Blue Ribbon Biographies: a good time was had by all, including – or should I say, especially! – the presenters.

September 18, 2008 at 1:22 am (books)

My library colleague Jean and I had a delightful morning yesterday book talking various biographical works to a gratifyingly appreciative audience at the Bain Center.

Here are some of the books that Jean talked about:

This is the title that has been selected for “One Maryland One Book,” an initiative of the Maryland Humanities Council.

At some point, I’ll have to get around to reading or listening to this book. It’s had terrific word of mouth and has been much in demand by book clubs.

Jean also recommended a biographical film:

Here’s my list (click to enlarge):

There wasn’t enough time to talk about all of these, so I chose some of my favorites that I thought would appeal:

Yes, my brother wrote it – and it is truly excellent!

Andrea Di Robilant has found a gold mine in trunks full of letters written by his ancestors. I only hope there’s more to come! (See my review of Lucia.)

I love books that speak to the adage that truth can be stranger than fiction. The incredible tale of how Emma Hamilton fought her away out of destitution – not to mention prostitution and illegitimate motherhood – to attain entree into the heights of English society is one; the story of the disastrous marriage of Astor heir John Armstrong “Archie” Chanler and strangely exotic Southern belle Amelie Rives is another.

And speaking of marital disasters – not to mention irregularities and just plain bizarre set-ups – Uncommon Arrangements was like  People Magazine survey of England’s literary set in the early twentieth century. It makes for delicious reading! (For more details, see my review.)

And finally – the utterly endearing, frequently hilarious Zippy! I actually listened to this one, read by the author Haven Kimmel. But if you do that, be sure and have a look at the print version as well, since it contains a wealth of black and white snapshots of Zippy and her rather singular family, friends, and neighbors.

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