Premiere of Louisa May Alcott documentary

December 28, 2009

Since I know it’s easy to lose track of things in the chaos of the holidays, I thought The Book Case readers might appreciate a reminder that tonight is the premiere of Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women on PBS. The documentary (which the L.A. Times says does a “splendid job chronicling a woman who has served as an often hazy and romanticized role model”) starts at 9 p.m. EST.

I know Trisha will be tuning in – she gave Harriet Reisen’s book (upon which the documentary is based) a rave review and lobbied for its position on the BookPage Best Nonfiction of 2009 list. As a huge Little Women fan, I’m intrigued, too. Apparently the documentary will claim that Alcott was the J.K. Rowling of her day. Does anyone who’s read Reisen’s book agree?

While you wait for the documentary to start, read about Louisa May Alcott (the book) or watch the YouTube clip below the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Best of 2009: Top 10 Nonfiction

December 15, 2009

And finally, the last of our “Best of 2009” lists: nonfiction. This year’s picks include a little of everything, with an emphasis on memoir—it was a good year for getting personal.

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
Lit by Mary Karr
Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen
Stitches by David Small
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
Googled by Ken Auletta
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
Home Game by Michael Lewis
The Secret Lives of Buildings by Edward Hollis

As always, share your picks in the comments. Is there something we missed?

Remembering childhood favorites

November 29, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle

Louisa May Alcott










What a wonderful coincidence – Louisa May Alcott was born on this day in 1832, the same day as Madeleine L’Engle, in 1918.

Alcott was a favorite author of mine before I even knew how to read; my mom read Little Women to me out loud. When I did learn to read on my own, L’Engle was the author who best held my attention. From A Wrinkle in Time, to A Ring of Endless Light, to her memoirs, I think I read (and re-read) about 20 of L’Engle’s books.

Trisha reviewed the biography Louisa May Alcott, by Harriet Reisen, earlier in the month. On comparisons between Alcott and her heroine Jo March, she wrote:

the real Louisa was just as intelligent, hot-tempered, rebellious and ambitious as her fictional counterpart. But the true story of Alcott’s life is both more tragic and more triumphant than anything she cooked up for her favorite little woman.

The book has been adapted by PBS for their American Masters series. (The film debuts Dec. 28.) After the jump, watch outtakes from PBS’s “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women.”

Revisiting childhood and teen favorites seems to be a trend right now. In Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, Lizzie Skurnick writes about beloved YA novels. (Read an interview with Skurnick.) In Everything I need to Know I learned From a Children’s Book, Anita Silvey asks over 100 people to choose a book from childhood that changed their worldview.

Alcott and L’Engle certainly inspired my love of reading. What books or authors are your childhood favorites? Read the rest of this entry »

From the mail room

June 10, 2009

lmaAs we’ve mentioned before, finding out what the mailman’s brought us is a daily treat. One recent discovery I’ve got stationed on my desk is Harriet Reisen’s Louisa May Alcott (Holt). This “revelatory portrait” (per the back cover copy) of the Little Women author will be on shelves October 27, and promises a fresh take on her life while placing it in the context of her works. Reisen has written for radio, PBS and HBO—and has adapted this biography for an American Masters biopic that will air in December.

Like many women I’ve been an Alcott fan since childhood, and remember snapping up old copies of her  out-of-print works, like Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom while following my mom around antiques stores. I loved the family dynamics (I’d always wanted a sister, or three) and the occasional hints of romance. As a preteen I discovered her ghost stories and pulp fiction. I’d always wished she’d written more, which is part of the reason I enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’ wonderful novel, March, so much.

Are you an Alcott fan? and if not, which authors captivated you as a child? I have many more on my list but I’ll have to save them for another blog post.


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