An Actor and A Gentleman
Louis Gossett Jr. and Phyllis Karas. Wiley, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 9780470574713
Today, it's hard to imagine the world Gossett Jr. inhabited during much of his acting and music career: driving to a Hollywood movie studio in a convertible in 1968, he was stopped eight times by police who assumed he had stolen the car (a similar event would occur in 1986); during that same period, while his white co-stars stayed at swank hotels, he checked in at a fleabag Washington Boulevard motel that was one of the few to admit blacks. It's a testament to Gossett's perseverance and faith in his fellow human beings that he is not bitter, but rather has devoted time and money to developing "The Eracism Foundation," an organization devoted to cultural diversity and ending racism. Gossett looks back on an impressive career that includes his Oscar-winning role in An Officer and a Gentleman and Emmy-winning work in Roots, but also a lifelong struggle with alcohol and drugs. For all his eventful recollections, however, Gossett's tone is strangely flat, robbing his memoir of emotional resonance and making it a bit of a chore to get through. (May)

★ The Advanced Genius Theory: Are They Out of Their Minds or Ahead of Their Time?
Jason Hartley, foreword by Chuck Klosterman. Scribner, $15 paper (288p) ISBN 9781439102367
Fans of any art form or entertainment—especially music—have seen at least one beloved favorite's youthful brilliance, with time, turn to embarrassing self-parody. What pop culture writer Hartley proposes is that their genius hasn't faded—it's just outstripped the public's ability to appreciate. Though it can feel a bit tongue-in-cheek, Hartley gently advances his "Advanced Genius Theory" with rigor, enthusiasm, and a game sense of (re-)discovery. Eschewing the snide critical distance that many fans take for granted, Hartley gives the artist in question the benefit of the doubt: if we accept that Lou Reed, for example, was a musical genius in his youth, are we even qualified to say he's lost his brilliance as he's gotten older? (Regarding George Lucas, Hartley submits: "The fact is, Jar Jar Binks is no better or worse than Chewbacca. Just ask your dad.") Defining his terms clearly ("Advanced" geniuses must have alienated their original fans and lost much of their popularity), he proceeds through key aspects and examples of his theory, including the ideas of "Overt" achievement and "Irritants," the "most advanced musicians of all time" (Bob Dylan and Lou Reed), and the Advanced success story of Steve Martin. Though it should ignite many debates over whether your current favorite is Overt or Advanced, it also shows that, in either case, there's more pleasure to be found when one keeps an open mind. (May)

CITIZEN YOU: Doing Your Part to Change the World
Jonathan Tisch with Karl Weber. Crown, $24 (288p) ISBN 9780307588487
A long-time philanthropist, Loews Hotels CEO Tisch (Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough) writes with contagious excitement about what he sees as a new era of civic engagement, bringing more opportunities than ever for individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations. From jet-set party promoter Scott Harrison, whose organization funds drinking water projects in 14 developing nations, to many other amazing people and organizations, Tisch documents a shift from volunteerism to active citizenship, less about alleviating symptoms and more about addressing root causes in problems like poverty, hunger, homelessness, and disease. In chapters like Social Entrepreneurship and Digital Citizenship, Tisch provides plentiful case studies of the model in action, showcasing the worldwide opportunities for and benefits of service. By the time a concluding list of 51 ways to "join the movement" rolls around, it's likely Tisch will have inspired readers to take him up on one of them. (May)

The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy
Alan I. Abramowitz. Yale Univ., $35 (208p) ISBN 9780300141627
While many Americans worry over the rise of partisan politics, Emory University political science professor Abramowitz (Voice of the People) finds reason to celebrate: the increasing ideological divide, he argues, has engaged more people while making the stakes in elections more clear, resulting in dramatically higher voter turnout (the 2008 election had the highest turnout "in more than four decades") and a populace that's more politically involved—whether campaigning directly, speaking with friends, contributing money or simply putting up yard signs. Statistics show that the "proportion of pure independents in the electorate has been declining since 1970"; party loyalty today is based not on social group identification (as in FDR's "New Deal Coalition") but ideological beliefs, creating more disciplined Republican and Democratic voting blocs. Abramowitz admits that this can become paralyzing in U.S. democracy (as opposed to parliamentary democracies) when the executive and legislative branches are controlled by different parties, making bipartisan cooperation not just unlikely, but politically damaging, and giving those few moderates who remain outsized importance. Abramowitz bolsters his thought-provoking conclusions with 67 tables and charts. (May)

★ DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education
Anya Kamenetz. Chelsea Green, $14.95 (208p) ISBN 9781603582346
Kamenetz, author of the alarming personal finance expose Generation Debt, drops another bombshell on the emerging cohort of young Americans, this time regarding higher education. While she mounts a standard (though illuminating) attack on spiraling tuition and the bottomless pit of student loans, Kamenetz also questions the fundamental assumptions of modern American education culture: the twin, contradictory ideas that college must be universally accessible, and that the smallest accepted denomination of educational currency is a bachelor's degree from a four-year, liberal arts institution. Kamenetz explores those ideas' fallacies as they play out daily in American classrooms, as well as students' myriad alternatives, from community colleges to online learning collectives. In great detail, Kamenetz explains the flawed economic models that underpin higher education, the faulty premises they maintain and the government's failures to address them. Kamenetz's approach is methodical and balanced, showcasing extensive research and thoughtfulness, while acknowledging one of the chief problems with reform: no one wants to experiment on their own child. This volume merits consideration from high school students and their parents, as well as educators preparing a generation for uncertain job prospects, an information economy still in its infancy, and the steady erosion of geographical barriers. (Apr.)

★ Giving It All Away: The Doris Buffet Story
Michael Zitz. Permanent, $28 (224p) ISBN 9781579622091
Doris Buffet, the 82-year-old sister of billionaire Warren Buffet, has a simple life mission: to give away her millions before she dies ("'My goal… is for the last check I write to bounce'"). The oldest of three, Doris was raised by an unstable, emotionally abusive mother and a frequently absent father (a businessman and four-term Congressman). Adulthood provided little relief: Doris dropped out of college dropout, embarked on four disastrous marriages, suffered from depression, and maintains stormy relationships with her own grown children. It wasn't until Doris's mother died in 1975 that Doris found her niche in "retail" philanthropy, giving away her inheritance ($100 million and counting) in large part directly to individuals who write to her Sunshine Lady Foundation seeking funds for any number of reasons: to afford a glass eye, start school, or simply furnish a new bedroom for a child. Though Warren declined to help Doris in lean times and holds some opposing views (especially regarding their mother), he speaks admiringly of her here. Zitz, a journalist befriended by Buffet, lets the dynamic philanthropist—who he describes as "a combination of Gandhi, Santa Claus and Lucille Ball"—tell the majority of her own story, making this more an oral history than a conventional biography, and a lively, inspirational read for fellow philanthropists and those who depend on them. Photos. (May)

Here's Looking at Euclid: A Surprising and Delightful Excursion through the Astonishing World of Math
Alex Bellos. Free Press, $25 (336p) ISBN 9781416588252
Unlike in a traditional classroom setting, Bellos's book aims to reintroduce readers into the world of math by wandering off the beaten algebraic path and investigating interesting topics. Bellos, a former international newspaper correspondent, jets off to exotic places to talk to people about mathematical concepts that catch his fancy. Readers learn the remarkable story of how Sudoku became an overnight international sensation only after its developer, a retired judge, worked for six years on a computer program to write the puzzles. In Japan he visits a club whose school-age members can almost instantaneously add up a string of three-digit numbers by visualizing an abacus in their heads. When in America, Bellos finds himself in Nevada, exploring Reno's casino scene with a discussion of why some gamblers win, but most don't. Adult math buffs will be familiar with most of Bellos's discoveries, but his enthusiasm and lively writing—along with helpful charts and graphics—should inspire younger readers to make their own journeys of mathematical exploration. (June)

THE LANGUAGE OF TRUST: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics
Michael Maslansky with Scott West, Gary DeMoss, and David Saylor. Prentice Hall, $25 (288p) ISBN 9780735204751
As CEO of his own communications consulting firm, research strategist Maslansky advises clients like Starbucks, Bank of America and Microsoft on successfully communicating with their customers, an effort he admits is far more challenging in the shaky economic aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse: as a nation, we are more distrustful than ever that the government and other major institutions are looking out for the interests of average citizens and customers. To combat rising skepticism, Maslansky's offers a step-by-step strategy for "credible communication" based in quantitative and qualitative research, including input from focus groups and surveys demonstrating people's responses to different forms of messaging, and real-world examples from a number of industries, including finance and politics (contrasting, for example, President Obama's campaign messages with then-Senator Hillary Clinton's). Key to his approach are four messaging principles—being personal, plainspoken, positive, and plausible—and the idea of listening to and prioritizing customers' interests. Along with executives from Van Kampen Investments and Consulting, Maslansky clearly and convincingly demonstrates that words do matter, almost as much as how they're said. (May)

Liz Claiborne: The Legend, the Woman
Art Ortenberg. Taylor Trade, $24.95 (310p) ISBN 9781589794948
Though it's more a tribute than a biography, this work from Liz Claiborne's husband and longtime business collaborator, Ortenberg, nevertheless provides a compelling behind-the-scenes portrait of the late, beloved fashion designer, focusing attention on the personal side of Claiborne's extraordinary business achievements (like becoming the first female owner of a Fortune 500 company). Born to privilege in 1929 Brussels (her family moved to America at the start of WWII), Claiborne learned responsibility from her parents and developed a powerful sense of ambition, allowing her to navigate the turbulent world of fashion; after decades of work, she would reach her pinnacle of international popularity in the logo-obsessed 1980s. While the first half of Ortenberg's paean makes an able account of the duo's workaday life, the second half is dominated by Claiborne's slow, painful struggle with ovarian cancer, an exhaustive (and exhausting) account of horrors suffered that could discourage all but the most committed readers. Color photos. (Apr.)

MORE MONEY THAN BRAINS: Why School Sucks, College Is Crap and Idiots Think They're Right
Laura Penny. McClelland & Stewart, $29.99 (256p) ISBN 9780771070488
In Penny's latest, she offers a hilarious defense of intellectualism, providing amusing insight into the importance of "nerds" and the fallacies—of thought and deed—of their oppressors. Penny opens with a healthy diatribe that sneers at the seemingly growing anti-higher education movement. As a university lecturer, Penny has the experience to counter the idea that the bachelor's degree has merely evolved into an expensive high school diploma or an irrational collection of hurdles to leap before securing a "real job." She also finds, in her own classrooms, that many students find literature, English studies, and history pointless topics; at the same time, illiteracy is rampant among high school graduates. Arguing with both the right and the left, Penny maintains that North America's educational blunders are the result of a Capitalistic worldview the sees education as a means to make money. As a result, extensive knowledge outside of science or business is perceived as basically pointless. Besides thorough research, Penny deploys charisma and provocative wit throughout, attacking politicians, big business, and the intellectually-receding status quo from every angle. (May)

NO WONDER MY PARENTS DRANK: Tales from a Stand-Up Dad
Jay Mohr. Simon & Schuster, $25 (288p) ISBN 9781439173213
Longtime comedian Mohr, formerly of Saturday Night Live and currently executive producer/host of NBC's Last Comic Standing, knows how to be funny, but was as clueless as anyone else when it came to parenthood: "one of the shitty parts" of parenthood is that "[t]here aren't any do-overs. You learn on the fly and do the best you can." Even so, Mohr makes it abundantly clear that, despite some mistakes, he has enjoyed every minute of being a parent to his son, Jackson, and he mines it here for comedy gold. Mohr's dead-on insights and sharp observations ring true regarding serious issues like spanking and step-parenting, as well as lighter subjects like his son's first haircut. Mohr also finds pointed humor in unhappy topics, like his attempt to have another child with his second wife; he's more than candid about his lousy swimmers. Mohr's stand-up sensibility is occasionally trumped by his love for his son, but even then he stays honest and engaging: "As he grows, my heart sinks. The less he needs me, the more I need him." (May)

The Pacific: Hell Was an Ocean Away
Hugh Ambrose. NAL, $26.95 (512p) ISBN 9780451230232
In this follow-up to his late father's Band of Brothers, which tracked a single army unit from Georgia to the battlefields of Europe, historian Ambrose turns his attention to the Pacific theater, following four individual marines and one Naval Aviator through their time in combat. The book opens with the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the capture of U.S. Forces on the Bataan peninsula and Corregidor Island. First-hand accounts from U.S. combatants describe vividly the horrific conditions of the island-hopping campaign and the ferocity of the fighting, but also the lengths to which young men would go to join up: subject Eugene B. Sledge purposely flunked out of college to enlist in the Marine Corps. Captain Austin Shofner recounts the brutality of his internment in a Japanese prison war camp, his daring escape, fighting alongside Philippine guerillas, and his eventual repatriation with the U.S. Marine Corps. Ambrose also reveals how, at the time, many marines expressed contempt for Gen. MacArthur, receiving accolades back home while they made halting, bloody progress across such islands as Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Doing for the war against Japan what Band of Brothers did for the war against Germany, Ambrose's history effectively immerses readers in the Good War's second front. (Mar.)

Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future
Robert Bryce. Public Affairs, $27.95 (416p) ISBN 9781586487898
Journalist Bryce, author of Gusher of Lies and managing editor of online industry newsmagazine Energy Tribune, is nothing if not polemical. While his swings are sometimes familiar ("The essence of protecting the environment can be distilled to a single phrase: Small is beautiful") and sometimes bizarre ("The world isn't using too much oil. It's not using enough"), the points he raises merit serious consideration. In this informed, opinionated state-of-the-industry overview, Bryce contends that energy policy must be based upon four imperatives: "power density, energy density, cost and scale." Wind and solar power, he says, fail those standards due to storage problems and the vagaries of weather; Denmark, the poster child for renewable energy, nevertheless imports hydroelectric power from Norway and Sweden, relies heavily upon North Sea oil and coal, and increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1 percent between 1990 and 2006. Pointing to the environmental cost of hydropower ("ruining habitats for aquatic life"), oil spills, and coal mining, Bryce makes a strong case for heavier reliance upon natural gas, a relatively clean and readily available carbon fuel, as a bridge technology: "The smartest, most forward-looking U.S. energy policy can be summed up in one acronym: ‘N2N'," for "natural gas to nuclear power." (May)

Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974-1980
Laura Kalman. Norton, $27.95 (473p) ISBN 9780393076387
The 1970s emerge as a time of drift and chaos that nonetheless fundamentally realigned America, in this cogent, though not quite groundbreaking, study of the Ford and Carter presidencies. UC-Santa Barbara historian Kalman (The Strange Career of Legal Liberalism) thoroughly surveys the cultural, economic, and geostrategic shocks Americans endured in the'70s: the rise of feminism and the gay rights movement; racial controversies over affirmative action and forced busing; defeat in Vietnam and anxieties about declining American power; deindustrialization, unemployment, soaring inflation, and oil shortages. As Democrats and moderate Republicans floundered, Kalman contends, a New Right comprising neoconservative hawks, evangelicals, supply-siders, tax rebels, and conservative populists capitalized on these crises to mount a compelling attack on the liberal consensus. To Kalman, these developments are epitomized by the perpetually vacillating Gerald Ford and, especially, Jimmy Carter (who she paints as a devious, yet unprincipled and ineffectual figure) whose weak leadership paved the way for the triumph of Ronald Reagan's forceful conservatism. 8 pages of photos. (June)

THE WAGON: And Other Stories from the City
Martin Prieb. Univ. of Chicago, $20 (176p) ISBN 9780226679808
In this reflective essay collection, writer and police officer Prieb recounts, at the age of 40, a life of honest work and literary aspiration in Chicago. The title refers to the police wagon that hauls bodies to the city morgue, a shift he worked as part of his rookie indoctrination, leading naturally to contemplation of death and life in the city. Verging on the self-conscious, Prieb nonetheless renders a variety of very personal city stories with gritty, hands-on honesty and poetic insight; Prieb explains to his partner how writers like Whitman and Melville used "their dark labor"—serving in field hospitals and on whaling ships—as a "means of seeing clearly," forcing them "to acknowledge things as they were." Ultimately, he argues, it's "[b]etter to be annihilated by something compelling than to be self-satisfied." Prieb's interaction with gang members is fascinating, and he showcases the softer side of a veteran cop in a lovely nursing home vignette. Appealing and strange, this is a fine meditation on life in and of the big city. (May)

★ WALKING HOME: A Journey in the Alaskan Wilderness
Lynn Schooler. Bloomsbury, $25 (272p) ISBN 9781596916739
Having lived in Alaska for 40 years, working as a commercial fisherman, shipwright, wilderness guide and wildlife photographer, Juneau resident Schooler (The Blue Bear) set out in 2007 on a solo trip through his adopted state, in part to get away from his failing marriage. Jettisoning the pontification and redundancy that can weigh down man-against-nature stories, Schooler's account boils over with adventure and exploration: there are rivers to cross, glaciers to maneuver, a trek through "boulder hell," eerie mountainscapes, and a panoply of spooky histories to recount. An escape of sorts, Schooler's journey proves a harrowing diversion, related with nail-biting immediacy: "the current heaving against my legs was getting stronger with every step… What at first might seem manageable becomes suddenly and startlingly on the verge of taking control, like the slow, easy coils of an anaconda becoming a muscular squeeze." A bear encounter is so frightening as to be exhausting, culminating in his decision to sleep outside with an escape route already carved out: "There was no way I was going to spend the night in the tent… wrapped in a sleeping bag like a burrito." Armchair adventurers will be captivated. (May)

Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia
Patricia Morrisroe. Random/Spiegel & Grau, $25 (288p) ISBN 9780385522243
Biographer and former magazine editor Morrisroe (Mapplethorpe: A Biography) considered herself a high-functioning, if acutely suffering, insomniac until she walked in front of a taxi one morning and was almost run down. Her subsequent, serious efforts to confront her sleep problems (which she envisions as a malevolent French aristrocrat played by John Malkovitch) included checking into a sleep laboratory (results: inconclusive) and trying antidepressants (she gets "weird psychedelic dreams"), but her condition seemed intractable. In her struggle, she traces the history of sleeplessness from Hippocrates to modern pharmaceuticals, including the infamous Halcion (known to cause "memory loss and violent behavior") and flavor-of-the-moment Ativan. Morrisroe makes the expected stops, including a convention (attendees introduce themselves with lists of sleep disorders: "Hi… I have narcolepsy, sleep apnea and rheumatoid arthritis. …and spend two years in a psychiatric hospital because I was misdiagnosed. What are your sleep issues?") and the increasingly profitable sleep industry (featuring $60,000 luxury mattresses and urban napping franchises); fortunately, Morrisroe's sparkling writing carries her through. That her journey ends happily, with her discovery of Qigong, means readers will be as encouraged as well as informed, with as much on overcoming insomnia as avoiding snake-oil salesmen. (May)

William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies
John Carey. Free Press, $32.50 (592p) ISBN 9781439187326
In this trenchant portrait, British critic Carey weaves masterful readings of Golding's work with intimate details about his life. Drawing on newly available materials—including Golding's never-before seen journal—Carey chronicles Golding's life from his relatively isolated and unhappy childhood, and his struggles as a young writer trapped in a schoolteacher position, to his winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. Such early praise elevated Golding's first novel to heights that made the novel became better known than the novelist. Despite praise, Lord of the Flies was not an immediate bestseller. Golding's subsequent novels (among them The Inheritors and Pincher Martin) fared little better with critics and booksellers—until 1958, when literary critic Frank Kermode praised Pincher Martin as the work of a philosophical novelist whose great theme was the Fall of Man. As a writer-in-residence at Hollins College in America, Golding had finally earned enough success to be published in paperback. In spite of his glory, Golding remained sensitive throughout his life, battling fears of being alone in the dark, the supernatural, insects, and writing (as Carey elegantly enunciates, Golding's greatest fear was of not writing; he continued writing to postpone the terror of having nothing more to write). (June)


HOME COOKING WITH JAPAN'S FIRST LADY: Family Dishes from the Hatoyama Kitchen
Miyuki Hatoyama, foreword by Yukio Hatoyama. Kodansha, $19.95 (104p) ISBN 9784770031310
Readers expecting a collection of quaint, traditional Japanese dishes from Hatoyama, wife of Japan's Prime Minister (who provides a foreword), will be pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality in this slim collection of recipes originally prepared for the Hatoyamas' friends and family. Over the course of four sections (family favorites, comfort food, fast appetizers and "my best recipes"), Hatoyama provides a number of toothsome surprises; expected dishes like Yellowtail Shabu-Shabu are the exception rather than the rule, exemplified in creative, eclectic fare like Tuna Carpaccio, Breaded Lamb Chops, Whisky-battered Seafood, Baked Napa Cabbage en Cocotte, and a simple Prosciutto and Cream Cheese Salad. Though Hatoyama's instructions are clear and easy to follow, readers may encounter some frustration: one recipe calls for an oven heated to the odd temperature of 390ºF (unobtainable without digital temperature controls), and a recipe for Roasted Ham and Pineapple instructs cooks to preheat the oven to 325ºF, then "increase the oven temperature to 220ºF." If they can overlook the occasional error, the only complaint from fans of eclectic Asian flavors will be the book's brevity. (June)

MAGNETIC PARTNERS: Save Your Relationship by Discovering That What Pulled You Together Is Now Pushing You Apart
Stephen J. Betchen. Free Press, $25 (256p) ISBN 9781439100202
Even if relationship problems seem, on the surface, to be about in-laws, money, or sex, according to author and licensed therapist Betchen (who maintains a marriage and family counseling practice in Cherry Hill, N.J.), the true causes are "subconscious inner conflicts" rooted in a person's upbringing. Although conflict theory is at the core of most psychoanalytic treatment methods, it hadn't been widely used in treating couples; Betchen applied it to his own patients, however, and found much success. Based in others' academic research and his own professional experience, Betchen—a contributor to the Ladies Home Journal's popular "Can This Marriage Be Saved" column—provides accessible and reliable case studies, as well as cogent anecdotal evidence, to explore the seven most common "master conflicts," including power vs. passivity, closeness vs. distance and control vs. chaos, demonstrating how they manifest in relationships. More importantly, he provides ways for couples to unlock these conflicts, heal their psychological wounds, and move forward in their relationships. (May)