Comfort Reading?

Proving, perhaps, that too much is never enough, editors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen serve up the latest course in their inspirational and ubiquitous food-for-the-spirit series with Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury: Holiday Stories to Warm the Heart. It's a mixed bag—O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" follows a man's rumination on Santa Claus as a metaphor for God, filial love, or both—but familiar fare nonetheless, and the treacly sweet stories about the true meaning of Christmas promise to be gobbled up by thousands as they stand in the gift-wrap line. (Health Communications, $24 282p ISBN 0-7573-0000-6; Nov.)

At the compassionate heart of Giving a Voice to Sorrow: Personal Responses to Death and Mourning is the belief that stories of grief ought to be told—and that when they are, and when they are collected into book form, they will offer readers support comparable to group therapy sessions. Authors (and folklorists) Steve Zeitlin and Ilana Harlow "share some of the voices that have saddened and inspired" them in chapters that address matters of storytelling, ritual and ceremony, commemoration, dreams and even signs the dead might leave to comfort the living. In story after story, grief's facets are explored and its sharp edges softened. (Perigee, $13.95 paper 240p ISBN 0-399-52717-6; Nov.)

Humility, perseverance, bravery, sacrifice and love are among the 12 values of the Lakota tribe that are presented through traditional stories and personal commentary in Joseph M. Marshall III's The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living. The legend of White Lance and Red Willow Woman teaches the importance of love and duty, for instance, while Marshall's account of his father's battle with cancer stresses the merits of bravery. The lessons for life, which stress the proverbial attributes of common sense and moral vigor, may not be surprising, but the stories that frame them will be new—and forceful—to most. (Viking, $24.95 256p ISBN 0-670-89456-7; Oct.)

Documenting Two Film Cultures

Drawing on postcolonial and film theory, Vijay Mishra (The Gothic Sublime), a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Australia's Murdoch University, sees Indian cinema as an effort to cut across the country's numerous communities and achieve a pan-Indian culture. In Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire, Mishra explores film from Bombay in light of national and international cultural and aesthetic proclivities, including the prevalence of epics, the relegation of female actors to supporting roles, film representations of the Indian diaspora and sexual subtexts in the Indian gothic. Always sticking close to the countless films themselves (e.g. Mother India, Kismet, Zanjeer) and other texts (fanzines, a Salman Rushdie novel, film reviews), Mishra offers an erudite, scholarly and hip tribute to Indian cinema in all its glory, folly and abundance. 38 b&w photos. (Routledge, $85 320p ISBN 0-415-93014-6; paper $24.95 -5-4; Dec.)

For a pictorial stroll down Hollywood's memory lane, cinema enthusiasts will love Hollywood: A Celebration, by David Thomson (Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick), a contributor to the New Republic, the New York Times and other publications. With pictures and brief, informed, sometimes wry commentary, Thomson covers all the highlights and some of the lowlights: the silents of the 1910s and '20s (The Phantom of the Opera; Flesh and the Devil), screwballs of the 1930s (Trouble in Paradise; The Awful Truth), the introduction of sound and then color, the first Oscar, the noir standouts of the 1940s (Crossfire; The Lady from Shanghai), epics from the 1950s (The Ten Commandments; Ben-Hur), sex, drugs and road trips of the 1960s (Easy Rider; Midnight Cowboy), 1970s-style violence (The French Connection, The Godfather; Taxi Driver), 1980s sci-fi (Blade Runner; Tron), Matrix-inspired special effects of the '90s and everything in between. (DK, $50 640p ISBN 0-7894-7792-0; Oct.)

Fashion by the Book

For 400 years, women wore corsets that controlled their shape and constricted, and sometimes crushed, their ribs and organs. In the 18th century, "tight-lacing" was a common phenomenon, but in the 19th century, technology allowed for more effective corsetry. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the corset became less popular and gradually faded almost completely from use, though recently, it's come back into fashion as sexy outerwear. In The Corset: A Cultural History, Valerie Steele, chief curator and acting director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and editor of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, takes on an item of clothing that has achieved notoriety among many historians. But Steele challenges the popular view that corset-wearing women were merely the victims of fashion, and delves into the "complex gender politics surrounding the corset controversies of the past." The hundreds of color and b&w photos and illustrations provide entertaining visual evidence for Steele's scholarship. (Yale Univ., $39.95 208p ISBN 0-300-09071-4; Dec. 6)

The famous 1930s Hollywood couturier Adrian is handled with kid-gloves in Howard Gutner's Gowns by Adrian: The MGM Years 1928—1941, the first book on the designer. Ever the perfectionist, "he treated the costumes of a chorus girl or extra with the same care, taste, and wit that he lavished on Garbo's crinolines in Camille," says Gutner. Replete with images—Eva von Berne in petit point lace; Madge Evans in fluted ruffles at the neck, a peplum at the hips and a bouffant skirt; Joan Crawford in white silk crepe and black bugle beads; and plenty of costumes that never made it to the final cut—and the ins and outs of both the fashion and the movie industries, this handsome book will please fashionistas and film folk. (Abrams, $39.95 208p ISBN 0-8109-0898-0; Nov.)

In How the West Was Worn, Holly George-Warren and Michelle Freedman offer a sartorial history of the American West. From the pre-20th-century origins of western style to Hollywood westerns, rodeo stars, cowboy crooners, ranchers and businessmen, good old boys from the Tetons to Dallas are presented in all their tooled, embroidered, sequined, fringed, 10-galloned, gun-toting finery. Accompanying an exhibit at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, this loving catalogue of inimitable western styles will have broad classic and kitsch appeal, depending on the audience. George-Warren (Garcia), editor of Rolling Stone Press, and Freedman, a clothing designer and writer, give engaging scholarly treatment to the clothes that help make the icon. (Abrams, $45 240p ISBN 0-8109-0615-5; Oct.)

Words from the White House

Former Reagan defense secretary Caspar Weinberger joins forces with Gretchen Roberts to present In the Arena: A Memoir of the 20th Century, a straightforward and detailed account that follows Weinberger from childhood to college, from Harvard Law School to WWII, and from the California State Assembly to the cabinets of three presidents. Having been on the front lines for many of the last half-century's major events, Weinberger provides close, thoughtful and conservative reports; his autobiography offers new insight into American politics and, of course, the man himself. (Regnery, $34.95 396p ISBN 0-89526-166-9; Nov.)

A compilation of excerpts from George H.W. Bush's speeches, interviews and statements, Heartbeat: George Bush in His Own Words is not, writes editor Jim McGrath, "a political book," but rather an attempt to show the private man through his public words. The excerpts are short, ranging from a few paragraphs down to an aphoristic two lines. There are plenty of thoughtful moments, such as Bush's reflection on Martin Luther King Jr. ("His life was a metaphor for courage"), but overall, the balance seems to swing toward the humorous ("I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli"). (Scribner, $24 352p ISBN 0-7432-2479-5; Nov. 27)

Chris Matthews (Kennedy and Nixon) was a speechwriter for President Carter before he became the interrupting and opinionated host of Hardball with Chris Matthews. In Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think, his third book, the author does just that. It's "what you'd get if you were sitting across the table from me," Matthews writes—meaning, of course, a lot of stories about politics and politicians, a few meandering personal reflections and an energetic, forceful push toward getting everything all out. For those who would skim, the author provides section summaries under the heading "Here's What I Really Think." But when revelations can be as banal as "in order to win the game, you first need a seat at the table," one suspects Matthews hasn't written down all his secrets yet. (Free Press, $25 256p ISBN 0-684-86236-0)

First Lady buff Carl Sferrazza Anthony (Florence Harding; America's Most Influential First Ladies; etc.) turns his attention to the Kennedy family in its entirety in The Kennedy White House: Family Life & Pictures, 1961—1963. With more than 300 black-and-white and color photographs—most from the Kennedy Library's archives and previously unpublished—visual representation is this volume's raison d'être. But Anthony offers a domestically detailed and staunchly apolitical history (the Bay of Pigs and JFK's taste in hats earn an equal number of pages) that Kennedy fans will relish as yet another window onto Camelot. (Touchstone/Drew, $32 304p ISBN 0-7432-2221-0; Oct.)

History and Politics 101

On C-SPAN's Booknotes, host Brian Lamb conducts in-depth, thoughtful (and sometimes plodding) author interviews. Transcripts—of David McCullough, David Brooks, even David Crosby—are free on the show's Web site, but polished essays—based on the "excerpted and edited" interviews—are gathered into a companion series, of which Booknotes: Stories from American History is the third installment. Divided into sections from "Revolution and Founding 1776—1815" to "The Culture Wars 1975—2000," the volume features Ben Bradlee on JFK and the Pentagon Papers, Gina Kolata on the 1918 flu pandemic and Witold Rybczynski on the making of Central Park. (Public Affairs, $30 480p ISBN 1-58648-083-9; photos; Nov.)

Photojournalism and critical commentary come together in The Whole World's Watching: Peace and Social Justice Movements of the 1960s & 1970s, an oversized volume—part history, part tribute—bearing witness to the protests and the upheavals that began in the socially engaged and politically volatile San Francisco Bay Area. Dramatic duotone photographs of Playboy bunnies, Black Panthers and student sit-ins punctuate essays like "Feminist Revolution in the Bay Area," "The Civil Rights Movement" and "Cesar Chavez, A Rebel of the Spirit." Contributors include actor Peter Coyote, historians Leon Litwack and Clayborne Carson, among many other scholars and activists; photographers include Bob Fitch and Robert Hsiang. (Berkeley Art Center, $59.95 hardcover 160p ISBN 0-942744-10-1; $24.95 paper -09-8; Nov.)

Jews in American Politics, edited by L. Sandy Maisel and Ira N. Forman, documents 200 years of Jewish participation in American political life. Chapters by noted Jewish scholars and journalists consider Jews' relationships to, for instance, the major political parties, the media, foreign policy and the conservative movement. Jewish political pioneers are highlighted as well—from Florence Prag Kahn, who from 1925 to 1937 was the first Jewish woman to serve in the House of Representatives, to Senator Joseph Lieberman, in whose vice presidential campaign "Jewishness wasn't a big deal, which itself was a very big deal." With numerous biographical sketches of Jews in government as well as broader discussions of activism, identity and advocacy, this book is an excellent source of both fact and analysis. Introduction by Sen. Lieberman. 150 b&w photos. (Rowman & Littlefield, $39.95 518p ISBN 0-7425-0181-7; Nov.)

December Publications

If George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" were updated and expanded to address today's lexical and syntactic problems—the tendency to make verbs out of nouns and nouns out of verbs, a general fondness for business-speak and verbal inflation, just to name a few—it might look like Junk English. Ken Smith's (Mental Hygiene; Ken's Guide to the Bible) slim volume is a quirky, pleasingly judgmental dictionary of language crimes. From "invisible diminishers" ("virtually flawless") to technology jargon ("It is simply not natural to use feedback for opinion, [or] synthesis for combination"), Smith will delight language purists with his wit while confirming their grave assessments of contemporary speech. (Blast Books [PGW, dist.], $12.95 paper 144p ISBN 0-922233-23-3)

In 1975, in apartheid-torn South Africa, Raymond Suttner, a young white "idealistic revolutionary" was arrested for his political activities, one of which was publishing an illegal antiapartheid pamphlet. These activities led to years of imprisonment and times of torture and intimidation. Some two decades later, as a member of the African National Congress's executive committee, Suttner decided to make his struggles, both personal and political, public. Inside Apartheid's Prison: Notes and Letters of Struggle is a kind of epistolary memoir, with Suttner's letters home a testimony to his ordeals and the strength with which he faced them. (Ocean Press [718-246-4160], $16.95 paper 200p ISBN 1-876175-25-7)

In broad terms, The Ordeal of the African Writer grew out of author Charles R. Larson's (The Emergence of African Fiction) dedication to confronting the problems facing African writers—problems of finding a publisher, an audience either at home or aboard and the means to support themselves. (On the surface, these matters will sound familiar to the struggling American writer; they are, however, exponentially more complicated in Zimbabwe.) More specifically, the book grew out of a questionnaire Larson put to African writers both published and unpublished. Using their responses and his own research, Larson presents a careful consideration of the challenges of African authorship, complete with moving testimonials by the writers themselves. (Zed Books [Palgrave, dist.], $55 cloth 192p ISBN 1-85649-930-8; $19.95 paper -931-6)

November Publications

The French linguist who decoded the Rosetta Stone took 14 years to do so; amateur translators would find the task much simpler with Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphs: How to Read the Secret Language of the Pharaohs by British doctoral student Bridget McDermott. For instance: "a water pot on a human leg, a bread loaf and a flesh sign together" means "meat." The colorful text, a marriage between coffee-table picture book and high school language workbook, offers photographs of ancient inscriptions with sidebars clarifying their meaning as well as pronunciation and grammar guides, magic spells, maps, mythology and basic Egyptian history. (Chronicle, $18.95 paper 176p ISBN 0-8118-3225-2)

In My First Revolution, Winthrop Knowlton, a former publisher of Harper & Row, recounts his unusual passage into adulthood in China and in European countries still reeling from WWII. In 1948, at age 17, Knowlton and his high school friend Jim Thompson went to China to live with Jim's parents, missionaries in Nanking. The two friends traveled the areas of China not yet under Communist rule and were at one point separated by the war. After reuniting, they traveled by freighter to Europe, where they re-entered a relatively familiar social milieu. Anyone who went abroad in the middle of the century will enjoy this elegant little coming-of-age memoir. 30 b&w photos. (EastBridge [70 New Canaan Ave., Norwalk, Conn. 06850], $14.95 paper 150p ISBN 1-891936-01-8; Nov.)

Though Henry Cowell (1897—1965) was a composer and a music critic of startling originality (as well as a producer, a promoter, a publisher and an ethnomusicologist), he has remained largely a "background figure" in American music. But editor Dick Higgins's Essential Cowell: Selected Writings on Music promises to bring Cowell's criticism into the spotlight. Gathering together essays on Stravinsky, Bartok, John Cage and many other composers, as well as selections from Cowell's unpublished opus, The Nature of Melody (written while Cowell was serving a four year sentence in San Quentin on a morality charge), this volume will enlighten aficionados of world music and engage anyone interested in innovative composition. (McPherson & Company, $35 342p ISBN 0-929701-63-1; Nov.)

October Publication

Harvard Business School research fellow Juan Enriquez has great enthusiasm for his subject—and his audience—in As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth. "I would like you and I to have a conversation," he writes. "There is space on each page for your own notes, thoughts," etc. Space indeed, and more: this consideration of scientific advancement, technological and economic trends and their effects offers graphically arresting pages complete with pictures, highlighted words, graphs, and large blank margins. Enriquez's hyperventilating presentation (how many ellipses can one author use?) might get in the way of the facts at times, but the facts—about the ability of genetically modified bananas to vaccinate those who consume them against particular diseases, for example—can be very interesting indeed. (Crown Business, $23 256p ISBN 0-609-60903-3)