Omaha Public Library wants to help readers find new books — or at least books new to them. Every month in this space, OPL employees will recommend reading based on different writing genres, themes or styles. This month, OPL staff have suggested some of their favorite biographies and memoirs. Find these books and more at your local branch or omahalibrary.org.
Abigail Bechtel, clerk at Milton R. Abrahams Branch
"You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)," by Felicia Day. Day is funny and honest about her awkward years with the early Internet, her rise to Internet fame subsequent crowning as "the queen of geeks." The book touches on imposter syndrome, the toxicity of the Internet and embracing your weirdness in relatable and entertaining ways.
Emily Bell, library aide at Milton R. Abrahams Branch
"You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," by Sherman Alexie. Alexie's memoir is a heart-wrenching exploration of the author's relationship with his mother. A prominent theme of the memoir is cycles of abuse and stumbling toward forgiveness, particularly when faced with the death of a parent. In keeping with the rest of Alexie's oeuvre, the book also focuses on the struggle of Native people, the author's complex identity as a Native American and how these things impact his relationship with his mother. A cathartic read that goes down like a poetic gut punch, this book will almost certainly bring you to tears, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Danielle Dyer, clerk at Saddlebrook Branch
"The Way Through the Woods," by Long Litt Woon.
After the sudden death of her husband, Woon finds a renewed passion for life through a mushroom-foraging class. The author expertly weaves together her personal narrative of loss and growth with the fascinating and bizarre nature of mushrooms. Woon's downto-earth voice works wonderfully with her extensive knowledge of mushrooms, and is sure to reawaken the nature lover in any reader.
Samantha Greenfield, youth services specialist at Saddlebrook Branch
"Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The True Story Behind Degas's Masterpiece," by Camille Laurens. Fans of Degas or his sculpture "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen" (a version of which can be seen at the Joslyn Art Museum) will enjoy this short biography of Marie van Goethem, ballerina and model for the controversial work. Laurens details Marie's life in poverty, 1800s Parisian culture and the creation and reception of the sculpture. She uses historical sources and her own experience with ballet to create a narrative that is both well-researched and empathetic to her subject.
Martha Grenzeback, genealogy & local history librarian at W. Dale Clark Main Library
"Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed," by Lori Gottlieb. This is a fascinating look at the practice of therapy from both the patient's and the therapist's viewpoints. There are many stories here, all of them interesting — not least the personal story of Gottlieb herself. Her experiences both as therapist and patient are seamlessly interwoven, and gave me some insight into the purpose of therapy and what it can accomplish.
Russ Harper, youth services specialist at Milton R. Abrahams Branch
"Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor," by Ayano Morio. For those who want a fun, light read and are feeling slightly adventurous, try this surprisingly informative quick comics/manga bio done in Japan, and then translated for U.S. audiences. The "Gee-whiz" dialogue common to some Japanese comics somehow fits extremely well with Buffett's well-known homespun charm.
Theresa Jehlik, strategy and business intelligence manager for Omaha Public Library
"Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food," by Ann Hood. From her Italian American upbringing in Providence, Rhode Island, to her TWA flight attendant years, to the countless meals cooked for her children, Hood uses food to capture her experiences and feelings.
Colby Jenkins, senior clerk at Charles B. Washington Branch
"Beastie Boys Book," by Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "ADROCK" Horovitz. Told with the boisterous voices characteristic of the Beasties' musical output, this autobiography is informative and fun. Though MCA's absence after his death in 2012 looms over the entire book, the tone remains light and the storytelling compelling. Try the audiobook version, which includes narration from the authors and their friends, including Snoop Dogg, Kim Gordon and Chloë Sevigny.
Elizabeth A. Johnson, senior manager of operations for Omaha Public Library
"The Last Black Unicorn," by Tiffany Haddish. Haddish writes so honestly about growing up in Los Angeles and coming up in comedy. She's smart, funny and talks frankly about painful things she's experienced with heart and an amazing outlook on life.
David Schmelzer, clerk at Millard Branch
"African Samurai," by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard. Yasuke is a small boy from Egyptian Africa sold into slavery to train as a warrior. He eventually becomes one of Japan's elite, challenged with protecting the most powerful man in the country. The book conveys cultural and political intrigue between the different clans of 1500s Japan, including some of the ninja clans. It's a good record of a country that was open to people of all nations before the 300-year "closed door" society took effect.
Melanie Webb, youth services librarian at Millard Branch
"As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride," by Cary Elwes. I have always loved "The Princess Bride," both the book by William Goldman and the incredibly memorable and quotable movie directed by Rob Reiner, so when this book passed my desk one day, I just had to check it out! The book brings back memories by incorporating behind-the scenes information about the actors, casting, filming and more. If listening to the author-narrated audiobook version, one can feel the impact the experience had on Elwes, as well as the multitude of movie-goers over the years. The audiobook is also interspersed with clips from other people involved in the project. This book is a must-read for all fans of this classic movie.