Biography

Books that are in the genre of biography,autobiography and memoir. These books are voted by our community of book lovers.

The Case for Trump

An instant New York Times bestseller: From an award-winning historian and regular Fox contributor, the true story of how Donald Trump has become one of the most successful presidents in history — and why America needs him now more than ever

In The Case for Trump, award-winning historian and political commentator Victor Davis Hanson explains how a celebrity businessman with no political or military experience triumphed over sixteen well-qualified Republican rivals, a Democrat with a quarter-billion-dollar war chest, and a hostile media and Washington establishment to become president of the United States — and an extremely successful president.

Trump alone saw a political opportunity in defending the working people of America’s interior whom the coastal elite of both parties had come to scorn, Hanson argues. And Trump alone had the instincts and energy to pursue this opening to victory, dismantle a corrupt old order, and bring long-overdue policy changes at home and abroad. We could not survive a series of presidencies as volatile as Trump’s. But after decades of drift, America needs the outsider Trump to do what normal politicians would not and could not do.

The Hidden Power of F*cking Up

The Try Guys deliver their first book—an inspirational self-improvement guide that teaches you that the path to success is littered with humiliating detours, embarrassing mistakes, and unexpected failures.

To be our best selves, we must become secure in our insecurities. In The Hidden Power of F*cking Up, The Try Guys – Keith, Ned, Zach, and Eugene – reveal their philosophy of trying: how to fully embrace fear, foolishness, and embarrassment in an effort to understand how we all get paralyzed by a fear of failure. They’ll share how four shy, nerdy kids have dealt with their most poignant life struggles by attacking them head-on and reveal their – ahem – sure-fail strategies for achieving success.

But they’re not just here to talk; they’re actually going to put their advice to work. To demonstrate their unique self-improvement formula, they’ll each personally confront their deepest insecurities. A die-hard meat-lover goes vegan for the first time. A straight-laced father transforms into a fashionista. A perpetually single sidekick becomes the romantic lead. A child of divorce finally grows more intimate with his family. Through their insightful, emotional journeys and surprising, hilarious anecdotes, they’ll help you overcome your own self-doubt to become the best, most f*cked up version of yourself you can be!

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder

After his December 2003 arrest, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was quickly dubbed “The Angel of Death” by the media. But Cullen was no mercy killer, nor was he a simple monster. He was a favorite son, husband, beloved father, best friend, and celebrated caregiver. Implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients, he was also perhaps the most prolific serial killer in American history.

Cullen’s murderous career in the world’s most trusted profession spanned sixteen years and nine hospitals across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When, in March of 2006, Charles Cullen was marched from his final sentencing in an Allentown, Pennsylvania, courthouse into a waiting police van, it seemed certain that the chilling secrets of his life, career, and capture would disappear with him. Now, in a riveting piece of investigative journalism nearly ten years in the making, journalist Charles Graeber presents the whole story for the first time. Based on hundreds of pages of previously unseen police records, interviews, wire-tap recordings and videotapes, as well as exclusive jailhouse conversations with Cullen himself and the confidential informant who helped bring him down, THE GOOD NURSE weaves an urgent, terrifying tale of murder, friendship, and betrayal.

Graeber’s portrait of Cullen depicts a surprisingly intelligent and complicated young man whose promising career was overwhelmed by his compulsion to kill, and whose shy demeanor masked a twisted interior life hidden even to his family and friends. Were it not for the hardboiled, unrelenting work of two former Newark homicide detectives racing to put together the pieces of Cullen’s professional past, and a fellow nurse willing to put everything at risk, including her job and the safety of her children, there’s no telling how many more lives could have been lost.

In the tradition of In Cold Blood, THE GOOD NURSE does more than chronicle Cullen’s deadly career and the breathless efforts to stop him; it paints an incredibly vivid portrait of madness and offers a penetrating look inside America’s medical system. Harrowing and irresistibly paced, this book will make you look at medicine, hospitals, and the people who work in them, in an entirely different way.

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service

The moving, entertaining, never-before-told story of how one man found his calling.

“The book is called Grateful American, and I promise you after you read it you will be grateful for what Gary has accomplished and contributed to our country.” — Clint Eastwood

As a kid in suburban Chicago, Gary Sinise was more interested in sports and rock ‘n’ roll than reading or schoolwork. But when he impulsively auditioned for a school production of West Side Story, he found his purpose–or so it seemed.

Within a few years Gary and a handful of friends created what became one of the most exciting and important new theater companies in America. From its humble beginnings in a suburban Chicago church basement and eventual move into the city, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company launched a series of groundbreaking productions, igniting Gary’s career along with those of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perry, John Mahoney, and others. Television and film came calling soon after, and Gary starred in Of Mice and Men (which he also directed) and The Stand before taking the role that would change his life in unforeseeable ways: Lieutenant Dan in the Academy Award–winning Forrest Gump.

The military community’s embrace of the character of the disabled veteran was matched only by the depth of Gary’s realization that America’s defenders had not received all the honor, respect, and gratitude their sacrifices deserve. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, this became Gary’s mission. While starring in hits like Apollo 13, Ransom, Truman, George Wallace, CSI:NY, and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Gary has worked tirelessly on behalf of those who serve this country, entertaining more than a half million troops around the world playing bass guitar with his Lt. Dan Band, raising funds on behalf of veterans, and eventually founding the Gary Sinise Foundation with a mission to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.

Grateful American is the moving, entertaining, profoundly gripping story of how one man found his calling: to see that those who defend this country and its freedoms are never forgotten.

A Sucky Love Story: Overcoming Unhappily Ever After

What if falling in love meant almost losing everything?

Where does a moderately popular internet star who never leaves her house look for potential suitors? Online. Tinder, Bumble, Match.com, OkCupid—I tried them all. My thirty-one-year-old self clicked and swiped her little heart out, leading to more dates than I could count, and more disappointment than I was prepared for.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you know all too well the perils of modern dating. But let’s say, eventually, you meet someone. You think to yourself, “Wow, they’re perfect! Take me off the market, put a ring on it, knock me up, the whole enchilada, because they are ‘the one.’” Let’s also say that they “feel the same way” about you. Your life starts to make sense! All the pain, heartbreak, and frustration from past failed relationships was worth it. Slow clap.

That’s how I felt about Milos. He was from Europe, a doctor, wealthy, athletic. He had an accent and a dog. Milos was textbook marriage material.

For him it was “love at first sight,” but for me, it was “anxiety on every date.”

Something was telling me to run—but for two years, the only running I did was straight into his arms.

If only I would have listened.

This isn’t a love story.

It’s my story of survival.

Love, Vera: A Russian and American Friendship

This heartwarming story of a decades long international friendship began around a kitchen table in Moscow in 1989. As the Soviet Union was breaking up, five Russian friends got the improbable idea of traveling to America with three of their children to learn more firsthand about the West. They sent about 100 letters to randomly selected towns in the United States to express their interest in visiting. The small agricultural town of Garden City, Kansas, with an amazingly rich history of hosting foreign visitors, was among the first to respond and resulted in a memorable human connection that changed the lives of all of the visitors and host families, as well as the culture of Garden City. Their story of the adventure and growing understanding that followed is told from the point of view of one of the Russian visitors (Vera Penkova) and her host family (Barbara and Milton McMinimy). Their friendship continues almost 30 years later.

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House

“Sims’s vivid portrait of Trump shrewdly balances admiration with misgivings, and his intricate, engrossing accounts of White House vendettas and power plays have a good mix of immersion and perspective. The result is one of the best of the recent flood of Trump tell-alls.” —Publishers Weekly

The first honest insider’s account of the Trump administration.

After standing at Donald Trump’s side on Election Night, Cliff Sims joined him in the West Wing as Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Message Strategy.

He soon found himself pulled into the President’s inner circle as a confidante, an errand boy, an advisor, a punching bag, and a friend. Sometimes all in the same conversation.

As a result, Sims gained unprecedented access to the President, sitting in on private meetings with key Congressional officials, world leaders, and top White House advisors. He saw how Trump handled the challenges of the office, and he learned from Trump himself how he saw the world.

For five hundred days, Sims also witnessed first-hand the infighting and leaking, the anger, joy, and recriminations. He had a role in some of the President’s biggest successes, and he shared the blame for some of his administration’s worst disasters. He gained key, often surprising insights into the players of the Trump West Wing, from Jared Kushner and John Kelly to Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

He even helped Trump craft his enemies list, knowing who was loyal and who was not.

And he took notes. Hundreds of pages of notes. In real-time.

Sims stood with the President in the eye of the storm raging around him, and now he tells the story that no one else has written—because no one else could. The story of what it was really like in the West Wing as a member of the President’s team. The story of power and palace intrigue, backstabbing and bold victories, as well as painful moral compromises, occasionally with yourself.

Team of Vipers tells the full story, as only a true insider could.

Mino

This is the story of a sparkling childhood and teenage years, nourished by the confluence of three cultures – Europe, USA and Japan – laying the foundation for a stellar career at NASA. A life that explored the universe from its largest dimensions to the smallest nano-scale. A life rich in art and music. A life full of nature and gods. A life carried by optimism and joy, tragically cut short at its zenith by an unrelenting brain tumor. The eternal question runs through: Where are we going after death?

Love, Lucy (Berkley Boulevard Celebrity Autobiography

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The one and only autobiography by the iconic Lucille Ball, hailed by TV Guide as the “#1 Greatest TV Star of All Time.”

Love, Lucy is the valentine Lucille Ball left for her fans—a warm, wise, and witty memoir written by Lucy herself. The legendary star of the classic sitcom I Love Lucy was at the pinnacle of her success when she sat down to record the story of her life. No comedienne had made America laugh so hard, no television actress had made the leap from radio and B movies to become one of the world’s best-loved performers. This is her story—in her own words.

The story of the ingenue from Jamestown, New York, determined to go to Broadway, destined to make a big splash, bound to marry her Valentino, Desi Arnaz. In her own inimitable style, she tells of their life together—both storybook and turbulent; intimate memories of their children and friends; wonderful backstage anecdotes; the empire they founded; the dissolution of their marriage. And, with a heartfelt happy ending, her enduring marriage to Gary Morton.

Here is the lost manuscript that her fans and loved ones will treasure. Here is the laughter. Here is the life. Here’s Lucy…

“The comic actress in her own words…intensley moving.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Filled with light and laughter.”—New York Times Book Review

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

Taking place during the most critical period of our nation’s birth, The First Conspiracy tells a remarkable and previously untold piece of American history that not only reveals George Washington’s character, but also illuminates the origins of America’s counterintelligence movement that led to the modern day CIA.

In 1776, an elite group of soldiers were handpicked to serve as George Washington’s bodyguards. Washington trusted them; relied on them. But unbeknownst to Washington, some of them were part of a treasonous plan. In the months leading up to the Revolutionary War, these traitorous soldiers, along with the Governor of New York, William Tryon, and Mayor David Mathews, launched a deadly plot against the most important member of the military: George Washington himself.

This is the story of the secret plot and how it was revealed. It is a story of leaders, liars, counterfeiters, and jailhouse confessors. It also shows just how hard the battle was for George Washington and how close America was to losing the Revolutionary War.

In this historical page-turner, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer teams up with American history writer and documentary television producer, Josh Mensch to unravel the shocking true story behind what has previously been a footnote in the pages of history. Drawing on extensive research, Meltzer and Mensch capture in riveting detail how George Washington not only defeated the most powerful military force in the world, but also uncovered the secret plot against him in the tumultuous days leading up to July 4, 1776.

About My Mother: True Stores of a Horse-Crazy Daughter and Her Baseball-Obsessed Mother: A Memoir

A Message from Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs Guy: Just to be clear, About My Mother is a book about my grandmother, written by my mother. That’s not to say it’s not about my mother—it is. In fact, About My Mother is as much about my mother as it is about my grandmother. In that sense, it’s really a book about “mothers.”

…It is not, however, a book written by me. True, I did write the foreword. But it doesn’t mean I’ve written a book about my mother. I haven’t. Nor does it mean my mother’s book is about her son. It isn’t. It’s about my grandmother. And my mother. Just to be clear.—Mike

A love letter to mothers everywhere, About My Mother will make you laugh and cry—and see yourself in its reflection. Peggy Rowe’s story of growing up as the daughter of Thelma Knobel is filled with warmth and humor. But Thelma could be your mother—there’s a Thelma in everyone’s life. Shes the person taking charge—the one who knows instinctively how things should be. Today Thelma would be described as an alpha personality, but while growing up, her daughter Peggy saw her as a dictator—albeit a benevolent, loving one. They clashed from the beginning—Peggy, the horse-crazy tomboy, and Thelma, the genteel-yet-still-controlling mother, committed to raising two refined, ladylike daughters. Good luck.

When major league baseball came to town in the early 1950s and turned sophisticated Thelma into a crazed Baltimore Orioles groupie, nobody was more surprised and embarrassed than Peggy. Life became a series of compromises—Thelma tolerating a daughter who pitched manure and galloped the countryside, while Peggy learned to tolerate the whacky Orioles fan who threw her underwear at the television, shouted insults at umpires, and lived by the orange-and-black schedule taped to the refrigerator door.

Sometimes, we’re more alike than we know.

And in case you’re wondering, Peggy knows a thing or two about dirty jobs herself…

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this brilliant biography, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jon Meacham chronicles the life of George Herbert Walker Bush.

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Drawing on President Bush’s personal diaries, on the diaries of his wife, Barbara, and on extraordinary access to the forty-first president and his family, Meacham paints an intimate and surprising portrait of an intensely private man who led the nation through tumultuous times. From the Oval Office to Camp David, from his study in the private quarters of the White House to Air Force One, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the first Gulf War to the end of Communism, Destiny and Power charts the thoughts, decisions, and emotions of a modern president who may have been the last of his kind. This is the human story of a man who was, like the nation he led, at once noble and flawed.

His was one of the great American lives. Born into a loving, privileged, and competitive family, Bush joined the navy on his eighteenth birthday and at age twenty was shot down on a combat mission over the Pacific. He married young, started a family, and resisted pressure to go to Wall Street, striking out for the adventurous world of Texas oil. Over the course of three decades, Bush would rise from the chairmanship of his county Republican Party to serve as congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, head of the Republican National Committee, envoy to China, director of Central Intelligence, vice president under Ronald Reagan, and, finally, president of the United States. In retirement he became the first president since John Adams to see his son win the ultimate prize in American politics.

With access not only to the Bush diaries but, through extensive interviews, to the former president himself, Meacham presents Bush’s candid assessments of many of the critical figures of the age, ranging from Richard Nixon to Nancy Reagan; Mao to Mikhail Gorbachev; Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld; Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton. Here is high politics as it really is but as we rarely see it.

From the Pacific to the presidency, Destiny and Power charts the vicissitudes of the life of this quietly compelling American original. Meacham sheds new light on the rise of the right wing in the Republican Party, a shift that signaled the beginning of the end of the center in American politics. Destiny and Power is an affecting portrait of a man who, driven by destiny and by duty, forever sought, ultimately, to put the country first.

The Queen: Aretha Franklin

You know her voice. Now hear her story.

Audible has teamed up with Rolling Stone to produce an uncompromisingly honest Audible Original that honors the life and legacy of the incomparable Aretha Franklin. Aretha’s universal appeal was evident from the release of her first album at age 14 through her nearly 50 Top 40 hits. Yet this intimate biography reminds us that Aretha knew pain as much as she knew glory. It was the blues, residing deep within her soul, that gave way to a voice able to lift millions with a profound sense of freedom, self-worth, and undeniable talent to rise above sorrow.

Aretha’s unshakeable foundation of faith – fueled by a childhood spent singing in church alongside her famous father, minister C.L. Franklin – allowed her to blend heartbreak with spirituality in soul-stirring song. By diving into the true story of Aretha – from the years following her mother’s passing to the moment she decided to become a singer – the listener can’t help but glimpse the roots of the sorrow behind her famous eyes.

Beastie Boys Book

A panoramic experience that tells the story of Beastie Boys, a book as unique as the band itself—by band members ADROCK and Mike D, with contributions from Amy Poehler, Colson Whitehead, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson, Luc Sante, and more.

Formed as a New York City hardcore band in 1981, Beastie Boys struck an unlikely path to global hip hop superstardom. Here is their story, told for the first time in the words of the band. Adam “ADROCK” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond offer revealing and very funny accounts of their transition from teenage punks to budding rappers; their early collaboration with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin; the debut album that became the first hip hop record ever to hit #1, Licensed to Ill—and the album’s messy fallout as the band broke with Def Jam; their move to Los Angeles and rebirth with the genre-defying masterpiece Paul’s Boutique; their evolution as musicians and social activists over the course of the classic albums Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty and the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits conceived by the late Adam “MCA” Yauch; and more. For more than thirty years, this band has had an inescapable and indelible influence on popular culture.

With a style as distinctive and eclectic as a Beastie Boys album, Beastie Boys Book upends the typical music memoir. Alongside the band narrative you will find rare photos, original illustrations, a cookbook by chef Roy Choi, a graphic novel, a map of Beastie Boys’ New York, mixtape playlists, pieces by guest contributors, and many more surprises.

Down Below- Reminiscences of a WW2 Engine Room Merchant Navy Seaman

Adventure and terror in wartime can shape one’s life story like nothing else.

In 1941 eighteen year old Welshman Ted Whitehead, with no nautical experience, found himself crewing on a Greek freighter, the S/S Lily out of Swansea, Wales. From his native home, Ted started making hazardous, convoy-protected journeys as a steamship engine room seaman on the North Atlantic corridor which was constantly menaced by German U-boats and bad weather. One British shipping official stated that 27% of merchant seaman died through enemy action and the angry ocean. The Lily some months later was torpedoed and sunk in frigid waters – a chilling introduction to the perils of war for a teenager who had to undergo a stay in a Canadian hospital. Revisiting his past, 95 year old Whitehead recounts how ships delivered him to distant harbours where his wartime odyssey was alternately dramatic and amusing, intriguing and reflective, filled with adventures and misfortunes. His voyages included vignettes in both North and South America as well as the shores of the Mediterranean and Africa, sailing on British, Norwegian and Greek coal-burning ships. Through it all Ted was always a solid seaman aboard ship but when chance allowed, he was also a bit of a lad ashore.

Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters

Both recalling his life story and recounting many of the major advances in twentieth-century science, a renowned physicist shares his autobiography through letters.

Having penned hundreds of letters to his family over four decades, Freeman Dyson has framed them with the reflections made by a man now in his nineties. While maintaining that “the letters record the daily life of an ordinary scientist doing ordinary work,” Dyson nonetheless has worked with many of the twentieth century’s most renowned physicists, mathematicians, and intellectuals, so that Maker of Patterns presents not only his personal story but chronicles through firsthand accounts an exciting era of twentieth-century science.

Though begun in the dark year of 1941 when Hitler’s armies had already conquered much of Europe, Dyson’s letters to his parents, written at Trinity College, Cambridge, often burst with the curiosity of a precocious seventeen-year-old. Pursuing mathematics and physics with a cast of legendary professors, Dyson thrived in Cambridge’s intellectual ferment, working on, for example, the theory of partitions or reading about Kurt Gödel’s hypotheses, while still finding time for billiards and mountain climbing. After graduating and serving with the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command operational research section, whose job it was “to demolish German cities and kill as many German civilians as possible,” Dyson visited a war-torn Germany, hoping through his experience to create a “tolerably peaceful world.”

Juxtaposing descriptions of scientific breakthroughs with concerns for mankind’s future, Dyson’s postwar letters reflect the quandaries faced by an entire scientific generation that was dealing with the aftereffects of nuclear detonations and concentration camp killings. Arriving in America in 1947 to study with Cornell’s Hans Bethe, Dyson continued to send weekly missives to England that were never technical but written with grace and candor, creating a portrait of a generation that was eager, as Einstein once stated, to solve “deep mysteries that Nature intend[ed] to keep for herself.”

We meet, among others, scientists like Richard Feynman, who took Dyson across country on Route 66, Robert Oppenheimer, Eugene Wigner, Niels Bohr, James Watson, and a young Stephen Hawking; and we encounter intellectuals and leaders, among them Reinhold Niebuhr, George Kennan, Arthur C. Clarke, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.

The “patterns of comparable beauty in the dance of electrons jumping around atoms” invariably replicate themselves in this autobiography told through letters, one that combines accounts of wanton arms development with the not-inconsiderable demands of raising six children. As we once again attempt to guide society toward a more hopeful future, these letters, with their reenactment of what, at first, seems like a distant past, reveal invaluable truths about human nature.

I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays

New York Times essayist and author of We Learn Nothing, Tim Kreider trains his virtuoso writing and singular power of observation on his (often befuddling) relationships with women.

Psychologists have told him he’s a psychologist. Philosophers have told him he’s a philosopher. Religious groups have invited him to speak. He had a cult following as a cartoonist. But, above all else, Tim Kreider is an essayist—one whose deft prose, uncanny observations, dark humor, and emotional vulnerability have earned him deserved comparisons to David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, and the late David Foster Wallace (who was himself a fan of Kreider’s humor).

In his new collection, I Wrote This Book Because I Love You, he focuses his unique perception and wit on his relationships with women—romantic, platonic, and the murky in-between. He talks about his difficulty finding lasting love, and seeks to understand his commitment issues by tracking down the John Hopkins psychologist who tested him for a groundbreaking study on attachment when he was a toddler. He talks about his valued female friendships, one of which landed him on a circus train bound for Mexico. He talks about his time teaching young women at an upstate New York college, and the profound lessons they wound up teaching him. And in a hugely popular essay that originally appeared in The New York Times, he talks about his nineteen-year-old cat, wondering if it’s the most enduring relationship he’ll ever have.

Each of these pieces is hilarious and profound, and collectively they further cement Kreider’s place among the best essayists working today.

The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

Tessa Fontaine’s astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, The Electric Woman, follows the author on a life-affirming journey of loss and self-discovery―through her time on the road with the last traveling American sideshow and her relationship with an adventurous, spirited mother.

Turns out, one lesson applies to living through illness, keeping the show on the road, letting go of the person you love most, and eating fire:

The trick is there is no trick.
You eat fire by eating fire.

Two journeys―a daughter’s and a mother’s―bear witness to this lesson in The Electric Woman.

For three years Tessa Fontaine lived in a constant state of emergency as her mother battled stroke after stroke. But hospitals, wheelchairs, and loss of language couldn’t hold back such a woman; she and her husband would see Italy together, come what may. Thus Fontaine became free to follow her own piper, a literal giant inviting her to “come play” in the World of Wonders, America’s last traveling sideshow. How could she resist?

Transformed into an escape artist, a snake charmer, and a high-voltage Electra, Fontaine witnessed the marvels of carnival life: intense camaraderie and heartbreak, the guilty thrill of hard-earned cash exchanged for a peek into the impossible, and, most marvelous of all, the stories carnival folks tell about themselves. Through these, Fontaine trained her body to ignore fear and learned how to keep her heart open in the face of loss.

A story for anyone who has ever imagined running away with the circus, wanted to be someone else, or wanted a loved one to live forever, The Electric Woman is ultimately about death-defying acts of all kinds, especially that ever constant: good old-fashioned unconditional love.

Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood

“Thompson captures the ache, fizz, yearning and frustration of being the father of adolescent boys.” —Michael Chabon

“What a riveting, touching, and painful read!” —Maria Semple

“Fun, moving, raw, and relatable.” —Tony Hawk

What makes a good father, and what makes one a failure? Does less-is-more parenting inspire independence and strength, or does it encourage defiance and trouble? Kickflip Boys is the story of a father’s struggle to understand his willful skateboarder sons, challengers of authority and convention, to accept his role as a vulnerable “skate dad,” and to confront his fears that the boys are destined for an unconventional and potentially fraught future.

With searing honesty, Neal Thompson traces his sons’ progression through all the stages of skateboarding: splurging on skate shoes and boards, having run-ins with security guards, skipping classes and defying teachers, painting graffiti, drinking and smoking, and more. As the story veers from funny to treacherous and back, from skateparks to the streets, Thompson must confront his complicity and fallibility. He also reflects on his upbringing in rural New Jersey, and his own adventures with skateboards, drugs, danger, and defiance.

A story of thrill-seeking teens, of hope and love, freedom and failure, Kickflip Boys reveals a sport and a community that have become a refuge for adolescent boys who don’t fit in. Ultimately, it’s the survival story of a loving modern American family, of acceptance, forgiveness, and letting go.

Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage

In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie traveled 1200 miles on the immense river in Canada that now bears his name, in search of the fabled Northwest Passage that had eluded mariners for hundreds of years. In 2016, the acclaimed memoirist Brian Castner retraced Mackenzie’s route by canoe in a grueling journey — and discovered the Passage he could not find.

Disappointment River is a dual historical narrative and travel memoir that at once transports readers back to the heroic age of North American exploration and places them in a still rugged but increasingly fragile Arctic wilderness in the process of profound alteration by the dual forces of globalization and climate change. Fourteen years before Lewis and Clark, Mackenzie set off to cross the continent of North America with a team of voyageurs and Chipewyan guides, to find a trade route to the riches of the East. What he found was a river that he named “Disappointment.” Mackenzie died thinking he had failed. He was wrong.
In this book, Brian Castner not only retells the story of Mackenzie’s epic voyages in vivid prose, he personally retraces his travels, battling exhaustion, exposure, mosquitoes, white water rapids and the threat of bears. He transports readers to a world rarely glimpsed in the media, of tar sands, thawing permafrost, remote indigenous villages and, at the end, a wide open Arctic Ocean that could become a far-northern Mississippi of barges and pipelines and oil money.