Powerful, funny, bizarre, honest, and remarkable — you just can’t beat the true stories, can you? For our November Lucky Stars e-books, we’re featuring six titles that are stranger, lovelier, and even more surprising than a lot of fiction. And all of them cost $2.99 or less throughout the month. Download one today, and enter someone else’s life.
The End of the World as We Know It by Robert Goolrick: It was the 1950s, a time of calm, a time when all things were new and everything seemed possible. A few years before, a noble war had been won, and now life had returned to normal.
For one little boy, however, life had become anything but “normal.”
To all appearances, he and his family lived an almost idyllic life. The father was a respected professor, the mother a witty and elegant lady, someone everyone loved. They were parents to three bright, smiling children: two boys and a girl. They lived on a sunny street in a small college town nestled neatly in a leafy valley. They gave parties, hosted picnics, went to church—just like their neighbors. To all appearances, their life seemed ideal. But it was, in fact, all appearances.
Lineage, tradition, making the right impression—these were matters of great importance, especially to the mother. But behind the facade this family had created lurked secrets so dark, so painful for this one little boy, that his life would never be the same.
It is through the eyes of that boy—a grown man now, revisiting that time—that we see this seemingly serene world and watch as it slowly comes completely and irrevocably undone.
Beautifully written, often humorous, sometimes sweet, ultimately shocking, this is a son’s story of looking back with both love and anger at the parents who gave him life and then robbed him of it, who created his world and then destroyed it.
Memoir of the Sunday Brunch by Julia Pandl: For Julia Pandl, the rite of passage into young-adulthood included mandatory service at her family’s restaurant, where she watched as her father—who was also the chef—ruled with the strictness of a drill sergeant.
At age twelve, Julie was initiated into the rite of the Sunday brunch, a weekly madhouse at her father’s Milwaukee-based restaurant, where she and her eight older siblings before her did service in a situation of controlled chaos, learning the ropes of the family business and, more important, learning life lessons that would shape them for all the years to come. In her wry memoir, she looks back on those formative years, a time not just of growing up but, ultimately, of becoming a source of strength and support as the world her father knew began to change into a tougher, less welcoming place.
Part coming-of-age story à la The Tender Bar, part window into the mysteries of the restaurant business à la Kitchen Confidential, Pandl’s story provides tender wisdom about the bonds between fathers and daughters and about the simple pleasures that lie in the daily ritual of breaking bread. This honest and exuberant memoir marks the debut of a writer who discovers that humor exists in even the smallest details of our lives and that the biggest moments we ever experience can happen behind the pancake station at the Sunday brunch.
The Day My Brain Exploded by Ashok Rajamani: After a full-throttle brain bleed at the age of twenty-five, Ashok Rajamani, a first-generation Indian American, had to relearn everything: how to eat, how to walk and to speak, even things as basic as his sexual orientation. With humor and insight, he describes the events of that day (his brain exploded just before his brother’s wedding!), as well as the long, difficult recovery period. In the process, he introduces readers to his family—his principal support group, as well as a constant source of frustration and amazement. Irreverent, coruscating, angry, at times shocking, but always revelatory, his memoir takes the reader into unfamiliar territory, much like the experience Alice had when she fell down the rabbit hole. That he lived to tell the story is miraculous; that he tells it with such aplomb is simply remarkable.
More than a decade later he has finally reestablished a productive artistic life for himself, still dealing with the effects of his injury—life-long half-blindness and epilepsy— but forging ahead as a survivor dedicated to helping others who have suffered a similar catastrophe.
Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs by Heather Lende: The Alaskan landscape—so vast, dramatic, and unbelievable—may be the reason the people in Haines, Alaska (population 2,400), so often discuss the meaning of life. Heather Lende thinks it helps make life mean more. After her bestselling first book, If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name, a near-fatal bicycle accident has given Lende a few more reasons to consider matters both spiritual and temporal. Her idea of spirituality is rooted in community, and here she explores faith and forgiveness, loss and devotion—as well as raising totem poles, canning salmon, and other distinctly Alaskan adventures. Lende’s irrepressible spirit, her wry humor, and her commitment to living a life on the edge of the world resonate on every page. Like her own mother’s last wish—take good care of the garden and dogs—Lende’s writing, so honest and unadorned, deepens our understanding of what links all humanity.
Rock On by Dan Kennedy: How do you land a sweet six-figure marketing gig at the hallowed record label known for having signed everyone from Led Zeppelin to Stone Temple Pilots? You start with a resume like Dan Kennedy’s:
• Dressed up as a member of Kiss every Halloween
• Memorized Led Zeppelin IV at age ten
• Fronted a lip-sync band in junior high
• Worked as a college DJ while he was a college drop-out
In his outrageous memoir, McSweeney’s contributor Kennedy chronicles his misadventures at a major record label. Whether he’s directing a gangsta rapper’s commercial or battling his punk roots to create an ad campaign celebrating the love songs of Phil Collins, Kennedy’s in way over his head. And from the looks of those sitting around the boardroom, he’s not alone.
Egomaniacs, wackos, incompetents, and executive assistants who know more than their seven-figure bosses round out this power-ballad to office life and rock and roll.
In 1920, in small town America, the ubiquitous dry goods store–suits and coats, shoes and hats, work clothes and school clothes, yard goods and notions–was usually owned by Jews and often referred to as “the Jew store.” That’s how Stella Suberman’s father’s store, Bronson’s Low-Priced Store, in Concordia, Tennessee, was known locally.
The Bronsons were the first Jews ever to live in that tiny town (1920 population: 5,318) of one main street, one bank, one drugstore, one picture show, one feed and seed, one hardware, one barber shop, one beauty parlor, one blacksmith, and many Christian churches. Aaron Bronson moved his family all the way from New York City to that remote corner of northwest Tennessee to prove himself a born salesman–and much more.
Told by Aaron’s youngest child, The Jew Store is that rare thing—an intimate family story that sheds new light on a piece of American history. Here is one man’s family with a twist—a Jew, born into poverty in prerevolutionary Russia and orphaned from birth, finds his way to America, finds a trade, finds a wife, and sets out to find his fortune in a place where Jews are unwelcome.
With a novelist’s sense of scene, suspense, and above all, characterization, Stella Suberman turns the clock back to a time when rural America was more peaceful but no less prejudiced, when educated liberals were suspect, and when the Klan was threatening to outsiders. In that setting, she brings to life her remarkable father, a man whose own brand of success proves that intelligence, empathy, liberality, and decency can build a home anywhere.