All that Glitters

The rise and downward slide of magazine editor Tina Brown (Vanity Fair, New Yorker, Talk) and husband, Harry Evans (former editor of the London Sunday Times and, later, president of Random House), goes under the microscope in Tina and Harry Come to America: Tina Brown, Harry Evans and the Uses of Power, which has been causing a stir in New York media circles, for whom stories of the media pair have long been catnip. For many readers, the real news in the book will be the account of the couple's earlier years in England rather than the familiar ground of their New York power struggles in the last decade. Vanity Fair contributing editor Judy Bachrach's book is well researched, but her determination to make the couple's story emblematic of contemporary media culture introduces a degree of editorializing. (Free Press, $27.50; 372p ISBN 0-684-83763-3; July 31)

Making Music

Embraced by rock fans in the early 90s, the Free Jazz movement has inspired a kind of jazz renaissance. Jazz journalist and death-metal fan Phil Freeman describes that revival in New York Is Now! The New Wave of Free Jazz, the first book published by the multimedia Telegraph Company (66 Hope St., Brooklyn, N.Y., 11211; 718-599-6762). In interviews with avant-garde jazz musicians, reviews of salient works, discussions of the scene's important clubs and record labels, and analysis of the genre's relationship to indie rock, Freeman catalogues a much-overlooked musical and cultural phenomenon. Jazz fans and indie-rockers alike should welcome this thorough and opinionated work. ($16.95 222p ISBN 1-930606-00-1; Sept. 10)

Third in Stephen Citron's Great Songwriters series, Sondheim & Lloyd-Webber: The New Musical (preceded by Noel & Cole and The Wordsmiths) demonstrates how musical theater "has done a total about-face" since its inception. Just compare classics like Anything Goes, Oliver! or Guys and Dolls to Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy, Rent and The Full Monty, says musicologist, composer and lyricist Citron, to notice the glaring differences between shows made between the 1920s and '60s ("It was a time when plot was secondary") and those made since that time, which have "gone in several directions"—including the "oversize theatricality" of Lloyd-Webber and the "intellectual stimulation" of Sondheim. Tracing the two lives from childhood through early careers (initially, Sondheim was solely a lyricist, Lloyd-Webber solely a composer) to the present (the phenomenal, longstanding success of Cats; Sondheim's receipt of the Kennedy Center Honors Medal from then-President Clinton), Citron trains telescopic and microscopic lenses on the two most important living musical theater luminaries. B&w photos. (Oxford, $39.95 456p ISBN 0-19-509601-0; Aug.)

For readers who play the violin, whether in the school orchestra, the subway station or the symphony, good instrument care is essential. The Violin Owner's Manual is a complete guide to the selection, repair, preservation and protection of the instrument, regardless of type or value. Written under the guidance of the editors of Strings magazine, by a team of violin makers, violin repair specialists, restorers, bow makers, bow dealers and musicians, the book is lucid, and helpfully illustrated by b&w photos and drawings. Among other advice, readers are told how to select a bow and a violin case, guard against theft, install and care for strings, find the shoulder rest that is most comfortable and how and when to sell your instrument. Should be welcomed by violinists at any level of expertise, as well as instructors and dealers. (String Letter [ ], $14.95 152p ISBN 1-890490-43-1; Aug.)

Well Versed

The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis have been selected by someone who should know: Caroline Kennedy. While Caroline's two confirmed appearances on the Today Show, a first serial in Good Housekeeping, and further publicity should make this easily the bestselling poetry title of the season, it doesn't hurt that Jackie's taste was excellent. Charming poems from John Clare, Kipling, and a young Jimmy Kennedy are complemented by work from Langston Hughes, Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop—and by 14 b&w family photos. Caroline Kennedy has organized more than 100 poems into seven sections ("America"; "Adventure" etc.), written short, intimate introductions to each and included a small selection of Jackie's own poems. (Hyperion, $21.95 192p ISBN 0-7868-6809-0; Oct. 3)

Titled after his thoughtful Slate column, Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Haiku and Whimsical Observations to Help You Understand the Modern Game presses sportswriter Gregg Easterbrook's commentary into metrical service. His one rule: "literary merit optional." How else to explain gems like "Ideally, don't play./ Fans wince when I trot on field./ I am the Punter." Indeed. Yet Easterbrook has the lefty egghead sportsnut market locked up in addition to his Slate duties, he's a contributing editor at the Atlantic Monthly, and a senior editor at the New Republic. He's also the author of what the press chat calls "the landmark eco-realist book," A Moment on the Earth: The Coming of Age of Environmental Optimism. This little square book (5 1/2"×6 1/4") includes 40 b&w illustrations, mostly of old-style gridiron action. (Universe, $15.95 80p ISBN 0-7893-0651-4; Sept.)

Natural Spectra

"Kevlar [a DuPont product] is one of the best candidates... for tethering a space platform.... But gram for gram, silk is stronger still," explains Philip Ball (H2O: A Biography of Water) in Stories of the Invisible: A Guided Tour of Molecules. Thus does this Nature magazine writer and editor render practical and navigable the abstractions of invisible science. "Our metabolic processes are primarily about making molecules. Cells cannot survive without constantly reinventing themselves: making new amino acids for proteins, new lipids for membranes." But Ball's biological explanation for life, thought and action is no dry, joyless drone: "That a conspiracy of molecules might have created King Lear... makes the world seem an enchanted place." Pop-science enthusiasts will eat it up. Illus. (Oxford, $19.95 256p ISBN 0-19-280214-3; Sept.)

Fifth in Kenneth C. Davis's bestselling series, Don't Know Much About the Universe: Everything You Need to Know About the Cosmos but Never Learned explores questions "not usually found in science textbooks: What does astronomy have to do with astrology? Did extraterrestrials build the pyramids? Who dug those canals on Mars? ...Was Werner von Braun a war criminal?" In this chatty, eminently approachable science and history survey, Davis (Don't Know Much About the Bible) quotes poets, unscrambles Galileo's coded notes to Kepler, defines "nova" and "planetary nebula" in liberal-arts—friendly terms, discusses The X-Files and generally strives to put science-phobes at ease. Illus., including several cartoons. (HarperCollins, $26 356p ISBN 0-06-019459-6; Sept.)

César N. Caviedes's El Niño in History: Storming Through the Ages will attract the attention of armchair meteorologists and oceanographers everywhere, but particularly in those regions, such as Florida and California, where human life is most blatantly affected by weather. Drawing on his own and others' research, Caviedes (South America), professor and former chair of the University of Florida's Department of Geography, links current findings and speculation to 19th-century shipwrecks off Africa, successful European exploration of the Incan empire in the 16th century, WWI-era droughts in Australia, recent famines in countries in or adjacent to the Sahel and catastrophic floods in China in the 1400s. The book takes in a broader current than Mike Davis's recent, grimly magisterial Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. Tables and illus. (Univ. of Florida, $24.95 288p ISBN 0-8130-2099-9; Sept.)

August Publications

In Travelers' Tales Cuba: True Stories, editor Tom Miller (Trading with the Enemy) has gathered 38 essays by Western ex-pats, Cuban exiles and travelers of all stripes, including Cristina García, Pico Iyer, James Michener, Andrei Codrescu and Robert Stone. Novelist Elisio Alberto recollects his 1970s stint at the magazine Cuba Internacional, "a real Gothic cave where chance had gathered together twelve or thirteen madmen who were not afraid of anybody or anything, not even of daydreaming, perhaps the bravest thing of all in this most extraordinary world designed by God or the Devil." From his rental car, Dave Eggars comes to understand something of Cubans' reality: "That becomes the point—it had not been the plan at the outset but now is the mission, one thrust upon us—the picking up of people, because, as we learn soon enough, the most common roadside scenery in Cuba, besides the horse-drawn wagons and broken-down classic American cars, is its hitchhikers." (Travelers' Tales, $17.95 paper 352p ISBN 1-885211-62-7; Aug.)

New York Times editors Brent Bowers and Deidre Leipziger have compiled articles written by the paper's reporters under 10 sections pertaining to key business issues. Each chapter—or case study—in The New York Times Management Reader: Hot Ideas and Best Practices from the New World of Business—is introduced by Times business reporter David Leonhardt; a few carry epilogues. Despite the thematic groupings, the work does not delve deeply into any area, and could just as easily be called Best Business Stories of the New York Times, 2000. (Times Books, $16 paper 352p ISBN 0-8050-6742-6; Aug.)