Biographies & Memoirs
From mothers and lovers to rock stars and inmates, here is a delightfully eclectic group of biographies and memoirs.
Edmund Morris (Random House)
ISBN 978-0-8129-9311-0, $38
Inspiration and perspiration prodigiously unite in this sweeping biography of one of America’s greatest inventors. Pulitzer-winning biographer Morris, for Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, tells Thomas Alva Edison’s story backward, opening with the creator of the first long-lasting light bulb, the phonograph, and other electromechanical marvels in lionized, imperious old age and presenting each decade of his life in reverse order, back to his boyhood spells of intense, isolated concentration. Writing in amusing, literate prose that’s briskly paced despite a mountain of fascinating detail, Morris sets Edison’s achievements against a colorful portrait of his splendid eccentricity—mostly deaf, he was given to biting phonographs and pianos to divine their acoustics—whose visionary obsessions drove his businesses close to bankruptcy. The result is an engrossing study of a larger-than-life figure who embodied a heroic age of technology.
The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir
Samantha Power (Dey Street)
ISBN 978-0-06-282069-3, $29.99
In vividly told scenes, with bracing honesty and breathless prose, Pulitzer Prize–winner Power reflects on the roads that led from her college days at Yale to her work in the U.S. government. She graduated from Harvard Law School and in 2005 met then-senator Barack Obama, who asked her to serve as a foreign policy adviser. After he became president, Obama brought Power into the National Security Council in 2009, and from 2013 to 2017 she served as U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Power takes readers behind the scenes of her work and travel to Burma, Libya, and elsewhere. She stresses the necessity of caring, acting, and not giving up when seeking to change people’s lives. Power’s vibrant prose, exuberant storytelling, and deep insights into human nature make for a page-turning memoir.
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love
Dani Shapiro (Knopf)
ISBN 978-1-5247-3271-4, $25.95
In this fascinating memoir, Shapiro writes of how she questioned her identity when a DNA test revealed that she was not, as she believed she was, 100% Jewish. Shapiro grew up in an Orthodox family in suburban New Jersey; blonde haired and blue eyed, she often felt out of place in a family of dark-haired Ashkenazi Jews, yet she had shrugged off the physical differences. But when she got the DNA test results, the then 54-year-old began researching her family history, and within months she unraveled a narrative leading back to the 1960s and the early days of artificial insemination. This beautifully written, thought-provoking genealogical mystery will captivate readers from the very first pages.
(It’s Great to) Suck at Something: The Unexpected Joy of Wiping Out and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and the Stuff that Really Matters
Karen Rinaldi (Atria)
ISBN 978-1-5011-9576-1, $26
Rinaldi, publisher of HarperWave, delivers a goofy yet wise celebration of taking joy in passions instead of talents. She begins by making “a case for discomfort” and the life-affirming practice of “transcending our usefulness.” In lighthearted, introspective prose, Rinaldi shares how her love of surfing—something she has never been particularly good at—inspired her to buy land in Costa Rica sight unseen, helped her through cancer treatment, and has been a source of bonding with her son. Rinaldi stresses the positive health of novelty, curiosity about the new, and living in the steep part of an ever-growing learning curve, but her real focus is on the release of the illusion of control. To make her points, she brings in ideas of such other writers as Thich Nhat Hanh, Anthony Bourdain, and Edward Lorenz to support the “suck at something ethos.” Rinaldi’s seductive lessons and “embrace of messiness and incompleteness” will inspire readers looking to spark personal change.
(Simon & Schuster)
ISBN 978-1-4767-9310-8, $28.99
In this excellent biography, George-Warren paints a complex portrait of singer Janis Joplin (1943–1970) stretching back to her childhood in Port Arthur, Tex., where she “publicly flaunt[ed] her individuality.” She was an outsider in high school and, in 1961, moved to Austin, where she attended the University of Texas and sang black music in a segregated folk music bar. Two years later, she moved to San Francisco and immersed herself in the psychedelic rock scene, where she developed an addiction to heroin—on which she would overdose in 1970. George-Warren explores Joplin’s evolution as a singer, including her early incorporation of Otis Redding’s vocal techniques into her own performances, as well as her moments of impulsive brilliance, such as her first time singing “Bobby McGee”—live in Nashville in 1969, having just learned it—which she recorded only a few days before her death. George-Warren beautifully tells a moving story of a woman whose life and music inspired a generation.
The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose
Chris Wilson, with Bret Witter (Putnam)
ISBN 978-0-7352-1558-0, $27
Wilson shares the uplifting story of how his life changed after he was released from prison. As a child, the book-loving Wilson lived in a violent neighborhood in a home where his mother was sexually abused by her policeman boyfriend. As Wilson got older, he began drinking, skipping school, and hanging out with drug dealers. In 1996, the 17-year-old Wilson killed another young man—and was sentenced to life in prison: “I was done the moment they charged me.” In prison, Wilson honored his dying grandfather’s wish for him to turn his life around and wrote his “Master Plan”: his list of maxims and goals. He got his GED; quit drugs; and, after a judge reduced his sentence, he was released from prison, having served 10 years. He started a business that hires ex-convicts and became a motivational speaker for at-risk men and women. Inspiring without being preachy, Wilson’s manifesto will greatly appeal to today’s youth.
Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir
Kwame Onwuachi, with Joshua David Stein (Knopf)
ISBN 978-1-5247-3262-2, $26.95
Onwuachi, a chef and former Top Chef contestant, wonderfully chronicles the amazing arc of his life, beginning with his difficult Bronx childhood in the 1990s with his African-American mother and his absentee Nigerian father. A troubled teen, he was sent to Nigeria to live with his grandfather. When he returned to live with his mother, now in Baton Rouge, La., he learned to cook at a local barbecue restaurant and took a job as a cook on an oil-spill response ship in the Gulf of Mexico; he eventually moved back to New York City, where Tom Colicchio hired him at Craft. In 2016, he opened his restaurant, Shaw Bijou, in Washington, D.C.: “I had found a way to convert, through food, not just the warmth and love of my upbringing but also the struggles I’d faced.” In this solid and inspiring memoir, Onwuachi includes Pan-African recipes. In the vein of Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes, Chef.
Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, and Me: A Memoir
Deirdre Bair (Doubleday/Talese)
ISBN 978-0-385-54245-6, $28.95
By turns scholarly and salacious, biographer Bair has loosened decades of polite tongue-biting to write the backstory in what she calls a “bio-memoir” of two influential writers. With humiliating candor, she admitted to a complete ignorance of how to write a biography when she approached Samuel Beckett in 1971 and obtained his promise to “neither help nor hinder you.” Upon publication in 1978, her Beckett biography was disparaged by several critics—some of whom accused her of trading sex for access; it eventually won a National Book Award. In 1980 she turned her pen to Simone de Beauvoir, with whom she had a cordial relationship... until she didn’t. Beauvoir’s death in 1986 propelled Bair into an extensive rewrite, delaying publication another four years. Bair, a generous and graceful writer, says “those of us who wrote literary biographies should ensure that our readers ended our books by wanting to turn immediately to our subjects’ writing.”
Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan
Alan Paul and Andy Aledort
ISBN 978-1-250-14283-2, $29.99
In this definitive oral history, the authors trace the life and music of guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954–1990). They detail the guitarist’s rise from a working-class background in Dallas; his formative experiences in Dallas and Austin; his national breakthrough success in 1983 with his first LP Texas Flood and subsequent years of touring, which led to his drug and alcohol abuse; and his final years of sobriety before his death in 1990. The interviews with fellow musicians and engineers provide insightful takes on Vaughan’s work, especially Texas Flood, which was recorded live after Jackson Browne loaned the band his studio and before Vaughan even had a record contract. Fans will be thrilled with this intelligent, informative, and enlightening biography of the guitar great.
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
ISBN 978-1-328-51903-0, $27
This page-turning memoir about an especially fraught mother-daughter relationship reads like heady beach fiction. At age 14, Brodeur became enmeshed in her mother Malabar’s affair with Ben—a married lifelong friend of Brodeur’s stepfather Charles—covering for them even after Charles’s death. At 21, Brodeur cheated on a boyfriend with Ben’s son, Jack: “like our parents before us, we spoke in a language rich in innuendo.” She later became engaged to Jack, who knew nothing of their parents’ affair, until Ben confessed. Brodeur and Jack’s wedding became “Malabar’s battleground.” Nine months after Ben’s wife’s died, Ben and Malabar married, and Malabar quickly cut off Brodeur, whose own marriage was crumbling: “Now that Malabar finally had Ben... she no longer needed me.” This layered narrative of deceit, denial, and disillusionment is a winner.
Business & Personal Finance
How not to be the next corporate giant, helping women succeed, and advice for the lucky who find themselves flush are the timely topics covered.
Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
ISBN 978-1-328-97235-4, $26
Entrepreneurs feeling abashed that their businesses haven’t grown to the Fortune 500 level should relax—sometimes slow or no growth is the right approach, argues consultant Jarvis in this persuasive manual. While pursuing growth may be the most intuitive decision to make, Jarvis observes that it’s not always the best one. Aggressive growth means an increase in operating costs, organizational complexity, and responsibilities for management, which doesn’t suit everyone. Staying small doesn’t have to be the prelude to something bigger, but can be the whole strategy. Jarvis’s soothing guide is a good reminder that chasing the million-customer mark is not the right choice for every entrepreneur.
The Likability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed As You Are
Alicia Menendez (HarperBusiness)
ISBN 978-0-06-283876-6, $28.99
Menendez, a journalist and the cohost of PBS’s Amanpour and Company, issues a friend-to-friend wake-up call for pathological approval seekers. A recovering people-pleaser who cared far too much about what people thought of her—and knew it was holding her back—Menendez argues that too many women are too invested in their own likability, while women who are openly ambitious are viewed negatively. Menendez asserts that women are increasingly angry about encountering such bias, and she has suggestions about what they—and their organizations—can do in response.
Scary Business: Investing the Sudden Large Lump Sum
William S. Young (Mystery Caper)
ISBN 978-1-79692-098-7, $29
Young, a certified financial planner, delivers a valuable educational tool for readers who have received, most likely via real estate or inheritance, a “sudden large lump sum.” While receiving a large amount of money is generally a happy event and a “financial game changer,” it also requires mastering the management of a substantial amount of capital, perhaps for the first time in one’s life. Young warns that when it comes to investing, “a little knowledge can truly be a dangerous thing.” Over the course of this concise work, Young provides a quick primer on important topics. Perhaps most valuable is Young’s advice on dealing with a bear market, and what to ask and expect during annual portfolio reviews.
Womentality: Thirteen Empowering Stories by Everyday Women Who Said Goodbye to the Workplace and Hello to Their Lives
Edited by Erin Wildermuth (Three Rooms)
ISBN 978-1-94111-084-3, $17
Wildermuth, a freelance writer and travel enthusiast, offers up a stellar collection of stories from women around the globe who bucked nine-to-five jobs to go into business for themselves. Among them are South African Lauren Gerber who vowed “never to work in an office again” after working as a copywriter for a “sleazy,” poorly run company. While self-employed, she had to budget more carefully than before, and discovered herself becoming less attached to material possessions. Ugandan Christine Muleme, despite her education and successful career, felt diminished in her male-dominated workplace, and decided a pay reduction was worth being able to decide with whom she worked. This inspiring collection makes a strong case for how women can design their work lives to meet both personal and professional needs.
These four cookbooks bring the world’s cuisine, from the Middle East to the Deep South, to the holiday table.
Felidia: Recipes from Flagship Restaurant
Lidia Bastianich (Knopf)
ISBN 978-1-5247-3308-7, $35
Those who can’t get enough Bastianich will be happy to know that this fall brings a new cookbook from her in which she shares, for the first time, recipes from Felidia, her renowned New York City restaurant. Bastianich and longtime executive chef Fortunato Nicotra share 115 of the recipes that capture the spirit of the Felidia menu past and present. It is a beautifully illustrated, full-color cookbook that takes readers behind the scenes of Felidia’s history.
The Joy of Seafood
Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure)
ISBN 978-1-4549-2198-1, $29.97
Chef Seaver distills his vast knowledge of seafood in this encyclopedic work. Noting that today’s technology allows for frozen fish to be just as good as, if not better than, the fresh seafood in stores, Seaver shares the best preparations for over 100 species. Each entry opens with an overview of the species and its aliases (Acadian redfish is sometimes sold as rosefish or ocean perch), along with preparations—grilling, roasting, poaching, and others—and acceptable substitutes for when you can’t find a specific fish. His selections are smart: fried haddock en adobo, halibut gravlax with dill, and sautéed sablefish with rosemary and Madeira wine. This superb collection conveys Seaver’s experience, enthusiasm, and creativity.
Shuk by Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking
Einat Admony and Janna Gur (Artisan)
ISBN 978-1-57965-672-0, $35
Admony (Balaboosta), who owns the restaurants Balaboosta and Taim in New York City, and Gur (Jewish Soul Food) excel at crafting recipes for Israel’s flavorful melting-pot cuisine, and they organize this fascinating cookbook around eight shuks, or markets. They include Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Market, which houses a stall selling roasted seeds and nuts, and a spice store that traffics in potions and powders reputed to “drive away an evil eye, lift a curse, or help you find your soul mate.” Dishes are equally intriguing—a chopped salad of avocado and kohlrabi highlights the country’s abundant produce. A chapter on couscous includes a brace of stews for ladling over the pasta. This energetic and exciting volume serves as an edifying deep dive into Israeli food market culture and cuisine.
Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen
Yasmin Khan (Norton)
ISBN 978-1-32400-262-8, $29.95
Food writer Khan celebrates the vibrant flavors of Palestinian cuisine in this excellent new work. She provides a marvelous array of mazzeh (Palestinian mezze), as well as salads, soups, and main courses, and desserts. Throughout, she includes photos of Palestinian people and landscapes, giving the reader a deeper and welcome glimpse into life there. Khan’s cookbook is a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of the region’s food and culture.
Impeachers, astronauts, unexpected spies, and even Jane Austen pepper these histories of people and places.
American Founders: How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World
Christina Proenza-Coles (New South)
ISBN 978-1-58838-331-0, $29.95
In this persuasive work, historian Proenza-Coles challenges what she calls “the simplest version of [American] popular history,” which “gives the impression that... black people stepped onto the stage of American history as plantation slaves in the 19th century and entered the political arena in the 1950s.” She shows that men and women of color “were central to the founding of the Americas, the establishment of New World nations, the dismantling of slavery, and the rise of freedom in the Americas.” Lucid prose and straightforward structure make this easy to read, and the unearthing of so many lesser-known figures offers new perspectives to those with deeper knowledge of American history.
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775–1777
Rick Atkinson (Holt)
ISBN 978-1-627790-43-7, $40
Pulitzer Prize–winner Atkinson, for the Liberation trilogy, replicates his previous books’ success in this captivatingly granular look at the American Revolution from the increasing tension in the colonies in 1773 to the battles of Trenton and Princeton in 1777. Extensive research (including delving into the unpublished papers of King George III, only recently made available to scholars) allows Atkinson to recreate the past like few other popular historians. By providing vivid portraits of even minor characters, Atkinson enables readers to feel the loss of individual lives on both sides of the conflict, and by providing memorable details—such as starving soldiers relishing a stew made out of a squirrel’s head and some candlewicks—he brings new life even to chapters of oft-told American history. This is a superlative treatment of the period.
The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation
Brenda Wineapple (Random House)
ISBN 978-0-8129-9836-8, $30
As scholar Wineapple persuasively argues in this detailed and lucidly written history, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson was motivated by the impeachers’ view of Johnson’s actions as undermining the sacrifices Americans had made throughout four years of war. Many of Johnson’s fellow Republicans believed that his policies were antithetical to their aims of reconstructing the nation and helping millions of former slaves build new lives as free people. While previous scholars have viewed the impeachment, which failed to remove Johnson from office and allowed him to serve out his term, as an embarrassing political grudge fight, Wineapple argues convincingly that it clearly upheld the limits of presidential authority and the power of the constitutional system of checks and balances. Her arguments are novel and her prose lively. This book has much to offer enthusiasts of both historical and contemporary American politics.
D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II
Sarah Rose (Crown)
ISBN 978-0-451-49508-2, $28
In this gripping history, Rose skillfully details the lives of a handful of ordinary women living in dreary occupied France—who also happened to be highly trained agents for the London-based Special Operations Executive. Often parachuting under a full moon behind enemy lines, these women and their male colleagues blended in with the locals as they set up networks and trained resistance fighters for D-Day. These largely unheralded volunteers depleted German tank divisions, boosted French morale, and quite possibly served as the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Thoroughly researched and written as smoothly as a good thriller, this is a mesmerizing story of creativity, perseverance, and astonishing heroism.
Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution
Helen Zia (Ballantine)
ISBN 978-0-345-52232-0, $28
In this enthralling, heartfelt narrative, journalist Zia tells the stories of four people during the 1949 mass exodus from Shanghai following China’s Communist takeover: affluent Benny Pan; academically gifted Ho Chow; Bing Woo, the author’s mother; and Annuo Liu, the daughter of a high-ranking Nationalist official. At the heart of the story is Shanghai, China’s “most modern, cosmopolitan and populous city,” with its enclaves of foreigners, bustling markets, thriving port, and opium dens, coexisting during the war with aerial bombings, martial law, and panicked upper- and middle-class residents seeking refuge wherever they could. Vivid and well-researched, Zia’s engrossing work brings this tumultuous period to life.
The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern
Robert Morrison (Norton)
ISBN 978-0-393-24905-7, $29.95
In this delightful history, literary scholar Morrison argues that England’s Regency period (1811–1820) was “perhaps the most extraordinary decade in all of British history,” and “marked the appearance of the modern world.” In support of this position, Morrison surveys the brief epoch from a variety of perspectives. As the libertinism of the 18th century gave way to the puritanism of the Victorian era, some English men and women experimented with new types of sexual identities, despite the social censure and even capital punishment they risked. At the decade’s end, England was a very different place than it had been at its beginning, and Morrison’s lively and engaging study not only illuminates these numerous and rapid changes, but convincingly argues that “its many legacies are still all around us.”
Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11
James Donovan (Little, Brown)
ISBN 978-0-316-34178-3, $30
Donovan impressively chronicles the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, culminating in Americans’ successful landing on the moon in July 1969. He succinctly relates the major milestones of the space race and devotes the final quarter to Apollo 11. Exceptionally researched, this exciting, sometimes harrowing book highlights the work not only of pioneering astronauts but also of thousands of technicians and engineers. This is a perfect volume to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing and all that led up to it.
Hobbies & Crafts
Don’t let loved ones go out into the winter cold when they can stay in and crochet, quilt, and craft in a dozen ways, with these guides to help.
Beginner’s Guide to Kirigami: 24 Skill-Building Projects Using Origami and Papercrafting Skills
Ghylenn Descamps, trans. from
the French by Donna Vekteris
ISBN 978-1-4971-0016-9, $14.99
Descamps, creative designer for the magazine Marie Claire Idées, delivers an inviting and well-organized introduction to the Japanese art of paper cutting and folding. Kirigami combines the better-known practice of origami with an intricate form of paper cutting in order to create delicate three-dimensional objects. Keeping newbies firmly in mind, Descamps provides detailed instructions on everything from choosing the right kind of paper to properly holding the various cutting tools. Helpfully, she organizes the projects by difficulty level, from easy to highly intricate, starting with a star-filled Christmas tree and working up to lanterns, 3-D greeting cards, an “Asian temple,” and a “Parisian bridge.” Descamps also makes a winning case for kirigami as a mindfulness aid. This detailed road map to creating a world of artful and calming designs should create many new kirigami devotees in the American crafting community.
Calligraphy and Lettering: A Maker’s Guide
Edited by Denise Lach (Thames & Hudson)
ISBN 978-0-500-29430-7, $29.95
This arresting compendium, published in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, convincingly and instructively posits precise, artful hand lettering as a viable antidote to the obsession with speed and efficiency that permeates modern life. Calligraphist Lach tracks the art of calligraphy through its ancient and modern permutations and in different countries around the world. The book also contains preliminary instructions for embarking on calligraphy. Fifteen projects then follow, each one conforming to a different tradition within calligraphy. This elegant volume will enable even inexperienced beginners to reclaim a venerable art form.
A Craftsman’s Legacy: Why Working with Our Hands Gives Us Meaning
Eric Gorges, with Jon Sternfeld (Algonquin)
ISBN 978-1-61620-836-3, $24.95
Metalworker Gorges, host of the PBS series A Craftsman’s Legacy, revisits some of his favorite interviews in this invigorating survey. He highlights woodworkers, blacksmiths, and even a maker of high-end blue jeans to learn about their approaches to and appreciation for their crafts. In discussing his own experiences as an artisan, Gorges illustrates the therapeutic qualities of craftsmanship: finding solace in the rhythmic thrum of a potter’s wheel to ease the pain of his mother’s recent death, and how working in his garage offered him safe harbor from debilitating panic attacks. This is an impressive and emotionally rich appreciation of work often taken for granted.
Knitted Animal Friends: Knit 12 Well-Dressed Animals, Their Clothes and Accessories
Louise Crowther (SewAndSo)
ISBN 978-1-4463-0731-1, $24.99
Amelia the Duck, Charlotte the Fox, and Harry the Ram are just a few of the adorable and nattily attired animal toys that can be made from the designs in this beautiful book from Crowther, creator of the Boo-Biloo knitting pattern brand. The bodies of the 13 dolls are all quite similar, and Crowther encourages knitters to be creative by mixing and matching them with any of the tiny sweaters, shorts, and other garments included. Tiny clothing pieces (requiring tiny knitting needles), such as Noah the Horse’s denim overalls, Tilly the Hare’s Fair Isle cardigan and George the Dog’s sassy red bandana, are all miniature versions of items one might make for life-sized family and friends, and demand comparable skill. Advanced knitters looking for a new challenge will find one in Crowther’s beautiful designs, and children will love the whimsical results.
Raffia Crochet: 10 Contemporary Crochet Patterns with Raffia
The designers of Wool and the Gang (SewAndSo)
ISBN 978-1-4463-0748-9, $17.99
The staff of the sustainable fashion brand Wool and the Gang provide crafters with a collection of whimsical warm-weather fare made with raffia, a durable palm tree fiber that’s biodegradable, water-repellent, light, and quick-drying. The book provides 10 patterns, divided by skill levels, with the standout being the intermediate-level “Worn This Way Summer Hat,” the only hat pattern in the book, which is otherwise devoted largely to bags, such as the appealing beginner-level “Money Honey Clutch Bag.” This book is perfect for experienced hands looking to employ a novelty fiber, and for beginners who want to dip a toe into lighter fare. The breezy photography and the boho vibes of many items make this slim volume particularly enticing.
Our sports picks feature scandals, towering figures, and even some math. (Yes, math.)
Billion Dollar Fantasy: The High-Stakes Game Between FanDuel and DraftKings That Upended Sports in America
Albert Chen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
ISBN 978-0-544-91114-7, $27
In this entertaining debut, Sports Illustrated editor Chen examines a decade of online fantasy sports, in which players compete for cash prizes by assembling rosters of professional sports players. Chen interviews the chief executives of FanDuel and DraftKings and shows how they created billion-dollar businesses. Fans of financial thrillers such as Barbarians at the Gate will be excited by this insider account of the dizzying rise of fantasy sports websites.
Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks
Ron Rapoport (Hachette)
ISBN 978-0-316-31863-1, $28
Rapoport, a 20-year veteran sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, delivers what is sure to be the definitive biography of Chicago Cubs baseball player Ernie Banks (1931–2015), a man known by fans as “Mr. Cub.” Rapoport reveals how throughout his life Banks masked his “tortured soul”—in his childhood of poverty in Dallas; while playing in the Negro Leagues in Kansas City; during the move to the Cubs in 1953, where he had to deal with the city’s segregation; and playing under hypercritical manager Leo Durocher during his final years. This marvelous look at the life of a beloved athlete should be essential reading for baseball fans, and Cubs lovers especially.
Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football
John Urschel and Louisa Thomas (Penguin Press)
ISBN 978-0-7352-2486-5, $27
Urschel, a former guard for the Baltimore Ravens, shares his lifelong attempts to reconcile math and football in his captivating memoir. In alternating chapters he recounts his pursuits in both: he enrolled at Penn State in 2010, where he played football and studied math. After graduating, he was drafted in 2014 by the Baltimore Ravens, with whom he played for three seasons; in 2016, he enrolled as a PhD candidate at MIT. Math, Urschel writes, “gives me a way of making sense of the world. It helps me see past the confusion of everyday life and glimpse the underlying structures of the universe.” Urschel’s brilliant memoir explores the challenges of making difficult choices and the rewards of following one’s passions in life.
Shula: The Coach of the NFL’s Greatest Generation
Mark Ribowsky (Liveright)
ISBN 978-1-63149-460-4, $28.95
Ribowsky provides a hard-nosed and decidedly unromantic biography of the NFL’s winningest coach, Don Shula, who led the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins to a Super Bowl victory. Beginning with Shula’s Depression-era, Hungarian-immigrant upbringing in Grand River, Ohio, Ribowsky tells of how Shula worked odd jobs as a teenager while excelling in high school football. Through Shula’s career, Ribowsky provides an excellent look into the early, gritty days of professional football and highlights Shula’s brand of tough, old-school coaching, with anecdotes ranging from raunchy dorm-room parties at camp (which Shula did not appreciate) to Shula’s “flawless” game plan in Super Bowl VII. Ribowsky’s excellent biography will thrill football fans of all allegiances.
The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team
Matthew Goodman (Ballantine)
ISBN 978-1-101-88283-2, $29
Goodman effectively combines interviews and extensive research to definitively recreate the unfortunate story of the 1949–1950 City College of New York basketball team, which won an unprecedented two college championships (the NIT and the NCAA) in the same year before being tainted by a point-shaving scandal involving several of its stars. Through his conversations with the five surviving team members, Goodman traces the Beavers’ path toward success, and their eventual downfall. The appeal of easy money to impoverished players such as center Eddie Roman was too much to resist. Goodman closes with the argument that “the commercialization of big-time college sports had fostered a culture of gambling” that corrupted players, coaches, and administrators. Fans of college hoops will devour Goodman’s excellent history.
Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race
Lara Prior-Palmer (Catapult)
ISBN 978-1-9482-2619-6, $25
First-time author Prior-Palmer transforms from hopeless 19-year-old underdog into surprising champion of the grueling 2013 Mongol Derby in this exhilarating, visceral account of her attempt to win a 1,000-kilometer horse race across the Mongolian countryside. Filled with soulful self-reflection and race detail, this fast-paced page-turner is a thrill ride from start to finish.