We are still telling stories about ourselves, our pasts, our presents, the terrible moments and the joyful ones, and how looking back and digging deep leads us to understanding. And we’re still selling those stories, which means remembering them, and like the cork after it’s out of the wine bottle, those memories swell, leading to, the gods willing, a story worth reading.
That story can be about anything: it can take fear and make it into a meditation, like James Lasdun’s Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. When novelist and poet Lasdun was subjected to “verbal terrorism,” as his stalker, a former student, dubbed it, with electronic technology that eventually reached out to his friends and colleagues, he reflected on literature to find compassion for his stalker. Journalist Charlie LeDuff turned to his hometown for redemption in Detroit: An American Autopsy, tracking the city that was once the richest in America through its inhabitants, following its downward spiral along with that of his own family’s: his mother’s flower shop fire-bombed, his sister lost to the streets, his white-collar brother working in a factory. The Astors, meanwhile, were once one of the richest families in America. Tell that to Alexandra Aldrich, who in The Astor Orphan: A Memoir relates how she grew up with pathologically dysfunctional parents, scrambling for her next meal and battling with her wealthier relatives for a piece of the pie. Unlike Patricia Volk, who had a lovely childhood and a very elegant mother. That good fortune, combined with Volk’s discovery of Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s autobiography, inspired her to compare the two women in her memoir Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me, about beauty and female relationships (shocking pink was Schiaparelli’s signature color; hence that cover!).
Edna O’Brien’s 1960 novel so scandalized her Irish parish that the book was burned by the priest. Now 20 novels later and in her 80s, O’Brien in Country Girl: A Memoir looks back on her life, recounting parties in swinging London and glamorous trips to New York, meeting famous people from Marlon Brandon and Paul McCartney to Jackie Onassis and Hillary Clinton. After dealing with alcohol and going through rehab, J. Maarten Troost continues the hilarious adventures he chronicled in The Sex Lives of Cannibals and returns to the South Pacific in Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story to follow the path of Robert Louis Stevenson through the South Seas. Michael Paterniti travels to Guzman, a medieval town in Spain, in search of a legendary cheese 10 years after tasting it while working in a gourmet deli. In The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese he finds more than the desired Paramo de Guzman, said to have the magical power to restore memories. Imagining a life of exotic travel, Elizabeth Scarboro instead falls in love and creates a life of adventure in a marriage to a man with a predictable expiration date in My Foreign Cities: A Memoir. When she loses her cat, Zak, psychotherapist Nancy Davidson becomes obsessed with lost cat posters and reaches out to commiserate with the pet owners from Alaska to Amsterdam; her realizations about the complexity of our relationship with pets leads to The Secret of Lost Cats: One Woman, Twenty Posters, and a New Understanding of Love. And who’s to say what constitutes a pet? Lauren Scheuer will challenge your preconceptions with Once upon a Flock: Life with my Soulful Chickens. Henny Penny would be pleased.
PW’s Top 10: Memoir
Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. James Lasdun. FSG, Feb.
Detroit: An American Autopsy. Charlie LeDuff. Penguin Press, Feb.
The Astor Orphan: A Memoir. Alexandra Aldrich. Ecco, Apr.
Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me. Patricia Volk. Knopf, Apr.
Country Girl: A Memoir. Edna O’Brien. Little, Brown, Apr.
Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story. J. Maarten Troost. Gotham, June
The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese. Michael Paterniti. Dial Press, July
My Foreign Cities: A Memoir. Elizabeth Scarboro. Norton/Liveright, Apr.
The Secret of Lost Cats: One Woman, Twenty Posters, and a New Understanding of Love. Nancy Davidson. St. Martin’s Press, July
Once upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens. Lauren Scheuer. Atria, Mar.
Allen & Unwin
(dist. by IPG)
A Story of Seven Summers: Life at the Nuns’ House by Hilary Burden (Apr. 1, trade paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-1742376844). A London journalist moves into a ramshackle Tasmanian cottage and falls in love with the Australian island’s landscape, people, and simple living.
Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens by Lauren Scheuer (Mar. 19, hardcover, $22.99, ISBN 978-1451698701). Life with a spirited, reckless flock of backyard chickens inspired by the author’s popular blog, Scratch and Peck, with photos and illustrations.
Chin Music Press
(dist. by Consortium)
Yokohama Yankee: My Family’s Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan by Leslie Helm (Mar. 12, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0984457663) journeys through a family’s 140 years in Japan and the author’s embrace of his mixed heritage. 3,000-copy announced first printing.
Tripping with Allah: Islam, Drugs, and Writing by Michael Muhammad Knight (Feb. 12, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1593764432). Amazonian shamanism meets Christianity meets West African religion meets Islam in this work of reflection and inward adventure.
The Ethical Butcher: How Thoughtful Eating Can Change Your World by Berlin Reed (Apr. 9, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1593765057). A former vegan turned celebrity butcher shows the way to becoming a mindful omnivore.
Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas (May 14, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0307956644). Science and personal experience blend in this story of a diagnosed, high-functioning, noncriminal sociopath.
da Capo Press
Learning to Listen: A Life Caring for Children by T. Berry Brazelton (Apr. 30, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0738216676). America’s baby doctor tells the story behind half a century of caring for and championing children. A Merloyd Lawrence Book. 40,000-copy announced first printing.
Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites by Kate Christensen (July 9, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0385536264). Novelist Christensen turns to real life for this food-centric memoir.
(dist. by IPG)
Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel’s Barrier. For Fun by Mark Thomas (Apr. 1, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0091927813). The author walked the entire length of Israel’s controversial wall, was tear-gassed and stoned, but also welcomed by Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The Astor Orphan: A Memoir by Alexandra Aldrich (Apr. 16, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0062207937). A descendant of the Astor family’s Aldrich branch tells a funny, shocking story of bohemian neglect amid the ruins of a once prominent family. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked by James Lasdun (Feb. 12, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0374219079) is a harrowing journey through the dark realms of human nature.
The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy by Wallis Wilde-Menozzi (Apr. 23, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0374280710). Forty years writing about Italy inform this contemplation of the country as the sum of its many parts.
Gallaudet Univ. Press
On the Beat of Truth: A Hearing Daughter’s Stories of Her Black Deaf Parents by Maxine Childress Brown (May 15, trade paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-1563685521). The oldest daughter of deaf, working-class African-American parents tells stories of her parents’ lives.
Warrior Princess: How a Perfectly Nice Girl Became a Maasai Warrior by Mindy Budgor (June 1, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0762786039). Only men can be warriors, but 27-year-old Mindy Budgor takes on the challenge when a Maasai woman tells her what her success could mean for Maasai women.
Grand Central Publishing
Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lisa Pulitzer and Lauren Drain (Mar. 5, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1455512423). A first look behind the curtains of the Westboro Baptist Church, by a young woman who was cast out. 60,000-copy announced first printing.
Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman—90,000 Lives Changed by Sarah J. Robbins and Hawa Abdi (Apr. 2, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1455503766). A Nobel Peace Prize nominee’s story of her efforts to protect 90,000 of her Somali countrymen for more than 20 years. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story by Carol Shaben (May 21, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1455501953). A journalist writes of a 1984 plane crash in the Canadian wilderness with four survivors: two of them a criminal and the policeman he’s shackled to. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
The Magical Stranger: A Son’s Journey into His Father’s Life by Stephen Rodrick (May 14, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062004765). The son of a Navy pilot killed on duty uses his own experience to illuminate the triumphs and tragedies of a life in military service. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
High Price: Choice, Necessity, and How We Become Who We Are by a Rogue Neuroscientist by Carl Hart (June 11, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0062015884). A neuroscientist shares the story of his life growing up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods, which led him to work that is redefining ideas about drug addiction. 40,000-copy announced first printing.
Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar by Kelly Oxford (Apr. 2, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062102225). A book of essays by comedian and Twitter celebrity Oxford showcases her sardonic take on life. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph by Aimee Molloy (Apr. 30, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062132765). The story of Molly Melching and Tostan, an organization dedicated to community-led social change throughout Africa. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
(dist. by Perseus)
White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin by Michael W. Clune (Apr. 2, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1616492083). An account of life inside the heroin underground. 10,000-copy announced first printing.
Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books
In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler (Apr. 30, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0805095180). The author of The Vagina Monologues tells of separation and connection—to the body, the self, and the world.
Dinner with the Smileys: One Military Family, One Year of Heroes, and Lessons for a Lifetime by Sarah Smiley (May 7, hardcover, $22.99, ISBN 978-1401324872) showcases 52 dinners with the Smiley family while their father was deployed.
Country Girl: A Memoir by Edna O’Brien (Apr. 30, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0316122702). The acclaimed Irish novelist looks back on an exciting life over 80 years. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (Mar. 5, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0307962690). In Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004, the author lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived.
Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me by Patricia Volk (Apr. 2, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0307962102) juxtaposes two lives—an iconoclastic Italian fashion designer and the author’s mother to explore how a girl fashions herself into a woman.
A Survival Guide for Life: How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character by Bear Grylls (June 4, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062271952). Adventurer Grylls shares the life lessons and skills needed to achieve one’s fullest, boldest potential. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
Walden on Wheels: A Memoir by Ken Ilgunas (May 14, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0544028838). Inspired by Thoreau, Ilgunas sets out on a Spartan path to pay off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans by scrubbing toilets and making beds in Coldfoot, Alaska. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
Unmasked: My Life Inside Anonymous, the Internet’s Most Powerful Collective by Gregg Housh (July 23, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0547893402). A man with a criminal past as hacker and software pirate tells the story of the controversial digital age movement, Anonymous. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, an Autobiography by J.G. Ballard, intro. by China Miéville (Feb. 4, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0871404206). A final statement from Ballard revisits his life and career, including new details about his childhood in a Japanese internment camp.
My Foreign Cities: A Memoir by Elizabeth Scarboro (Apr. 8, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0871403384) grew out of a “Modern Love” column in the New York Times, a story of young love and mortality.
(dist. by Random House)
An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman, intro. by Robert Chandler, trans. by Robert Chandler (Feb. 19, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1590176184) is Grossman’s account of two months in Armenia in the mid-’60s, available in English for the first time.
Mirror, Mirror off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year by Kjerstin Gruys (May 2, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0399160172). A fashionista embarks on a quest to improve her life and self-image by avoiding mirrors for a year.
Penguin/Blue Rider Press
The Lost Daughter: A Memoir by Mary Williams (Apr. 9, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0399160868). Born to militant Black Panthers and adopted by Jane Fonda, Williams tells of three decades traveling around the world before she could go home.
Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker (May 30, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1592407125). A darkly comic memoir about growing up at a black funeral home in Baltimore.
Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story by J. Maarten Troost (June 13, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1592407897). Misadventures following in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Seas.
The Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France by Ray Walker (July 11, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1592408122). An American wine maker gambles everything to chase an impossible dream.
Penguin/The Penguin Press
Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff (Feb. 7, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594205347). An explosive exposé of Detroit from Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and hometown boy Charlie LeDuff.
She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me by Emma Brockes (May 16, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1594204593). A daughter struggles to understand her mother’s resilience and secrecy following a childhood trauma in South Africa.
Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado (May 30, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594204395). A crusading journalist’s search for justice and hope in an increasingly violent Mexico, interwoven with his own quest for belonging as a Mexican-American.
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou (Apr. 2, hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-1400066117) shares the author’s story of her relationship with her mother.
Random House/Spiegel & Grau
With or Without You: A Memoir by Domenica Ruta (Feb. 26, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0812993240). Ruta’s unconventional coming-of-age tale chronicles a misfit 1990s childhood and the painful act of breaking away to overcome her addictions and demons.
Random House/The Dial Press
Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home by Leigh Newman (Mar. 19, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1400069248) portrays a search for home on the tundra of the Alaskan wilderness.
The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti (July 30, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0385337007). The search for the finest and most expensive cheese in the world uncovers the mysteries and secrets of a small Spanish village.
Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family by David Berg (June 11, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1476715636). A trial lawyer recounts a wild boyhood in Texas that led to the murder of the author’s brother by actor Woody Harrelson’s father.
To Be a Friend Is Fatal: A Story from the Aftermath of America at War by Kirk W. Johnson (July 9, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1476710488) provides a glimpse into the Iraq War from the perspective of the Iraqi people, and an exploration of America’s moral obligations to those Iraqis who stepped forward to help.
(dist. by PGW)
Replacement Child by Judy L. Mandel (Mar. 5, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1580054768) is the true story of growing up in a family defined by tragedy.
Simon & Schuster
I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman (Apr. 16, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1451667004). Kirkman is “childfree by choice”; here’s what she’d like to say to everyone who can’t stop telling her she’ll change her mind.
Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates (Apr. 1, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1402273148). The Shakespeare in Shackles program created by Dr. Laura Bates for the prison population is a testament to the power of literature.
St. Martin’s Press
One Soufflé at a Time: A Memoir of Food and France by Anne Willan (June 18, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0312642174) includes life stories and recipes from the founder of the legendary La Varenne Cooking School, one of the English-speaking women who brought French food to home chefs everywhere.
The Secrets of Lost Cats: One Woman, Twenty Posters, and a New Understanding of Love by Dr. Nancy Davidson (July 23, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1250006264) goes behind lost cat posters to learn the truths of our relationships with our cats—and each other.
Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal, and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty by Jerry Oppenheimer (July 30, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0312662110). Heirs to a Band-Aid and baby powder fortune, the Johnsons have had their lives of privilege marred by drug abuse, sexual aberration, feuds, and suicide.
(dist. by IPG)
A Bull on the Beach: Enjoying the Good Life in Mallorca by Anna Nicholas (Apr. 1, trade paper, $13.95, ISBN 978-1849532631). Nicholas runs an organic, self-sufficient farm in Mallorca, but can’t quite shake off her old PR clients.
SUNY Press/Excelsior Editions
L Is for Lion: An Italian Bronx Butch Freedom Memoir by Annie Rachele Lanzillotto (Feb. 1, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1438445250). A 1960s Bronx tomboy learns how to survive her brutal but humorous Italian family. SUNY’s Italian/American Culture series.
(dist. by Consortium)
Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars (June 11, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-0889227415). Xat’sull chief Bev Sellars relates her childhood in a church-run residential school whose aim was to “civilize” Native children through Christian teachings, forced separation from family and culture, and discipline.
The Feminist Press at CUNY
Kissing the Sword: My Prison Years in Iran by Shahrnush Parsipur, trans. by Sara Khalili (Mar. 19, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1558618169). A writer and television producer in her native Iran until 1979, Parsipur was imprisoned without being charged when the Islamic Republic came to power. 5,000-copy announced first printing.
The History Press
(dist. by IPG)
Sunflowers and Snipers: Saving Children in the Balkan War by Sally Becker (Apr. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0752483092). Dubbed the “Angel of Mostar,” Sally Becker was hailed for her efforts saving children during the war in Bosnia in 1993.
Univ. of Minnesota Press
We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter by Rachael Hanel (Mar. 19, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-0816683468). Growing up among cemeteries and finding faith and resilience amid sorrowful loss, Hanel offers the perspective of a lifelong relationship with death.
(dist. by Norton)
F: Hu Feng’s Prison Years (Feb, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-84467-967-6) is the harrowing memoir of a Chinese dissident couple’s Kafkaesque ordeal in Mao’s China.
The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living by Wendy Jehanara Tremayne (June 5, trade paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1612121017). The author gives up life as a consumer of everything to move to rural New Mexico and build a new life from recycled and waste materials.