Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, about a WWII hero who survived being shot down and drifting on a life raft in the open ocean, only to endure two years in a brutal Japanese POW camp, is poised to be next week’s biggest nonfiction release. As we wrote earlier, it’s a People Pick, was featured on the cover of USA Today‘s “Life” section, and is excerpted in the December issue of Vanity Fair. Hillenbrand’s appearances next week include the Today Show and NPR.
It also made PW and the Amazon Editors Top Ten lists for 2010. Today’s Wall Street Journal profiles the subject of the book, Louis Zamperini, and quotes a buyer for B&N, “We’re positioning it as the big book for the holidays.”
The one naysayer so far is Entertainment Weekly which gives the book a “B”:
Hillenbrand is a better writer than a lot of historians and biographers. At times her prose even veers toward the poetic. But… she gives this story a chronological structure that frankly gets a little plodding…. Also, as inspiring as Zamperini’s tale is, his ordeal isn’t exactly a joy to experience on the page.
Nevertheless, the book is rising on Amazon, reaching #11 this morning (making it the fifth highest nonfiction title on the list). We’ll see how it fares with word of mouth after its release.
Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda (HarperCollins) is a biography by the veteran publisher. PW says “Korda perhaps exaggerates the novelty and significance of Lawrence’s military exploits and makes an unconvincing stab at framing him in Joseph Campbell-inspired heroic archetypes. Still, Korda’s vivid portrait of Lawrence and his warring impulses captures the brilliance and charisma of this fascinating figure.”
My Passion for Design by Barbra Streisand (Viking) is an illustrated tour of the great star’s homes and art collections – and her first book. Streisand will appear for a full hour on the Oprah Winfrey Show on November 16.
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama (Knopf Books for Young Readers) explores the characteristics of 13 important figures in American history through a letter to the President’s daughters.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner) chronicles the history of cancer, cancer treatments and new research into the disease. Reviewing the book in the New York Times, yesterday, Janet Maslin objects that it is “transparently glib” to call the book a “biography,” but that, “With objectives so vast, and with such a beautiful title, The Emperor of All Maladies is poised to attract a serious and substantial readership.” While the tone of the review is generally negative, it’s clear that Maslin is fascinated by much of it, underscoring her assessment that it will attract readers.
Decoded by Jay-Z (Spiegel & Grau) is part memoir, part tribute to the genre of hip-hop by the superstar. Entertainment Weekly gives it an A-: “The memoir’s chief theme is Jay-Z’s obsession with words…. He situates his work in the English canon, comparing his chosen form to the sonnet and crediting favorite authors (”Shout-out to Alfred, Lord Tennyson”). After reading Decoded, you won’t doubt for a second that he deserves the same level of respect as any of those great scribes.”