Brief Biographies for Non-Fiction Readers

The CPL collection includes short biographies on major historical figures.  The Penguin Lives Series from publisher Penguin Random House is an innovative series that pairs celebrated writers with famous individuals who have shaped our thinking.  The broad and diverse subjects of these biographies come from around the world and from all walks of life.

Here is the complete list of the 28 ‘mini-biographies’ owned by the library:

Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally
Andy Warhol by Wayne Koetenbaum
Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin
Buddha by Karen Armstrong
Crazy Horse by Larry McMurtry
Dante by R.W.B. Lewis
Elvis Presley by Bobbie Ann Mason
Frank Lloyd Wright by Ada Louise Huxtable
George Herbert Walker Bush by Tom Wicker
Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick
Jane Austen by Carol Shields
Joan of Arc by Mary Gorden
Joseph Smith by Robert V. Remini
Julia Child by Laura Shapiro
Leonardo da Vinci by Sherwin B. Nuland
Mao Zedong by Jonathan Spence
Marcel Proust by Edmund White
Martin Luther by Martin Marty
Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marshall Frady
Mozart by Peter Gay
Napoleon by Paul Johnson
Pope John XXIII by Thomas Cahill
Robert E. Lee by Roy Blount, Jr.
Rosa Parks by Douglas Brinkley
Saint Augustine by Gary Wills
Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray
Winston Churchill by John Keegan
Woodrow Wilson by Louis Auchincloss

They can be found on the Lower Level in the Biography section.

Autobiographies for Children

The biography’s in the children’s room are all shelved together, in order alphabetically by the last name of the person they are about. Well, all but the Who Is/Was series which has a special display and place of honor. So finding a biography (a book written by an author about someone else) is not hard, as long as you know who you want to read about. What is difficult is finding an autobiography (a book that a person writes about their own life). Often there is no way of knowing which books are regular biographies and which are autobiographies until you pick the book up off the shelf and read the author’s name. Finding a well done and interesting autobiography, or one by someone you want to read about, can be even more challenging.

AUTOB1So, I decided to get busy and find a list of autobiographies for children to make the search a little easier for young readers, their parents, and my fellow seekers. Here are some of the best autobiographies for children that are part of our library’s collection. I have them divided into three groups. The groups are authors and illustrators, important figures in history and civil rights, and athletes.

Authors and Illustrators:AUTOB2
Knots in My Yo-Yo String: the Autobiography of a Kid by Jerry Spinelli
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Bill Peet: an Autobiography
26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
It Came from Ohio!: My Life as a Writer by R.L. Stine as told to Joe ArthurAUTO9
Guts: the True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books by Gary Paulsen
No Pretty Pictures: a Child of War by Anita Lobel
A Girl from Yamhill: a Memoir by Beverly Cleary
Down a Sunny Dirt Road by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
Looking Back: a Book of Memories by Lois Lowry

AUTOB3Important Figures in History and Civil rights
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
Escape from Slavery: the Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in his Own Words edited and illustrated by Michael McCurdy
Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks with Jim Haskins
I am Rosa Parks by Rosa Parks with Jim Haskins
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
AUTOBehind the Secret Window: a Memoir of a Hidden Childhood During World War Two by Nelly S. Toll
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible..on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson; with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth B. Leyson

AUTOBAthletes
Tony Hawk: Professional Skateboarder by Tony Hawk with Sean Mortimer
Soul Surfer: a True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton with Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh
Oksana: My Own Story by Oksana Baiul; as told to Heather Alexander
AUTO3Michelle Kwan, Heart of a Champion: an Autobiography by Michelle Kwan as told to Laura James
Cal Ripken, Jr.: My Story by Cal Ripken, Jr. and Mike Bryan; adapted by Dan Gutman
Chamique Holdsclaw: My Story by Chamique Holdsclaw with Jennifer Frey
Dominique Moceanu, an American Champion: an Autobiography as told to Steve Woodward
Fire on Ice: autobiography of a Champion Figure Skater by Sasha Cohen with Amanda Maciel

aatoThere are several more great autobiographies that I just could not fit in these lists,or that are accessible to willing children and teens, but shelved with the adult biographies. In no particular order, these include: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, More About Boy: Roald Dahl’s Tales from Childhood by Roald Dahl, Tara Lipinski: Triumph on Ice: an Autobiography as told to Emily Costello, I am Malala: the Girl who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats by Gary Paulsen, Bad Boy: a Memoir by Walter Dean Myers, The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland,  A Pioneer Woman’s Memoir: Based on the Journal of Arabella Clemens Fulton by Judith E. Greenberg and Helen Carey McKeever, Positive: Surviving My Bullies, Finding Hope, and Living to Change the World: a Memoir by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin, and The Year We Disappeared: a Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby & John Busby.

Hidden Treasures on the Lower Level

When you venture to the lower level of the library it is most likely in search of research,  a computer, copier, or fax machine. Maybe you are looking for the current newspapers or magazines, information on a particular topic, or some large print reading materials. However, like every section of the library there are hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered. Here are some great resources you might want to explore.

Biographies
IMG_3107Biographies and memoirs are among the most read nonfiction materials, but they can be hard to find. Thankfully our new signage makes it much easier, but I would like to make it even easier. If you have come down the stairs simply walk around to the opposite side of the stairwell enclosure and you will be facing the beginning of the biographies. They continue on in shelving to the right, both on the wall and in the short wooden bookshelves. Biographies are shelved by the last name of the person the book is about.

Travel Books
IMG_3109Whether you are planning a trip, or just dreaming about getting away for awhile, the travel books are a wonderful resource. This popular collection is another that often gets asked for or missed by browsers. The travel material call numbers are in the 900’s and can be found on the short wooden bookcases near the stairwell.

IMG_3108English as a Second Language (ESL) Materials
These materials are a fabulous resource to anyone looking to learn English, or improve their language skills. These are books about business and every day language use, as well as information about citizenship exams. There are audiobooks as well. The call numbers for these materials all begin with ESL and can be found in the left hand corner of the street facing wall of the building.

Magazines and Newspapers
IMG_3106The current magazines and newspapers have been moved from the upper level to the lower level. Both collections are highly visible after you exit the stairwell, or step off the elevator and walk towards the Reference Desk. However, did you know that we keep older magazines and newspapers for a limited time? The length of time depends on the publication, but if you need a magazine issue from a few months ago, or want to photocopy a newspaper article from last month, it is handy to have these available. The magazines begin right after the adult holiday materials, past the elevator, and continue around to the shelving on the back wall (parking lot side of the building). The older newspapers are shelved right after the magazine back issues.

Gardening and Lawn Care
IMG_3104Adult gardening materials are highly popular in the spring and summer, and are frequently requested. While you might not be thinking about these books yet, there are many valuable resources when it comes to everything related to vegetables, flowers, lawns, shrubs, compost, and so on. These materials are shelved before the rest of the non fiction collection because of the sheer volume and popularity or the information. However, if you did not know where they are, you might walk right past them.

If you cannot find the materials you are looking for, or need help narrowing down your search for the perfect source, please stop by the reference desk. Our Reference librarians know that collection, and its nooks and crannies, and have a number of fantastic resources at their fingertips.

From the Reference Desk : Penguin Lives Series

Do you want to get a good overview of the life of a famous historical figure but don’t have the time to plough through an 800 page book of his or her life?  Try some short biographies for easy reading this summer.  Penguin Group Book Publishers has published the “Penguin Lives Series,” and Cheshire Library owns 29 of the titles.  The average length of these books is under 200 pages.   This is a beautifully designed, innovative series of biographies pairing celebrated writers with famous individuals who have shaped our thinking.

biosHere is a sample of the wide variety of biography subjects available: Julia ChildElvis (Presley of course), Andy Warhol, Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert E. Lee, Buddha, Mozart, and Crazy Horse.

For a complete listing of all of these titles, go to the library’s online catalog.  In the search box, enter penguin lives then choose the series tab.  All of these books are shelved in the biography section, located on the library’s lower level.