Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category


Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

9781400067657_373ddAn embargo prevented pre-pub reviews for Jon Meacham’s newest Presidential biography, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (Random House; BOT; OverDrive Sample).The media managed to get their hands on the book, however, and the story that the elder President Bush called Dick Cheney an “iron-ass” became the talking point of last week’s 24-hour news shows. As a result, holds are generally topping 5:1 in places we checked, with local spikes running much higher.

Now that the book has been released, reviews have begun to appear. The newest daily NYT reviewer, Jennifer Senior, calls the biography “absorbing” and “artful” and says that Meacham is “clearly possessed of the same judiciousness and diplomatic skills as his subject.”

But Senior pulls no punches when Meacham “turns a blind eye to unflattering events,” offering a number of examples including the following about  the fallout after Katrina:

“Forget whether this blistering attack was justified. What’s interesting here is the incident Mr. Meacham does not mention: that the former first lady Barbara Bush, after touring the Houston Astrodome and seeing thousands of evacuees living in squalor, told NPR, “So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.” How could he have left that out?”

Jim Kelly reviews the book for the NYT’s Sunday Book Review saying:

“Meacham’s access and lack of ideological fervor allow him to paint Bush the man in unusually subtle colors … Destiny and Power reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer: judicious, balanced, deliberative, with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it. If Meacham is sometimes polite to a fault, Destiny and Power does not suffer for it. His kinder, gentler approach succeeds in making George H. W. Bush a more sympathetic — and more complex — figure.”

We highlighted the title in Books to Know and Recommend the week of Nov. 9.

Holds Alert: RBG on the Rise

Monday, November 16th, 2015

A book with an unlikely beginning, as a Tumbler blog about an unlikely subject, a Supreme Court Justice, is now an unlikely hit.

9780062415837_589bf Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (Harper/Dey Street Books; OverDrive Sample), is on the rise, reaching #52 on the Amazon rankings.

Holds are well beyond a 3:1 ratio in many libraries we checked as well, with at least one spiking over 7:1.

A collection of images of Ginsberg, The New York Times describes it as “cheery curio, as if a scrapbook and the Talmud decided to have a baby,” but one with a serious start and a serious heart:

Notorious RBG began in 2013 as a saucy Tumblr blog by Shana Knizhnik, then a law student, shortly after the Supreme Court decided Shelby County v. Holder, which discarded a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act. (For the hip-hop unlettered, Notorious RBG is a play on the Notorious B.I.G., the rapper who was murdered in 1997.) Justice Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, which in the genteel, marbled universe of the Supreme Court, is most unusual — the equivalent of shaming your spouse in front of dinner guests.”

Coverage of the title was widespread upon release and is still going strong. Sunday’s NYT featured Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem in an interview about women’s rights, starting the conversation with the book (curiouslyhe piece leads the “Fashion & Style” section) and New York Magazine listed it as one of the “9 Books We’re Reading Right Now.”

Nancy Pearl on Graphic Bios

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 12.32.35 PMOn her weekly radio appearance on Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW, librarian Nancy Pearl talks about Jessie Hartland’s Steve Jobs: Insanely Great (RH/Schwartz & Wade).

It is a graphic biography Nancy thinks would be perfect for middle and high school students, making it an alternative tie-in to the upcoming biopic based on Walter Isaacson’s 600+ page tome about the computer legend.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 12.33.48 PMFilled with black, white, and gray free-flowing images and text that often breaks out of speech bubbles, the nonfiction work details Jobs’s achievements and personality. Hartland’s website gives a quick glimpse of her style.

When asked by host Marcie Sillman, Nancy said that she thought Jobs would adore it, as she did, putting her on the hunt for Harland’s previous graphic biography, Bon Appétit!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child (RH/Schwartz & Wade, 2012).


TRUMBO, Trailer

Monday, August 17th, 2015

From the goofy dad on the Fox comedy series Malcolm in the Middle to the chilling meth kingpin on AMC’s Breaking Bad and LBJ in Broadway’s All the Way (also set for an HBO adaptation), Bryan Cranston has shown a broad range. Next, he plays Dalton Trumbo in a biopic about the screenwriter who fought against the Hollywood blacklist in the 1940’s, to be released Nov.6 . The trailer has just been released.

Based on the book of the same title by Bruce Cook (S&S/Scribner, 1977), the movie also stars Diane Lane as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, Elle Fanning as their daughter, Nikola, Helen Mirren as Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, along with John Goodman and  Louis C.K.

Trumbo wrote the screenplays for many well-known movies, including Spartacus, Roman Holiday, Papilion, and The Way We Were. He also wrote and directed Johnny Got His Gun, based on his own novel.

A tie-in has not been announced.

Rousey Knocks It Out

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 10.30.19 AMFirst came the controversy over the violence in UFC fighter Ronda Rousey’s autobiography My Fight/Your Fight (S&S/Regan Arts;  OverDrive Sample), which is sitting pretty at #16 on Amazon.

Now comes news that Paramount Pictures has bought the rights to the book and will cast Rousey in the starring role – playing herself. According to Variety Mark Bomback, who adapted Insurgent for the screen, will work on the script and serve as executive producer. Mary Parent (one of the people behind Noah and Godzilla) will produce along with Rousey. A start date has yet to be determined.

It will not be Rousey’s first role. She has been in The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage and is set to appear in Mile 22 alongside Mark Wahlberg.

THE END OF THE TOUR Arrives Tomorrow

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

9780307592439_19091  9780316920049

The movie adaptation of David Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace, (RH/Broadway Books, 2010), titled The End of the Tour,  opens tomorrow.

The book and the movie are based on interviews with the normallly press-averse David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal in the movie) by Rolling Stone journalist Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) conducted when Wallace toured for his novel Infinite Jest. (Hachette/Little, Brown, 1996).

As a result, Wallace’s book, not Lipsky’s, is rising on Amazon sales rankings.

STEVE JOBS, Official Trailer

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

The “first look” trailer in May was only the beginning. Now we have the “Official First Trailer”  for the movie Steve Jobs based on the book by Walter Isaacson (S&S, 2012).

For a while it looked like the movie might not come together at all. Directors were changed, several potential leads dropped out (including Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale). As Entertainment Weekly reports, once Michael Fassbinder was on board, the rest fell into place quickly.

Directed by  Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire 2008), the script is written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, The Newsroom, The Social Network). The screenplay reportedly is in three acts, each based on one of Jobs’s major launches. Kate Winslet, who plays one of the original Apple employees, said in a recent interview, “Each act is continuous 45 minutes backstage of real time at each launch that Steve Jobs made during those time periods — ‘84 was the launch of the Macintosh, ‘88 was the NeXT computer, ‘98 was the iMac. Each act takes place backstage and literally ends with him walking from the wings on to the stage to rapturous applause.”

The movie arrives Oct. 9.

A tie-in has not yet been announced.

Misty Copeland Makes History

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Call it #WeNeedDiverseBallet. After 14 years with the American Ballet Theater, Misty Copeland has just been become the company’s first black female principal dancer.

9781476737980_f76ddHer autobiography, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, (S&S/Touchstone; Tantor Audio), was published in hardcover last year and is also available in trade paperback.

She also published a children’s picture book, Firebird, illus. by Christopher Myers, (Penguin/Putnam) picked as a best book of the year by NPR:


“The book is for very young dancers who may not see many people who look like them in the world of ballet. It’s illustrated by Christopher Myers, whose collagelike work is painterly, vivid and emotional. Copeland’s writing and Myers’ art draw you into a beautiful world, rich with color, texture and drama. For all budding young artists who maybe don’t have role models they can relate to, this little book provides some inspiration.”

She was one of Time magazine’s 100 Most influential People this year and was profiled in May on 60 Minutes and said she dreamed of becoming ABT’s principal dancer one day. That day has come.


Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Based on the extraordinary life of Gertrude Bell, often called “the female Lawrence of Arabia,” the international trailer has been released for Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert, leading up to its opening in Germany this fall (no U.S. release date has been announced).

The movie stars Nicole Kidman as Bell, with Robert Pattinson as T.E. Lawrence. Also starring are James Franco and Damian Lewis.

Reviews were not kind when it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. IndieWire ‘s headline stated unequivocally that it’s “Werner Herzog’s Worst Movie in Years” and Variety complained, “Herzog has seldom been accused of subtlety, but this particular narrative is actually so understated, it will have to be handled as a specialty title in most territories.”

The movie is not based on a specific title, but several recent bios of Bell are available, as well as her own writings. Penguin is releasing a collection in August that refers to the movie:

9780143107378_4df42A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert

Gertrude Bell, Georgina Howell (Edited by), Georgina Howell (Introduction by)
Penguin Classics: August 11, 2015
USD, $19.00 CAD, £9.99



Madoff TV Series Staffing Up

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

51WqdPxwodL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If you were wandering the streets of Queens yesterday, you may have seen a production crew at work on ABC’s limited TV series, Madoff, based on The Madoff Chronicles by Brian Ross (Hyperion, 2009). The subject of the series, Bernie Madoff, now incarcerated for developing an infamous Ponzi scheme, was born in Queens.

Starring Richard Dreyfuss as Madoff and Blythe Danner as his wife Ruth, new cast members Charles Grodin and Lewis Black joined this week.

No release date has been announced, but in November the Disney Book Group plans to release a new paperback version that “will serve as a tie to the ABC drama starring Richard Dreyfuss.” (it and other tie-ins are listed in our Upcoming Movie and TV Tie-ins).

The Madoff Chronicles (Inside the Secret World of Bernie and Ruth)
Brian Ross
Disney Book Group/Kingswell; November 10, 2015
Paperback; $14.99 USD, $16.50 CAD

HBO has also had a competing product in the works, a movie starring Robert De Niro as Madoff. Announced in 2011, a new screenwriter was assigned in late 2013, In February of this year, according to sources quoted by Bloomberg, it was still in development

De Niro talked about prepping for the role in an interview with Bloomberg in April 2013:

The De Niroa project is based on two books:

Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family by Laurie Sandell (Hachette/Little, Brown, 2011), based on interviews with Madoff’s family.

The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust by Diana B. Henriques (Macmillan/ St. Martins; Tantor Audio, 2011)


Monday, May 18th, 2015

The movie Steve Jobs has a multitude of high-profile names attached to it, including director Danny Boyle, screen writer Aaron Sorkin, lead actor, Michael Fassbender and the author of the bio it’s based on, Walter Isaacson. It was teased in appropriate fashion with a spot on last night’s high-profile final episode (the “final episode EVER” as we were continually reminded) of AMC’s Mad Men.

The trailer is less than a minute long, but that gave critics enough to work with, from the New York Times (“seems to be courting Oscars right out of the gate”) to the L.A. Times  (“As befits the legacy of Jobs — an inveterate showman who whipped the Apple faithful into a frenzy by keeping the company’s creations secret until just the right moment — the teaser is enigmatic and intriguing”).

The movie arrives Oct. 9. A tie-in has not been announced.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT, ABC Series, Premieres Tonight

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

9780679644880_e6ee1  Fresh Off the Boat Key Art embed

UPDATE: The two-episode debut did well last night, both in terms of ratings and response (“2015’s Best New Sitcom,” Flavorwire;  “Does Asian American Kids Right,” Jezebel):”the latest reason to be grateful for TV’s diversity push,” Slate). The show moves to Tuesday nights beginning next week.

Eddie Huang may sound ambivalent in a profile in the NYT Magazine about the ABC TV series based on his memoir,  Fresh Off the Boat, (RH/Spiegel & Grau; RH Audio; BOT), but reviewers are not. Premiering with 2 episodes tonight (recently rescheduled from next week), the L.A. Times calls it “a satire that works.” and New York magazine’s “Vulture” column calls, “One of TV’s Most Promising New Comedies.”

The trailer for the show’s pilot, below:

STEVE JOBS Biopic Release Date

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Steve JobsThe movie that went through so many changes that many wondered if it would ever become a reality, Steve Jobs, based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of the same title (S&S, 2011), is now set for release on Oct 9, a date that, as Variety notes, is “just in time for awards season.”

Currently shooting in the San Francisco area, it stars Michael Fassbender as  Jobs, in a role originally intended for Leonardo DiCaprio and then for Christian Bale. Seth Rogen plays Steve Wozniak, Kate Winslet, former Macintosh marketing head Joanna Hoffman, and Jeff Daniels, Apple CEO John Sculley.

JOBS Begins Shooting

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

We envy this headline from New York magazine’s Vulture blog, “Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs Movie Begins Filming With Cast Full of People Who Haven’t Dropped Out Yet.”

Steve JobsYes, the movie based on Walter Isaacson’s biography has suffered through many changes. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale were breathlessly announced as stars, only to drop out. It has also changed studios (from Sony to Universal) and directors (from David Fincher to Danny Boyle) and had to endure another film being released with a similar title, Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher.

Universal’s announcement this week that production has begun in San Francisco may raise skepticism, but the company insists that Michael Fassbender is set to play Jobs, with Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, Kate Winslet as former Macintosh marketing head Joanna Hoffman, Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Sculley. Boyle is still directing.

Zamperini A Best Seller Times Four

Saturday, January 10th, 2015


The film adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s long-running best seller Unbroken has served to keep that book on the NYT Best Seller List in hardcover for 189 weeks. In addition, the tie-in is #1 on the paperback list after 23 weeks and YA version is #8 on that list after 8 weeks.

Now a new title joins the pack, Zamperini’s own, which he finished just before his death at 97 last year. Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life by Louis Zamperini, David Rensin, (HarperCollins/Dey Street Books; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) debuts on the new hardcover nonfiction list at #9.

Reviewing it when it came out in November, USA Today warned that other than shedding “more light on the reality of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which afflicted Zamperini,” it doesn’t go much beyond Hillenbrand’s book. It does, however, exude “the nothing-to-lose honesty of a nonagenarian whose to-hell-and-back history results in a spiritual self-satisfaction.”

Holds are light in most libraries.