Fall Booknotes from Our Staff – Biography

Blue Nights
by Joan Didion (Knopf)

Six years after the publication of her stunning memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion brings us a deeply moving account of the loss of her thirty-nine-year-old daughter, Quintana. Didion begins with what would be the seven-year anniversary of Quintana’s wedding, and moves back and forth through time to reflect on her daughter’s life and her own role as a parent. The deaths of her husband and daughter forced Didion to face her own mortality, and to acknowledge the majesty of what she once considered ordinary blessings. Didion once again gives us an unflinching chronicle written in her signature succinct prose. –Laurie

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin)

With the fortuitous combination of Alexandra Fuller’s adventurous and charismatic family, and her terrific storytelling skills, this memoir (following Don’t Let’s Go To the Dogs Tonight) presents the story of her mother’s remarkable life. Born in Scotland and raised in Kenya, Nicola Fuller’s passion, bravery, and uniquely wry sense of humor are evident throughout, from settling onto four different farms in southern Africa, to the heart-breaking personal and political challenges that threaten her mental stability. This tribute to an exceptional woman, who, with a bit of wine, her beloved animals nearby, and an occasional song to fit the moment, agreed to be the subject of another (revealing) “awful book,” returns us to the fabulous Fullers with renewed curiosity and pleasure. –Erica

by Jim Ottaviani
illus. by Leland Myrick (First Second)

One difference between the genius mind and the average mind is the ability to view the world from unexpected angles. According to this biographical graphic novel, that ability paired with a great sense of humor are physicist Richard Feynman’s gifts. They undoubtedly helped the scientist with his contribution to the Nobel Prize winning work on the theory of quantum electrodynamics. However, the author also makes a point of showing that they helped Feynman improve the teaching of physics. His desire to make physics more accessible spurred a series of popular lectures. In the end, this achievement vies with those scientific feats as his single greatest work. –Pamela

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life
by Charles J. Shields (Henry Holt)

Acclaimed biographer Charles Shields shines an unprecedented light onto Kurt Vonnegut Jr.—that smirking master of American letters. Working directly with the author before his death, Shields seamlessly weaves together a wealth of personal letters and first-hand anecdotes, interviews, and photographs. From Vonnegut’s early days of anonymity as a struggling short-story writer and his grappling with success and life as a family man to a horrific recreation of the bombings in Dresden and tracing how those events gave rise to Slaughterhouse-Five. Intimate and heartfelt without pulling punches, And So it Goes is a fittingly scribbly sketch of this off beat literary icon, both on and off the page. –Matthew

And So It Goes will be published on Tuesday, November 8th.

Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

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