Memorable men

By Anthony Boucher

After being trapped indoors with just your own thoughts for so long you’re probably ready to get to know some new people. Luckily for you, the Ottawa Public Library offers many different biographies and autobiographies on some incredible individuals. The following five books are a tiny sample of the many fascinating characters, women and men, who are well represented within your local library!

You Never Forget Your First – A Biography of George Washington
by Alexis Coe, 2020

Historian Alexis Coe was perplexed when she realized that no woman had written an adult biography of George Washington in over 40 years. Taking it upon herself to break the mold of old white men talking about old white men, she decided to tackle the story of America’s first president, weeding out the fact from fiction. Coe dissects common myths about Washington, including his supposedly wooden teeth (not actually wood) and his inability to tell a lie (he had his fair share), while also diving into the unsettling relationship that Washington had with his many slaves. Coe’s quick-witted sense of humour and unique perspective make for an interesting read, and at just over 200 pages makes it a much more comfortable read than the majority of tombs on this giant of history.

Al Capone – His Life, Legacy, and Legend
by Deirdre Bair, 2016

While you’ve undoubtably heard of the infamous mobster Al Capone, can you confidently separate fact from fiction? Multiple films and television programs have put their own spin on the story of the original Scarface, but Bair does a fine job of unravelling the truth from the exaggerated. Spanning the entirety of Capone’s life, Bair goes into detail, describing the seemingly invincible young man who came to lead the Chicago Outfit to the mentally ill gentleman that returned from prison. With a special focus on the Capone family and the many other relationships the mobster had, Bair’s research is absolute, garnering information from a variety of sources, including stories passed down within the Capone family itself. A fascinating read for anyone interesting in the rise of organized crime in America.

True Believer – The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee
by Abraham Riesman, 2021

When you think of the creation of Marvel Comics and its plethora of iconic characters, including the likes of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, one often thinks of Stan Lee, but author Abraham Riesman demonstrates how much the accepted story is not so clear cut. True Believer spares no details in the life of Lee, capturing the animosity felt by other iconic comic creators, such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, mostly budding from the accusations that their work was stolen by Lee. Unfortunately, many other troubles plagued the storyteller through the rest of his life, including, but not limited to, a potentially abusive relationship with his daughter, claims of stock manipulations, fraud, and sexual assault. An essential read for not only those who consider themselves fans of comic books, but to anyone who has heard the legend of Stan Lee.

Burke’s Law – A Life in Hockey
by Brian Burke with Stephen Brunt, 2020

The pugnacious former NHL general manager, Hockey Night in Canada analyst and current president of hockey operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins is his usual brash self in this fascinating account of his life so far. Giving his barefaced opinion of the many iconic moments in NHL history he’s been a part of, from breaking the news of the Wayne Gretzky trade to a young up-and-coming journalist, to the unfortunate incident between Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore that led to the end of the latter’s career, Burke never holds back. The Stanley Cup winner gives an interesting behind-the-scenes look at life in the NHL from many different perspectives, including as a player trying to crack the Philadelphia Flyers roster to being the director of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, responsible for dishing out fines and suspensions. While many out there might not be a fan of Burke’s typical demeanor, Burke’s Law is a truly captivating read for all who view themselves as hockey fans.

Serving the Servant – Remembering Kurt Cobain
by Danny Goldberg, 2019

Written by record label president Danny Goldberg, Serving the Servant gives a first-hand account of the rise of the rock band Nirvana, with a special focus on front man Kurt Cobain. Goldberg discusses the unique circumstances and relationships of Cobain during his meteoric rise to the top of the music charts, including his much-publicized marriage with Courtney Love, his struggles with heroin addiction and ultimately how the news of Cobain’s suicide impacted the lives of those around him.

Goldberg gives his professional opinion on why, despite only releasing three studio albums, Cobain continues to be viewed as one of the elite of rock and roll history, often garnering comparisons to John Lennon and Bob Dylan. A great read for fans of the alternative music scene and the history of grunge music. Serving the Servant delivers a fact-filled look at the inner working of Nirvana that no music-history fan will want to miss.

Anthony Boucher is a public service assistant at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. He can usually be found in the graphic novels section.

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