As I've mentioned here before, I'm pleased to be on the voting board for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards. In case you missed my earlier posts and don't know what these awards are, here's a brief description from the awards' blog:
Independent Literary Awards are given to books that have been recommended and voted on by independent literary bloggers. Nominations are open to all readers, and are then voted upon by a panel of bloggers who are proficient in the genre they represent. Each panel is led by a Director who oversees the integrity of the process.I'm serving on the panel for the biography and memoir category, two genres I particularly love. Although I cannot nominate a title for award consideration, you can. In just a few weeks, nominations will be open, so now's the time to start thinking about which books you'd like to see make the short lists. I hope you take the time to nominate outstanding memoirs and biographies as well as great books in the other genres included in the 2011 awards.
This has been a great year for biography and memoir. I introduced you to a few titles in June, and now it's time to tell you about some more. I haven't read any of these yet (in fact some haven't been released yet), but they all grabbed my attention.
Out of a job and low on self-confidence Noelle Hancock decided to take Eleanor Roosevelt's advice to "Do one thing every day that scares you." My Year with Eleanor (Ecco Books) chronicles Hancock's project to do just that. Julie Salamon's Wendy and the Lost Boys (Penguin Press) is the authorized biography of the Tony-winning, trail-breaking playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Alexander Fuller's third book about her native Africa, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgiveness (Penguin Press), focuses on her parents' childhoods during the fading years of colonial rule. In the early 1900s, two young women turn their backs on East Coast high society to try their hand at teaching in the wilderness of Colorado. In Nothing Daunted (Scribner), Dorothy Wickenden, the granddaughter of one these adventurous women, uses letters, interviews, and historical research to reconstruct their experience.
I'm not sure if young adults are as taken with Salinger as those of us who were reading him in the twentieth century, but Kenneth Slawenski's J. D. Salinger: A Life (Random House) will likely be one of the most-read biographies of 2011. In her latest memoir, Blue Nights (Knopf), Joan Didion turns her attention to her daughter, parenthood, and aging. Because I too can become somewhat obsessed over finding and creating the perfect loaf of bread with the perfect crust, William Alexander's 52 Loaves (Algonquin) is high on my list. I'm not quite as fanatic as he is, though, I truly have never considered growing my own wheat. Firsthand accounts of life in the American West of the nineteenth century is a particular love of mine. Frank Clifford's Deep Trails in the Old West (Oklahoma University Press), a "newly discovered memoir" has been edited and annotated by Frederick Nolan. Clifford recalls the rough and dangerous Wild West of his youth.
If you've read any great memoirs or biographies published this year, please remember to take the time in September to nominate them for an Indie Lit Award. If those aren't among your favorite genres, perhaps you can nominate titles in one of the following groups: literary fiction, GLBTQ, nonfiction, speculative fiction, and mystery.
What was the last memoir or biography you read?