With Tom Stoppard: A Life, British biographer and literary critic Hermione Lee delivers a captivating portrait of one of the world’s most beloved playwrights. Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Arcadia) was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937. He and his mother fled the Nazis during World War II and eventually put down roots in England. He worked as a journalist before going on to write the plays, radio shows and screenplays for which he has won numerous awards and worldwide acclaim. Lee explores Stoppard’s works while tracking his remarkable life, diving deep into subjects like artistic reinvention and the creative process.
Actor Leslie Jordan takes stock of his TV career (“Will and Grace,” “American Horror Story”), acclaimed stage work and unexpected Instagram success in How Y’all Doing: Misadventures and Mischief From a Life Well Lived. A Tennessee native, the 66-year-old Jordan writes with Southern flair and plenty of humor, sharing family stories and fabulous anecdotes involving Dolly Parton and other stars. He also writes about serious matters, like the AIDS crisis and his struggles to make sense of his homosexuality. Questions related to the nature of celebrity and social media will inspire spirited reading group dialogue.
Actress and singer Rachel Bloom, who created the musical comedy TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” reflects on what it’s like to be an outsider in I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are: Essays and Other Stuff. Recalling awkward middle-school years when she was bullied, sharing journal entries and opening up about her mental health, Bloom explores her enduring quest to feel “normal.” She’s modest and forthright in this funny, deeply personal collection. Book clubs can dig into a wide range of discussion topics, including individuality, conformity and the challenges of self-acceptance.
In My Broken Language: A Memoir, Quiara Alegría Hudes, an award-winning playwright and co-writer of the musical In the Heights, shares memories of her upbringing in a West Philadelphia barrio during the 1980s and ’90s. The daughter of a Jewish father and a Puerto Rican mother whose marriage fell apart, Hudes looks back on life with her family, her Ivy League education and her entry into the world of writing and theater. The art of storytelling and the importance of communication are among the many rich themes in this moving memoir.