Category: Book Lists

Queens, Empresses, Mistresses And Duchesses: Biographies Of Noble Women Through History

When looking at biographies I’ve gravitated towards in the past, many of them involved standout female royal or noble figures from different historical times. I decided to put a book list together of my favorite female royal biographies, to be added to as I continue to explore the genre.

Here are 6 of my favorite of these biographies so far – mostly from European history. I do plan to expand this book list to include more diversity both in terms of historical period and in terms of geographical origin in the future.

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Review of royal women biography The Life Of Elizabeth The FirstThe Life Of Elizabeth The I by Alison Weir

Published: October 1999

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No list of biographies of historical women would be complete without a history of Elizabeth I’s life or without at least one work (and in this case two) by Alison Weir. This is an intensely personal portrait of arguably the most complex and compelling female monarch of all time. It reads like a novel but is based on extensively researched sources. Alison Weir brings Elizabeth intimately to life for her readers, spanning from the minutiae of her daily life – including food, dress and privy chambers – to the overarching issues of marriage, succession and intense court rivalries.

6 Stories Of Escape And Redemption – From High-Profile Kidnapping Memoirs To Tales Of Escape From Polygamist Cults



Escape By Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer

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This is a first person account of Carolyn Jessop’s experience growing up as a polygamist in the FLDS and being married to a man three times her age. Her stories of abuse and torment as the fourth wife of Meryl Jessop and as the mother of their eight children, are equal parts enlightening and heartbreaking. The recounting of her harrowing escape from the sect and of the life she has built for herself since, will truly inspire you.

My Story By Elizabeth A. Smart And Chris Stewart

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I just finished Elizabeth Smart’s memoir about her kidnapping at the hands of a duo of religious fanatic wannabes by the names of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Even more dramatic than the account of how Elizabeth was taken from her bed as an 14-year-old innocent Mormon girl in the middle of the night, are the levels of abuse she experienced at the hands of her captors. Through nine traumatic months, Elizabeth demonstrated incredible strength and presence of mind, keeping her hope for salvation and herself alive through her faith.


Favorite Wife: Escape From Polygamy By Susan Ray Schmidt

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The polygamist sect that Susan Ray Schmidt was brought up in was, if possible, even more extreme than the FLDS. At only fifteen, Susan is informed by church elder Verlan LeBaron that he has had a revelation informing him that she is to become his sixth wife. Before Susan’s eventual escape many years later, the story first takes her through pregnancies, privations, jealousies, poverty, breaks within the church’s leadership and even a move from Mexico to Nicaragua. This story would be unbelievable if it weren’t that it actually happened. Of interest, Verlan’s first wife Irene also wrote her own memoir, Shattered Dreams.

Finding Me: A Decade Of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings By Michelle Knight With Michelle Burford

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Everyone remembers the day when three girls were saved from years of captivity in Cleveland at the hands of the monster Ariel Castro. This is Michelle Knight’s account of her experiences during that decade. It is one of the more horrific kidnapping memoirs I’ve read, with graphic details of the torture Michelle suffered through. Not for the faint of heart, but filled with inspiring redemption in Michelle’s success in turning her life around and becoming a symbol of resilience after her ordeal.


Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier By Tom Kizzia

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At first Papa Pilgrim (Robert Hale=, his wife and their fifteen children seem the epitome of a hard-working, pious Christian family. Tom Kizzia soon starts to separate fact from fiction, though, as he figures out that Papa Pilgrim is essentially a sociopath whose primary intention in moving his large family to Alaska is to be able to continue to emotionally and sexually abuse his children in isolation. Amid battles with government authorities, increasingly erratic behavior on the part of Hale and a courageous testimony from his first-born daughter Elishaba, you’ll be hoping Hale gets what is coming to him.

A Stolen Life: A Memoir By Jaycee Duggard

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Like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Duggard was kidnapped when she was only 11 years old. Like Michelle Knight, her captivity lasted for many years – 18 in fact. Jaycee’s experience at the hands of her captor Phillip Garrido differs however in that her memoir is heavily based on the journals she was allowed to keep throughout her captivity, as well as by the fact that Jaycee gave birth to two innocent children as a result of her sexual abuse. Her daughters were already 11 and 15 respectively when they were all finally freed.

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6 Unforgettable Medical Memoirs – Stories Of Resilience And Renewed Hope


My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

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Imagine if you had been trained for years on the exact inner workings of your brain, only to experience the most devastating medical problem that a human brain can face -a stroke – first-hand. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who experienced a stroke at only 37 years old. As she can feel her brain lose its function on that fateful morning, Bolte Taylor focuses on all the pertinent medical knowledge she can about what is happening to her to try marshall her brain to call for help. Her story of recovery is unlike any other, as she’s intimately knowledgable of the biology of what she’s experienced.



Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

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At only age 12, Martin Pistorius was hit by a mysterious degenerative disease that left him unable to speak, eat and move. His family, believing him to be barely conscious, installed him in various institutions for the disabled during the subsequent 14 years. But only 4 years after his initial decline, at age 16, Martin reawakens, trapped inside his unresponsive body. This is the incredible story of Martin’s efforts to reconnect with the world around him and to demonstrate to others that he’s still present. You’ll be amazed at the progress he has made by the end of the book.


OnMyOwnTwoFeetBookCoverOn My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life by Amy Purdy 

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Amy was only a young woman of nineteen when bacterial meningitis led to the partial amputation of both her legs. Her harrowing illness led to a slow recovery that initially seemed to be within the norm – like any person would after such a traumatic change, Amy struggled with her image, her moods, and with finding the right prosthetics. Her incredible spirit showed through, however, in her ability to go further than most of us would ever dream in her place. Believe it or not, she is now a Paralympic snowboarder and former Dancing With The Stars contestant. This is her story.



BrainOnFireBookCoverùBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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At 24 years old and starting her career as a reporter for the New York Post, Susannah Cahalan had her whole life ahead of her. Previously extremely healthy, Susannah started out of nowhere to hallucinate and experience boughts of amnesia. This is the story of her downward spiral into ‘madness’, being diagnosed as insane and potentially schizophrenic. If it hadn’t been for a miraculous last-minute diagnosis of her mysterious but curable disorder, Susannah may still be locked up in a mental institution, having forfeited her personality and her ability to have her story heard. This book was scary, beautifully written and luckily with a happy ending.


UnmeasuredStrengthBookCoverUnmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning

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On the morning of 9/11, Lauren Manning was standing at the foot of one of the World Trade Center towers, when a flood of flames from the impact of an airliner above burned her over 80% of her body. On a day when so many perished, Lauren was given the chance to survive, though she had to resort to every ounce of her inner strength to get through the 10 years of recovery and the mental anguish that resulted from her injuries. An inspiring story of patience in the face of incredible pain, true love and the power of faith.




51sXaN3ereLA Quiet Room: A Journey Out Of The Torment Of Madness by Lori Schiller

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Unlike Susan Calahan, Lori Schiller actually suffered from full-blown schizophrenia since about 17 years of age. She spent years of her life between suicide attempts, bouncing from one medical institution to the other, battling drug addictions and being closed in ‘Quiet Rooms’ to decompress and for her own safety. Her story is hard to read, as the voices in her head, which she faithfully relates to the reader, are profane, hateful and unremitting. Lori was ultimately able to escape her demons in part through the advent of new more effective medication, which has allowed her to experience a relatively normal from middle age onwards.


Do you have a favorite medical memoir to recommend?

Here are a few of the past book lists you can find on my blog:

Six Unbelievable Books About Scientology

Let The Games Begin! Books About The Olympics

August 2016 Book Releases To Look Forward To

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Let The Games Begin! Books About The Olympics

Since the Olympics are starting this Friday (go Italy!), I thought I’d review two great books I’ve recently read on the topic.

The first deals with the fallout from preparations in Brazil for the past 2014 World Cup and this year’s Olympics.

51fzedw2LCLBrazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy

by Dave Zirin  

If you want to just enjoy the Olympics as a spectacle of global athleticism, don’t read this book. It cuts straight through to the destructive potential of world tournaments like the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic, following their devastating effects on Brazil’s already corrupt government and residents of urban slums in Rio. Scandals in this year’s Olympics continue to this day, with warnings of insufficient security and unfinished facilities, so this is very much a developing story.

Amazon Kindle        Amazon Paperback



The second book tells the story of a team of American rowers who famously ended up winning gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

by Daniel James Brown

Aside from being a great underdog story – following nine regular American Joe’s as they beat Adolf Hitler’s rowing team – The Boys In The Boat has a quiet power to it that I was mesmerized by. Before the roaring success of the final Olympics chapters, the story winds quietly around main character Joe Rantz as he tries to make ends meet, rebuild a family for himself after his has dissolved, and still show up for morning after ice-cold morning of rowing practice.

Amazon Kindle        Amazon Paperback


I enjoyed both books tremendously and am looking forward to taking some time to do a little additional Olympics reading this weekend. Some of my potential picks are below:


Dancing With The Devil In The City Of God: Rio De Janeiro On The Brink

By Juliana Barbassa

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Paperback



The Games: A Global History Of The Olympics

by David Goldblatt

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Hardcover




Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics

by Jeremy Schaap

Amazon Kindle  (only $2.29)      Amazon Paperback




Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith

by Gabrielle Douglas and Michelle Burford

Amazon Kindle        Amazon Paperback




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Six Unbelievable Books About Scientology


I have a confession to make – I’m addicted to reading about cults, especially Scientology. There’s something riveting in the stories coming out of the ‘religion’ by people who  have escaped its clutches.

Here are six of the most popular titles on the topic – 3 of which I’ve read and loved, and 3 of which are on my short term reading list. 

For an updated version of this book list including reviews for 4 additional books, follow this link:   Updated Scientology Book List

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