Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

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.

Hold Alert: John Cleese’s

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 8.39.58 AM

Actor John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air this Tuesday, which may have sparked demand for his new memoir, So, Anyway (Random House/Crown Archetype; OverDrive Sample). The interview includes several  clips of Cleese’s performances (Cleese judges an early one as “distinctly uninspired”). Unfortunately, the planned audio version of the book is now listed as “postponed indefinitely.”

Holds are up across the country with some libraries showing hold ratios over 10 to 1.

Advance attention to Cleese’s memoir might have been buried under the recent flurry of celebrity comedian accounts including:

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (Harper Collins/Dey Street Books; Harper Audio, Oct. 28)

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (Random House/Crown; RH Audio, Oct 14)

I Must Say by Martin Short (Harper Collins, Nov 4)

Even This I Get to Experience by Norman Lear (Penguin; Penguin Audio, Oct 14)

Brief Encounters by Dick Cavett (Macmillan/Holt; Macmillan Audio, Oct. 28)

The new biography of Bob Hope, Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster; Brilliance Audio, Nov. 4th)


Saturday, December 13th, 2014

pioneer-girl-ciDespite the  popularity of the Little House on the Prairie novels, their source material, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s actual autobiography, has never been published. That was corrected last month by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, with the release of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

Although the cover of the book paints a romantic picture, the real story is much grittier and is written for adults.

It was featured on the PBS Newshour last night:

The Wall Street Journal also featured the book this week.

Holds are heavy in most libraries. According to the official web site, the book is now temporarily out of stock, and is expected to resume shipping in mid-January.

For fans who cannot get their hands on the book, the project’s blog offers a fascinating look at the extensive research behind it, such as the effort to verify the story of a teacher who improvised an igloo out of an overturned sleigh to protect his children during a freak blizzard.


Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

9780812994995_3dc2dGiven how famously insecure Lena Dunham is, we can’t help but think she was nervous when she learned that her forthcoming book, Not That Kind of Girl, (Random House; RH/BOT Audio; 9/30) was going to be reviewed in advance of publication, by the daily NYT‘s famously stringent Pulitzer Prize winning reviewer, Michiko Kakutani.

She may have even made the following video, one of a series, to address such reviewers.

She need not have worried. Michiko likes it, a LOT.

Dunham, of course, narrates the audiobook (RH/BOT). A short sample here.

The Real Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

pioneer-girl-ciIt could be the Mark Twain autobiography of this fall.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography, which was the basis for her Little House on the Prairie books, will be published by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press this fall. Titled Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, distributors are showing a Nov. 20 release date.

According to a story by the Associated Press, its “not-safe-for-children tales include stark scenes of domestic abuse, love triangles gone awry and a man who lit himself on fire while drunk off whiskey.”

See for more on the project.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill
ISBN 978-0-984504176, hardcover, $39.95

Shocker: Harper Lee Doesn’t Like New Book About Her

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Mockingbird, NwsltrA bio cum memoir about Harper Lee and her sister,  Marja Mills’ The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee, (Penguin Press; Thorndike), published today, is piling up some great reviews. The Washington Post calls is “engrossing” and Maureen Corrigan on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, said it gives a “rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters’ lives.” She goes on to say that, “Fortunately, in Mills, the sisters found a genteel family chronicler knocking at their door at the eleventh hour.”

But the famously reclusive and litigious 88-year-old Harper Lee is not a genteel subject. She has written a letter, reprinted in Entertainment Weekly‘s online column, “Shelf Life,” saying that the book was written on false pretenses, “Miss Mills befriended my elderly sister, Alice. It did not take long to discover Marja’s true mission; another book about Harper Lee. I was hurt, angry and saddened, but not surprised. I immediately cut off all contact with Miss Mills, leaving town whenever she headed this way.”

BLACK MASS Begins Production

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

After many delays, the movie Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch, began shooting two weeks ago in Boston (for those in the area, On Location Vacations has scouted out the filming locations). It is now scheduled for release some time in October, 2015.

9781610391092-2The film is based on the life of legendary Boston crime boss, Whitey Bulger. Now in his eighties, he was finally found guilty of multiple murders and other crimes last year. The Hollywood press greeted the verdict as providing an ending for the inevitable biopic.

As his nickname implies, Bulger was called that because of his white blonde hair, which was also balding. As a result, Depp has had to change his look.

There have been many books about Bulger, but this movie credit goes to Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal, by former Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill (PublicAffairs, 2000; paperback, 2012) .

Whitey Bulger

Published last year, Whitey BulgerAmerica’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy (Norton, 2/11/13) was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air and described as not only a fascinating story, but “just a great read.”

A documentary film about Bulger, Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger  is also on its way, set for a limited theatrical release on June 27, to be broadcast later this year on CNN.


Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Black CountBefore he became a household name for the HBO series True Detective, director Cary Fukunaga directed the 2011 version of Jane Eyre.

His upcoming projects are also book adaptations. His next for Sony, reports Deadline, will be a feature film based on 2013 Biography Pulitzer Prize WinnerThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, And The Real Count of Monte Cristo  by Tom Reiss (RH/Crown; 2012)

Next month, he begins shooting a film in Ghana based on Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala, (HarperCollins, 2005), with Idris Elba in the lead. A debut novel  about a child soldier in West Africa, it won several awards, including the 2006 New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award.

This leaves in question what is happening with the planned two-film version of Stephen King’s massive novel It for Warner Bros., which was announced over two years ago.

Assessing The JFK Assessments

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

9780316370714   9781410452962   9780316907927

The 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination is bringing dozens of books, as we have been noting. In the upcoming Oct. 27th  New York Times Sunday Book Review, Jill Abramson, the newspaper’s Executive Editor, assesses the many books that have been published over the years, saying,

The true mystery in Kennedy’s case is why, 50 years after his death, highly accomplished writers seem unable to fix him on the page … Other presidents, good and bad, have been served well by biographers and historians … Kennedy, the odd man out, still seeks his true biographer.

Abramson celebrates one of the earliest, now back in print:

… the Kennedy family, which controlled publication rights to [William Manchester’s] The Death of a President, allowed it to go out of print, and for a number of years copies could be found only online or at rummage sales. The good news, maybe the best, of the 50th anniversary is that Little, Brown has now reissued paperback and e-book editions. [Note: HarperPerennial brought an edition back into print in 2009, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s election].

She also provides a sidebar sampler of her favorites, few of them newer titles (in the longer piece, she is unimpressed with the recent crop of books and is particularly scornful of Bill O’Reilly, who she says “has milked the Kennedy assassination with unique efficiency”). She calls An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, by Robert Dallek. (Hachette/Little, Brown, 2003; Hachette Audio), “one of the best of the full biographies.”

In a separate piece, Jacob Heilbrunn is kinder to several of the newer titles (he doesn’t mention any of O’Reilly’s).

Twain, Part Deux

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The release of the second volume of a book that was an unexpected best seller in 2010, the autobiography of Mark Twain, was celebrated on the PBS Newshour.

Mark Twain
Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2  The Complete and Authoritative Edition
Mark Twain, ed. by Benjamin Griffin, and The Mark Twain Project
U. of California Press
October 5, 2013
9780520272781, 0520272781; $45.00 US
Simultaneous Audio: Blackstone

Embargoed Memoir About Steve Jobs

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

The Bite in the Apple Jacket-14.aspxExaminations of the lives of rock star entrepreneurs are in the news this week.

On the heels of  stories about a bio of Jeff Bezos, The New York Post runs an excerpt today of an embargoed  book about another legendary leader, The Bite in the Apple: A Memoir of My Life With Steve Jobs by Chrisann Brennan, (Macmillan/St. Martin’s; Tantor Audio), to be published on Oct. 29 (front covers on the left; back on the right).

The author first met Jobs in 1972. They split up after  Brennan became pregnant with Jobs’ daughter in 1977.


Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

The Everything StoreMedia attention is focused on Brad Stone’s embargoed title, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Brad Stone, (Hachette/ Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; Hachette Large Print), which arrives today.

The business press, including The Wall Street Journal, is focused on what the book says about Bezos’s management style, while more general magazines are fascinated by the fact that Stone managed to track down Bezos’s biological father.

Stone, senior editor at Bloomsberg Businessweek appeared on NPR yesterday and on CBS This Morning. Opinions of Bezos are divided, and Stone is one of his fans. As a review in The Seattle Times notes, “There clearly are Amazon critics who would love the definitive chronicle of Bezos and the company he built to knock both down a few pegs. This isn’t that book,” and goes on to say, “It’s a deeply reported and deftly written book revealing how Amazon is a reflection of the drive of its founder.”

Reuters headline, portrays it differently, “Why It Pays to Be a Jerk Like Jeff Bezos.”

Below is the video from CBS This Morning:

Did They Or Didn’t They?

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Johnny CarsonThe tabloids are abuzz with a leaked story from an embargoed bio of Johnny Carson written by his longtime lawyer and close friend, Henry Bushkin. Titled simply Johnny Carson, (HMH; Brilliance Audio), the book will be published on Monday

Amazingly, it seems to still matter whether Carson’s second wife had an affair in the early 1970’s with  sportscaster Frank Gifford. His wife, Kathie Lee used some of her time on the Today Show yesterday to deny the story while also saying that when she asked her husband, now 86, he replied, “I don’t remember.” Joanna Carson, now 81, on the other hand, is certain it never happened.


Sunday, August 25th, 2013

9781476744834Several news sources, including today’s New York Times, reveal that an embargoed biography of J.D. Salinger claims there are at least five more books in the author’s vault, and that Salinger left instructions to begin publishing them in 2015.

The assertions are in the 720-page Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno (S&S; S&S Audio), which is being published on Sept. 3. A related documentary, also titled Salinger, directed by Salerno, will be released a few days later and will be featured in January on American Masters on PBS.

Speaking for the estate, the author’s son refused to comment for the story.

As a result of the coverage, the book rose on Amazon ales rankings to #156, from #2,614.

Below is the trailer for the documentary, More details on the book are in a story in The Guardian.