Tag Archives: Biography

Special Post – Neal Thompson, A Curious Man (2014)


This week I also posted a book review of Neil Thompson’s, A Curious Man, on the University of Toronto Museum Studies’ Blog, Musings. While the book was mainly a biography of Robert Ripley, it still posed some good questions relevant to the Museum community, including, can we consider Ripley “Odditoriums,” both then and now, Museums? There is a debate within the art community over whether mass produced art can really be considered “art”? Ripley entertainment owns 32 Odditoriums worldwide, can a mass produced museum, constructed specifically for tourists be a real museum? Or do our conceptions of what a museum is, dismiss Ripley Odditoriums as simply kitschy and tacky tourist traps? It’s an interesting thing to think about.

Read the whole review here.

Margaret Powell – Below Stairs (1968)


Merry Christmas Everyone, I have still decided to post a review today so enjoy!

Any fan of Downton Abbey will love this true story of what it was like to be a kitchen maid in an English estate in the 1920s. Margaret Powell details the events of her life, including her childhood living in poverty to her many years in service to multiple families. She points out that, as was the case with most other girls, often entering the service was the best option available.

The families that Powell worked for however, were not always similar to the Grantham’s in Downtown Abbey. She did work on some large estates, but also spent a number of years working for upper to middle class families that only employed a handful of people. Powell always knew she wanted to be a cook (as opposed to a kitchen maid) and was able to achieve this goal by working for families of the middling class.

Powell tells her story with humor that only years of time away from the job could provide. It clearly was not nearly as glamorous as Downton Abbey makes it out to be, and many of the families she worked for barely even knew her name let alone spoke to her like a human being. Fans of the show however, will appreciate this entertaining and more realistic view of what life was really like Below Stairs.

Mindy Kaling – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (2011)


Another hilarious read from another incredibly funny woman. Through her writing Mindy Kaling reveals that she is a completely different person from her character on the Office. (Also on the Mindy Project although this book was published before the show started)

The best parts of her book included her anecdotes and stories about the Office, and her sworn “frien-imie” Rainn Wilson. I was always jealous of Mindy’s and B.J Novak’s interactions in real life (twitter arguments, instagram fights, etc) and her stories about working with Rainn make me even more jealous.

Mindy is a great writer, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering her main role on the office was that of a writer. I think that in most cases her character takes over, and people forget that she is a writer first, and an actress second. My only criticism was that at times, Kailing appears to be trying a bit too hard to be Tina Fey. That being said, Bossypants was amazing so I can’t blame her. I also just have to say, I don’t think anyone will ever understand how much I appreciated Mindy’s desire to remake A League of Their Own. That movie is flawless, much like Mindy herself.

Serve With
Chai Spice Cupcakes! Like Mindy these cupcakes are cute, delicious, and amazingly simple to make. View the recipe here!

Jenny Lawson – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (2012)


This is by far one of the funniest memoirs I’ve ever read. I had never really heard of Jenny Lawson before, but since I’m always looking to read things written by funny women I was tempted to buy this book.

What makes this book great is that absolutely none of it is believable. Lawson however, tells the kind of stories that you just know are not made up, because there is no way anyone could make it up. Her taxidermist father who constantly “tortured” his daughters with wild animals, both alive and dead, is not only surreal but also hilarious.

The best part of this book though is Lawson’s discussions of her own mental health issues and the way she dealt with them. There’s a strength in this writing that I admire. Many compare Jenny Lawson to David Sedaris and there are similarities, but I think this book is its own entity and Lawson, her own person.

Rating: 4/5

Patti Smith – Just Kids (2010)

A tragic fairytale romance that was quite unexpected coming from the Godmother of Punk. I always liked to claim that Patti Smith was one of my heroes. She was the kind of role model that “cool girls” had, and I, striving to be one of the “cool girls” told everyone I met that Patti Smith was a huge influence on my life. I should not have been surprised when my sister bought this book for me for Christmas. I was only half lying, I do admire Patti Smith as a feminist icon, and I do know a bit about the role she played in the birth of Punk, but other than that, I knew very little.

I started reading this book expecting to learn more about Patti Smith’s life, living in New York in the 1970s, hanging out at CBGB’s but that’s not what this book was. Just Kids is a love story outlining the relationship between Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The bond that these two people formed was indestructible. Despite the fact that both Patti and Robert had different partners and different times they remained so in love with one another, and not even death could stop them. Written with poignancy and impeccable grace Just Kids, gave me a real reason to admire Patti Smith. In these pages Patti is vulnerable and true, she is telling the world a love story, her love story, and the joy and happiness and well as the pain and suffering that was all a part of it, and that, I think is just about the “coolest” thing anyone could do.

Rating: 5/5