Really Good Books About Real People: Part Two

Catch up here!

Too Late to Die Young, Harriet McBryde Johnson — I was so happy to see McBryde Johnson come up in the comments of my PETA piece, because she was a wonderful, angry, take-no-prisoners woman with a brutal pen. These essays are incredible. Her classic account of debating Peter Singer can be read here in full), but Too Late to Die Young features tales of taking on the Jerry’s Kids “crip sideshow,” refusing to let the Secret Service case her dorm room when Reagan visited, and other missives from an ornery life. I miss living in a world that had Harriet in it, even if I think she was wrong about Terri Schiavo.

Love is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield — I have never liked a person more, based solely on a memoir, than I like Rob Sheffield. I was ughhh’ed by the title, but then BOOM. It’s about music, and his wife, this super neat Appalachian woman who died when they were unbelievably young, and their favorite song was “Thirteen” by Big Star, and we should all love someone so much once in our lives. In case you get too upset, which I did, he eventually married another really cool lady, and seems to be happy. Okay? It’s the exact opposite of Caroline Knapp. Shit, I just bummed us all out, two weeks in a row.

It Happens Every Day, Isabel Gillies — I feel really weird about this one, because it really is kind of a dick move to write a book about the father of your kids cheating on you with a coworker. But I’ve also read it six times, and each time I go INCANDESCENT WITH RAGE. Classic gaslighting, you guys! And she confronted them once, when they looked super snuggly in his office, and he not only denied it, he made her apologize to his mistress. Weak. Weak. In addition to the HUNFHHH of the whole thing, I find Gillies exceptionally endearing and likeable, even though she’s married (on TV) to your hot/weird boyfriend Elliot Stabler, and was in Metropolitan. I know many people hate Whit Stillman movies, but not me.

Roughing It In the Bush, Susanna Moodie — You don’t really want to be a Pioneer Woman, trust. Not only is this frank, depressing look into the life of a 19th century immigrant (seriously, I think Dooce stole ‘It Sucked And Then I Cried’ from Moodie’s original working title) to the crummiest part of the then-unsettled Canadian wilderness shockingly entertaining, it also inspired Margaret Atwood’s truly lovely collection of poems, The Journals of Susanna Moodie. The original book is free for the Kindle, by the way, should you possess a Kindle. Okay, just this one part of Atwood’s poem about Moodie’s son drowning shortly after her arrival:

My foot hit rock. The dreamed sails
collapsed, ragged.
I planted him in this country
like a flag.

Them: A Memoir of Parents, Francine du Plessix Gray — Okay, if you actually know me in real life (sorry for not responding to your voicemail, they make me anxious), you are unbelievably tired of me trying to force this book on you. I am sorry. I really am. But, you know, are you re-reading Nicholas and Alexandra again? It’s super great, and everything, but let’s branch out.

Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages, Katie Roiphe — Like many of us, I am not exactly besties with Katie Roiphe. Katie Roiphe is MAD PROBLEMATIC. But if I were besties with Katie Roiphe, I would sit her down and say, “Kates, maybe instead of writing whatever it is you’re working on right now, you could write a sequel to Uncommon Arrangements in which you discuss seven other fascinating, complex, atypical historical marriages.”

Losing Mum and Pup, Christopher Buckley — Ohhhh, I mean, I feel it’s important to tell you about this book, because our demographics do not particularly scream “I need to know more about the late founder of National Review,” right? But he’s extremely funny, and they were Colorful as Hell, and there’s a bit where he remembers his mother having Ted Kennedy at their house in Gstaad (yeah, yeah, also it might have been another weirdly vowel-y ski town), and he offers to drive someone home, and Christopher’s mother shrieks “DON’T DO IT, THERE ARE MANY MANY BRIDGES BETWEEN HERE AND THE AIRPORT.” Oh, SNAP, Pat Buckley! Cat noises!

Okay, there are also two other memoirs, but, much like In Cold Blood and people who really care about murder, I am convinced that Hairpinners and People Who Loved The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are a completely overlapping set. Oh, and The Liar’s Club. The Liar’s Club is ace. It’s like The Glass Castle, only significantly better. ❤ u, The Glass Castle, no offense intended.

Wait, you say. There MUST be a Part Three? There is. Next week.