A book on an ever-popular topic is rising on Amazon as a result of coverage from NPR and spotlights in the NYT and The Atlantic.
Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; OverDrive Sample), a book about teaching and parenting kids for success, has broken into the top 50, rising from #796.
His earlier book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, And The Hidden Power Of Character, was a NYT bestseller and, as NPR says, “probably did more than any other single book to get the wider public thinking about the importance of grit and other noncognitive skills.”
Many libraries we checked have yet to order, perhaps because the only trade review thus far is from Kirkus.
Time to get those orders in. The book’s title alone will bring eager parents and, as NPR puts it, “for the past decade or more Tough has been one of the pre-eminent reporters translating education research for public consumption.” It’s likely to join another book on best seller lists, Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth, (S&S/Scribner; S&S Audio), currently tied at #2 on the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction list with Anderson Cooper’s The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss, (Harper; HarperAudio; HarperLuxe).
In a rare advanced review, the New Yorker discusses Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide, Charles Foster (Macmillan/Metropolitan; BOT), coming out next month, calling it an “exercise of the sympathetic imagination.”
The natural history memoir recounts Foster’s time trying to live like badgers, foxes, otters, and birds, going so far as to live in a dirt barrow, eat worms, and catch fish with his teeth.
Already published in the UK to glowing reviews, The Guardian calls it “Illuminating and unfailingly entertaining … a tour de force of modern nature writing.”
Libraries have ordered very lightly. There are few holds, but the memoir, which is being compared to H is for Hawk, is likely to get more media attention.
Featured in the same New Yorker article is another book about living like an animal, GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday From Being Human, Thomas Thwaites (Princeton Architectural Press; OverDrive Sample). The author, a designer, writes about his efforts to become as goat-like as possible, even using prosthetic goat limbs, to become a member of a Swiss goat herd. Published last week, it received attention from NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday as well as on NPR’s blog coincidentally titled Goats and Soda. Holds too are light on light ordering.
Two recent books suggest that if humans want to live like animals, they need to step up their game. Primatologist Frans de Waal’s new book offers a challenge in the title, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?(Norton; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample). It is currently at #19 on the New York Times Hardcover Non-fiction list after two weeks.
In an interview with the Washington Post, de Waal offers an explanation for this growing interest, “I think we got tired of behaviorism, which was dominant last century. More and more phenomena are coming to the fore, of animals doing things that couldn’t be explained by simple instinct or by simple associative learning. And the younger generation is much more open to seeing what animals can do on their own terms.”
When Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature last October, only two of her books were available in English in the US. That is slowly changing. Arriving this week is Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, translated by Bela Shayevich (PRH/Random House; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample), her fifth book first published in Russia in 2013.
On the strength of the NYT‘s profile on Saturday, the author’s Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, translated by Bela Shayevich (Random; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) is rocketing up the Amazon sales charts, close to breaking into the top 100.
The NYT‘s calls the oral history:
“An intimate portrait of a country yearning for meaning after the sudden lurch from Communism to capitalism in the 1990s plunged it into existential crisis … Tolstoyan in scope, driven by the idea that history is made not only by major players but also by ordinary people talking in their kitchens … With every page, the book makes clear how President Vladimir V. Putin manages to hold his grip on a country of 143 million people across 11 time zones.”
All four trade review journals gave it a star with Kirkus calling it “Profoundly significant literature as history” and PW saying: “Alexievich’s work turns Solzhenitsyn inside out and overpowers recent journalistic accounts of the era. Readers must possess steely nerves and a strong desire to get inside the Soviet psyche in order to handle the blood, gore, and raw emotion.”
Holds are running roughly 2:1 on light orders in libraries we checked.
Librarians can look for more to come. The NYT reports that, in 2017 and 2018, Random House will issue translations of Alexievich’s previous work by the powerhouse team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (who brought new life to War and Peace). The paper also reports that Alexievich has plans for new collections, on aging and on love, and is planning a cross-country trip around the former Soviet Union to conduct interviews.
Of her books in English translations, the two that have been published here are Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (Norton; 9780393336863; 1992) and Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (hardcover, Dalkey Archive Press; trade pbk Macmillan/Picador, 2006), which won the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award.
What does a painting smell like? Not the canvas or frame but if you were inside the painting, what would it smell like?
That is a question Amy Herman asks when she trains police officers to be better observers. She shares her lessons on optic acuity and awareness in Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life (HMH/Eamon Dolan).
NPR host Ari Shaprio asks Herman about the uses of learning to see more precisely:
“If you remember a small detail about a patient’s life, you remember a small detail about a suspect’s family where they said they go. If you remember small details about your clients, it can really bring the big picture together.”
She goes on to point out that learning how to see more fully helps in every day life, from being able to notice what is happening with your children to observing the details of a job process.
The NYT offers an example of how Herman uses paintings in her work, using “Vermeer’s exquisitely ambiguous “Mistress and Maid,” a 1666-7 portrait of a lady seated at a table, handing over (or being handed) a mysterious piece of paper”:
“There are so many different narratives … The analysts come away asking more questions than answers — ‘Who’s asking the question? Who’s doing the talking? Who’s listening?’ The cops will say, ‘It’s a servant asking for the day off.’”
Herman’s TED talk and the full NPR interview are below:
Starring Lupita Wyong’o, who won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, it is directed by Mira Nair and is based on the book by former senior editor for Sports Illustrated, Tim Crothers, The Queen Of Katwe: A Story Of Life, Chess, And One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream Of Becoming A Grandmaster, (S&S/Scribner, 2012).
The first trailer was released last week.
The Queen of Katwe: One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion, Tim Crothers. 9/9/16 Trade pbk, (S&S/Scribner) Mass Market, (S&S/Pocket Books)
Audio CD, (S&S Audio)
On Feb. 11 of this year scientists proved Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves. It was an idea many thought could never be tested, much less proven, but an intrepid group of scientists worked for decades to do just that.
Yesterday, on the PBS NewsHour Bookshelf conversation, Levin explains that scientists were actually able to hear gravitational waves and “like mallets on the drum. They rang space-time itself.”
In what is a science adventure book, Levin details how a small number of determined and insightful researchers bet their careers on the concept that the waves not only existed but could actually be heard. She witnessed the process of building detector machines, the rivalries and jealousies of those involved in the project and “realized that this could actually read like a novel. And if you followed these characters, you could understand not only the process of science, but the internal ambitions and the drives.”
No one thought the project would work as well or as early as it did, she continues, “and then it struck. It came from 1.3 billion years ago. It struck Louisiana. About 10 milliseconds later, it crosses the continent and hits Washington state and rings that machine. It is a spectacular detection.”
Summing up the meaning of the discovery Levin says,
“You know, Galileo was just looking at the moon and Saturn. He didn’t foresee that there were hundreds of billions of stars in collections called galaxies, or that there were quasars powered by black holes … what a lot of us hope is that the future will be so vast, beyond what we have even imagined, that there are dark sources out there that will ring these detectors, they will record the sounds of space, and there will be things we have never even predicted before.”
Reception to the book is mixed. A front page NYT “Sunday Book Review” states, “Taking on the simultaneous roles of expert scientist, journalist, historian and storyteller of uncommon enchantment, Levin delivers pure signal from cover to cover. … what makes the book most rewarding is Levin’s exquisite prose, which bears the mark of a first-rate writer: an acute critical mind haloed with a generosity of spirit.”
The daily NYT nonfiction reviewer, Jennifer Senior, however, is far less generous, writing “Awkwardness is everywhere … Editors. Where are they.”
But readers are not bothered. The book is currently ranked just outside of Amazon’s Top 100 and libraries are showing strong holds on light orders with several locations we checked tipping over a 3:1 ratio.
A succinct explanation of gravitation waves below:
Following her best seller, Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham is releasing a surprise new title, in a move characterized by BuzzFeed as “Beyoncé-style,” referring to the singer’s surprise release of the album Lemonade.
Three-star Michelin chef, author of four cookbooks, familiar to many from his appearances on various cooking shows, including his own, Avec Ripert, was feted on yesterday’s CBS This Morning for his new book, a memoir, 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, (PRH/Random House; RH Audio).
Libraries are showing heavy holds on very light ordering.
Slate critics Susan Matthews, Laura Miller, and Katy Waldman offer glowing praise, calling it “wonderful” “beautiful” and “endearing” and saying it is already one of the 10 best books of the year, comparable to H is for Hawk and to the work of Oliver Sacks.
Beyond the style of the memoir and its tone, the Slate critics centrally appreciate the detailed insider look at what it is like to “do science.” They also appreciate the way Jahren approaches science as not about getting the world to tell you what you want it to, but listening to what is really happening.
They conclude the conversation by saying the book should be required reading.
Readers seem to agree, holds are strong at libraries we checked with spikes well above a 3:1 ratio at some locales.
Books on public speaking rarely hit best seller lists, but TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson (HMH; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample) is not your usual how-to, drawing on lessons from the popular series of dynamic speeches. It debuts on the NYT‘s Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous, landing at #3.
Written by the organization’s president, the book details how to give a talk worth listening to. It got a push from Forbes which called it “extraordinary reading.”
The three titles that got knocked off the the main list were Spark Joy by Marie Kondo, which fell to #11 on the extended list after 17 weeks in the top 10; Fascinate: Revised and Updated by Sally Hogshead; and The Startup Checklist, David S. Rose, both of which fell out of the top 15 completely.
A self-published vanity press book claiming to give insider details of congress, The Confessions of Congressman X, by Congressman X (Mill City Press; ISBN 9781634139731; 5/24), is soaring on Amazon, currently at #8 on the sales charts.
The slim book of 84 pages offers observations such as:
“Most of my colleagues are dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that’s lavished upon them … My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything.”
“Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works. It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.”
Fox begins their coverage with “A steamy new novel about to hit bookstores is – if true – threatening to blow the lid off Congress and the dirty deeds some D.C. lawmakers allegedly engage in to stay in power.”
It is listed on Amazon but has yet to appear on online wholesaler catalogs.
Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon, Bronwen Dickey (PRH/Knopf; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample) is rising on Amazon due to featured coverage on NPR’s Fresh Air.
Breaking into the top 100, Dickey’s exploration of the cultural life and history of the breed details how it went from a symbol of American can-do spirit and beloved mascot (it was the iconic dog of RCA records, side-kick in the Buster Brown comics, and starred in the Our Gang films) to a racially charged symbol of the urban poor and “super predator.”
Using science to dispel myths surrounding the breed’s inclination towards violence, strength of bite, and “instinctive” fighting behavior, Dickey turns the conversation about these dogs towards a reasoned, enlightened, rational one, making the case that the dogs were never “willing participants in their own torture.”
The compelling conversation with Terry Gross is not just about pit bulls. Dickey also tells the story of dachshunds and how, after WWI, they were discriminated against because they were thought to be German allies. So violent was the association, breeders in America sought to change their names to Liberty pups.
Dickey, who is the daughter of author and poet James Dickey (Deliverance) and sister to journalist Christopher Dickey, sells the book well, coming across as lucid, careful, precise, generous, thoughtful, and inviting.
Holds are not yet taking off but this is just the kind of book that will circulate well from new book shelves and displays. It is also likely to become a standard work on the breed for years to come.
Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me, Ally Hilfiger (Hachette/Center Street; OverDrive Sample) is rising on Amazon due to a double appearance on the Today show.
Hilfiger, daughter of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and star of MTV’s 2003 show Rich Girls, talks with Jenna Bush Hager in one feature and in another with Hoda and Kathie Lee. Both interviews address her physical and mental struggles with Lyme Disease.
Timed to coincide with Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Hilfiger memoir details how she was misdiagnosed for 14 years, suffered a mental breakdown, and was hospitalized before finally getting treatment.
A week in advance of publication, the daily NYT reviews The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee (S&S/Scribner; S&S Audio), signaling high expectations for the book. The first consumer review, it follows stars from all four trade publications of Mukherjee’s second book after his Pulitzer Prize winner and best seller, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (S&S/Scribner, 2010).
Jennifer Senior, the NYT‘s daily nonfiction reviewer, is not as engaged as she would like to be and her review, while appreciative, expresses reservations.
She writes, “Many of the same qualities that made The Emperor of All Maladies so pleasurable are in full bloom in The Gene. The book is compassionate, tautly synthesized, packed with unfamiliar details about familiar people,” but she regrets that its deeper waters are not more clear or its narrative more personal and compelling.
As an example, on the topic of genetic reports she says: “Is there any value in knowing about the existence of a slumbering, potentially lethal genetic mutation in your cells if nothing can be done about it? (Personally, I wish he’d dedicated 50 pages to this question — it’d have offered a potentially moving story line and a form of emotional engagement I badly craved.)”
Libraries have bought it surprisingly cautiously, considering the strong trade reviews and the popularity of Mukherjee’s first book. Expect much more media attention.
As typically happens when the seasons change, and May marked the start of a new one in publishing, the NYT Nonfiction Bestseller list has undergone a notable shuffle with three new titles debuting this week.
Taking the #10 spot is Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide, Michael Kinsley (PRH/Tim Duggan; Random House Audio; BOT; OverDrive Sample).
Kinsley, a journalist and contributor to Vanity Fair, who learned at age 43 that he had Parkinson’s disease, explores how the Baby Boomer generation might approach aging.
It got triple treatment in the NYT‘s. Dwight Garner reviewed it for the Books of the Times section in which he writes: “Mr. Kinsley possesses what is probably the most envied journalistic voice of his generation: skeptical, friendly, possessed of an almost Martian intelligence. If we ever do meet Martians, or any alien civilization, he has my vote as the human who should handle Earth’s side of the initial negotiations.”
It too is getting wide attention. As we pointed out in the same Titles To Know that featured Shoe Dog, it has been a People pick, which called it “an astonishing study of animal intelligence [that] has the makings of a classic — and is one fascinating read.” The New York Times Book Review and NYT’s “Inside the List” feature it as well.
Checking holds Old Age is doing best in libraries, with holds soaring past a 3:1 ratio. Both Shoe Dog and Are We Smart Enough are under that ratio in most locations.
Which titles changed fates with these newcomers? Slipping out of the top 15 rankings is Girls and Sex (Harper) which fell to #16 and Dark Money (PRH/Doubleday) which is at #19. Love That Boy (PRH/Harmony) fell off the list completely.