Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

Cook and Tell

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

9781101885710_dcf1eAlton Brown is still remembered by fans for Good Eats, a cult hit from the early days of the Food Network, currently available for binge watching on Netflix. Now best known for the culinary contest show, Cutthroat Kitchen, he has just published his eighth book, Alton Brown: EveryDayCook PRH/Ballantine Books).

The tag on the cover, “This time, it’s personal,” is proving a focus for media coverage. Written after his divorce from his second wife, the NYT calls it “a midlife-crisis book.”  In a profile in the WSJ Brown provides a short, sorrowful, summary of his childhood and career.

Described by the NYT as “an eclectic and appealing collection of 70 recipes in Mr. Brown’s regular rotation and another 30 he created to bring the book to a respectable size,” it is on the first two previews of best cookbooks of season, leading the NYT‘s list and also one of  People‘s “25 New Fall Cookbooks That Deserve a Spot in Your Kitchen”

In systems we checked, holds are topping 10:1 ratios where libraries have bought very low and are exceeding orders where libraries bought multiple copies.

Trending: Time Travel

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

9780307908797_9e581“The shelves of every library in the world brim with time machines. Step into one, and off you go.”

So says Anthony Doerr in his engaging and story-filled NYT‘s Sunday Book Review (online now, in print Oct. 2) of James Gleick’s Time Travel: A History (PRH/Pantheon; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample).

Fittingly for a book that considers the concept of time travel, including how it has been imagined and used in literature, Doerr begins his review by sharing his favorite time travel stories (a key one is Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder”) and then moves on to Gleick’s history, calling it,

“a fascinating mash-up of philosophy, literary criticism, physics and cultural observation. It’s witty (“Regret is the time traveler’s energy bar”), pithy (“What is time? Things change, and time is how we keep track”) and regularly manages to twist its reader’s mind into … Gordian knots … he employs time travel to initiate engrossing discussions of causation, fatalism, predestination and even consciousness itself.”

Time is a subject bound to be at the forefront this fall. In addition to Gleick’s book there is Now: The Physics of Time, Richard A. Muller (Norton) and a surprising number of TV shows on the subject. So many that it has lead the WSJ to call time a “hot concept” for the upcoming season, writing, “Television networks are consumed with time-shifting in every sense.”

Shows about time travel include Frequency, Legends of Tomorrow, Making HistoryTimeless and Time After Time (adapted from the 1979 novel by Karl Alexander).

Not exactly time travel, more deja vu,  are the many remakes and spin-offs of older shows. WSJ lists “Taken (a prequel to the Liam Neeson revenge movies) and Emerald City (billed as an edgier Wizard of Oz fantasy). Then there are the franchise expansions, with spin-off The Blacklist: Redemption and a fourth (fourth!) addition to the Chicago line of dramas from Dick Wolf (Chicago Justice) … Lethal Weapon (Fox), and Training Day (CBS) … Fox’s Prison Break sequel and a series based on 43-year-old horror classic The ExorcistMacGyver.”

All this led Jimmy Kimmel, WSJ reports, to say: “All your favorite VHS tapes are now becoming shows.” It leads Glamour magazine to point out “The past is a franchise.”

Remembering Maya Angelou

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Coming to theaters Oct. 14, is a documentary about Maya Angelou, titled And Still I Rise.

Deadline reports, “From her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her swinging soirees with Malcolm X in Ghana to her inaugural speech for President Bill Clinton, we are given special access to interviews with Dr. Angelou whose indelible charm and quick wit make it easy to love her.”

The trailer was released last week:

Prepping for Influence

Monday, September 26th, 2016

9781501109799_b4065The WSJ describes Robert Cialdini as “a pre-eminent social psychologist whose classic book Influence published in 1984, amply deserves its continued fame.”

In a new book, the author advances the topic, this time focused on what to do before trying to exert influence, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (S&S; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample).

It is getting coverage in the business press by publications such as Forbes, and reaching broader markets via PBS’s News Hour. (see below).

In a recent report, Cialdini tells the News Hour’s Paul Solman that “pre-suasion” is:

“the practice of getting people sympathetic to your message before they experience it. It’s the ability to cause people to have something at the top of their consciousness that makes them receptive to your message that’s yet to come … It is what you say immediately before you deliver your message that leverages your success tremendously.”

Earlier this month, the WSJ ran a summary of his findings and, in a review, notes, “As you read, you will realize that the old aphorism is backward: You can get a horse to drink, but only if you lead him to the water.”

Library orders are light, with high holds ratios.

Churchill Comes of Age

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

9780385535731_c653bA string of high profile coverage has brought attention and sales to Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Candice Millard (PRH/Doubleday; RH Audio/BOT), causing the book to leap to #61 on Amazon’s sales rankings.

The NYT‘s Jennifer Senior, in a review that appeared in the paper yesterday, says the book’s mix of biography, history, war, and adventure is “as involving as a popcorn thriller.”

Summarizing Millard’s career, Senior continues “Over the years Millard has made a stylish niche for herself, zooming in on a brief, pivotal chapter in the life of a historical figure and turning it into a legitimate feature-length production.”

Other reviews similarly emphasize the author’s ability to make history come alive, USA Today calls it a “a slam-bang study of Churchill’s wit and wile as he navigates the Boer War like some porto-james Bond” and The Washington Post cites her formidable storytelling skills,

In addition, the Wall Street Journal interviews the author about her “distinctive approach to writing about historical giants” by focusing “tightly on a forgotten yet riveting episode in an extremely well-documented life.”

Food Savvy

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

9780871406804_675a7Rising on Amazon’s sales rankings is Ten Restaurants That Changed America, Paul Freedman (Norton/Liveright; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), moving from #303 to just outside the Top 100.

The jump is a result of media attention including features by NPR’s All Things Considered, The New York Times (with a separate list of the ten, a magnet for foodies to test their knowledge), and The New Yorker.

Yale professor Paul Freedman explores how the history of where we choose to eat reflects the history of America, what restaurants mean to society, and how they shape culture.

While some other of the eateries Freedman cites are now closed, Tasting Table offers an overview of how Freeman’s work connects to modern dining.

Some libraries we checked have yet to order the book while others are showing multiple holds on a modest number of copies.


Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

9780761169086_ff360A gazetteer to the “the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious” places of the planet, from a 40-year old sound instillation still humming away in Times Square to a tree in South Africa with a pub inside, is rising on Amazon’s sales rankings and in holds as a result of a round of media attention.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton (Workman; OverDrive Sample) is drawn from the website which has been described as “National Geographic for millennials.”

One of the authors provides a tour of Manhattan’s astounding places for NPR’s All Things Considered, taking host Ari Shapiro on a path through of the city’s little known wonders such as an apartment filled with earth and an elegant, but abandoned, subway station.

The coverage helped launch the atlas into Amazon’s top 10 sellers.

Public radio is big on the book. In an earlier story for NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos & Culture, a blog about science and culture, an essayist writes,

“The human brain seems to love lists and, at its core, Atlas Obscura is a text-rich, prettily illustrated, brick of a list. It invites us to compose fantasy travel lists of our own, or seek places we’ve already traveled to that have made the cut … Fair warning: It’s addictive.”

Back in 2015, PRI’s The Takeaway featured the website’s creation of a detailed literary map of road trips across America and discusses the ways different authors over time have described the same landscapes.

While the site has been running for a couple of years, it is just now gaining mainstream attention. A recent article in the Washingtonian provides background on the site and its mission, “to delight you, then get you off your couch and out into the world.”

Despite its 100,000 copy initial printing and enthusiastic prepub reviews from LJ and Booklist, libraries have bought it very modestly or not at all and holds are soaring on the few copies purchased.


Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

9781400052172_1e7da Filming begins in Baltimore this week on the Oprah Winfrey vehicle, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, based on Rebecca Skloot’s book of the same title. The book is still on the NYT Nonfiction Paperback list after 184 weeks, following over a year on the hardcover list.

The events in the book took place in Baltimore and the film will include sites around the John Hopkins hospital, the location where Lacks’s cells were taken without her knowledge and used to create the cell line used by scientist in such medical advances as the polio vaccine.

Oprah is playing Deborah Lacks in the HBO production, Henrietta’s daughter and the character through whom the story is told in the book.

WJZ, the station where Oprah once worked as a news anchor, reports on the upcoming locations, interviewing residents, one of which says “It’s a story that needs to be told. Needs to be told, I think in the context of things that are still happening today, that still violate peoples rights, and people’s property and their own being.”

Lacks’s legacy is extending beyond the scientific uses of her cells. In Vancouver, WA a special school named in her honor is training students who want to be medical researchers, the Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School. The president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle recently visited the school and said that Lacks’s “legacy is not a cell line she left us … Her legacy is the people like you who train here … Looking ahead, I can’t imagine what you might go on to do.”


Monday, September 19th, 2016

9781501141515_b00fcBruce Springsteen was interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning in a is wide-ranging conversation that opens with Anthony Mason asking about his drive and motivation. Springsteen replies:

“I believe every artist had someone who told them that they weren’t worth dirt and someone who told them that they were the second coming of the baby Jesus, and they believed ‘em both … that’s the fuel that starts the fire.”

Of his breakthrough song, “Born To Run,” Springsteen says he “was trying to make the greatest record you’d ever heard. The record that after you heard it, you didn’t have to hear another record …”

Beyond music, the two talk about important relationships in Springsteen’s life, his wife, father, and Clarence Clemons, the iconic sax player of the E Street Band who died in 2011. Springsteen writes, “Losing Clarence was like losing the rain.”

Of his father he says, “I felt I hadn’t been completely fair to him in my music … I think I left an image of him as sort of this very domineering character, which he could be at different times. And he could be frightening. But he was also much, much more. He had a much more complicated life.”

“I’m still in love with playing,” he says at the conversation’s end, “And my attitude at this point in my life is, this is what I love to do. I wanna do as much of it as I can.”

His memoir, Born to Run (S&S; S&S Audio) will be published on Sept. 27. As we noted earlier, the book is timed to a new companion album release, Chapter & Verse. According to Springsteen’s website, the musician picked the songs on the album “to reflect the themes and sections” of his memoir.

Also part of the feature is a 45 image photo gallery.

A full video has not yet been released, below is an excerpt about writing the memoir:

Publishing Insider

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

9780374279929_5aef8Avid Reader: A Life, Robert Gottlieb (Macmillan/FSG; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) is getting attention in the book press. No surprise. What book review editor wouldn’t be interested in him?

He published, perhaps most famously, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, but the list of who he has worked with is as long as it is impressive, including Nora Ephron, Diana Vreeland, Antonia Fraser, Robert K. Massie, Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Cheever, Salman Rushdie, John Gardner, Len Deighton, Ray Bradbury, John Lennon, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan (see the Paris Review‘s lengthy overview).

It’s just the thing for anyone interested in an insider’s account of the publishing world. “Not since Max Perkins worked with Hemingway and Fitzgerald has there been a more admired editor than Robert Gottlieb,” writes Michael Dirda in his Washington Post review quoting Gottlieb as defining the publisher’s role as “essentially the act of making public one’s own enthusiasm.”

The New York Times review points out those enthusiasms were varied, “he seemed to have a hand in everything that mattered” as he worked at Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker.

The story goes on to call his memoir one of “grace and guile and a sometimes-barbed wit … an indispensable work of American publishing history, thick with instruction and soul and gossip of the higher sort,” even if it does have, as they say, “a self-congratulatory ring” about it.

The New Republic examines, in part, Gottlieb’s “lack of snobbery about popular fiction,” writing that after years of working with “Michael Crichton, John Le Carré, and other category masters [Gottlieb knew] that bestselling fiction writers are, in essence, their own genre”:

“Detective novels are a genre, but so is Agatha Christie. Spy novels are a genre, but so is John Le Carré. And something I’ve always found heartening is that the reading public usually gets it right. Yes, there are inferior genre writers who become highly popular, but on the whole the most popular ones are the ones who are the best at what they do.”

He tested this theory on romance novels, reading Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, and Sandra Brown, and decided that Roberts, “by far the biggest seller of them all, was by far the best writer of them all.” Gottlieb puts his faith in readers, saying, “the public knows and responds accordingly with continued sales.”

That is why, the article continues:

“sixty years into a publishing life, Gottlieb is equipped to chronicle how the book business became more commercial and consolidated, even as the focus remained on the author. Much as we want to think of book publishing as a lofty ideal, it is hardly that, as any field with profit margins and budgets must be. But Gottlieb, as both editor and publisher, recognized you could make money, even a little, off books about dance, while making obvious blockbusters by Bill Clinton or Nora Ephron or Michael Crichton all the smarter.”

The Social Network of Trees

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

9781771642484_d154bSoaring up the Amazon sales rankings is The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World, Peter Wohlleben (PGW/Perseus/Greystone Books; OverDrive Sample) written by a German forester about the remarkable ways trees communicate and care for each other, via an “electrically alive fungal-root network now known as the Wood Wide Web.”

The book is well within Amazon’s Top 50, jumping from #246 to #44 and several libraries are showing strong holds. The rise coincides with a recent flurry of news stories and an appearance on NPR’s On Point yesterday.

This is not the first time the book has leaped on Amazon, as we wrote in January, on the strength of an article in the New York Times, the title initially reached the lofty heights of Amazon sales rankings at #22.

A surprise best seller in Germany, it is delighting readers across Europe and Canada and looks poised to also do well in the US, swept along not just by what McLean’s calls its “utterly charming” affect but by recent interests in new discoveries of just how smart living creatures are, such as Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? and Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds.

Check your holds, some locations are showing spikes as high as 10:1.

For those interested in the science, there is a TED Talk on the subject, given by another researcher in the field.

USA TODAY Takes Down O’Reilly

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

9781627790628_5824fYou don’t expect snark from USA Today, which makes their headline, “It’s time to stop O’Reilly’s literary ‘Killing’ spree” particularly amusing.

The review about the latest book in his series, Killing the Rising Sun (Macmillan/Holt; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) begins, “Please, Bill O’Reilly, stop the killing.”

The book is granted 2 of 4 stars, low for USA Today, but after reading the review, you wonder why the reviewer bothered to give it any stars.

We doubt that O’Reilly cares. The book, which was released today, is currently at #1 on Amazon sales rankings and libraries are showing holds queues.

The Cat Whisperer

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

9780465050901_6e8c1There is a way to teach your cat that the carrier is a safe place.

According to Sarah Ellis, co-author with John Bradshaw of The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat,  (Perseus/Basic Books; OverDrive Sample), the key is an understanding of feline psychology.

The author was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday by Terry Gross. Clearly, the subject connected with many listeners. The book is on the rise on Amazon’s sales rankings hitting #28 today.

The entire interview is a must-listen for cat lovers but a highlight is the discussion of the essential nature of cats. Rather than imprinting on humans as a point of safety the way dogs do, cats find safety in place, their home territory that they have marked with scent and know very well.

Taking a cue from that, rather than bringing out the carrier only when it’s time to go the the vet, owners should keep the carrier out of the closet, treating it like a piece of furniture, allowing the cat to mark it, become used to it, and to associate it with their safe home environment.

The UFO Super Highway

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

9781501135521_6db5eRising on Amazon’s sales rankings is The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America’s UFO Highway, by Ben Mezrich (S&S/Atria; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample). Moving from #240 to within the top 100 best sellers, the jump is a result of  the author’s appearance on CBS This Morning.

Mezrich, known for his juicy, edgy, social science books such as Bringing Down the House (adapted as the 2008 movie 21) and The Accidental Billionaires (adapted as the 2010 movie The Social Network) turns away from accounts of college kids making money to focus his attention on a very different type of speculation, whether extraterrestrials exist and the story of a real life alien hunter.

In the interview with CBS, Mezrich says he went into the project as a non-believer, but in the course of investigating the tales of unexplained happenings along what is essential the UFO Highway (a 3,000 mile strip across the middle of the country), he now knows “that at least once something happened that still has not been explained” and that “the impediments to believing have dissapeared.”

He says there is a “enormous amount of evidence” and he hopes readers will consider it.

Like his previous books, this one  is already in the process of being adapted into a movie.

Read the Bern

Friday, September 9th, 2016

9781250132925_636deNot to be outdone by Hillary or Trump, Bernie Sanders is also publishing a book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In (Macmillan/Thomas Dunne Books, Nov. 15, 2016).

To be published the week after the election, the book recounts Sanders’ primary fight and offers a call to arms to continue his revolution.

The book title is the same as Sanders’s new political group. Intended to continue the movement he began during the primary, the NYT says it is “focused on addressing economic inequality and taking on special interests.”

Macmillan is promoting the book with the hashtag #readtheburn.