With much of the country in the grip of cold and wintry weather, we nonetheless present to readers our annual overview of the spring season, a harbinger of good books, and warmer days, to come.
This year our announcements issue is radically different, as regular readers will note and publicists and publishers throughout the country already know. For the first time, we invited publishers to submit titles through a portal administered by Above the Tree Line, the Ann Arbor–based online cataloguer. With the help of the company's Edelweiss tool, customized for PW users, publishers submitted more than 6,000 titles that are to be published between February 1 and July 31. PW readers are hereby invited to visit that aggregation of title information at publishersweekly.com/Spring11, where they can browse the titles that were submitted using a variety of filters—by publisher, imprint, subject category and subcategory, pub month, and format. Readers will also be able to browse the top titles selected by our editors in many of the categories.
Which brings me to the pages that follow. In a break from our traditional presentation of seasonal adult titles, we have applied our editorial judgment to the collection of titles submitted. We selected 19 categories to highlight, and gave each to a PW editor with expertise in that category. Each editor chose 10 books and wrote a brief essay discussing them, followed by a more expansive selection of titles. In all, more than 850 titles are included in these print listings.
We hope readers find this to be a helpful overview of the highlights of the season, and encourage them to visit the online presentation as well, where the entire season is presented. It should be noted that not all publishers answered our call to submit titles through the Edelweiss/PW portal (and sharp-eyed readers will notice that in this issue we have highlighted some notable titles that were not even submitted by a publisher). We hope that, for the Fall Announcements issue this year, more publishers will avail themselves of this potentially limitless collection of the season, and submit their titles. We are committed to expanding and refining this new look at our publishing seasons.
To see the full Spring announcements database, click here to go to the PW/Edelweis site.
Arts & Architecture | Body, Mind & Spirit | Business & Economics | Comics & Graphic Novels | Cookbooks | Literary Fiction | Fiction: Mystery & Thrillers | Fiction: Romance | Fiction: Science Fiction & Fantasy | History & Military History | Literary Essays & Criticism | Memoir & Autobiography | Music | Performing Arts | Politics | Poetry | Science | Social Science | Sports
By Michael Coffey
He might be the biggest—and most endangered—artist in the world right now—Ai Weiwei (pronounced Eye Way-Way). The Chinese-born curator, designer, artist, and activist has managed to get on the wrong side of the largest country in the world, most recently being placed under house arrest on the eve of a party he was throwing to protest the state-ordered demolition of his new studio in Shanghai, which nonetheless took place on Jan. 12.
Ai continues to leave his mark on the Chinese landscape—he collaborated on the design of the Beijing National Stadium (the "Bird's Nest"), which hosted the Beijing Summer Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies. The 53-year-old artist's manifestos and "modest proposals" are collected, along with writings, interviews, and "digital rants," from 2006 to 2009, in Ai Weiwei's Blog. His most recent work, 100 million handcrafted porcelain "sunflower seeds," currently fills the Tate Modern turbine hall (through May 2) and is the talk of London. Perhaps Blog will be banned in Beijing; after all, the blog itself has been shut down.
Another artist pushing barriers is the American Liza Lou, often called "the Queen of Beads" for her fastidious application of beads to entire interiors, like her to-scale Kitchen and Backyard. More than 200 photographs of her work accompany essays by Eleanor Heartney, the New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl, and Lawrence Wechsler in Liza Lou. Lou's recent work—Security Fence and Cell, evince, like Ai Weiwei's work, a belief that political commentary can be art.
Lou had been associated with the cutting-edge Deitch Projects gallery in New York, now closed after a heady 10-year run—and for good reason: founder Jeffrey Deitch a year ago was named director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Deitch surfaces this spring in book form, Art in the Streets, which accompanies a huge Deitch-curated show at LA MoCa, featuring graffiti and street art—Haring, Banksy, Fairey, Basquiat, and more.
Another compilation of diverse art works that were created against a vivid social backdrop is EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art by Kellie Jones, with contributions from her father, poet Amiri Baraka, and music scholar Guthrie Ramsay. EyeMinded highlights the activist vision of art and culture that Kellie Jones grew up with in Manhattan's East Village, where voices and work from around the world percolated in her neighborhood. Now a critic and curator, Jones offers selections from two decades of her writing.
"Art is not all edges," someone should have said; much of it is implacable and direct and yet capable of conveying mystery. This spring, among many books featuring beautiful work that the culture understands and admires, are Lari Pittman, with text by Robert Storr et al., the first monograph on Pittman, whose meticulous paintings sample a variety of genres—murals, Victorian silhouettes, social realism.
Minimalist icon Carl Andre gets his first monograph as well, Carl Andre: Things in Their Elements, with text by British scholar Alistair Reid. Seldom seen work from private collections and Andre's sketches and drawings help flesh out this author's powerful, minimalist creations.
Then there's the reliable Hopper; not only Hopper, but Edward Hopper's New England. This is a lovely little book—88 pages—with an eloquent essay by Carl Little that examines the role that New England land- and townscapes played in Hopper's oeuvre; many of Hopper's greatest works are reproduced.
The role of landscape in another artist's work is the subject of Portraits of the Prairie: The Land That Inspired Willa Cather. Watercolorist Richard Schilling renders images of places that Cather knew in her Nebraska childhood and that influenced her life and prose; former poet laureate Ted Kooser also contributes.
Finally—and how different is this, really?—no less an institution than the Metropolitan Museum of Art will publish Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, arguing in a variety of essays that the late fashion designer's sophisticated collections and runway presentations were in themselves avant-garde installations and performance art, perhaps explaining the continuing fascination with McQueen, who committed suicide last year, nine days after his mother's death and on the eve of London's Fashion Week.
In the architecture category, a book that is bound to inspire discussion about everything from the cold war and how the federal government interacts with the private sector to race and class distinctions is Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defense During the Cold War by David Monteyne, a profesor of achitectural history at the University of Calgary. Monteyne argues, among other things, that the much maligned bunker architecture of the shelters was not so much a style as a philosophy of building that shifted focus from nuclear annihilation to urban unrest.
Pw's Top 10: Art & Architecture
Ai Weiwei's Blog
Weiwei Ai, edited and trans. by Lee Ambrozy. MIT Press, Mar.
Eleanor Heartney, Lawrence Wechsler, Arthur Lubow, Peter Schjeldahl. Rizzoli, Mar.
Art in the Streets
Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman, Aaron Rose. Rizzoli, Apr.
EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art
Kellie Jones, Amiri Baraka, Guthrie P. Ramsey. Duke Univ. Press, May.
Robert Storr, Wayne Koestenbaum, Helen Molesworth. Rizzoli, Mar.
Carl Andre: Things in Their Elements
Alistair Rider. Phaidon, May.
Edward Hopper's New England
Carl Little. Pomegranate Communications, Mar.
Portraits of the Prairie: The Land That Inspired Willa Cather
Richard Schilling. Univ. of Nebraska Press, May.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Andrew Bolton et al. Metropolitan Museum of Art, June.
Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War
David Monteyne. Univ. of Minnesota Press, Apr.
Heavens to Beasties
By Marcia Z. Nelson
Shamans and chakras and whales, oh, my. Body/mind/spirit books for spring cover the metaphysical ocean front, sounding in-depth perennial topics—afterlife, angels—and a few new ones—cetacean wisdom—from voices both fresh and familiar.
The usual suspects include Sylvia Browne, whose Afterlives of the Rich and Famous takes Americans' curiosity about famous figures to new realms, with the psychic and prolific author as trusted cicerone (or, more appropriately in this instance, Virgil). Harper is betting on Browne to the tune of an announced first printing of 125,000. A familiar name not recently heard from returns: Sophy Burnham, who helped angels wing to chart-topping heights in the '90s. The Art of Intuition: Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom offers the former journalist's take on the inner faculty that yields hunches and sudden insights. Spiritual teacher and peaceful warrior Dan Millman is also back with thoughts on purposeful living, a time-honored and market-tested subject. The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World, written by the inspirational author and former athlete, is scheduled for a first printing of 15,000.
Less well-known spiritual authorities aim to develop larger audiences with new works. The Flying Drum: The Mojo Doctor's Guide to Creating Magic in Your Life is the latest from psychotherapist Bradford Keeney, whose eclectic career track includes marriage and family therapy, work with southern Africa's Kalahari bushmen, and university teaching. Prominent yoga teacher Rod Stryker authors The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom (Delacorte, May). Stryker's platform expands to include a planned PBS special later this year, and his credentials add weight to a book aimed at the audience that ate up Rhonda Byrne's The Secret.
Stryker's and other books aim at the sweet spot of perennial wisdom on timeless topics. Curiosity about the afterlife accounts in part for the compelling call of books about near-death experiences, constituting, as many believe they do, a tease for what comes next. Near-Death Experiences, the Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us about Living and Dying and Our True Purpose by P.M.H. Atwater manages to unite the topics of purposeful living and NDEs; NDE researcher Atwater has a slew of books on the subject.
Yet there also are some new and/or timely things under the mystical sun, and they include books about 2012, an end times date, according to the calendar followed by the Mayans. That year, and its significance, has not been nearly as widely anticipated as the year 2000, a millennial siren to which publishers responded in droves; titles already available have established a niche but not broken out. 2012: A Clarion Call: Your Soul's Purpose in Conscious Evolution by Nicolya Christi adds a fillip of purposeful living to the mystic date.
The update of shamanism and the therapeutic and spiritual value of the psychedelic experience—a nonpsychedelic flashback to the '60s—continues in a small stream of books, including The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys by James Fadiman (Inner Traditions/Park Street, May), for which a printing of 10,000 is planned. Like Aldous Huxley and Huston Smith, Fadiman has researched and written about entheogens—psychoactive substances with ritual religious uses—for decades.
Your dog is too small for some spiritual seekers, and horses won't do either. The Whale Whisperer: Healing Messages from the Animal Kingdom to Help Mankind and the Planet by animal intuitive Madeline Walker (Findhorn, June) brings still another species to the herd of animal spirituality books. And those who are both curious and also skeptical about any or all of the above cultural fascinations can find company in Tracking the Man-Beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies, and More by Joe Nickell (Prometheus, Mar.), who calls himself a professional paranormal investigator.
The Top 10: Body, Mind, Spirit
Afterlives of the Rich and Famous
Sylvia Browne. HarperOne, Feb.
The Art of Intuition: Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom
Sophy Burnham. Tarcher, Feb.
The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World
Dan Millman. New World Library, Apr.
The Flying Drum: The Mojo Doctor's Guide to Creating Magic in Your Life
Bradford Keeney. Atria, Apr.
The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom
Rod Stryker. Delacorte, May.
Near-Death Experiences, the Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us about Living and Dying and Our True Purpose
P.M.H. Atwater. Hampton Roads, Mar.
2012: A Clarion Call: Your Soul's Purpose in Conscious Evolution
Nicolya Christi. Bear & Co., Apr.
The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys
James Fadiman. Inner Traditions/Park Street, May
The Whale Whisperer: Healing Messages from the Animal Kingdom to Help Mankind and the Planet
Madeline Walker. Findhorn, June.
Tracking the Man-Beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies, and More
Joe Nickell. Prometheus, Mar.
Digging Through the Recession
By Jim Milliot
The causes and ramifications of the Great Recession and the impact of technology and social media are two of the most popular topics in titles coming this spring from publishers in this category. Books range from serious, scholarly analysis of what went wrong with the economy to more self-help–oriented titles on subjects like how to find a job in a struggling economy.
A number of books are clear about the causes of the recession, none more so than The Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present, in which author and journalist Jeffrey Madrick argues that today's economic problems, including a high concentration of wealth, have been building for 40 years. Madrick begins with one-time Citicorp head Walter Wriston's successful deregulation fight and examines the actions of some of the most powerful economic players of the times, including Milton Friedman, Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Jack Welch, and Alan Greenspan. Delving into the underlying causes of the 2008 financial crisis is at the heart of Brendan Moynihan's Financial Origami: How the Wall Street Model Broke. Using the Japanese paper art as a metaphor, Moynihan shows how Wall Street's financial engineering models morphed from effective tools during stable times to the cause of financial destruction when times turned tougher.
William J. Holstein offers some hope for the future in his The Next American Economy: Blueprint for a Real Recovery. Business writer Holstein, whose previous books include Why GM Matters, uses case studies to argue that America can still innovate its way to a full economic rebound, one that will lead to job creation. Economic Facts and Fallacies is for readers trying to make sense of all the business and economic news they've been hearing. Author and economist Thomas Sowell, currently scholar in residence at the Hoover Institute, addresses the fundamental ideas people most commonly get wrong about economics, such as income differences, and male-female economic differences, and explains how people can think about the subject better.
Michael Lewis, whose The Big Short was one of the biggest books in 2010 (and will be out in trade paper this spring), is back with Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, in which he examines economic bubbles that popped up in a variety of nations in the last decade before turning his attention to the biggest debtor nation of all—the U.S.
As the American economy rebounds in 2011 it is also undergoing tremendous change. Among the new titles that addresses how businesses can take advantage of new technology is Pulse: The New Science of Harnessing Internet Buzz to Track Threats and Opportunities by Douglas Hubbard. With the success of more and more companies tied to how effectively they use the Web, Pulse shows how businesses can mine the Internet for real-time assessment of trends and data. Hubbard is the inventor of Applied Information Economics (AIE), a critically acclaimed measurement methodology, and his previous books include How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business. With the Internet making so much information available, "curating" has become a new business buzz word, and that is the topic of Steve Rosenbaum's Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers Are Creators. The founder and CEO of Magnify.net and a well-known Huffington Post blogger, Rosenbaum describes how separating quality information from the mass of data available on the Web can provide businesses an edge in determining what their customers really want. Listening to the consumer is also at the heart of The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk's follow-up to last year's Crush It!. Business winners in the new economy, Vaynerchuk argues, will be those that can use social media platforms to be more customer-aware and fan-friendly.
Speaking of customer awareness, few companies can match Google for its attention to being user friendly. For six years (till 2005), the director of brand management was Douglas Edwards, one of the early Google employees. In June, Houghtom Mifflin Harcourt publishes Edwards's I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59. We should all be so lucky!
No business list would be complete without titles about the trials and tribulations of iconic corporations. This spring PublicAffairs delivers The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers. Author James O'Shea, a former high-ranking editor at both the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times explores how the Tribune Company's acquisition of the L.A. Times parent company Times Mirror nearly destroyed two of the nation's most important newspapers.
Pw's Top 10: Business & Economics
The Age of Greed : The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present
Jeff Madrick. Knopf, May.
Financial Origami: How the Wall Street Model Broke
Brendan Moynihan. Bloomberg, Apr.
The Next American Economy: Blueprint for a Real Recovery
William J. Holstein. Walker & Co., Apr.
Economic Facts and Fallacies
Thomas Sowell. Basic Books, Mar.
Boomerang : Travels in the New Third World
Michael Lewis. Norton, June.
Pulse : The New Science of Harnessing Internet Buzz to Track Threats and Opportunities
Douglas Hubbard. Wiley, Mar.
Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers Are Creators
Steven Rosenbaum. McGraw-Hill, Mar.
The Thank You Economy
Gary Vaynerchuk. HarperBusiness, Mar.
I'm Feeling Lucky: Confessions of Google Employee Number 59
Douglas Edwards, HMH, June
The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers
James O'Shea. PublicAffairs, June.
Comics Question the Life Well Lived
By Heidi MacDonald
When does life begin? When does it end? And is it okay to pay for sex along the way? Those are some of the questions this spring's biggest graphic novels will be pondering.
Continuing last year's trend of triumphant outings by grandmasters, the spring list is full of work by much-lauded cartoonists, including Jim Woodring and Jason Shiga. Still riding high off last year's Wilson, Daniel Clowes is back with Mr. Wonderful, originally serialized in the New York Times and expanded and reformatted for a new edition. Much in the vein of Clowes's growing gallery of misfits who search for redemption through human connection, Mister Wonderful follows a couple on a blind date who find that neither is what the other expected.
And speaking of the search for love, Chester Brown's Paying for It is already the most talked about release of the spring. Already known for his fearlessly honest nonfiction comics, Brown is back with a fairly startling topic: a history of his patronization of prostitutes, from his awkward first efforts to his current public advocacy.
Questions of life and death are dealt with in two other releases. In Daytripper, Brazilian twin cartoonists Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá present the life of an ordinary man and show how his life ending at various points would have changed the meaning of every event of his existence. In Big Questions, Anders Nilsen examines the same kinds of questions in a more lyrical and symbolic fashion, as a downed plane leads humans and animals to question the meaning of other events; the effect of this 600-page magnum opus is haunting.
More traditional comics fantasies are presented in Finder: Voice, the return of Carla Speed McNeil's aboriginal science fiction epic in a volume designed to introduce new readers to the customs of her invented world, Anvard. And The Cardboard Valise by Ben Katchor splits the difference between the direct and the symbolic with an exhausting, dazzling collection of comic strips following a young man who loves to travel through a world of such peculiarities as an island where restrooms are treated as fascinating ruins.
As usual, comics from Japan and Europe are getting attention in the U.S. Topping the manga lists: the English language debut of Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. A grand old man of gekiga, or realistic manga, Mizuki tells a semifictional version of his own experiences at the end of WWII, when his infantry unit holds a desperate last stand on an island in New Guinea. The real life horror ended with Mizuki losing his drawing arm—luckily for readers, he taught himself to draw with his remaining hand.
From France, there's Pinocchio by Winschluss (the nom de plume of Vincent Parronaud, codirector of the Persepolis film), a lavishly drawn, darkly humored version of the tale that updates it with a robot soldier Pinocchio and an environmentally mutated Monstro. The book won the big prize at last year's Angoulême festival.
Many recent comics biographies have been presented as educational material, but Wilfred Santiago's 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente uses a more expressionist style to tell the story of the baseball superstar who rose from poverty to the top of the game and died a hero's death. Long in the making, it arrives just in time for opening day.
Finally, the comics category has been notable in recent years for the number of great works of the past being reissued for the first time in respectful, quality editions. This spring's releases include works by Jack Kirby, Howard Cruse, and Geoff Johns. The comic strip gets a much needed new edition of the first volume of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley. While perhaps an unexpected gem, Floyd Gottfredson's tough, bold mouse is a seasoned adventurer and these are driving, hard-boiled tales. After reading this volume, you'll never look at Mickey, the tuxedo-clad corporate spokesmouse, the same again.
The Top 10: Comics & Graphic novels
Mister Wonderful: A Love Story
Daniel Clowes. Random House/Pantheon, Apr.
Paying for It
Chester Brown. Drawn & Quarterly, May.
Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. DC/Vertigo, Feb,
Anders Nilsen. Drawn & Quarterly, Apr.
Carla Speed McNeil. Dark Horse, Mar.
The Cardboard Valise
Ben Katchor. Random House/Pantheon, Mar.
Winshluss. Last Gasp, Apr.
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Shigeru Mizuki. Drawn & Quarterly, May.
21: The Story of Roberto Clemente
Wilfred Santiago. Fantagraphics, Apr.
Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley
Floyd Gottfredson. Fantagraphics, May.
Eat Your Vegetables. And Your Mexican Ice Pops.
By Lynn Andriani
Though New York's greenmarkets are still largely a barren wasteland of potatoes and other grim-looking root vegetables, spring's cookbooks are a hopeful reminder that the season of asparagus and rhubarb isn't that far off. Standing at the ready with recipes for cooking all that bounty are dozens of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, as publishers rush to meet the needs of the meat-eschewing masses.
For starters, expect plenty of interest in Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson's follow-up to Super Natural Cooking. The book features more thoughtful, interesting meatless recipes along the lines of the ones that have made Swanson's blog, 101cookbooks.com, so popular. The unlikely author of spring's other notable vegetarian cookbook is, surprisingly, not even a vegetarian. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi is a collection of vegetarian recipes drawn from Ottolenghi's column, "The New Vegetarian," in the Guardian's weekend magazine. American foodies have cultishly been ordering the U.K. edition of Ottolenghi's book since Ebury Press released it there last summer. When the U.S. version comes out in April, expect them to go bananas. Or kumquats.
A trend that seems to be growing even faster than vegetarianism is the movement toward eating less meat. For ideas on doing just that, I plan on turning to Patricia Wells's Salad as a Meal. The longtime expat—Wells lives in Paris and Provence—has written cookbooks focusing on bistro cooking, Provençal cuisine, and even just on vegetables (2007's Vegetable Harvest). This new book makes the case for salad as an entrée—and thankfully, Wells's definition of "salad" is quite liberal, encompassing vegetables, of course, but much more: fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, pasta, grains, potatoes, eggs, and cheese.
Two cuisines rise to the top of this spring's international cookbook offerings: Spanish and Indian. For Spanish food, two big names have books forthcoming. The first is Claudia Roden, the Cairo born and raised authority on Middle Eastern, North African, and Italian cooking. Roden's new book, The Food of Spain, has hundreds of recipes, from Romesco sauce to paella Valenciana, that will appeal to both serious cooks and armchair travelers. The second is Alberto Herráiz, who culinary genius Ferran Adrià has called the "best paella chef in the world." Phaidon is publishing Herráiz's Paella, the latest addition to the house's growing list of gorgeous international cookbooks. Hot on Spain's heels is India. If the success of Phaidon's 2010 India: The Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant can teach us anything, it's that American home cooks are ready to go beyond Madhur Jaffrey for new icons of Indian cooking. He may not be an icon here yet, but Sanjeev Kapoor is certainly one in India, where he has been called "the Rachael Ray of India" (but by Ray's own admission, he has a bigger audience, has published more books, and been on TV longer). Kapoor makes his U.S. debut with How to Cook Indian.
As for celebrity cookbooks, there's Sheryl Crow's If It Makes You Healthy, coauthored with Chuck White, who cooks with Crow when she's on tour. As you'd expect from the musician/activist, the book has sidebars like "Why I Buy Organic Produce Whenever I Can." Of course, that's pretty mild compared to this spring's other big celebrity cookbook, My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow. To wit: spiced apple crumb muffins are made with spelt flour, which has more nutritional value than regular wheat flour, are macrobiotic and, says Paltrow, "super-healthy."
Last but not least is dessert. Emily Luchetti's empowering The Fearless Baker is the most comprehensive offering. But many other houses seem to be ditching the wide-angle view for verticals, and in the dessert world, that pretty much means one thing: cupcakes. The trend just won't die; the Crumbs cupcake chain has just gone public, and books on the tiny treats keep coming. Still, lots of publishers are scrambling to find the next big little sweet. The most notable contenders to the cupcake throne are macarons, whoopie pies, and, my personal favorite: ice pops. The 27-degree temps right now notwithstanding, I'm ready to crack open Fany Gerson's Paletas. Gerson's My Sweet Mexico was one of my favorite cookbooks of 2010, and Paletas looks to be equally wonderful, with recipes for ice pops in flavors ranging from coconut and mango-chile to horchata-strawberry and dulce de leche. Gerson plans to open a shop in New York serving paletas, ice cream, sorbets, and aguas frescas in late spring.
PW's Top 10: Cookbooks
Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
Heidi Swanson. Ten Speed, Apr.
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi. Chronicle, Mar.
Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season
Patricia Wells. Morrow, Apr.
The Food of Spain
Claudia Roden. Ecco, June.
Alberto Herráiz. Phaidon, May.
How to Cook Indian: 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Kitchen
Sanjeev Kapoor. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Apr.
If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons
Sheryl Crow and Chuck White. St. Martin's, Apr.
My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness
Gwyneth Paltrow. Grand Central, Apr.
The Fearless Baker: Scrumptious Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, Cookies, and Quick Breads That You Can Make to Impress Your Friends and Yourself
Emily Luchetti. Little, Brown, May.
Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Aguas Frescas & Shaved Ice
Fany Gerson. Ten Speed, June.
The Young and the Dead
By Jonathan Segura
The most exciting novel of 2011 is a 500-pager about soul-crushing boredom. It is, of course, David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, unfinished at his 2008 death and posthumously assembled by his longtime editor, Michael Pietsch. You know all that. But what of the book?
Don't know. Haven't seen it yet. But big, difficult books by dead guys just want to catch fire, and not since Bolaño's 2666 has there been a novel that's come with such a heavy burden of its own mythology. Whether or not it's genius is kind of beside the point, and while I'm not expecting it to knock the Earth off of its axis (didn't The Original of Laura teach us anything about mucking about with unfinished works?), I am looking forward to reading the final book by the great man, just like you are.
On the other end of the vitality spectrum are the crew of 20-Under-40s, four of whom have novels hitting this spring, and one of which is going to land like an atom bomb: Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife. It's remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Obreht is, infuriatingly, 25 years old. This, her first novel, is a haunting, sometimes curious, often heartbreaking, but always eloquent reckoning of her homeland—the former Yugoslavia—its civil war, and the rich traditions of storytelling and myth that have survived the tumult. Elsewhere on the 20–40 circuit, Chris Adrian's The Great Night, David Bezmozgis's The Free World, and Karen Russell's Swamplandia! all hit this spring, and each author has much more than youth and New Yorker cred to recommend them.
The award for biggest gamble that pays off goes to Arthur Phillips, whose editor must have tried to have him committed when he turned in the manuscript for The Tragedy of Arthur, a tricky, smart, and uncomfortably funny faux memoir about his family's involvement in the discovery of an unknown Shakespeare play that was perhaps forged by his career criminal father. Oh, yes, and Phillips then went and wrote the play. It is printed, in the book, with footnotes.
We've got some familiar names among our favorites. Jessica Hagedorn is back with Toxicology, a fierce novel set at the crossroads of art, fame, and addiction. Ann Patchett's State of Wonder is a wonder, indeed, and Louise Dean's The Old Romantic is as dark and flinty as anything you'll read this year. Steve Earle somehow found the time between doing his musician thing and acting on Treme to bang out I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, about a disgraced doctor haunted by the ghost of Hank Williams as he makes the rounds on the scummy side of 1963 San Antonio, Tex.
We've got a lot of love for Jonathan Evison's second novel, West of Here, a sprawling story of the Pacific Northwest and the way history, that nasty goon, has a way of finding you. We called it "damn fine" in our review a few weeks ago.
Then there's Richard Nash's much discussed if somewhat mysterious new venture, Cursor, and its first publishing imprint, Red Lemonade, that's ready to come out of beta and take on the world this spring, starting with Lynne Tillman's Someday This Will Be Funny, the highly regarded author's first story collection in years. Nash says it'll be available as a regular ol' book—printed, bound, shipped—which will come as a disappointment to those of us hoping it'd be... I don't know, magically zapped through the ether in a triple deluxe hologram edition.
But maybe that'll be next year.
PW's Top 10: Literary Fiction
The Pale King
David Foster Wallace. Little, Brown, Apr.
The Tiger's Wife
Tea Obreht. Random, Mar.
The Free World
David Bezmozgis. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Apr.
The Tragedy of Arthur
Arthur Phillips. Random, Apr.
Jessica Hagedorn. Viking, Apr.
State of Wonder
Ann Patchett. Harper, June.
The Old Romantic
Louise Dean. Riverhead, Feb.
I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
Steve Earle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June.
West of Here
Jonathan Evison. Algonquin, Feb.
Someday This Will Be Funny
Lynne Tillman. Cursor/Red Lemonade, Mar.
More than Just Swedes
By Peter Cannon
International bestseller Henning Mankell, who published his first Kurt Wallander novel in the U.S. in 1997, may not have captured the imagination of American readers in the same way as his fellow Swede, Stieg Larsson, later did with the Millennium trilogy, but fans of Swedish crime fiction will welcome what Mankell has announced will be the last in the detective series, The Troubled Man, about a retired Swedish naval commander haunted by an incident during the cold war.
British author Charles Cumming also mines the cold war in his fifth spy novel, The Trinity Six, which supposes that in addition to the "Cambridge Five" (Burgess, Maclean, Philby, et al.) there was a sixth man who betrayed his country to the Soviets during WWII and after. This breakthrough book ranks with the best of John le Carré.
Keigo Higashino won Japan's Naoki Prize for Best Novel for The Devotion of Suspect X, about the efforts of a lonely mathematician to save an attractive neighbor from being arrested for the murder of her abusive ex-husband. In this tale of miscarried human devotion, everyone suffers and no one can ever win.
Taylor Stevens draws on her experience of being raised in the Children of God cult for her debut, The Informationist, which takes a great new action heroine, androgynous Vanessa Michael Munroe, from Texas to Africa. Munroe doesn't have to kick over a hornet's nest to attract attention, though she shares the same fire as Larsson's Lisbeth Salander.
Still best known as the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, Marcia Clark makes her fiction debut with Guilt by Association, which introduces L.A. deputy DA Rachel Knight, whose appealing personality combines strength of character with compassion and all-too-human foibles.
Edward Conlon, the author of Blue Blood, his memoir of life in the NYPD, puts his police experience to fine use in his fiction debut, Red on Red, about a New York City police detective who investigates a suspected dirty cop. The pace may not be fast enough for the average thriller reader, but fans of such literary crime masters as George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Richard Price will be rewarded.
Now that serial killer Gretchen Lowell is safely behind bars, Portland, Ore., detective Archie Sheridan shows he can sustain the series on his own in Chelsea Cain's fourth crime thriller, The Night Season, which involves the real-life 1948 Vanport, Ore., flood.
The film of Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer, due for a March 18 release, is sure to give a boost to his fourth Mickey Haller novel, The Fifth Witness. Connelly has recently regained the movie/TV rights to his Harry Bosch character, who'll be returning in The Drop this fall.
Sugawara Akitada, the hero of I.J. Parker's mystery series set in 11th-century Japan, must contend with a demotion from senior secretary to junior secretary in the Ministry of Justice as well as defend himself from a murder charge in his eighth outing, The Fires of the Gods. Historical fans will discover that Parker keeps getting better with each book.
Colin Cotterill, the author of seven mysteries set in 1970s Laos, launches a new contemporary series set in southern Thailand in Killed at the Whim of a Hat. This traditional mystery should resonate with fans of Alexander McCall Smith. The title derives from a public statement made by President George W. Bush: "Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat." This and similar Bush quotations head each chapter.
Pw's Top 10: Mysteries & Thrillers
The Troubled Man
Henning Mankell. Knopf, Mar.
The Trinity Six
Charles Cumming. St. Martin's, Mar.
The Devotion of Suspect X
Keigo Higshino. Minotaur, Feb.
Taylor Stevens. Crown, Mar.
Guilt by Association
Marcia Clark. Mulholland, Apr.
Red on Red
Edward Conlon. Spiegal & Grau, Apr.
The Night Season
Chelsea Cain. Minotaur, Mar.
The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, Apr.
The Fire of the Gods
I.J. Parker. Severn, Mar.
Killed at the Whim of a Hat
Colin Cotterill. Minotaur, July.
The Ties That Bind
By Rose Fox
Romance novels these days are about far more than he and she and wedding bells. As the boundaries between romance and women's fiction blur, romance readers are looking for protagonists whose relatives, colleagues, and friends play significant roles in their lives, and this spring's crop of romance novels delivers all the familial and sororal closeness (and drama) that anyone could wish for.
Among the big hardcovers on the contemporary front, Suzanne Brockmann continues expanding her Troubleshooters universe with Breaking the Rules, the tale of a woman who reconciles with her estranged husband in order to rescue her younger brother from abuse. Debbie Macomber's A Turn in the Road, linked to her Blossom Street series, sends three women—grandmother, mother, and daughter—on a road trip of nostalgia, adventure, and enlightenment. Historical romance queen Mary Balogh completes her Mistress Trilogy, which follows the romances of three siblings, with The Secret Mistress, in which a flamboyant young woman meets her match.
Paranormal favorite Nalini Singh makes a well-deserved jump to hardcover with Kiss of Snow, her 10th Psy/Changeling novel, which matches up a Psy woman and a Changeling male who struggle to overcome their differences and protect their wolf pack. In Born of Shadows, Sherrilyn Kenyon's fourth science fiction romance set in the world of the League, a warrior princess must collaborate with a hardheaded smuggler to protect her mother from conspirators.
Trade paperback titles to watch out for include Lutishia Lovely's All Up in My Business, which goes behind the scenes of a family-run soul food empire to find a father and his two adult sons struggling to keep their images pristine despite the temptation of illicit romance. Likewise beset by the potential for sin is the profit-focused heroine of Mona Hodgson's Christian historical Too Rich for a Bride, who learns her lesson when a humble preacher proves to be a far better match for her than a slick, wealthy attorney.
Spring mass market titles have a crop of daddy issues. In Sharon Sala's romantic suspense series starter Blood Stains, three young women mourning the death of their father are shocked to learn from his will that they were adopted, separately and under disturbing circumstances. The first volume follows the oldest of the three as she seeks her mother's killer with the help of a sympathetic detective. Susan Fox's lighthearted contemporary His, Unexpectedly is just the opposite: a tale of a chance meeting between two commitment-allergic wanderers who find sparks flying as they wrestle with their families' emphasis on real-world achievements. And a duke's illegitimate son finds love with a gentleman's bastard daughter in Grace Burrowes's The Soldier, which follows The Heir in a Regency series about brothers who seek romance as their parents pressure them toward succession-ensuring marriages. If only parent/child relationships could be assured of their own happy-ever-afters!
Pw's Top 10: Romance
Breaking the Rules
Suzanne Brockmann. Ballantine, Apr.
A Turn in the Road
Debbie Macomber. Mira, May.
The Secret Mistress
Mary Balogh. Delacorte, July.
Kiss of Snow
Nalini Singh. Berkley, June.
Born of Shadows
Sherrilyn Kenyon. Grand Central, May.
All Up in My Business
Lutishia Lovely. Kensington/Dafina, Mar.
Too Rich for a Bride
Mona Hodgson. Waterbrook, May.
Sharon Sala. Mira, Feb.
Susan Fox. Kensington/Brava, Feb.
Grace Burrowes. Sourcebooks Casablanca, June.
Ten Years of War
2011 will be the tenth year of U.S. military action in Afghanistan (and eighth in Iraq). Science fiction and fantasy often provide parables for the present reality in the guise of possible futures or impossible realms, so it's no surprise that many of the spring's biggest speculative fiction titles take a close look at war and warfare of various kinds.
Epic fantasy has involved fighting of epic scope since Tolkien's time. Joe Abercrombie takes a very different tack in The Heroes (which loosely connects to his First Law trilogy, but easily stands alone), zooming in on a single three-day battle over a hill in the middle of nowhere. Daniel Abraham's The Dragon's Path, which launches a new series, starts out small, but a friendly disagreement soon turns into a war that engulfs an entire region. Much like Abercrombie's world-weary mercenaries and raw recruits, Abraham's protagonists are only reluctantly and warily drawn into the conflict, and take little joy from the ample gore.
At the more traditional epic fantasy end, the big hit of the season will undoubtedly be The Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss's long-awaited sequel to his smash-hit 2007 debut, The Name of the Wind. As this thousand-page installment unfolds, incognito hero Kvothe continues the deliciously detailed narration of his highly improbable and extraordinary life, a rich tale of adventure and revenge. (Keep an eye out for our q&a with Rothfuss in next week's PW.)
War becomes as metaphorical as it is literal in steampunk and urban fantasy tales set closer to the present day. Robert Jackson Bennett's steampunk The Company Man portrays the battle between workers and management in an alternate 1919, where airships criss-cross the skies and wealthy corporations build utopian cities. Devon Monk combines elements of steampunk and urban fantasy in series launch Dead Iron, which pits supernatural entities against humans and magic against machines.
With science fiction, the enemies get much bigger: evil governments and corporations, damaged ecosystems, supervillains, Nazi robots, and humanity's capacity for self-destruction. Johanna Sinisalo puts a dark twist on the wilderness adventure novel in Birdbrain. In Carrie Vaughn's After the Golden Age, the superhero bubble has burst, and a forensic accountant estranged from her crime-fighting parents is sent to gather evidence of their arch-enemy's tax fraud. Mercedes Lackey and a team of coauthors launch a new series with Invasion, in which high-powered metahumans meet their match in Nazi soldiers wearing high-powered robot suits.
If this all seems too gloomy, turn to Jody Lynn Nye's The View from the Imperium, which puts a Wodehousian twist (or perhaps that should be "twit") on space opera, or Katy Stauber's Revolution World, which involves Texan secession, romance, and fire-breathing cows. War and modern life may be hell, but even hell has its moments.
Pw's Top 10: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Joe Abercrombie. Orbit, Feb.
The Dragon's Path
Daniel Abraham. Orbit, Apr.
The Wise Man's Fear
Patrick Rothfuss. DAW, Mar.
The Company Man
Robert Jackson Bennett. Orbit, Apr.
Devon Monk. Roc, July.
Johanna Sinisalo. Peter Owen, Mar. (U.S. dist. date)
After the Golden Age
Carrie Vaughn. Tor, Apr.
Mercedes Lackey, Steve Libbey, Cody Martin, and Dennis Lee. Baen, Mar.
The View from the Imperium
Jody Lynn Nye. Baen, Apr.
Katy Stauber. Night Shade, Apr.
Ye Olde Fight Club
By Mike Harvkey
War may be the force that gives us meaning, but it also the gift that keeps on giving, and 2011, as the sesquicentennial (say that five times) of the beginning of the War Between the States, will be a particularly explosive year for books on who, what, when, where, how, and why we fight.
Given how much time we spend bringing the hurt to each other, it's remarkable that we still have a few other preoccupations up our camouflaged sleeves. And with America ripping at its seams these days, writers—and not just American writers—are looking back at our auspicious beginnings, often as a way to comment on today. This year will find bestselling author and radio star Sarah Vowell asking the question: what do whalers, hookers, Christian missionaries, sugar barons, and President Barack Obama have in common? The answer is Hawaii, and in Unfamiliar Fishes, Vowell examines its annexation (along with Puerto Rico and Guam) in 1898 and takes on America's hunger for more.
John Ferling's page-turning studies of early American history have often revealed striking similarities between a nascent America and, say, the United States of 2008, which makes his books either horrifying or comforting (and to a few weirdoes, both). Ferling approaches his subject with a natural storyteller's ability and an impressive command of the epic narrative. He chronicles how protest turned to revolution in Independence.
John Brown was "quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away; but with blood." He knew all too well of what he spoke. In Mightier than the Sword, Brown biographer and Civil War historian David S. Reynolds continues his examination of American division by chronicling the impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, on the abolitionist movement, the Civil War, and beyond. Reynolds is a virtuoso writer who often builds his narratives around a bold thesis. In John Brown, Abolitionist he argued that the raid on Harpers Ferry should stand as the true start of the Civil War (and included in that work President Lincoln reportedly calling Stowe, to her face, "the little woman who started this great war").
If we're not fighting over land, religion, or race, we're fighting over money, and The Floor of Heaven takes us to the shimmering edge of North America during the last days of the 19th century, when the discovery of gold in Alaska and Canada brought a mad rush of thousands northward with dollar signs in their eyes.
Turning to military history, Orlando Figes fires the first salvo with The Crimean War. Figes won the L.A. Times Book Prize for A People's Tragedy and has an uncanny ability to distill scads of research into wonderfully nuanced, elegant anecdotes. So the draw here isn't the epic narrative of modernity's first conflagration (where nearly a million soldiers died) but the intimate and harrowing tales that build up that epic. Adam Hochschild's To End All Wars (as if) finds the award-winning King Leopold's Ghost author focused not only on the generals and heroes but also the first world war's critics and the moral drama they brought to the table, which Michael Burleigh should appreciate. He's back with Moral Combat, another no-doubt profound examination of our warring soul.
Rounding out the top 10 is Robert Harvey's Bolivar, a deeply researched history of the accomplished military leader and one of South America's most cherished heroes. Simon Bolivar freed a swath of land that would eventually encompass six countries. Walking open-handed and barefoot into the middle of this fight is Mahatma Gandhi. "I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill," Gandhi said, and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author Joseph Lelyveld examines him in Great Soul.
Which brings us to Omega, or is it Alpha? In The Good Book by renowned philosopher A.C. Grayling, perhaps it's both. I'm a sucker for audacity, and with this humanist alternative to the Holy Bible, Grayling gets my vote for most daring act of penmanship. In time, maybe every bedside drawer of every fleabag motel on every dusty stretch of desert blacktop will hold a copy of his book. Remind me to check back in a couple thousand years.
PW's Top 10: History And Military History
Sarah Vowell. Riverhead, Mar.
Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free
John Ferling. Bloomsbury, June.
Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America
David S. Reynolds. Norton, June.
The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush
Howard Blum. Crown, Apr.
The Crimean War: A History
Orlando Figes. Metropolitan, Apr.
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918
Adam Hochschild. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May.
Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II
Michael Burleigh. Harper, Mar.
Bolivar: The Liberator of South America
Robert Harvey. Skyhorse, June.
Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India
Joseph Lelyveld. Knopf, Mar.
The Good Book: A Humanist Bible
A.C. Grayling. Walker & Co., Apr.
Belles Lettres and Reflection
By Michael Coffey
"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence," saith Christopher Hitchens, who has filled the void of Public Intellectual in the wake of the deaths of William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer. If the key to being a public intellectual today is the pithy, confounding, and polarizing sound bite, Hitchens has it. And in May, Da Capo has many of his acid aperçus rounded up in The Quotable Hitchens: From Alcohol to Zionism. I mean to say, "Cheap booze is a false economy." Hitch's fans will drink it up.
Let's move on to death, then, as explored in a collection put together by writer David Shields (Reality Hunger) and novelist and Conjunctions editor Brad Morrow. The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death consists of 20 essays by the likes of Mark Doty, Jonathan Safran Foer, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Dillard, and Geoff Dyer. Speaking of Dyer, the prolific and versatile Englishman with a big following, Graywolf is gathering a selection of his essays in Otherwise Known as the Human Condition—"uncategorizable... witty... self-reportage."
Mary Gordon brings her narrative focus up close in At Home: What It Means and Why It Matters, from Sterling. Gordon, the author of many novels, including her best known, Final Payments, writes about the various homes she has lived in and about other homes and writers as well.
A gigantic figure in 20th-century poetry, Czeslaw Milosz, is remembered in a series of portraits collected by Cynthia L. Haven in An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czeslaw Milosz, from Swallow Press. Together, the essays show the breadth of the Polish poet's fascinating life in poetry and politics.
The letters of another major 20th-century figure, Elizabeth Bishop, written to the New Yorker where she published a great deal of her work, offers an exhilarating glimpse into the poet's thinking about her work (see Poetry essay) and the background for much its creation, which views she shared with her editors. Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence is edited by poet Joelle Biele and comes from FSG. A woman poet, Irish-born, much influenced by Bishop, is Eavan Boland, whose A Journey with Two Maps reflects on "the long process of becoming a poet." Boland, who wrote beautifully about the struggle to find her voice within the male-dominated Irish poetic tradition (Object Lessons, 1995), here examines the works of several women poets, including Bishop, Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Sylvia Plath. She also pens a letter to an imaginary woman poet of the future
For yet another guide through the poetry landscape, New York Times poetry columnist David Orr offers Beautiful & Pointless, in which the reader accompanies Orr as he rambles amusingly and engagingly around today's poetry culture, looking for consensus as to, say, what a poem means: it must mean something, as Harper has announced a 35,000 first printing.
Ah, then there's Harold Bloom, America's giant of a literary critic, still going strong at 80 years or age. In The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life, Bloom pulls off a masterly connecting of the dots through the literary canon and his own life with his usual breathtaking eloquence.
Finally, Graywolf Press, in continuing its tradition of finding genre-bending essayists (recall John D'Agata's 2001 Halls of Fame, or Geoff Dyer, above) will publish philosopher John Armstrong's In Search of Civilization: Remaking a Tarnished Idea, a "provocative cri de coeur" that attempts to rescue the idea of civilization from irrelevance; the banality of service industry employment and the rituals of the Japanese tea ceremony are somehow part of it. Serve me up.
Pw's Top 10: Literary Essays & Criticism
The Quotable Hitchens: From Alcohol to Zionism
Christopher Hitchens. Da Capo, May.
The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death
Edited by David Shields and Bradford Morrow. Norton, Feb.
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition
Geoff Dyer. Graywolf, Mar.
At Home: What It Means and Why It Matters
Mary Gordon. Sterling, Apr.
An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czeslaw Milosz
Cynthia L. Haven. Swallow Press, Apr.
Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence
Joelle Biele, Elizabeth Bishop. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Feb.
A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet
Eavan Boland. Norton, Apr.
Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry
David Orr. HarperCollins, Mar.
The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life
Harold Bloom. Yale, Apr.
In Search of Civilization: Remaking a Tarnished Idea
John Armstrong. Graywolf, Mar.
Telling a Life
By Mark Rotella
Looking at a galley that came across my desk a while ago, I see there is no title or author on the jacket, only two quotes—on the front cover Anthony Bourdain calls the book "Magnificent. Simply the best memoir of a chef ever." Batali, on the back, writes that the author "has raised the bar for all books about eating and cooking." An editor can't help being simultaneously intrigued and skeptical about such praise for Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City.
No matter, for this memoir will get lots of attention. It's poised to be a standout amid foodie memoirs, whose numbers have been growing for the past few years.
The field of memoir and autobiography is vast and expanding by the season. In travel memoirs Colin Thubron journeys To a Mountain in Tibet to ruminate on the recent death of his mother and the distant death of his sister. Also highly touted for 2011 (announced print run is 200,000): Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, in which first-time author Connor Grennan tells of taking a humanitarian trip to Nepal for the sole purpose of impressing women, but, once there, he comes across an orphanage and over the course of several years returns to Nepal determined to return its residents to their homes.
The subject of loss, for the most part, defines one of the largest areas of memoir. Joyce Carol Oates tells of losing her husband in A Widow's Story. Meghan O'Rourke, a poet and culture critic for Slate, discusses what it means to mourn as she struggles with the death of her mother in The Long Goodbye. Margaux Fragoso writes of the loss of innocence in a haunting and beautifully written memoir about the years of sexual abuse she endured at the hands of a neighborhood acquaintaince in Tiger, Tiger.
Three fiction writers turn to memoir this year. Andre Dubus III, author of The Garden of Last Days and The House of Sand and Fog, writes of growing up in a depressed and violent Massachusetts mill town, in Townie, and how he released his own frustration through physical violence before he turned to writing. In Thoughts Without Cigarettes, Oscar Hijuelos, best known for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, tells of growing up in Manhattan's Morningside Heights to Cuban immigrants, and the people he knew from his neighborhood. Katharine Weber, author of the novels Triangle and The Little Women, turns to stories of her family, which included her grandmother, the composer Kay Swift, her great-grandfather Paul M. Warburg (creator of the Federal Reserve System, and the inspiration for Annie's Daddy Warbucks), as well as her own filmmaking father in The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities.
Finally is the much anticipated book from Tina Fey called Bossypants. It was one of the pricier acquisitions contracted for two years ago (coming at the time of her Sarah Palin impersonations). Expect Fey's smart sense of humor.
Pw's Top 10: Memoir & Autobiography
Blood, Bones, and Butter
Gabrielle Hamilton. Random, Mar.
To a Mountain in Tibet
Colin Thubron. Harper, Mar.
Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
Connor Grennan. Morrow, Feb.
The Long Goodbye
Meghan O'Rourke. Riverhead, Apr.
A Widow's Story
Joyce Carol Oates. Ecco, Feb.
Tiger, Tiger: A Memoir
Margaux Fragoso. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Mar.
Andre Dubus III. Norton, Feb.
Thoughts Without Cigarettes
Oscar Hijuelos. Gotham, June.
The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities
Katharine Weber. Crown, July.
Tina Fey. Little, Brown/Reagan Arthur, Apr.
By Mark Rotella
"I've been mythicized, Mick-icized, eulogized and fooligized," writes Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler in his trademark rhyme-speak. That sentence comes from his forthcoming book, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? one of several memoirs coming from baby boomer rockers on the heels of Keith Richard's megaselling Life.
Steven Tyler will certainly entertain his fans with stories from the road, but he'll also tell about his upbringing in Yonkers and Boston, the son of an Italian-American classical pianist father who raised him on the songs of Cole Porter and Nat King Cole. Sammy Hagar keeps his foot on the accelerator in his memoir Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. The singer known for his hit "I Can't Drive 55" and for his stint fronting Van Halen, has his entrepreneurship to talk about. He's the creator of the successful Cabo-Wabo tequila.
In Times to Remember, Billy Joel, writing with Fred Schruers, offers his first memoir, which promises to be reflective, honest, and serious. We can only hope that he narrates stories in his book as beautifully as he does in song. (All three singers—Joel, Tyler, and Hagar—were born within three years of each other, in the late 1940s.) In a book revealing and, well, potentially disturbing is This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx by the bassist and songwriter of Mötley Crüe (and author of the bestselling Heroin Diaries).
Tracy Marrow, better known as Ice-T, tells of his journey from New Jersey to the Army to L.A. gangland, and to life as the rapper known for his single "Cop Killer"—and who now plays a cop on Law & Order: SVU. His book, Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption, is co-written with Douglas Century, who has covered elements of the crime world in books like Takedown.
In what should be a solid look at the 1980s punk music scene, Bob Mould, frontman for another umlauted band, Hüsker Dü, will tell of his struggles with homosexuality in private and public life, as well his addiction to drugs and alcohol. See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody is written with Michael Azzerad, the author of Our Band Could Be Your Life.
One heavy-hitting bio: Randall Sullivan offers a look into the last years of Michael Jackson in Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. Sullivan, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, was able to gain access to many of Jackson's friends and family, and this book promises an honest portrait of the complex entertainer.
From music history and culture come three solid narratives. Moving in chronological order, they begin with The Chitlin' Circuit: And the Road to Rock 'n' Roll, in which Memphis-based music journalist Preston Lauterbach takes readers to the various bars and theaters of the 1940s from Memphis to Houston where such singers as James Brown and B.B. King got their start. One-time editor of the British music magazine The Wire, Rob Young focuses on the late 1960s music of Led Zeppelin, Nick Drake, and Pink Floyd in the large and solid Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music. Meanwhile, music writer David Brown puts the needle into the groove of what he argues is the year that divided the 1960s from the '70s—Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Bittersweet Story of 1970.
PW's Top 10: Music
Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?: A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir
Steven Tyler. Ecco, May.
Red: My Uncensored Life in Music
Sammy Hagar. IT Books, Mar.
Times to Remember: A Memoir
Billy Joel with Fred Schruers. Harper, Apr.
Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption—from South Central to Hollywood
Ice-T, with Douglas Century. Ballantine/One World, Apr.
See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody
Bob Mould. Little, Brown, June.
This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx
Nikki Sixx. Morrow, Apr.
Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson
Randall Sullivan. Grove, June.
The Chitlin' Circuit: And the Road to Rock 'n' Roll
Peter Lauterbach. Norton, July.
Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music
Rob Young. Faber & Faber, May.
Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970
David Browne. Da Capo, May.
All the World's a Stage
By Dick Donahue
Indeed it was, back when Will Shakespeare coined the phrase in his 1600 opus, As You Like It. But some 400 years later one needs to augment those stages with cinema screens, flat-screen TVs, iPads, and myriad other entertainment purveyors.
Not surprisingly, Performing Arts is a personality-driven category—whether from People or EW, Entertainment Tonight or The View, those of us on this side of the screens and stages are fascinated by those rarified folk on the other side. And while magazines and reality shows can give good dish, there's nothing quite like a juicy memoir or biography.
Titles in those categories lead off our favorites, starting with one of TV and filmdom's most beloved performers. Mentioning just the book's subtitle—Everything Left to Know About America's Favorite Redhead—instantly identifies her as the endearingly daffy Lucille Ball (1911–1989). Launched in 1933, her film career spanned 41 years and, beginning with I Love Lucy in 1951, this TV pioneer reigned as one of the medium's favorite comics.
Another actor whose beat, like Lucy's, included movies, TV, and theater, was the late Jerry Orbach, who's best remembered for his 12-year-run as NYC Det. Lennie Briscoe on Law and Order. Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City sketches this respected performer's 50-year career, beginning with leading roles in two famous off-Broadway hits in the '50s—a revival of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, and the monster long-running hit, The Fantasticks. Good guy, good read.
"Confessions"—a word sure to sell a star's memoir, especially when said star is Shirley MacLaine, she of many previous centuries and incarnations. Even if she discussed only her Oscar, Emmys, Golden Globes, and 50-plus movies in I'm All Over That: And Other Confessions, the results would be interesting.
It's not just performers who get their names on books; directors, producers, writers, etc., do, too. Where would we be, for example, without Walt Disney and his colorful critters? Walt Before Mickey chronicles 10 formative years in the life of the great producer, who was born in Chicago in 1901, joined the Red Cross in 1918, and was sent overseas to France where he spent a year driving an ambulance—covered not with camouflage but with his own cartoons. The rest is history.
History also plays a leading role—in real life and reel life—in Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. How has this iconic film, released in 1939, captured the public's imagination for nearly three-quarters of a century? (Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn.)
Fast forward from Tara to 2005 and the release of the wildly successful, wildly controversial film version of Annie Proulx's short story, Brokeback Mountain. The highest-grossing gay-themed drama in film history hit numerous critics' "Year's Best" lists, yet famously lost the Oscar to Crash. The Brokeback Book builds on earlier debates (novelist David Leavitt, critic Daniel Mendelsohn, et al.) and includes Michael Silverblatt's interview with Proulx.
Two promising Terpsichorean entries focus on a celebrated choreographer and a notable performer. Leaps in the Dark chronicles the life and career of Agnes de Mille (niece of director Cecil B.), who created countless prominent ballets, choreographed for Broadway and the movies (Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma and other stage successes), and in 1980 was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor by Jimmy Carter.
Ballet legend Jacques d'Amboise might have overdone the modesty in titling his memoir I Was a Dancer. This George Balanchine protégé—a principal New York City Ballet dancer for 33 years—had more ballets choreographed for him than any other dancer. He was born Joseph Ahearn, in Dedham, Mass., but Mom changed that: "It's aristocratic. It has the ‘d' apostrophe. It sounds better for the ballet, and it's a better name." Take that, Joe.
Finally, if all the world really is a stage, we'd be remiss in not including a theater tome. Theater suggests Broadway, which in turn suggests a Broadway archetype, the musical comedy. Both music and comedy—to say nothing of theatrical temperament and a soupçon of "how-to"—comprise The Enraged Accompanist's Guide to the Perfect Audition.
Okay, so we lied about "finally," above, saving what just might be the best for last. Unless something goes severely awry, this one's a shoo-in—and here's a hint. This omnipresent octogenarian, who's been ruling the airwaves of late, has her own wall calendar for 2011. Yes, it's Betty White, who will doubtless rule spring bestseller lists, too, with If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't).
Pw's Top 10: Performing Arts
Lucille Ball FAQ: Everything Left to Know About America's Favorite Redhead
James Sheridan & Barry Monush.
Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City: His Way from "The Fantasticks" to "Law and Order"
John Anthony Gilvey. Applause, May.
I'm All Over That: And Other
Shirley MacLaine. Atria, Apr.
Walt Before Mickey: Disney's Early Years, 1919–1928
Timothy S. Susanin. Univ. Press of
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood
Ellen F. Brown & John Wiley Jr. Taylor Trade Publishing, Feb.
The Brokeback Book: From Story to Cultural Phenomenon
William R. Handley. Univ. of Nebraska/Bison Books, May.
Leaps in the Dark: Art and the World
Agnes de Mille, edited by Mindy Aloff. Univ. Press of Florida, May.
I Was a Dancer
Jacques d'Amboise. Knopf, Mar.
The Enraged Accompanist's Guide to the Perfect Audition
Andrew Gerle. Hal Leonard, Mar.
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't)
Betty White. Putnam, May.
The Politics of Terror
By Parul Sehgal
On a visit to London in 1931, Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought of British civilization. "I think," he said, "it would be a good idea." And so it is with spring's big doorstop, Francis Fukuyama's The Origins of Political Order. It's the first of a planned two-volume history of governance from primate politics to the present. Its scale is epic and the handling assured, but readers might marvel at the title alone. Political order would be a very good idea indeed.
We're parched for order and temperance, especially in a season when assassination attempts at home and abroad have cast a pall, and books and newspaper headlines suggest disorder is the rule of the land.
Certainly the entropy in Afghanistan and Pakistan looms large in our imaginations. In The Operators, Michael Hastings—whose Rolling Stone article, "The Runaway General," featured a very unguarded Gen. Stanley McChrystal (and led eventually to his resignation)—takes us deeper into the conflict.
Bing West, former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, tours Afghanistan's most violent provinces and offers a stinging critique of Obama's policies ("Our military [has become] a gigantic Peace Corps... drinking billions of cups of tea, and handing out billions of dollars") in The Wrong War.
Few modern nations have suffered the kind of deliberate disorder that Zimbabwe has, and in The Fear, Peter Godwin returns to his childhood home, once Africa's most promising and prosperous country now ravaged by Robert Mugabe's 30 years in power.
The paucity of pure political analyses of China comes as a surprise (memoirs and cultural accounts abound); there is, however, Tiger Trap by David Wise, a study of Chinese espionage in America that focuses on two major cases: Katrina Leung, a spy for the FBI turned double agent for the Chinese, and "Tiger Trap," an operation in which Chinese-American scientist Gwo-bao Min allegedly stole American nuclear weapons secrets.
And at home, while the New York Times and others have recently excoriated "vitriol in politics," several big books of the spring have yet to receive the memo: polemics from Ron Paul, Eliot Spitzer, Margaret Hoover, Jack Cashill, Brian Kagan, Mike Huckabee, Jessie Ventura, and Andrew Breitbart are in the works. We'll have, perhaps as antidote to despair and acrimony, something surprising and universally appealing: a political manifesto from Walter Mosley, the creator of Easy Rawlins himself, who links calls for revitalization in civic duty.
As for the Fukuyama, it will be variously described as "magisterial," "sweeping," "sprawling"—reviewspeak for terribly long—but if you like your neocons lapsed and your political science served up with a side of evolutionary biology, it's well worth the slog. For a differing—if equally spirited argument—there's Chris Hedges's The World As It Is, a panorama of American empire, the intractable conflicts in South Asia and the Middle East, all summed up in the book's grim subtitle: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.
PW's Top 10: Politics
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution.
Francis Fukuyama. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Apr.
The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan.
Michael Hastings. Little, Brown, June.
The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan.
Bing West. Random, Feb.
Can Intervention Work?
Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus. Norton, July.
The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the
Martyrdom of Zimbabwe.
Peter Godwin. Little, Brown, Mar.
Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China.
David Wise. Harcourt, June.
Twelve Steps Toward Political
Walter Mosley. Nation, Apr.
Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground.
Jonathan Kay. Harper, May.
The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.
Chris Hedges. Nation, Apr.
The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century.
Alex Prud'homme. Scribner, June.
Death, Money & Space
By Craig Morgan Teicher
This spring will be a strong season for poetry. Alongside the usual crop of "selecteds" from famous poets—including Robert Pinsky, Charles Wright and Marge Piercy—there's a slew of exciting volumes of new poems from well-known and up-and-coming poets.
The season kicks off in February with Money Shot, Rae Armantrout's follow-up to her Pulitzer-winning Versed; in it, she takes on the highs and lows of American commerce with her signature wit and edgy cynicism. In the same month comes a major literary event, Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, which is nothing short of a reimagining of the Bishop canon, with her published and unpublished poems in one gorgeous volume. Then there's the first volume of poems to come from Nick Flynn since he started publishing the memoirs that have made him fairly famous; The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands deals with Bush-era America, new parenthood, and lots of other stuff in fierce, spare poems. Srikanth Reddy's much-anticipated second volume, Voyager, assumes a planetary perspective on the 20th century. Finally, February brings Red Clay Weather, the posthumous last book by Reginald Shepherd, who looks toward God, saying, "How I want to believe."
The lamenting continues into March with Sky Burial, Dana Levin's third book, in which she digs deep into various cultures' mourning rituals in order to mourn her own lost loved ones. And then acclaimed novelist and poet Laura Kasischke joins the Copper Canyon roster with Space, in Chains, a sharp new collection full of prosey verse and versey prose.
Then comes April, which is indeed the cruelest month for poetry reviews editors. Let me now make my annual plea: publishers, please don't publish all your poetry in April; doing so only guarantees most of it gets even less attention from the mainstream media, which will only focus on the biggest books. That said, there's lots of good stuff in April, including a book of dramatic monologues from Noelle Kocot (The Bigger World) and a new book by the legendary Ron Padgett entitled How Long.
After the April poetry showers comes a very unusual flower in May: a hefty collaborative book by two rising poetic stars. G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher's Your Father on the Train of Ghosts was written through e-mail exchanges between the two poets. The result of the collaboration sounds like neither of their poetic voices; rather, it's a weird third voice you'll want to get to know. There's lots more great poetry coming this spring, so if you only read one book of poetry this season, you'll be missing out.
PW's Top 10: Poetry
Rae Armantrout. Wesleyan, Feb.
Elizabeth Bishop. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Feb.
Srikanth Reddy. Univ. of California, Feb.
The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands
Nick Flynn. Graywolf, Feb.
Red Clay Weather
Reginald Shepherd. Univ. of Pittsburgh, Feb.
Dana Levin. Copper Canyon, Mar.
Space, in Chains
Laura Kasischke. Copper Canyon, Mar.
The Bigger World
Noelle Kocot. Wave, Apr.
Ron Padgett. Coffee House, Apr.
Your Father on the Train of Ghosts
G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher. BOA Editions, May
Looking Up, Around, and Ahead
By Sarah F. Gold
Could you win at Jeopardy against Deep Blue's "grandson"? Is there a parallel universe where a parallel you is reading this sentence right now? And if a rubber duck gets lost at sea, does it ever wash ashore? If these seem like science fiction fantasies or mere exercises in idle speculation, then take a look at some of the most exciting science, environment, and medical titles for spring.
The cosmos, the environment, the computer: these are the sources of the not-so-idle questions explored by returning authors like Brian Greene and Tim Flannery, and newer voices like Brian Christian and Donovan Hohn. The underlying questions are age-old. Where did the universe come from? Who are we and how will computers change us? Where are we going, and will we survive long enough to get there? The answers challenge some of our most closely held notions about ourselves as humans and about the world we live in, whether it's a unitary universe or the resilience of the natural world. In the realm of medicine, the vaccine wars rage—one of many battlegrounds where scientists continue to confront junk science.
In The Hidden Reality and Cycles of Time, bestselling physicist Brian Greene and celebrated mathematician Roger Penrose, respectively, consider the nature of the universe—or universes, in Greene's account. Greene looks at the latest cosmology exploring multiverses, branes, and other strange heavenly constructions, while Penrose asserts that the end of our universe may give birth to a new one. And in Physics of the Future, physicist Michio Kaku polls 300 experts on what the future holds for robotics, stem-cell research, and other cutting-edge areas of research.
In the world of computers and information technology, James Gleick, author of the bestselling Chaos, now looks at organization in The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood— the huge flow of information streaming to us from the Internet—and into chaos again as we are inundated by more information than we can master. Brad Christian pits himself against a computer in The Most Human Human, to see which of them can better convince an unseen interlocutor that he is actually a human being. Similarly, a computer named Watson is the least human competitor ever to appear on Jeopardy (a competition to be televised in February), as recounted in Stephen Baker's Final Jeopardy.
One of the first to press with a book on the BP gulf oil disaster is Carl Safina's A Sea in Flames. And the slow, incremental destruction of our oceans is explored by Donovan Hohn in Moby-Duck, wherein the intrepid author follows the fate of 28,000 seafaring bath toys and their impact on the environment. Scientist and conservationist Tim Flannery also visits the oceans, where life originated, as he recounts the evolution of our planet over billions of years in Here on Earth.
Finally, in medicine, probably no one has drawn more fire for debunking the link between childhood vaccines and autism than Paul Offit, and in Deadly Choices he takes on the antivaccine movement more broadly.
Pw's Top 10: Science
The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
Brian Greene. Knopf, Feb.
Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
Roger Penrose. Knopf, May.
Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100
Michio Kaku. Doubleday, Mar.
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick. Pantheon, Mar.
The Most Human Human: What Talking to Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive
Brian Christian. Doubleday, Mar.
Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything
Stephen Baker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mar.
A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Blowout
Carl Safina. Random, Apr.
Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them
Donovan Hohn. Viking, Mar.
Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet
Tim Flannery. Atlantic, Apr.
Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
Paul A. Offit, M.D. Basic, Feb.
Who Are You?
By Andrew Richard Albanese
The 2011 spring list comes just after the swearing in of a new Congress, swept into office on a wave of "revolt." Amid a social, fiscal conservative backlash, questions abound: what does the future hold for gay rights, gender equality, race relations, poverty, and our relations with the Muslim world? And what of the very notion of American identity? Topics that have become popular fodder for the bluster of talk radio are thankfully more deeply examined by this spring's authors.
At the end of 2010, our nation took a major stride toward ending discrimination against homosexuals by repealing "don't ask, don't tell," paving the way for gay men and women to serve openly in the military. But perhaps the bigger story of 2010 was the suicide of a young gay Rutgers student, which spawned a wave of videos of support for struggling gay teens. In It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, editor and syndicated columnist Dan Savage and husband Terry Miller, who launched the "It Gets Better" YouTube channel that now features more than 3,000 videos and 15 million views, extends even more much-needed support and advice to young people struggling with their sexual identity.
On the multicultural front, there is Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation After 9/11. A decade after the attacks of September 11, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin question the depictions of Muslims in the West, arguing that the crude stereotypes often presented in the Western media are in fact caricatures that serve only to deny the considerably more complex reality of the Islamic world and its relations with the West. Meanwhile, Guardian columnist Gary Younge offers a broader examination of our obsession with identity in politics and everyday life in Who Are We? And Why It Should Matter in the 21st Century.
Journalist Elaine Sciolino, author of the award-winning book Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, apparently enjoyed her stint as Paris bureau chief for the New York Times—her new book, La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life, is about understanding the central role of "seduction" in France, not just in romance but in business, food and drink, style, and intellectual debate. Sciolino promises to open American minds to the French way of life, to which I can only say Godspeed—and good luck!
Journalist Andrew Finkel offers a look at a fascinating country on the rise. In Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know, Finkel explores Turkey's strategic position in today's world, looks at a nation that is a cultural, historical, and geographic link between Islam and the West, which stands to play a crucial role in postwar Iraq, and is on its way to possible EU membership.
Among the popular personalities examining sociological topics this spring are TV journalist Dan Abrams, and New York Times columnist David Brooks. In his brief Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Abrams, chief legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and a founder of media news site Mediaite.com, seeks to overturn common clichés about women, arguing that evidence shows that women are in fact better than men "in just about every way imaginable."
Perhaps the most curious book on the spring list is Brooks's The Social Animal: A Story of Love, Character, and Achievement. It is a "fictionalized" story of success featuring a "representative" American couple: "a woman working her way up from a tough Latino neighborhood, and a middle-class man with average tastes and aptitudes." Brooks follows his characters, Harold and Erica, from birth to old age, examining their options and choices. I'll admit that the idea of creating a fictional "representative" American couple for the purpose of expounding on social theory seems problematic. But as someone who watches Brooks every Sunday on Meet the Press, I'm just really hoping there isn't a love scene.
Rounding out the notables is Lee Siegel's Are You Serious—a book that could not be more timely. Siegel, a senior columnist for the Daily Beast, bemoans the rise of "amateurs, buffoons, and professional clowns" into our public life, but suggests that there remains a strong instinct among people to live serious, purposeful lives. From comedian Jon Stewart, who has drawn comparisons to Edward Murrow in recent weeks, to the rise of trends like subsistence farming, Siegel's book just might comfort some of those who feel that American life has become little more than fodder for bad reality TV.
PW's Top 10: Social Science
It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living
Dan Savage and Terry Miller. Dutton, Mar.
Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation After 9/11
Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin. Harvard Univ. Press, June.
Who Are We? And Why It Should Matter in the 21st Century
Gary Younge. Nation Books, June.
La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life
Elaine Sciolino. Times Books. May.
Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know
Andrew Finkel. Oxford Univ. Press, June.
Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters
Dan Abrams. Abrams, Mar.
The Social Animal: A Story of Love, Character, and Achievement
David Brooks. Random House, Mar.
Are You Serious? How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly
Lee Siegel. Harper, July.
The Reality Shows
Karen Finley, Kathleen Hanna, and Ann Pellegrini. Feminist Press, Mar.
Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race
Todd G. Buchholz. Penguin/Hudson Street, May.
The Long Book Back
By Michael Coffey
Satchel Paige's famous admonition—"Don't look back, something might be gaining on you"—might be fitting for a competitive athlete in a competitive sport, but it is not an apt mantra for sports writers and historians. For looking back is what they do, and what, in the main, sports books are about: putting history and accomplishments in a context.
This spring is no different. The strength, culturally and commercially, of any popular sport is its development—the heroes, visionaries, and scoundrels that make it memorable, however subject to mythmaking and wishful thinking. As this is written, the NFL playoffs are in full swing. Depending on what happens, next year we might be talking about books putting Jet coach Rex Ryan in context or about the return of the Pack in Green Bay. Although the overall sports books season has plenty of fresh stuff and new personalities—in running, mixed martial arts, skateboarding—the big engines of sports writing remain true to the recreation of big events and the illumination of lives lived by the great competitors.
In the Great Lives category, there is a long overdue appreciation of the ball player many think is the most underrated of all-time: Stan "The Man" Musial, who played his entire career as a St. Louis Cardinal. Musial was so beloved and respected in his time that his nickname was granted by another team's fans—the Brooklyn Dodgers. It is appropriate, then, that the born-Dodger fan and New York Times reporter George Vecsey would pen Stan Musial: An America Life, a crowning bio of Musial.
Another legend in the making, who has played his entire career in the Bronx, will have his story told by the intrepid journalist Ian O'Connor who, while at the Newark Star-Ledger, got people to tell him things no one else could. We'll see what he comes up with in The Captain from the famously unrevealing Derek Jeter, with whom O'Connor had "unique access."
The prolific Mark Kurlansky, who has written books on cod, the Basques, salt, oysters, and Dominican shortstops—all winningly—turns his attention to a great Jewish hero, humanitarian, and oh, yeah, baseball player, in Hank Greenburg: The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One, in a bio in Yale's Jewish Lives series.
In the Big Events category, there was one just last year that had everyone talking: the perfect game spoiled by an ump's blown call on what would have been the final out. But the response of the ump, Jim Joyce, and the pitcher, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, thrust them both into a small category of sports that actually ennobles the human race. It's not exactly Jackie Robinson level, but Joyce's abject admission of a mistake and Galarraga's grace in accepting a near-miss with destiny made character the big winner, detailed in their collaboration, with Daniel Paisner, in Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History.
If a long event can be a big event, this is it: the 33-inning minor league game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings in 1981. The game was played over two days, ending on an Easter Sunday when one of the teams resurrected itself to win, 3-2. The bright Dan Barry tells the tale in Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game. No less a character than novelist Colum McCann calls it "an exquisite exercise in story-telling, democracy and mythmaking... that has at its center... the symphony of voices that make up America." Play ball!
Tennis is a game of much tradition, and at times, you know it when you see it. Two such developments—the great rivalry between the polar opposites John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg and the dogged spirit of Billie Jean King—were clearly history in the making. Johnny Mac and the Swede get their due in Epic, about their long match at the 1980 Wimbledon final, and in Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports, the role of a pioneer and much of the leveling legislation she inspired—namely, the NCAA's title IX provisions—is gamely told by women's history scholar Susan Ware.
Since the Wall Street Journal now covers books and sports like never before, here's a prediction. Jonah Keri's The Extra 2% will get plenty of Journal attention—it's the story of how two former Goldman Sachs partners took over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, got rid of the word "devil," and built a terrific team.
For the hard stuff, Tim Wendel's High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time might suffice. It's as much about hard science as putting mustard on the ball. David Maraniss calls it "brilliantly executed."
Last but not least in this top 10 is a rollicking glimpse behind the guys and gals who sport around at ESPN, in Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller's Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, American's sports church. Amen.
Pw's Top 10: Sports Books
Stan Musial: An America Life
George Vecsey. ESPN Books, May.
The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter
Ian O'Connor. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May.
Hank Greenburg: The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One
Mark Kurlansky. Yale Univ. Press, Mar.
Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History
Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce, and Daniel Paisner. Atlantic Monthly, May.
Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game
Dan Barry. Harper, May
Epic: John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, and the Greatest Tennis Season Ever
Matthew Cronin. Wiley, Apr.
Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports
Susan Ware. Univ. of North Carolina, Mar.
The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First
Jonah Keri. Random, Mar.
High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time
Tim Wendell. Da Capo, Mar.
Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN
Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. Little, Brown, May.