Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

The Generation Myth: Why When You’re Born Matters Less than You Think

Bobby Duffy. Basic, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5416-2031-5

Duffy (The Perils of Perception), a professor of public policy at King’s College, London, contends in this thought-provoking study that generational identities are more fluid than widely believed. Debunking the idea that Baby Boomers, Millennials, and other age groups are on the verge of a “generational war,” Duffy shows that age is just one of many social, economic, and cultural factors that help shape a person’s life and outlook. He contends that the Covid-19 pandemic revealed a surprising “level of solidarity” between generations, and cites evidence that “large proportions of all age groups, including the young, remain unconvinced” about the threat of climate change. Duffy also analyzes how economic recessions affect generational well-being, documents the myriad causes of declining birth and marriage rates among millennials and Gen Z, and contends that gaps between younger and older people’s “attitudes on race, gender, and sexuality” aren’t “as large or unusual as they are often portrayed.” Marshalling copious statistical evidence to back up his claims, Duffy makes a persuasive case that resisting “stereotypes and lazy thinking” about old vs. young can help foster the “intergenerational will” to tackle such existential threats as climate change and economic inequality. Readers will be inspired by this myth-busting survey. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece

Kevin Birmingham. Penguin Press, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-1-59420-630-6

Literary critic Birmingham (The Most Dangerous Book) analyzes in this erudite yet tangled study how Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment “came to be what it is.” He delves deep into Dostoyevsky’s money troubles and reckless gambling, his 1849 arrest and mock-execution for belonging to a revolutionary political group, his imprisonment in a Siberian labor camp, and his affair with nihilist and short story writer Polina Suslova. Birmingham also discusses how Czar Alexander II’s liberalization efforts, which included the emancipation of the serfs, ground to a halt after his attempted assassination in 1866, and traces the influence of Max Stirner’s philosophy of egoism on Dostoyevsky. Selections from Dostoyevsky’s notebooks shed light on his search for the novel’s narrative voice and the development of the character of Raskolnikov, whom Birmingham contends was inspired by Pierre-François Lacenaire, a French poet and dandy executed for murdering a banker and his mother in the 1830s. Though Dostoyevsky was clearly intrigued by the case, Birmingham overstates his claim that Lacenaire was the inspiration for Raskolnikov, and the sections devoted to the French murderer feel more like a sideshow than the main event. This ambitious survey covers a lot of territory without breaking much new ground. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Long Players: Writers on the Albums That Shaped Them

Tom Gatti. Bloomsbury, $22 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5266-2578-6

“We are certainly not ready to say goodbye to the album,” suggests New Statesman editor Gatti in this impassioned collection of writers’ love letters to the music that changed them. While the convenience of streaming has transformed the way songs are listened to, Gatti argues that “listeners are returning to the album as an unbroken artwork... to be played from start to finish without interruption.” For some writers, certain albums have been life-changing watersheds: by “embracing both happiness and catastrophe,” Marlon James writes, Björk’s Post helped him reconcile his identity and faith. Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star might have been a one-time collaboration, but to Teju Cole its “pure poetry... is permanently fresh and unflaggingly true.” In an essay on David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, Neil Gaiman posits that sometimes there is no rationale behind why some albums resonate more than others. In his case, Bowie’s album was his favorite “because it was mine.” From Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 to hearing the Beatles’ Revolver for the first time, the revelations discussed brilliantly convey the power music has to shape individual lives. Music lovers will want to put this on repeat. Agent: Antony Harwood, Antony Harwood Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin

C.M. Kushins. Hachette, $31 (480p) ISBN 978-0-306846-68-7

Journalist Kushins (Nothing’s Bad Luck) delivers a less-than-flattering portrait of one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, a musician whose legacy was marred by his violent reputation. He traces the tragic arc of John Bonham’s brief life, from his childhood in Worcestershire, England, to his premature death after a lengthy struggle with alcoholism. Bonham started playing drums at age five and joined his first band as a teenager. His skills attracted the attention of singer Robert Plant, who recruited Bonham into the New Yardbirds, later renamed Led Zeppelin, in 1968. Led Zeppelin went on to become one of the biggest bands in the world, and Bonham was regarded a superior arranger of music, “as one half of Led Zepplin’s powerhouse rhythm section.” But he drank excessively, threatened reporters, assaulted women, and even once pointed a gun at Mick Jagger (a frightening episode Bonham later dismissed as a joke). In 1980, after another gargantuan intake of booze, Bonham was found dead in the English home of Led Zeppelin guitar player Jimmy Page. While it may be hard to look away from, Kushins’s narrative, relying mainly on secondary sources, doesn’t provide any genuine insights into its troubled lead. Zeppelin die-hards may find this intriguing, but it certainly won’t gain the legend any admirers. Agent: William Clark, William Clark Assoc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol

Mallory O’Meara. Hanover Square, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-335-28240-8

“Who decided that drinking was a gendered act?” muses screenwriter O’Meara (The Lady from the Black Lagoon) in this thorough, and thoroughly entertaining, history. Using detailed portraits of 15 women—“all of [whom]... illuminate different facets of what it was like to drink through the ages for a woman who wanted to have a drink”—she dismantles false tropes around femininity with panache. Her subjects range from the 12th-century Benedictine mother superior who realized hops could keep beer fresh, to Catherine the Great, who convinced soldiers to overthrow her husband by promising them vodka. Throughout, O’Meara uses what might seem lighthearted trivia to build spot-on social critique: “The double standard that drinking women face is deeply rooted in male anxieties about... women acting like people, not property.” Elegantly woven into each cheeky chapter is rigorous historical context; a profile of the 19th-century widow who popularized Champagne, for instance, also educates readers on cocktail culture in the United States before dovetailing with the story of Japanese sake revolutionary Tatsu’uma Kiyo. O’Meara glides easily from the 17th-century pulquerias of Mexico to the feminine “fern bars” of the 1970s, making sure to not to forget the queen of girly drinks: the Cosmopolitan. Provoking both thought and laughter, this serves as bracing refreshment from a master textual mixologist. Agent: Brady McReynolds, JABberwocky Literary Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Underwater Wild: My Octopus Teacher’s Extraordinary World

Craig Foster and Ross Frylinck. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $50 (336p) ISBN 978-0-358-66475-8

Divers Foster and Frylinck bring the waters that inspired Foster’s Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher to the page in this fascinating tour of the Great African Sea Forest near Cape Town. Primarily through captions to his photos, Foster writes of rediscovering his childhood passion for the creatures of the sea, and of his friendship with Frylinck as they dove together, wet-suit-free, to relearn “our original dance with the wild.” Frylinck studied animal tracking under Foster and relates how swept up in ocean life his teacher was (in particular when Foster bemoans a missed encounter with a great white shark), tracing how their friendship grew amid dives featuring frigid temperatures, crackling winds, and treacherous currents. Jane Goodall’s introduction offers the keystone sentiment—“The barriers between humans and animals are just illusion”—though Foster’s photographic essays (of cuttlefish, spotted gully sharks, pyjama catsharks, and red roman reef fish) and Frylinck’s diaristic prose are equally as illusory. The two story modes mesh together well for the most part, though the perspective shifts can feel jumpy at times. Still, Foster and Frylinck’s affectingly personal and delicate storytelling will sit deep with naturalists of the ocean and land alike. Agent: Rachel Neumann, Idea Architects. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Now Comes Good Sailing: Writers Reflect on Henry David Thoreau

Edited by Andrew Blauner. Princeton Univ, $24.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-691-21522-8

Literary agent Blauner (In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs) brings together in this dynamic collection 27 essays on the life of Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) and his most famous work, Walden; or, Life in the Woods. The contributors address what about Thoreau’s life and writing inspired them, and what he has to say to readers today. In “My Guidebook to Japan,” Pico Iyer writes that Thoreau’s essays taught him how to appreciate Kyoto, Japan, “by learning to look at everything around me.” Alan Lightman suggests in “To a Slower Life” that the naturalist’s work is a reminder to get back to the beauty of wasting time, while Sherry Turkle writes in “The Year of Not Living Thickly” that technology has made people fearful of the solitude that was so important to Thoreau. In “ ‘The Record of My Love’: Thoreau and the Art of Science,” Michelle Nijhuis honors the author’s close-observation skills. Taken together, the pieces make a convincing case that Thoreau’s work is ever-relevant and deserving of continued wide readership: “Even you, paltry worried creature of the twenty-first century—reach through the general then into particular and then into the stuff of self,” urges Lauren Groff. Thoreau fans will be delighted. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Sorry Not Sorry

Alyssa Milano. Dutton, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-59318-329-8

Actor Milano (Safe at Home) puts her political activism center stage in these resonant and hopeful essays that grapple with systemic racism, abortion rights, #MeToo, and living through the pandemic. Milano wryly notes that readers expecting backstage gossip won’t find it. Instead, the 32 essays, she writes, offer a “snapshot of a year in the life of an activist as everything we knew about the political world and the physical world seemed to devolve around us.” In “Progressive or Performer” she decries “performative activism” that opts for being “right” rather than being “effective,” and “The Imperfect Ally” sees her reflecting on accepting mistakes: “You have to be okay with getting it wrong, hearing that you got it wrong, and committing to do it better.” “Defund the Police” dispels beliefs that the concept means “eliminate law enforcement” (she also explains to “trolls” why she herself called 911), while in “A Conversation” she imagines listening sympathetically to a woman protesting against abortion rights outside a Planned Parenthood location. Milano’s writing is compassionate, direct, and sincere. Her fans are in for a treat. Agent: Mollie Glick, Creative Artists Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Rigged Justice: How the College Admissions Scandal Ruined an Innocent Man’s Life

John Vandemoer. Harper One, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-302010-8

In this gripping debut, former Stanford University sailing coach Vandemoer makes a strong case for his innocence in the notorious “Operation Varsity Blues” pay-for-play college admissions scandal. While coaches at other schools accepted large payments for designating unqualified students as athletic recruits, Vandemoer claims he didn’t take one penny for himself—instead, he believed the checks flowing into Stanford’s coffers from Varsity Blues plot mastermind Rick Singer were legitimate donations to the university, allegedly confirmed by Stanford’s athletic director Bernard Muir. Despite that, when Vandemoer’s name came up in connection with the FBI’s investigation of Varsity Blues, Stanford fired him and evicted him, his wife, and their two small children from Stanford housing and childcare. While the author notes that his lawyer advised him that the court would go easier on him if he pleaded guilty (“This was how the system worked: innocence didn’t matter”), he proclaims his guiltlessness in powerful prose—which the judge appeared to have believed by his sentencing of Vandemoer to only probation after he took a plea deal. Vandemoer’s earnestness is apparent throughout his tale of intrigue and ruination, making it easy to empathize with his predicament and root for him to successfully rebuild his life. Expertly told, this powerful story will have readers riveted. Agent: Deborah Grosvenor, Grosvenor Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
A Season in the Sun: The Inside Story of Bruce Arians, Tom Brady, and the Making of a Champion

Lars Anderson. Morrow, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-316020-0

Sportswriter Anderson (Chasing the Bear) delivers a spirited account of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ historic Super Bowl–winning 2020 season. He opens with the team’s dogged and successful pursuit to sign Tom Brady as a free agent, offering him “a new challenge” in his illustrious career to carry a team “that hadn’t been to the playoffs in thirteen years” to victory. As Anderson moves through the season itself, his skills as a sportswriter shine, especially in recounting Brady’s determination to work with Bucs coach Bruce Arians—in the face of unforeseeable obstacles brought by the Covid-19 pandemic—to turn the middling team around. Anderson ably paints Brady as a 21st-century example of a player coach—recalling how the 43-year-old athlete rarely slept and was always “the first player in the building.” Woven in are players’ accounts of Brady’s outsize impact, including lighthearted moments, such as one former teammate’s recollection of a “prank war” in which Brady urinated on his practice jersey. Anderson closes with memorable play-by-plays of the team’s defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV (which rendered Brady the “oldest starting quarterback” to win a Superbowl MVP award), and, fittingly, scenes of Arians and Brady preparing for the next season. Football fanatics will devour this page-turner. Agent: Michael J. Fetchko, ISM. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Forgot Password

Premium online access is only available to PW subscribers. If you have an active subscription and need to set up or change your password, please click here.

New to PW? To set up immediate access, click here.

NOTE: If you had a previous PW subscription, click here to reactivate your immediate access. PW site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. If working at an office location and you are not "logged in", simply close and relaunch your preferred browser. For off-site access, click here. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options, please email Mike Popalardo at: mike@nextstepsmarketing.com.

To subscribe: click here.