biographies, I highly recommend “Backstage Passes: Life On the Wild Side with David Bowie”, written by Bowie’s ex-wife Angela Bowie. I’m a total Bowie-lover, but it was still fascinating to learn her take on their relationship and his career, including his drug-addiction and random flings with Mick Jagger.
I can’t think right off the top of my head but I would suggest to just google some of your favorite people and see if there is a bio on them
One of my all-time favorites is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom…life changing. I also enjoyed Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough, When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan, and Winston Churchill’s autobiographies.
Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have written their autobiography. Fantastic story, loved this book! As you probably know they grew up east of Seattle. They are amazing and talented. I love reading about creative people. I picked this book up at my local library but I love this book so much that I’m going to buy my own copy.
Off topic. But thought this was a cool TED about story.
Candy Girl by Diablo Cody is pretty darn awesome. And I just finished The Orchard by Theresa Weir. Also a great book.
TOTALLY NOT A BIOGRAPHY, but I loved this book I read over break…. it made me USE and get more Chia Seeds!
Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood [Wayne Coates]
Not a beach read, but a really good book I wish I had read years ago because I have had lots of chia in my freezer, and I rarely use it.
Hope all is wonderful.
Oh and if you have not read it, get the Tina Fey, Bossy Pants on audio at the library and listen to it – she reads it and I laughed so hard my face actually hurt. I was terribly sad when it ended. I felt like she was my friend. That book rocks!
Oh, I loved that book!
K Weston says
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The man was a genius and a jerk. But mostly a genius. Loved it.
K Weston says
Oh … and Under The Duvet by Marion Keyes, her story of the (not so) glamorous life of a romance writer. Read it on a flight a few years ago and had trouble not laughing out loud. Fantastic.
Allie Atkinson says
Not genuine biographies but ANYTHING by Paulo Coelho will change your life. I recommend starting with ‘The Alchemist’ though. Easy, yet life changing read or listen, I listen to the audio books, pure brilliance!
Guts by Kristen Johnston. It’s a quick read. Hilarious. Scary. Brutally honest. I couldn’t put it down.
Keith Richards’ Life was okay. Not my favorite, but then I’ve never been a huge Stones fan.
I’ll second the Bossy Pants audio version.
Try the Red Leather Diary too. Fascinating stuff.
Off to mine the comments to pad my Good Reads account. (And hey, are you on there? I get tons of recommendations that way. Not that I need them. My list is about 3 pages (profile view) long already.)
Brain of Fire by Susannah Cahalan is $2.99 for the Kindle edition on Amazon. Thanks for the recommendation!
I felt the same way… it brought back a ton of memories!
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is a memoir by Bill Bryson, it is hilarious. His book A Walk in the Woods is awesome too!
Anne Marie says
I still haven’t read a biography to this date, but I might get there some day soon.
So tempted by the workshop. I discovered your clean and simple style 6-7 years ago and have both your books… Love your style.
Tina Fey’s BOSSY PANTS was very entertaining in my opinion. Currently reading an EXCELLENT book- “Until I Say Good-Bye: My year of Living with Joy” by Susan Spencer-Wendel. Also, have heard great things about “WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed; it is on my LIST of books to read. I really LOVE posts like these… seeing what others suggest for reading. It IS like a book club… where you consider reading something you may have never ordinarily touched before hearing about it, like this. THANK YOU!
Wondering… what is the difference between biographical and memoire. OR are they the same?
I love biographies too. Just Kids by Patti Smith about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe is really good.
I second! Unbroken is a biography of Louis Zamperini – AMAZING. I don’t usually read biographies and it sucked me right in because it reads like fiction. I wrote more about here for book club if you’re interested:
I personally love biographies. My favorite read of recent is by Nate Berkus; The Things That Matter. Actually only the first 43 pages are biography and then he takes to the reader to homes to see what really matters. I may need to purchase this book. Other suggestions include Andre Agassi, Rob Lowe, and Anderson Cooper (read many times over.)
Ann Lee says
When Nirvana exploded into the scene, I felt like I was the only one left out and still listening to R.E.M (I still do). Having said that, the last autobiography I read (and it was a good read) was Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.
See, that was me! I was way into my REM phase too at that point, and other more mellow stuff. But now, going back, Im really loving listening to Nirvana. Strange but true.
I don’t read biographies but my hubby likes them. He’s learning to play guitar and is into that “guitar scene” right now so the last few he has read have been music related. He really, really liked the biography for Slash and also for Vince Neil. If you liked Kurt Cobain’s, I think these would interest you also.