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For a True Story Part IV: Books

Sorry for the delay between these postings folks, I was having technical difficulties.

So what do Julia Roberts, Meryl Strep, and Sally Field all have in common?? To answer our question from the end of Part III; it is that all of these actors have portrayed people in the books I mention below.

Books are the real deal – and true stories are almost always made into movies. I usually do not care for stories that transcend mediums. When books are adapted for film, the story and characters are usually ruined. There are limitations that exist in production that don’t exist in our minds, resulting in a finished product rarely as good as the books we love. 

These books are some of my all time favorites for the journeys we get to travel on alongside the authors and the lessons to be learned.

Anderson Cooper’s “Dispatches From the Edge” (you know I love him and after you read this you will too) – This is the story of Anderson’s life, travels to the hardest hit places of despair, and how the two are linked.

“Little Gloria Happy at Last” – Before Gloria Vanderbilt was Anderson Cooper’s mother, she was a little girl torn between her mother and aunt in a vicious custody fight. At the time it was one of the worse cases especially for people of their status in society. It was a long battle and proves that money doesn’t always buy happiness.

Ann Rule’s “A Stranger Beside Me” – Ann Rule was starting out as a true crime writer and volunteering for a suicide hotline when she met her new best friend, Ted Bundy. What Ann didn’t know was that this gentle, intelligent guy was also the most wanted murderer at that time.

ALL of her books are not to be missed, including “Small Sacrifices”, “And Never Let Her Go”, and “Dead by Sunset”

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” – I just finished reading this last month. This is the kind of story that brings up issues we take for granted like healthcare, science, and personal property. Mrs. Lacks’ cells were taken from her “illegally” and were a crucial basis for all medical research afterward.

“In Cold Blood” – In 1959 a Kansas family, The Clutters, were brutally attacked and killed in their home. The case shocked and traumatized their tight knit farming community. Author Truman Capote became intrigued with the case, grabbed his best friend Harper Lee (before she wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird”) and together they attempted to solve this case. It was Truman Capote’s first non-fiction book and won critical acclaim.

“Capote” – This is a great follow-up to “In Cold Blood.” It describes the background of Capote’s life up to and after writing the book that changed his career. It was also made into an award-winning film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Author Gerald Clarke is such a talented writer and a charming man as well. I was lucky enough to meet him and it was the first book signing I ever attended. Talk about a lasting impression.

“Eat, Pray, Love” – Author Elizabeth Gilbert leaves her old life behind and goes on a journey of self-discovery that I wish I had the time and money to go on. In order to eat, pray and love, she spends four months in Italy, India, and Bali to learn how to balance love and devotion. They are lessons we all need to learn.

My Life in France – This is Julia Child’s life story including her time spent in France as it shaped her life, career, and then American culture.

Julie and Julia – Julie Powell takes her inspiration from Julia Child to the next level by deciding to take on all 524 recipes in her first cookbook, and complete them in one year, detailing the process in her blog. It was eventually turned into this book, and then a movie, which also incorporated Julia’s book mentioned above.

All the President’s Men – In 1974 two Washington Post writers uncover the corruption of Watergate and President Richard Nixon’s connection. Their investigation and secret informant codenamed “Deep Throat” led to the President stepping down. A worthy read if you found Frost/Nixon interesting.

Flags of Our Fathers – Tells the story of the flag raising at Iwo Jima during World War II, that famous photo, and the aftermath from the point of view of the men that were actually there. You get a visual of war, the sacrifices of these young men, and the true story behind an iconic image ingrained into our society.

Tuesdays With Morrie – If this doesn’t make you count your blessings and want to learn the important lessons in life, than nothing will. Morrie Schwartz is a college professor suffering and dying from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease) but that doesn’t keep him from enjoying what he can for as long as he can. His former student Mitch Albom begins visiting every week eager to change his life for the better and learn from his former mentor in the last, greatest class of their lives. After this was published, nostalgic readers began sending copies to their memorable professors.

Death in a Prairie House – Architect Frank Lloyd Wright (creator of the Guggenheim Museum in NYC) builds his dream home for his mistress and her children. When it is set ablaze by an unknown person, his dreams and loved ones perish along with the home.

Sybil –This is based on a woman’s real life, although her name has been changed. Sally Field is hauntingly good in this made for TV movie. You will feel for Sybil as she learns of her multiple personalities, causes behind them, and attempts at moving forward. It is believed this woman is the first to be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.

A Child Called It – I read this book in college after a friend lent it to me. This was one of the first true stories I read and certainly one of the hardest, but there is a redeeming quality to this story of a child’s fight to survive one of the worst cases of child abuse in California’s history. It proves how you are raised doesn’t always shape who you become.


Up next is the conclusion of this series, For a True Story Part V: My To Do List!!!

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