May’s Best Biographies & Memoirs

Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations, by William H. McRaven
This retired Navy admiral’s earliest memories place him at American Officers’ Club in France among Allied officers recounting their adventures in WWII. The son of a career Air Force officer, William McRaven followed his father into the United States military and throughout his career was involved in some of the highest profile moments in modern military history, including the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the raid that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden. The Navy SEAL and Special Operations Forces commander’s memoir is full of fascinating stories.

Howard Stern Comes Again, by Howard Stern
At some point, the king of shock jocks became true radio royalty with a career spanning over four decades and success across multiple mediums. His first book became a hit movie, and his second was also a bestseller—but that was over 20 years ago, and much has changed in the life of Howard Stern since, from his departure from terrestrial radio, to his mega-bucks deal with SiriusXM, to shakeups in his personal life. There’s no doubt that he has plenty of new stories to tell about his life, his celebrity encounters, and his perspective on the ever-changing realities of the radio business.

Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, the First Wave at Omaha Beach, and a World at War, by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice
The number of individuals who can recount firsthand their experiences during World War II is sadly dwindling, but that doesn’t mean there are no new stories left to tell. Ninety-eight-year-old Ray Lambert was a combat medic and among the first wave of Allied soldiers to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Lambert grew up on a farm in Alabama during the Great Depression before he and his brother enlisted for service that took them to some of the war’s most important and harrowing battles. Timed for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, Lambert’s memoir is a powerful addition to the library of works about the greatest and most terrible conflict in history.

All the Way: Football, Fame, and Redemption (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Joe Namath with Don Yaeger
Fifty years after Namath lead the New York Jets to a Super Bowl victory against the Baltimore Colts, the icon tells the story of his journey from small-town Pennsylvania kid to sports legend. Across half a century, Namath spent time at the height of celebrity, but also dealt with debilitating injuries that saw him addicted to painkillers and alcohol. Here, he reveals that the charmed life he appeared to lead masked real challenges. It’s a story of incredible triumphs, incredible lows, and, ultimately, redemption.

Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself, by Jill Biden
The 23-year-old Jill Jacobs was a divorced teacher coming off of a rebellious childhood when she first met Joe Biden, a father of two and a widower. Though the two hit it off immediately, she was reluctant to commit to the boisterous extended Biden family, as well as to take on the role of surrogate mother for Joe’s children. Of course, we know the relationship worked—the two married, and Jill continued her teaching career in some form right up until the 2008 presidential election that saw her take on the role of second lady. With a new election cycle heating up, her name is now back in the headlines, and in this memoir of the life of a family in the spotlight.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep
In the 1970s, one Reverend Willie Maxwell was accused of killing five of his family members for insurance money. After he had given the eulogy for the stepdaughter he’d allegedly murdered, he himself was shot by another relative. The same lawyer who defended the Reverend secured an acquittal for the vigilante. No one was more intrigued by the sordid story than Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who spent years working on a never-published true crime work to rival that of her friend Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In this fascinating new book, Casey Cep explores both the original crime and Lee’s obsessive, ultimately futile work to craft it into a powerful work of non-fiction.

Anthony Bourdain Remembered
Bourdain’s death last year brought about an outpouring of love and affection from his most devoted fans, not to mention the casual viewers of his travel and food programs. If the tributes shared a theme, it was honoring the late master chef’s belief that the world would be a better place if we all spent more time walking in the shoes of others, and maybe trying a little of their food. It’s a valuable message, and this reminiscence celebrates Bourdain’s life with anecdotes from fans, friends, chefs, and luminaries like Barack Obama, Ken Burns, and Questlove.

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, by Brian Jay Jones
Everyone knows Dr. Seuss, but Theodor Geisel is another matter entirely. The author, cartoonist, and animator produced some of the most popular and bestselling children’s books of all time, but began his career as a left-leaning political cartoonist during World War II, at first decrying non-interventionists and then producing posters and films to benefit the war effort directly.  The self-described subversive never lost his strong point of view, creating works for kids that eschewed traditional morals but which still carried messages. It worked, and this book proves his life was as fascinating and unique as his creations.

Whose story inspires you?

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