Biographies -  Leaders, Creators, Survivors, and Demons


The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Both Daniel Burnham (creator and architect) and the H. H. Holmes (serial killer) are both connected to the 1893 Colombian Exhibition in Chicago.  Holmes also has a small but fascinating connection to Wilmette.

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Famous Father Girl  by Jamie Bernstein

The 'famous father' of this book is Leonard Bernstein, and this is his elder daughter's memoir of growing up with the well-known composer, conductor, and performer.

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The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir

Elizabeth reigned in Tudor England for more than 40 years, navigating the challenges of religious and political divisions.  Her leadership, survival skills, and loves are documented here.

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A House of My Own by Sandra Cisneros

The writer of “The House on Mango Street” gives a series of vignettes about her life, various travels, her creative process, and her period of suicidal depression.



The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The life and cells of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, survived in ways that could never have been imagined by her or her family. This story highlights the difficult ethical questions of medical research along with the complex memories of the Lacks family members.

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Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming (of theater and television fame) writes about his current life and growing up and surviving a difficult family environment in Scotland.  The family mysteries he discovers and resolves keep you in suspense.

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Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

Kwame Onwuachi talks about his coming of age in both the Bronx and Nigeria, and his challenges as a person of color rising through the world of fine dining and becoming a contestant on Top Chef.



The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

This book covers just one aspect of Roosevelt's life, but what a hair-raising chapter!  Teddy Roosevelt, his son, and others travel an unmapped and uncharted tributary of the Amazon River in 1914.

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The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

A fascinating and detailed look at the various wives, their different personalities, and the different methods they used to handle the temperament of Henry and the expectations and customs of that time.

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Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Another book by Larson that deals with a creative and inventive personality (Marconi) and a demon of the time (Crippen) and how their lives eventually intersected.

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Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

The winner of various young adult book awards, older readers will also enjoy this look at the highs, lows, travels, and loves of the two brothers.

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