Can We Talk About Joan Rivers?

Whether you screamed with delight at her unfiltered caustic commentary or found her a grating loudmouth, Joan Rivers was a unique figure who paved the way for other female comedians. “The Queen of Mean,” who died at age 81 on Sept. 4 in New York following complications from an outpatient procedure, always saved her harshest barbs for herself — her supposed lack of sex appeal, her obsession with plastic surgery, the endless indignities of aging. >> Famous People We’ve Lost in …

A Guide for Seekers: ‘Waiting for Our Souls to Catch Up’

By the time we reach 50, most Americans realize that the pursuit of happiness isn’t quite the same thing as attaining it. Yes, many if not most folks in the U.S. live lives rich with friends, family, careers, pets, hobbies, book clubs, not to mention technology’s 21st-century bounty: cars, computers, cellphones, AC, GPS, TV, 24/7 streaming entertainment. But what about those 3 a.m.-Peggy Lee-”Is That All There Is?” bleak moments? No matter how many marathons you run or antioxidant smoothies you …

Opera’s Jessye Norman Finds Her Voice in ‘Stand Up Straight and Sing!’

Jessye Norman’s once-in-a-century voice has carried her from 1960s segregated Augusta, Ga., to the opera houses and recital halls of Europe, Asia and America. Norman tells her extraordinary story in a just-published memoir, Stand Up Straight and Sing! Despite racism, Norman describes a happy childhood. She grew up in Augusta surrounded by a large, loving family and a warm community of neighbors and teachers. At the center stood their church. Her parents and older siblings were active in the civil rights …

Become a Great Communicator With ‘Pitch Perfect’

THE BOOK:  Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time. THE AUTHOR: Bill McGowan, TV correspondent turned media trainer, with  How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time Alisa Bowman. I read three to six books a week for my job as a book reviewer. So I almost never reread anything. Yet I have inhaled Bill McGowan’s new Pitch Perfect three times in three days. >> Sign up for the AARP Leisure Newsletter The reason: Pitch Perfect …

‘Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening’: A Must-Read Memoir

On the surface, Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall, is a gentle memoir about a friendship between a white woman in Roanoke, Virginia and her gardener from Kenya. But that description fails to capture the book’s depth, its sometimes-raw emotions, nor its many surprising twists. At the book’s beginning, the author Carol Wall is 52. Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mother of three, …

Love the TV series “House of Cards”? You’ll adore the novel

  Starting on Valentine’s Day, Netflix airs its second season of House of Cards. Which means a lot of folks will be snuggling up with Kevin Spacey as a ruthless Congressman named Francis Underhill. Spacey isn’t playing the first political villain named Francis, however. Instead he’s playing the American incarnation of a character who first appeared 25 years ago in an English novel. This week, Sourcebooks is re-releasing House of Cards as an e-book. (The print edition arrives March 11.) …