Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - BETWEENTHELINES -

It’s a great time of year to im­merse your­self in not only your own life, but in the big and small themes of the lives of in­spi­ra­tional oth­ers. Here’s our short­list of some of the best re­cent mem­oirs


A top pick is Michelle Obama’s candid, funny and up­lift­ing Be­com­ing. This woman can write. She de­scribes feel­ing like a poppy seed in a bowl of rice as a stu­dent at WASPy Prince­ton. She paints fas­ci­nat­ing be­hind-the-scenes sto­ries of rais­ing a fam­ily in the White House. In her new it­er­a­tion as au­thor, the for­mer White House mom-in-chief demon­strates once again she is an ar­tic­u­late and in­spir­ing ad­vo­cate for women and girls.

Be­com­ing, Michelle Obama, Pen­guin Books, $39.99


Gre­gory P. Smith was born into a life of vi­o­lence and sent by his par­ents to an or­phan­age where he suf­fered in­sti­tu­tion­alised vi­o­lence.

Later, drugs, al­co­hol and in­car­cer­a­tion led him to home­less­ness and he re­treated to live “in the wild” for 10 years.

Call­ing him­self Will Power, he lived in near-to­tal iso­la­tion in north­ern NSW, for­ag­ing for food, eat­ing bats and trad­ing for pro­duce. When he fi­nally emerged from the for­est, ema­ci­ated and close to death, he re­claimed his life. Smith went to univer­sity and gained an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in so­cial sci­ence fol­lowed by a PhD, in which he in­ves­ti­gated the im­pact of in­sti­tu­tional life.

He is now an aca­demic.

Out of the For­est, Gre­gory P. Smith, Wil­liam Heine­mann Aus­tralia, $34.99


David Sedaris, one of Amer­ica’s fun­ni­est and smartest writ­ers, makes the un­in­tended point in this col­lec­tion of es­says that there is no light with­out dark. Sedaris is from an ec­cen­tric fam­ily and he writes about them, and his part­ner Hugh, with wry af­fec­tion, but not al­ways. “Why don’t you go back to your room and write some more about be­ing a fag­got?” his sis­ter Tiffany yells at him dur­ing a fight. Tiffany died by sui­cide and her death comes up in var­i­ous ways, as does his adored mother’s al­co­holism and his aged fa­ther’s mis­an­thropy. Some­times though, just be­ing ridicu­lous is enough and noth­ing beats the Tokyo shop­ping spree where the Sedaris sib­lings spend a for­tune on clothes “that ab­so­lutely refuse to flat­ter you, that go out of their way to in­sult you, re­ally, and still my sis­ters and I can’t get enough.”

What a de­light.

Ca­lypso, David Sedaris, Lit­tle, Brown, $29.99


Af­ter a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence giv­ing birth to her sec­ond child, jour­nal­ist Leigh Sales found her­self be­com­ing fixated on sto­ries about peo­ple whose lives had changed in an in­stant.

This sent her look­ing for an­swers about how vulnerable each of us is to a lifechang­ing event, ask­ing “what are our chances of ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­enc­ing one? What do we fear most and why? And when the worst does hap­pen, what comes next?”

In these in­ti­mate in­ter­views, she talks with peo­ple who have faced ter­ror­ism, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and other ex­pe­ri­ences fol­low­ing from be­ing in the wrong place at the wrong time, in­clud­ing at Port Arthur on the day of the mas­sacre. Along the way, she writes about her own chal­lenges and what she’s learnt about cop­ing. This is an in­sight­ful mem­oir about the art and strug­gle of be­ing a teacher. Stroud had taught in schools in NSW and abroad be­fore she de­serted the class­room ex­hausted and dis­il­lu­sioned. Her sto­ries range from hi­lar­i­ous to heart­break­ing. Her writ­ing is elo­quent and en­gag­ing, both when it is per­sonal and when it is about how the cur­rent sys­tem is fail­ing chil­dren. As we get to know a few mem­o­rable stu­dents, we learn about the pit­falls of stan­dard­ised tests and the hid­den toll of teach­ing.

Teacher, Gab­bie Stroud, Allen & Un­win, $29.99


In a must-have for rac­ing fans, the Her­ald Sun’s An­drew Rule gets a be­hind-the-scenes look at the world’s great­est race­horse, in­clud­ing un­prece­dented ac­cess to the cham­pion mare’s own­ers, trainer and jockey.

Winx: The Au­tho­rised Bi­og­ra­phy, An­drew Rule, Allen & Un­win, $45


This is the mov­ing story of a Cam­bridge grad­u­ate who grew up off the grid in Idaho. Tara Westover, 31, was raised prepar­ing for

the End of Days in a Mor­mon Sur­vival­ist fam­ily. Home-schooled and with­out a birth cer­tifi­cate or any med­i­cal records, she didn’t of­fi­cially ex­ist on pa­per. At 16, Tara de­cided to ed­u­cate her­self. This is her ex­tra­or­di­nary story, beau­ti­fully writ­ten.

Ed­u­cated, Tara Westover, Hutchin­son, $32.99


Sea­soned fem­i­nist Anne Sum­mers en­cour­ages younger women to find the courage and drive to make their lives ex­tra­or­di­nary.

A pol­icy maker, po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, board mem­ber, edi­tor, jour­nal­ist, pub­lisher, bu­reau­crat, po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cate and au­thor, Dr Sum­mers has em­braced chal­lenges the whole way along. Un­fet­tered and Alive: A Mem­oir, is her ex­hil­a­rat­ing story of a mean­ing­ful pub­lic life. She also frankly ex­plores her own fam­ily story, per­sonal anx­i­eties and mis­takes. Un­fet­tered and Alive, Anne Sum­mers, Allen & Un­win, $39.95


In his 50th year and more than a decade af­ter shelv­ing the in­ter­na­tional ball, you might ex­pect ma­ture cir­cum­spec­tion from Warne. You won’t find it in this au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, but you will en­joy a line-up of sto­ries cov­er­ing a bril­liant ca­reer blot­ted by the odd scan­dal. The silliest in­volves a three-in-a-bed romp while he was play­ing English county cricket.

No Spin, Shane Warne, Pen­guin, $50

For­mer First Lady Michelle Obama signs books dur­ing an ap­pear­ance for her mem­oir, Be­com­ing, in New York.

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