In January, we set up a book display of biographies in my library and called it Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes. I think the notion of exploring another person’s life from the inside is what makes biographies and autobiographies so compelling. My official READ A BIOGRAPHY (OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY) OF SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE book is Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly.
Loved it! I wasn’t a space geek but I might be one now. Interweaving Kelly’s childhood and path to becoming an astronaut with his year-long mission on the International Space Station, Endurance offers a fascinating look at a life so completely unlike my own. As you read this, astronauts from NASA and various countries around the world, circle the globe. We know that but do we really think about it? I certainly didn’t. Certainly, not with any true acknowledgment of just how absolutely amazing that is.
The title pays homage to Sir Ernest Shackleton and his doomed yet ultimately miraculous expedition to Antartica on the ship Endurance. One of the few personal possessions Kelly brought with him for his year in space was a paperback copy of Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. It’s a fascinating book that I read several years ago. When the magnitude of Kelly’s challenges weighed most heavily on him, he would think of Shackleton and his crew and know that he could endure what was required of him.
As I was finishing the book, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule took off from Kennedy Space Center for the International Space Station (ISS), paving the way to launch astronauts into space from the United States for the first time since 2011. I even thought about staying up late to watch it. I didn’t, but I thought about it.
If I had completed this challenge as a child, I might have chosen the biography of an author, maybe Judy Blume or possibly Louise Fitzhugh, author of my all time favorite book and sometime alter ego, Harriet the Spy. Or, maybe one of my favorite athletes: Nadia Comaneci. In the name of transparency, and in full cringe mode I’ll admit that as a teenager I would read anything I could get my hands on about 80s new wave singer, Adam Ant. If you can’t see now how much I trust you, you never will.
A couple of things that became apparent as I completed this challenge:
1. If you follow the blog on Facebook you know that I shared some biographies and autobiographies that I’ve enjoyed. In compiling the list it became glaringly obvious that I need to read more books about people of color. And not just people in the entertainment industry. I started Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates writes unflinchingly about his experiences as a black man in America. Powerful, uncomfortable and important. My daughters refer to their no-nonsense talks with their grandmother as “real talk with Granny”. Real talks about real stuff that make the particpant feel trusted and respected. Between the World and Me is like real talk with Granny: no euphemisms or shielding the truth. I will finish the book but it is a heavy read that requires small bites and time for contemplation.
2. Reading challenges are my favorite.
3. In trying to select a biography about someone I admire, I found myself drawn to people from my childhood: Bob Keeshond, also known as Captain Kangaroo, from my favorite early childhood TV show; Peanuts Illustrator Charles Schulz; TV comedian and actress, Carol Burnett; beloved icon Mr. Rogers. Regardless of how it looks, I did do more that just watch TV as a kid. I listened to Carol Burnett’s memoir In Such Good Company: Eleven years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox and actually finished it before I started Endurance. It was such a personal book, connected to memories of my childhood, and it made me think so much of my mom while I was listening to it.
4. So many books. So little time. Hey, I should put that on a t-shirt!
You know how when you go to a meeting you always leave with more to do? Challenges are the same way. So, in addition to astronaut tweets to read, sushi to eat and puzzles to complete, I now have a pile of biographies on my coffee table and a list of holds from the library. I may have to quit my job.
Currently listening to:
In my reading future:
So, tell me who you read about? Or share one of your favorites. I’m not afraid to add more books to my list. I only get worried when I don’t know what my next book will be. Thanks for reading!
Before you go…I’ve recommended Endurance to several people since I read it but I can NEVER remember the title. Is it Endurance or Endeavour? Endurance or Endeavour? Both seem like they would be appropriate. Seriously, CAN NOT REMEMBER. In my defense, one of the space shuttles was called Endeavour. Close enough to cause confusion, right? I have a similar issue with those canned peppers in spicy sauce…chipotles in adobo. I so frequently referred to them as chipotles in adobe that I am no long sure which I’m supposed to say and so do not refer to them by name anymore.