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Calvin Trillin's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Calvin Trillin recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Calvin Trillin's favorite book recommendations of all time.


Omaha Blues

A Memory Loop

The profoundly moving family history of one of America's greatest newspapermen.

As his father lies dying, Joseph Lelyveld finds himself in the basement of the Cleveland synagogue where Arthur Lelyveld was the celebrated rabbi. Nicknamed "the memory boy" by his parents, the fifty-nine-year-old son begins to revisit the portion of his father's life recorded in letters, newspaper clippings, and mementos stored in a dusty camp trunk. In an excursion into an unsettled and shakily recalled period of his boyhood, Lelyveld uses these artifacts, and the journalistic reporting...
Recommended by Calvin Trillin, and 1 others.

Calvin TrillinThe thing that really interested me is that he actually went and checked his memory. It’s a different approach to a memoir. (Source)

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Growing Up

This Pulitzer Prize-winner is "the saddest, funniest, most tragical yet comical picture of coming of age in the U.S.A. in the Depresson years and World War II that has ever been written."—Harrison Salisbury. less
Recommended by Calvin Trillin, and 1 others.

Calvin TrillinI thought Growing Up was a model memoir. (Source)

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Clinging to the Wreckage

In this spirited memoir John Mortimer, an esteemed barrister as well as novelist, playwright, and journalist, relates all the paradoxes and pleasures of his double life.With wit and style, Mr. Mortimer takes you from his unusual childhood (his father, a blind barrister, insisted that his wife read the sordid details of his divorce briefs in public) to the dilemmas of his life as a barrister (one of his clients indignantly declared, "Your Mr. Rumpole could have gotten me out of this, why the hell can't you!").

Filled with laughter and a sense of the absurd, , Clinging to...
Recommended by Calvin Trillin, and 1 others.

Calvin TrillinI just thought it was a great example of graceful writing, not just the right words, but also the right number of words. (Source)

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The Liars' Club

When it was published in 1995, Mary Karr's The Liars Club took the world by storm and raised the art of the memoir to an entirely new level, as well as bringing about a dramatic revival of the form. Karr's comic childhood in an east Texas oil town brings us characters as darkly hilarious as any of J. D. Salinger's—a hard-drinking daddy, a sister who can talk down the sheriff at twelve, and an oft-married mother whose accumulated secrets threaten to destroy them all. Now with a new introduction that discusses her memoir's impact on her family, this unsentimental and profoundly moving... more

Adam Savage[The author's] first memoir. (Source)

Calvin TrillinIt’s one of my favourite memoirs. (Source)

Attica LockeThe book starts with Mary Karr’s recollection of her mother, this tall striking woman who seemed out of place in this small, stinky, chemical-waste town. Her husband worked in a refinery. She was an artist who dreamed of a different life but was locked down by whatever was expected of her at that time in our nation’s history and in this region. There’s a lot of rage, alcohol and guns in this... (Source)

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This Boy's Life

This unforgettable memoir, by one of our most gifted writers, introduces us to the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move, yet they develop an extraordinarily close, almost telepathic relationship. As Toby fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather, his experiences are at once poignant and comical, and Wolff does a masterful job of re-creating the frustrations and cruelties of adolescence. His... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Calvin Trillin, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayIf you wanted to read a book to become a successful, well-adjusted person, you probably could not do worse than Catcher in the Rye. Tobias Wolff’s memoir is a far better choice for the young man struggling with who he is and who he wants to be. (Source)

Calvin TrillinThis is, in the first place, a fine memoir on its own. (Source)

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