Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

A Reading Life Revealed

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Pamela Paul who oversees all of the New York Times book coverageincluding the Book Review, was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, ostensibly to talk about her new book My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues (Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co.; OverDrive Sample), but most of the interview focused on her day job.

Explaining the differences between reviews in the daily paper and the Sunday Book Review, she says that the daily reviews begin with the critic, who chooses which books to review. For the Book Review, the editors choose the books, but more importantly who will review them. Trying to imagine who New York Times readers would most want to read on a particular book is the  most creative and “delicious” part of the process, she says, resulting in pairings such as Bill Clinton on Bob Caro‘s fourth book on LBJ, or Michael Lewis on former Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s memoir.

As to her own book, it’s based on Paul’s reading diary which she dubbed “Bob,” or “Book of Books.” What titles shaped the most powerful book review editor in the country? A large diet of Nancy Drews and frequent trips to the library to make up for a home not filled with books. As we noted earlier, prepub reviews were strong, with LJ saying, “Titles about reading and books abound, but this memoir stands in a class by itself. Bibliophiles will treasure, but the addictive storytelling and high-quality writing will vastly increase its audience.”

Libraries ordered the title very lightly. All that we checked are showing active holds lists.

Bill Gates: Summer Reading

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Add the billionaire philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft to those with summer reading recommendations.

Bill Gates posts five picks to his blog, gatesnotes, saying that “The books on this year’s summer reading list pushed me out of my own experiences, and I learned some things that shed new light on how our experiences shape us and where humanity might be headed.”

He offers an animated tour of each pick, detailing its pleasures:

As happened with his summer reading list from last year, several of the books are rising on Amazon as a result of his attention. Just a few weeks ago Gates took to Twitter to push Steven Pinker’s 2010 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, and it soared to the top of the Amazon sales charts.

The five picks:

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (PRH/Spiegel & Grau; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample). Gates says “I loved reading this memoir about how its host honed his outsider approach to comedy over a lifetime of never quite fitting in.” It has jumped from #275 to #67 on Amazon.

The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample). Gates admits he primarily reads nonfiction, but was very glad his wife gave him this novel about a heart transplant and all the lives it connects. He says “what de Kerangal has done here in this exploration of grief is closer to poetry than anything else.”

J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). Used as THE book to explain the 2016 election, Gates writes it also explains the impact of a chaotic childhood and says “the real magic lies in the story itself and Vance’s bravery in telling it.” Already doing just fine, the Gates mention moved it from #18 to #10 on Amazon’s rankings.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari (HC/Harper; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). Calling it “provocative … challenging, readable, and thought-provoking,” Gates says he does not agree with everything Harari says but thinks it is “a smart look at what may be ahead for humanity.” Another rising title on Amazon, it moved from #354 to #125.

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter (S&S; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample). Gates writes that this presidential memoir “feels timely in an era when the public’s confidence in national political figures and institutions is low.”

BE THE ONE Rises

Friday, May 19th, 2017

ABC News chief national correspondent and Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts just published a book about teens who overcome horrible circumstances ranging from bullying to abuse, addiction, and getting caught up in wars, Be the One: Six True Stories of Teens Overcoming Hardship with Hope (S&S; S&S Books for Young Readers; OverDrive Sample).

It is soaring on Amazon thanks to segments on The View and other shows, moving from #52,295 to #54.

Pitts knows the ground he covers. He tells The View he was raised by a very young single mother, did not learn to read until he was 13, and struggled with stuttering well into college. He says the teens he met were all dealt a bad hand. They opened a new world to him, illustrating the African proverb, “When you pray, move your feet.”

Booklist says the book “reads like an engrossing news program…Uplifting in its message and captivating in its content.”

THE GLASS CASTLE, First Trailer

Friday, May 19th, 2017

The first trailer was just released for the film adaptation of the bestselling memoir by Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle (S&S/Scribner, 2005):

Starring Academy Award winner Brie Larson as Walls with Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts as her dysfunctional, sometimes homeless parents, Rex and Rose Mary, the film opens in wide release on August 11.

The author approves, telling People magazine, “They did a spectacular job bringing to life a complicated story, there’s so many nuances … I wanted Brie Larson to play this role even before I knew who she was. She understands how to be strong and vulnerable at the same time, how you can fight and be scared at the same time … The first time that I saw Woody in makeup and in character, I started trembling and crying … the degree to which he captured my father was breathtaking.”

The memoir spent over 250 weeks on NYT best seller lists, in both hardcover and the trade paperback, where it had its most enduring success. Also a constant in book groups, the memoir is assigned reading in schools, and even has its own Cliff Notes.

A tie-in is forthcoming:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (S&S/Scribner)

Holds Alert: GROCERY

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

NPR’s All Things Considered featured Michael Ruhlman’s Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America (Abrams; RH Audio/BOT), moving the book up Amazon’s rankings and driving holds. Libraries are seeing reserve ratios well over 3:1, in one case 10:1.

The interview takes place in an actual grocery store. Surveying the plenty spread out in the aisles, Ruhlman says a grocery store is “the best of America and the worst of America.”

Grocery stores are run with such narrow margins that they cannot stand to lose a customer, which is why they ask as at checkout if you found everything you were looking for. Not finding something is why shoppers change stores.

Because of the ease of online buying for commodity items like orange juice and cereal, Ruhlman thinks thinks grocery stores will shrink, selling only specialized items that customers want to pick by hand. The future will look more like the past, when stores were smaller and more specialized.

As a literary side note, a recent NYT Weddings column details Ruhlman’s long-held crush on Ann Hood (The Book That Matters) which last 20 years and led to a wedding last month (with Laura Lippman officiating).

Bill Gates, Bookseller

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Bill Gates took to Twitter on Monday and sent Steven Pinker’s 2010 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (PRH/Penguin; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample), soaring to the top of the Amazon sales charts, where it is currently the best selling book across the site.

In a series of tweets offering advice to graduates, Gates says “If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this — the most inspiring book I’ve ever read.” The story has caught the attention of the new media. Both the Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly covered it. It’s also a favorite of fellow tech billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg who gave it a bump in early 2015, when he picked it for his Facebook book club.

In the book Pinker insists that, despite what many think, the world is actually becoming a better place.

The impact on holds is mixed. Some libraries have copies on the shelf while others are seeing holds topping 10:1.

I Won’t Grow Up

Monday, May 15th, 2017

If the conversation around “adulting” hits a nerve, meet Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Sasse is concerned with what he regards as the slow-to-nonexistent development of independent and thriving adults in the US and has written a book on the subject, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample). It is zooming up the Amazon rankings, thanks to his appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday and CBS This Morning today, moving from #43 to #7.

He tells Face the Nation‘s John Dickerson, “this book is 100 percent not about politics, and it’s 99 percent not about policy. It’s about this new category of perpetual adolescence.”  However, as one of the Republicans who expressed reservations about the firing of James Comey as Director of the FBI, that subject dominates the  interview. Sasse finally gets to promote the book towards the end, saying it’s about the recent phenomenon of  “perpetual adolescence …Peter Pan’s Neverland is a hell … we don’t want [to] have our kids caught at a place where they’re not learning how to be adults.”

He followed up with an appearance on CBS This Morning, which also focused on the firing of Comey.

Sasse is making the media rounds. He is scheduled to appear tonight on Late Night with Seth Meyers. He has been on NPR’s On Point, the NYT has an interview, Sasse himself writes an essay for the Wall Street Journal (subscription maybe required), MarketWatch offers a summary, and Time covers it in an article titled “Ben Sasse Explains Why His New Book Is Really, Truly Not About Running for President.”

Technically a Best Seller

Monday, May 15th, 2017

9780735211322_f4e1cPresidential aide Ivanka Trump’s Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, (PRH/Portfolio; Penguin Audio/BOT) is technically a #1 best seller, having hit that number on the Wall Street Journal‘s Business Book list. Other numbers are not so sunny. It debuts on the USA Today general list at #53.

The Huffington Post reveals just how bad the sales are, reporting “In the book’s first five days on the market, Trump sold 10,445 print copies,” comparing that to Sheryl Sandberg’s book on female empowerment, Lean In(PRH/Knopf) which sold 74,176 print copies in its first week, going on to sell many more and become a recognized catch phrase as well as a movement.

Reviews have been universally scathing. In this case, negative press may not be better than no press at all.

Death to “Zombie Words”

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Journalist and former Random House publisher Harold Evans entertained NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday, with his pet peeves about the misuse of the English language.

As a result of their lively exchange, Evans’s new book, Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why Writing Well Matters (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample) made a major leap up Amazon’s rankings, rising from #25,848 to #32.

The book addresses the “garbage” littering our prose. He particularly hates “zombie words,” nouns that are turned into verbs, because they drain “the sentences of vigor and immediacy,” he says, “It’s like a virus.”

The book is “a punchy follow-up to an earlier journalistic primer (Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers) that’s still a standard at many British universities,” notes The Hollywood Reporter in a lengthy interview with Evans, that focuses on the documentary Attacking the Devil, about Evans’s early journalistic fight against the drug thalidomide.

Evans stars in the doc, which the The Weinstein Co. will distribute in the US. A feature film is also in the works and Hugh Grant is “said to be among the contenders vying for the lead.” Although Evans jokes, “I think I may hold out for Brad Pitt to play me. He’s a better likeness, don’t you think?”

Learning To Learn

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Professor and author Barbara Oakley gets a double lift from The Wall Street Journal. An article titled “How a Polymath Mastered Math – and So Can You,” explores how Oakley, after flunking math through grade school, taught herself to master the subject, eventually earning a degree in electrical engineering. Now a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, she teaches what the paper says is the “world’s most popular MOOC” the massive open online course “Learning How to Learn.”

The article mentions two of her books. Her newest, Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential (PRH/ TarcherPerigee; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) and 2014’s A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) (also PRH/ TarcherPerigee; OverDrive Sample).

The books are rising on Amazon’s rankings as a result. Mindshift jumped from #643 to #32 and Numbers rose from #751 to #52.

GLASS CASTLE Gets Premiere Date

Monday, May 8th, 2017

9780743247542_c87a6The film adaptation of the beloved and bestselling memoir by Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle (S&S/Scribner, 2005), finally has a debut date, set to open in wide release on August 11.

The film stars Academy Award winner Brie Larson as Walls with Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts as her dysfunctional,  sometimes homeless parents, Rex and Rose Mary.

The memoir spent over 250 weeks on NYT best seller lists, in both hardcover and the trade paperback, where it had its most enduring success. Also a constant in book groups, the memoir is assigned reading in schools, and even has its own Cliff Notes.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Lionsgate plans to pitch the film to women hoping to create the kind of appeal and word of mouth power enjoyed by Eat Pray Love, The Help, and Julie & Julia, all of which also had August release dates.

As we have noted, readers have been waiting for some time for the film version. In 2012, Paramount announced plans to adapt the film with  Jennifer Lawrence in the lead, but that project fell through. In 2015, Lionsgate bought the rights and cast Larson in the title role. Director Destin Daniel Cretton, who worked with Larson on her breakout film, Short Term 12, has stayed the one constant in the adaptation’s ups and downs.

Holds Alert: THE RADIUM GIRLS

Monday, May 8th, 2017

9781492649359_ebafaKate Moore’s The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (Sourcebooks; HighBridge Audio; OverDrive Sample) is catching on.

Holds are topping 7:1 ratios and spiking as high as 34:1. Bases on that, and Amazon’s sales rankings, it is headed for bestseller lists.

Already a hit with librarians, it is a LibraryReads selection for May and a GalleyChat title. Booksellers are on board as well, making it an Indie Next pick.

Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, CT provided the LibraryReads annotation:

This is the story of hundreds of young, vibrant women who were sentenced to death by their employers. The so-called “Radium Girls” painted luminescent faces on clock and watch dials using a paint mixture that contained radium. Instructed to “lip-point” their brushes as they painted, they absorbed high doses of radium into their bodies. When the effects of the radium led to horrific disfigurement and pain, the company refused to take responsibility. This heartrending book was one I could not put down.”

For GalleyChat, library director Nicole Steeves, Fox River Grove (IL), said the elements are perfect for readers’ advisory (readable non-fiction, women’s stories, and science writing) and would also recommend it to teens. She added, “It is also is a timely example of good research and careful attribution, relevant to librarians’ concerns about news literacy.”

Coverage is wide ranging. The Spectator introduces the book with the creepy headline, “The Radium Girls — still glowing in their coffins.” BuzzFeed runs an illustrated feature written by Moore, NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday has an interview, as do the NYT and Jezebel. Bustle, The Atlantic, the NY Post, and Nature offer stories, with Nature calling the book “harrowing.”

Possible TV Series: SHATTERED

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

9780553447088_1273bOne of the autopsies of the 2016 election might be made into a limited TV series reports the NYT.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (PRH/Crown; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) has been optioned by Sony’s TriStar Television.

The paper says it has become “a mainstay in dinner-party chatter in political circles since its publication.” In library circles it is doing well too, as we reported earlier, holds soared on light ordering.

It hit the  NYT  Hardcover Nonfiction list at #1 last week, slipping to #2 this week, displaced by Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B

The daily NYT‘s chief book critic Michiko Kakutani calls it “compelling”and The Globe and Mail writes that the authors “may be credited with banging the first hot-tipped galvanized spiral-shank nail into her historical coffin … [it is] an unfavourable – no, an unforgiving – look inside the Clinton presidential campaign of 2016.” Staff from the Clinton campaign are pushing back.

Deadline Hollywood reports that this would make the fourth TV project focused on the election. Mark Halperin and John Heilemann have a project with HBO. Annapurna and Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty) have one in the works they are keeping under wraps, saying only it will be “Trump-centric.” Tomorrow Studios is making what they hope will become an ongoing series, called Trump: It Happened Here.

The NYT says of this newest project that no writers or stars have been chosen for the project and a network “is not yet attached.”

A New Chapter for THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

Friday, May 5th, 2017

9780609608449_5e627The great-great grandchildren of Henry H. Holmes, the serial killer featured in the best seller, The Devil in the White City, have received permission to exhume his body to confirm whether he was indeed hanged in Philadelphia in 1896.

The investigation aims to determine the truth of the legend that he faked his own death, reports the Chicago Tribune, by bribing “jail guards to hang a cadaver in his place.”

Meanwhile, the film version of Eric Larson’s true crime title, The Devil in the White City (RH/Crown, 2003), has been in the works ever since it was published. As recently as last month, Deadline Hollywood wrote that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are still developing the project.

Scorsese told the Toronto Sun in December, “Right now, there is a script being worked on … One of the things that I had to stop for the past six months [to complete Silence] was my meetings on that script. They want me to start again in January and see if we can find a way because it’s an extraordinary story.”

Finding a way has proved difficult thus far. Tom Cruise acquired the rights in 2003 but the project stalled. We wrote about the last wave of hopes for it in April 2016. Even earlier, in 2015, we posted about the film’s long gestation period. DiCaprio has owned the rights since 2010.

Defector’s Story Rises

Friday, May 5th, 2017

9780007554850_026eaThe Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee and David John (HC/William Collins; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) published in 2015 got a sudden boost on Amazon’s sales from a FOX news feature headlined “North Korea defector hails Trump’s tough stance on hostile country.” It is also building a holds list at most libraries we checked.

In 2015 the NYT Book Review included the memoir in a “The Shortlist” feature on North Korean defection books, but did not rate it as highly as other titles, citing an “emptiness at the heart of her story.” StarTribune was more positive, saying “Lee shows the terrible treatment of its people by North Korea’s authoritarian dictatorship. She also shows the price the regime pays for being awful: the loss of people like her who have enormous drive, intelligence and will.” Kirkus summed it up as “Remarkable bravery fluently recounted.”

The British press were more generous. The BBC said, “First-hand accounts of perilous defections from brutal dictatorships aren’t supposed to be funny. But Hyeonseo Lee’s pioneering memoir The Girl With Seven Names contains great humour alongside its shocking evocation of the North Korean regime’s surveillance, torture, privation and propaganda.” The Scotsman wrote “This is a stirring and brave story.” The Guardian featured a long excerpt with photos.

Her TED Talk was hailed by Oprah in O magazine as “The most riveting TED Talk ever.”