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March 15th, 2006 Karla Starr | Books
 

An Idiot's Guide To Other People's Lives

A roundup of recent memoirs and biographies worth checking out.

     
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The Bill from My Father, by Bernard Cooper (Simon and Schuster, 240 pages, $24)

Who it's about: Cooper, trying to make sense of his father as the vicious, distant lawyer succumbs to dementia. When he was 28, Cooper received a bill for paternal services rendered, totaling $2 million.

Free sample: "He used his charm to protect you from himself, which was, in the end, an act of kindness."

Who should buy it: Anyone who thinks their parents had a hand in messing them up will nod with each heartbreaking detail.

The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, A Personal Biography, by Charlotte Chandler (Simon and Schuster, 348 pages, $26)

Who it's about: Bette Davis, queen of the silver screen and 10-time Oscar-nominated actress. After a long friendship with Chandler, she personally asked the noted biographer to write this volume.

Free sample: "Would you like to know about the first dick I ever saw?" Bette Davis asked writer Harry Haun.

Who should buy it: Nostalgics, film geeks and anyone looking for a throwback to Tinseltown's heyday.

White on Black, by Ruben Gallengo (Harcourt, 168 pages, $22)

Who it's about: Gallengo, born with cerebral palsy, raised in state orphanages in the Soviet Union. Now available in English, this uplifting autobiography won the 2003 Russian Booker Prize.

Free sample: "I'm chewing a chocolate, and for some reason my head is spinning. I feel good. Happy."

Who should buy it: This lively, unapologetic and life-affirming book is a must for anyone who thinks they've got it rough.

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine (Free Press, 274 pages, $25)

Who it's about: Levine, a political columnist who didn't buy anything for one year, save for bare necessities like food and medicine.

Free sample: "Indeed, in 2003 a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry announced an 'effective treatment' for 'compulsive acquisition disorder': the antidepressant Celexa."

Who should buy it: For anyone in need of a lesson on the difference between a "need" and a "want," this informative and refreshing look at consumerism is—you guessed it—a "need."

 
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