June 25, 2014
Five Books: Lives of the Famous and Notorious

5BooksJune2014Continuing our series on books from the Novel Conversations collection, this month we have Five Books about famous people. Our readers enjoy biographies and memoirs, as well as fiction, and all of these legendary figures have intriguing life stories.

CLEOPATRA: A LIFE – This Queen of Egypt is surely one of the most famous women in history, and she earned her place among the most notorious. She charmed some claimants to the leadership of empires and did away with others, until she too met her end. Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff tells her colorful story in detail and explains the deadly nature of politics in ancient Egypt and Rome.

JAMES DEAN: REBEL WITH A CAUSE – Indiana author Wes D. Gehring wrote this biography of James Dean, a Hoosier from Grant County who made his mark in New York and Hollywood. Playing the part of a rebellious 1950s teenager, Dean starred in only three movies, one of which premiered after his dramatic death in a car crash at the age of 24. Gehring’s task was to separate the enduring image from the real person and actor.

MY LIFE IN FRANCE – The woman who introduced French cooking to American kitchens started out as a fish out of water in “la belle France.” Raised in Pasadena, California, Julia Child spoke no French at first and was aghast at the idea of wine with lunch. Her story is one of perseverance and determination; she flunked her final exam at Le Cordon Bleu but went on to publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking and launch her own TV series, “The French Chef.” The book, co-written with Alex Prud’homme, is illustrated throughout with photos.

THE KING’S SPEECH: HOW ONE MAN SAVED THE BRITISH MONARCHY – The King was George VI, father of the current Queen, and the “one man” was Lionel Logue, a speech therapist who helped the king overcome a serious stammer. George VI was a second son, thrust into the spotlight when his brother abdicated the throne (and we have that story in a book entitled That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor). Though shy and unprepared, it was George who had to inspire his subjects as they faced the ordeal of WWII. With great courage and the help of Logue, he succeeded. The King’s Speech was made into a movie that won Academy Awards in 2011 for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Mark Logue and Peter Conradi researched & wrote the book.

YOU LET SOME GIRL BEAT YOU? THE STORY OF ANN MEYERS DRYSDALE – Indiana Humanities had the pleasure of bringing Ann Meyers Drysdale to Indianapolis for our 2012-13 program, The Spirit of Competition. This book, written with Joni Ravenna, tells the story of Ann Meyers’ basketball career, which included UCLA, the Olympics, women’s professional basketball and an NBA contract. A sports pioneer in many ways, she went on to broadcasting and marriage to Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale.

This post was written by Nancy Conner, director of grants at Indiana Humanities and coordinator of Novel Conversations.




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