Archive for the ‘History’ Category

HENRIETTA LACKS, Premiere Date

Friday, February 17th, 2017

9781400052172_1e7daHBO just announced that their adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s long-running bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, will begin airing on Sunday, April 22 at 8 p.m.

Oprah Winfrey stars as Deborah Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter and the character through whom the story is told. Rose Byrne (Damages) plays Skloot. Others in the cast include Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story). George C. Wolfe (Angels In America) wrote the adaptation and will direct.

The book recounts the sad but fascinating story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman from Baltimore who died in 1951. Johns Hopkins Hospital removed cancer cells from her body without her permission  They were the first cells to live outside a human body, making them invaluable for medical research. They continue to be used today.

The story is in the news again for reasons other than the HBO series. The Lacks family is suing Johns Hopkins. Lacks’s  grandson explains to The Baltimore Sun “Everyone else is making funds off of Henrietta’s cells … I am sure my grandmother is up in heaven saying, ‘Well, what about my family?‘”

A fixture on best seller lists, the book spent a year on the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction list and over four on the Paperback Nonfiction list, falling off that list just a couple of weeks ago. 

9780804190107_07eacTie-in: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Movie Tie-In Edition), Rebecca Skloot (PRH/Broadway Books; March 28, 2017; OverDrive Sample).

Hamilton, Meet Grant

Friday, February 10th, 2017

455px-presidents_ulysses_s_grant_by_houseworthHistorian Ron Chernow is moving from the Revolutionary War era to the Civil War era with a biography of Ulysses S. Grant (PRH/Penguin; ISBN 9781594204876) coming October 17, 2017. The book will be massive, running 928 pages.

The Associated Press reports that it will be “the most high-profile effort yet to change the reputation of the country’s 18th president” from what was, as described by the publisher, that of “a chronic loser and inept businessman … whose tenure came to symbolize the worst excesses of the Gilded Age” to being regarded by Ta-Nehisi Coates as a literary hero.

Chernow has had some luck in refurbishing historical figures. His 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton (PRH/Penguin) was the basis for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning sensation. Chernow attributed its success to spurring him on to finish the new book.

A Real Life Indiana Jones

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

9781455540006_1130dCBS Sunday Morning features Douglas Preston and his new book The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story (Hachette/Grand Central; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample).

The book relates his adventures while searching for a legendary lost city in the rain forests of Mosquitia, which spans Honduras and Nicaragua. Preston tells reporter Lee Cowan that on that trip, he picked up  a parasite that requires a painful therapy.

The White City, or, as some call it, the City of the Monkey God, is a sacred place fabled to hold boundless treasure. “The legend is there was a great city in the mountains that was struck by a series of catastrophes, and the inhabitants thought the gods were angry at them, and [they] left, leaving all their belongings behind,” Preston says.

Using advances in laser mapping technology, explorer Steve Elkins and his team, which included Preston, found the city, braving pit vipers, mud, and foliage so thick they could not even see the site once they were upon it.

The team was jubilant, however, after they discovered rare artifacts, including carved figures left by a 16th-century citizenry who, as CBS notes, “fled the city in a desperate attempt to escape European disease and slavery.”

A National Geographic documentary about the expedition is also in the works.

HIDDEN FIGURES Goes To The White House

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

9780062363602_4650aThe cast and director of the upcoming film Hidden Figures will be hosted tonight by First Lady Michelle Obama at a special White House screening.

In addition to several cast members, 97-year-old Katherine G. Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson in the film, is also expected to attend. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year. NASA profiles her as “The Girl Who Loved to Count.”

Below is the ceremony. Johnson’s award begins at 30:24.

9780062662385_6084fHidden Figures is based on a book that is #5 on Time magazine’s list of the best nonfiction of the year, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly, released as a tie-in last month, (HC/William Morrow Paperbacks; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). 

It is one of the hot films of the season and debuts in a limited, Oscar-qualifying run, on Christmas Day. It will open in wide release on January 6.

Early reviews are strong. The Wrap says the movie:

“not only stirringly celebrates intelligent women of color (and the very idea of science itself), but it also offers a more realistic-seeming portrayal of racism than we generally get in American movies … Hidden Figures is feel-good history, but it works, and it works on behalf of heroes from a cinematically under-served community. These smart, accomplished women had the right stuff, and so does this movie.”

First Trailer for
ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

The film adaptation of The Zookeeper’s Wife the true story of the valiant couple who rescued 300 Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in the bombed Warsaw Zoo (see the NYT review of the book here), is set for release on March 31, 2017.

The first trailer was released today.

It stars Jessica Chastain who wrote in an essay in The Hollywood Reporter‘s special “Women in Entertainment” issue, that although women make up only 20% of the crew of The Zookeeper’s Wife, that’s “way more” than any film she’s ever worked on. As a result, she said, “You don’t feel a hierarchy; you don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated.”

A trade paperback tie-in will be released in February

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story
Diane Ackerman
(Norton;  February 7, 2017)

The Nightmare Behind TRUEVINE

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

9780316337540_bff94Journalist Beth Macy talked about her new book, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample) on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday.

Already listed as a finalist for the Carnegie Medal and the Kirkus Prize and an October Indie Next selection, Variety reports that negotiations are underway to acquire screen rights as “a potential starring vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio.” The NYT and USA Today offer recent reviews, with Janet Maslin of the NYT‘s calling it an “expert work of nonfiction” and USA Today writing “Macy’s conscientious reporting … and her vigorous storytelling make the saga … even more enthralling than fiction.” The Washingtonian has an illustrated excerpt.

Fresh Air host Terry Gross says the book, which follows the true story of two young black albino brothers, who were exhibited in a traveling freak show, helps explore “a larger story about race, class and entertainment in the first half of the 20th century.”

Macy’s previous book, Factory Man, was also admired by Maslin who said it is “in a class with other runaway debuts like Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers … Ms. Macy writes so vigorously that she hooks you instantly. You won’t be putting this book down.” The book was not quite as popular as the comparisons. It debuted at #10 on the New York Times Hardcover Non-fiction Best Sellers list during its first week on sale, remained on the main list for 3 weeks, and continued on the extended list for 4 more weeks.

As we reported earlier, Tom Hanks’s production company, Playtone, had plans to adapt Factory Man for an HBO mini-series, but there has been no news on the project since.

Closer To Screen: THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

9780060839789_2a833An all-star cast is set to bring one of Simon Winchester’s most beloved nonfiction accounts to the the screen, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (HC/Harper Perennial, 1998; OverDrive Sample).

Mel Gibson and Sean Penn will star in the film about James Murray, the 19th century professor who compiled the OED.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Gibson will play Murray and that the project is a passion of his. He has been working on getting the adaptation made for “nearly two decades.” Penn will play Dr. W.C. Minor, the “madman” who contributed thousands of entries to the dictionary.

Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) is set to join the cast and Entertainment Weekly reports that Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) will also feature in the film.

This is another turn in what may count as a comeback for Gibson. He is “fresh off the back of Venice Film Festival hit Hacksaw Ridge, a World War II drama” says Deadline, and he got strong reviews for this year’s Blood Father.

A premiere date has not been announced.

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.

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.

9/11 Book Soars

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

9781594206771_9a73cThe Red Bandanna: Welles Crowther, 9/11, and the Path to Purpose by Tom Rinaldi (PRH/Penguin; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) is rising on Amazon’s sales rankings, leaping over thousands of other titles to move from #6,305 to #15.

The dramatic jump coincides with a feature on Good Morning America.

The book recounts the heroic actions of Welles Crowther who worked for an investment banking firm at the World Trade Center. Crowther had planned to leave the firm to join the fire department, finally fulfilling a life long dream.

He was still working for the bank on 9/11, 2001 and he sacrificed his life to save at least five others, leading people out of the tower and then returning to help more. He was identified by the red bandanna he wore as a mask against the smoke.

His body was found, reports the New York Post, six months into the cleanup efforts. He was with a group of firemen who also perished working to save others.

President Obama honored Crowther during his  remarks at the dedication of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in 2014.

Libraries we checked are showing modest holds on light orders but given the approaching anniversary, this is a book that could take off.

Riding High

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

9780345544803_79f84Elizabeth Letts’s The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis (Random House/Ballantine; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) has landed at #17 on the NYT extended hardcover nonfiction list.

The NYT highlights Lett’s in the “Inside the List” feature, noting that while WWII is a perennially popular subject, recently it seems books on the “quirky corners of the war” are particularly gaining ground. Like The Monuments Men before it, Lett’s book recounts a little-known mission during the waning days of the war, to save prized Lipizzaner stallions. The Nazis had abducted the horses, stockpiling them as part of a plan to create a super breed. With the war ending, supplies short, and the Russian army closing in, the horses were in danger of being slaughtered for food. No less a figure than General Patton ordered the rescue.

Letts is the author of a previous best seller about a horse, The Eighty-Dollar Champion (2011).

Check your holds. Several libraries show spikes on modest ordering.

MARCH Continues

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

9781603093958_0e365Congressman John Lewis appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night and talked about his graphic memoir March, set for release next week as a three-volume boxed set, March (Trilogy Slipcase Set), John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions).

He told Colbert that the ten-cent comic Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story served for him as a road map into the Civil Rights movement.

He hopes that March will become the road map for another generation, making history and civil action plain and real, so it “jumps off the pages and sings and dances” for readers.

The pair also talked about the sit-in recently held in Congress to draw attention to gun violence and how it is an example of finding a way to get into what Congressman Lewis calls “good and necessary trouble.”

Be sure to watch the segment to the end — it’s not to be missed.

Holds Alert:
BLOOD IN THE WATER

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

9780375423222_1e3b7Check your orders, a new nonfiction account of the 1971 Attica Prison rebellion that led to a multi-day standoff, dozens of deaths, and a tense, politically charged aftermath, is making news and building a strong holds list.

Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (PRH/Pantheon; OverDrive Sample) published this week is getting attention because, unlike previous authors and some news organizations, she names the officers she believes shot and killed inmates and, in friendly fire, the prison guards taken hostage during the standoff. CBS News reported the story, also highlighting Thompson’s discussion of then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s “secret efforts afterward to establish an acceptable narrative of what happened.”

Calling it “remarkable” and “superb,” the NYT says “Not all works of history have something to say so directly to the present, but [this book] which deals with racial conflict, mass incarceration, police brutality and dissembling politicians, reads like it was special-ordered for the sweltering summer of 2016.”

Thompson’s account is also catching Hollywood’s attention. Variety reports it will make its way to movie theaters as TriStar Pictures just won a “heated bidding war” for film rights, with a production crew already named.

Libraries that bought it, ordered very few copies. Some are showing holds topping 5:1.

A Frontier Memoir Resurfaces

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

9780316341394_cdcc0A circuitous publishing path has brought new attention to a frontier memoir, recounting the hardscrabble life in Arkansas and on the Mississippi Delta during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman, Mary Mann Hamilton (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Featured on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, the book is rising on Amazon, leapfrogging over a thousand other books to move from #1,170 to #76.

Hamilton’s life story first saw the light of day when a neighbor urged her to enter her journal into a writing competition sponsored by publisher Little, Brown in 1933. It did not win and languished in a box kept under a bed, until the University Press of Mississippi published it to little fanfare in 1992 (although it was reviewed by the New York Times). Coming full circle, Little, Brown, has just  published a new edition.

NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan calls it a “standout,” with a “blunt voice” that makes vivid the world Hamilton occupied. Highlighting a racist passage, she warns some of the “sections are ugly and tough to read” but that ultimately the book is rewarding, revealing the wildness of that world and “just how easy it was to vanish in an earlier America.”

USA Today gave it three out of four stars, writing it “underscores the huge power of unvarnished storytelling.”

The Chicago Tribune writes vividly about the “backbreaking labor” and wilderness Hamilton existed within, offering a picture of a woman tough as nails. In an especially intense example: soon after Hamilton gave birth, her home was cut off by flood waters, she “shelters with her daughter and three-month-old baby on a tree stump while bears swim past in the flood, not knowing whether her husband is dead or alive.”

Similar to the unexpected success of another frontier memoir, Pioneer Girl, holds are growing and inventory is low. In libraries we checked some systems are showing hold figures as high as 6:1.