Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Long before cable news and social networking sites there were newspaper headlines, television interviews and tabloid stories about two women that rose to the top of popular culture. These two famous women from the recent past are being re-examined in new biographies that can be found at the Monrovia Public Library.

Jeffrey Toobin, attorney and author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, revisits one of the last century’s truth-is-stranger-than-fiction histories in American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst. The title almost says it all in this page-turning look at the events and personalities surrounding the 1974 kidnapping of a wealthy college student by a ragtag group of revolutionaries. When Ms. Hearst joins the group, but is not present for the group’s shoot-out with Los Angeles police, the story becomes even murkier. The author parses the evidence in this incredible story, which includes Ms. Hearst’s later presidential pardon. Readers who have not thought about Patty Hearst in years, or who enjoy suspenseful non-fiction, will enjoy this terrific book.

One person who always seemed to turn up in the news was Helen Gurley Brown, who exploded onto the publishing scene with her book Sex and the Single Girl and her much-imitated magazine Cosmopolitan. Not Pretty Enough by Gerri Hirshey is a fascinating biography of the plain Jane who held numerous secretarial jobs before transforming herself into a glamour-puss and becoming the editor of the highly influential Cosmopolitan. What fascinates is the author's ability to corral all Ms. Brown's contradictions into a revealing and sympathetic book.

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