It might not be the gold medal that Michael Phelps and the American women gymnastics earned last night, but the next Dan Brown film adaptation, Inferno, won its own Olympic competition. On the strength of a trailer played between high profile events, the novel jumped on Amazon, rising from #384 to #6.
Inferno (PRH/Anchor; trade pbk. ISBN 9780804172264; May 6, 2014; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) spent five straight weeks at #1 on the NYT hardcover bestseller list , and an additional 13 weeks in the top five.
Ron Howard again directs, with Tom Hanks starring as Langdon, a Harvard symbologist who cannot seem to stay out of trouble. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Rogue One), Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi), Omar Sy (The Intouchables), and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) also join the cast. David Koepp (Indiana Jones/Crystal Skull, Angels & Demons, Jurassic Park) wrote the screenplay.
Entertainment Weekly provides a concise summary of the action, saying Langdon “attempts to untangle a deadly mystery rooted in history, and this time, he finds himself swept up in a murderous conspiracy and plague tied to Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and the nine circles of hell.”
The first movie was a blockbuster. Angels and Demons followed three years later. Although deemed a success, it did not do as well as its predecessor. Collider points out that the seven-year gap between the last film and the new one raises the question of whether “the audience remains all this time later.” If the book’s movement on Amazon’s rankings is an indicator, the answer to that question is yes.
The movie premieres on October 28, 2016 in the US with an international start date of October 12th.
As we pointed out when the first trailer appeared, several tie-ins arrive in September:
One of the most-reviled medical practices of the last century is the lobotomy. In a book published this week, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, (PRH/Random House; RH Audio/BOT), Luke Dittrich examines one of the practitioners, a neurosurgeon who lobotomized Patient H.M. in an effort to solve his epilepsy. As a result, the patient emerged from the operation unable to create new memories and, in a time when “the lines between medical practice and medical research were blurry” became the “most important research subject in the history of brain science.” Dittrich says he finds the story personally shocking, particularly because the neurosurgeon was his grandfather.
An excerpt titled, “The Brain That Couldn’t Remember: The untold story of the fight over the legacy of ‘H.M.’ — the patient who revolutionized the science of memory” is the cover of this week’s New York Times Magazine.
UPDATE: A letter of protest sent to the NYT (but, oddly, not to the book’s publisher), signed by 200 members of the scientific community, most of them from MIT, protests parts of the story that are critical of MIT professor Suzanne Corkin.
With her 8th novel, a dark thriller about a young female gymnast,You Will Know Me(Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample), author Megan Abbott is poised to break out,
It got the NPR bounce on Amazon (rising to #145) after Maureen Corrigan reviewed it on yesterday’s Fresh Air, using gymnast metaphors to describe it as a “terrific new psychological suspense novel [with] a plot that somersaults and back flips whenever a safe landing seems in sight.”
It’s been racking up positive reviews, with the daily NYT ‘s critic Jennifer Senior enthusing that Abbott “is in top form in this novel … filling her readers with queasy suspicion at every turn.”
The timing of the release conveniently ties in to the Summer Olympics. Interviewed by Entertainment Weekly Abbott says that the inspiration for the parents in the novel came directly from US Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, who recently pulled off a nail bitter to qualify for the women’s all-around finals. Abbott references video footage that went viral in 2012, but Aly’s mom and dad are also getting noticed this year (see video below).
Holds are soaring, with some libraries we checked running as high as 5:1.
George R.R. Martin announced on his live journal blog on Saturday that his long running Wild Cards “series of anthologies and mosaic novels” is headed for television, adding, “Development will begin immediately on what we hope will be the first of several interlocking series“ to be produced by Universal Cable Productions (part of NBCUniversal and the group behind Mr. Robot, The Magicians, and 12 Monkeys). Presumably, this is the continuation of a deal first announced in 2011, when the adaptations were planned for the big screen.
Wild Cards began in the late 1980s and has continued through a series of 22 books (plus graphic novels, comics, and even games extending the stories). Martin describes it as “a universe, as large and diverse and exciting as the comic book universes of Marvel and DC (though somewhat grittier, and considerably more realistic and more consistent), with an enormous cast of characters both major and minor.”
Dozens of writers contribute to the series, described by Martin this way,
“on September 15, 1946 … an alien virus was released in the skies over Manhattan, and spread across an unsuspecting Earth. Of those infected, 90% died horribly, drawing the black queen, 9% were twisted and deformed into jokers, while a lucky 1% became blessed with extraordinary and unpredictable powers and became aces.”
No word yet on which of the many stories will be adapted and Martin won’t be working on the project due to his exclusive deal with HBO. He reports that “Melinda M. Snodgrass, my assistant editor and right-hand man on Wild Cards since its inception … is attached as an executive producer.”
To those outside the Martin fan-world, the books are not as well-known as A Song of Ice and Fire, the basis of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and many are out of print. Tor has re-released books 1-5, some with new material. Book 6 due out in 2017.
The Wild Cards site gives information on the books and characters. Martin keeps readers up on the series on his website, and, in a 2010 interview on the Newsarama.com, he offered some further details.
In spite of some pretty damning reviews. the comics-based movie, Suicide Squad had what Deadline characterizes as a “huge” opening this weekend. They credit that success in part to the diverse cast of Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Viola Davis.
Opening this week is Pete’s Dragon, the next in the Disney run of remakes of their earlier successes (Jungle Book, Cinderella), creating a new story from the 1977 original. Debuting Aug. 12, it stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, and Robert Redford.
IndieWire calls it “a warm, wistful, and wholly wonderful remake.” Variety says it is one “of the year’s most delightful moviegoing surprises, a quality family film that rewards young people’s imaginations and reminds us of a time when the term ‘Disney movie; meant something: namely, wholesome entertainment that inspired confidence in parents and reinforced solid American values.”
The Hollywood Reporter disagrees, calling it “dismayingly dull,” while The Guardiansays it “is part ET, part Jungle Book, part Peanuts. It’s sweet and soulful and Spielberg-ish, but with a bitter streak.”
A very different film premieres as well, the Mel Gibson vehicle Blood Father, a “rescue-and-revenge thriller,” as Variety calls it, featuring Gibson as a very, very down-on-his-luck father who takes on all comers to save his daughter. It is based on the 2005 book of the same name by Peter Craig (no tie-in has been released).
The Guardian, calls the film “a muscular and deliriously entertaining B-movie that is sure to play like gangbusters with genre aficionados,” continuing “As comeback projects go, Blood Father is stellar. It’s a wonder Quentin Tarantino, the king of career resurrection, didn’t get to Gibson first.”
Variety agrees, saying it is a “a perfect platform to launch the comeback of Mel Gibson … a way to remind people that Gibson, if given the chance, could juice up a serious movie.” About the film itself, they call it “a grimy little pulp action thriller … a scuzzy-bloody B-movie … way down on the totem pole of respectability.”
Indiewire was less impressed saying “Gibson now solidifies his new stature as a B-movie star, fated to anchor discardable material readymade for the bottom-of-the-barrel VOD treatment.”
On the small screen comes Chesapeake Shores, the Hallmark Channel adaptation of Sherryl Woods’s ten-book series of the same name. The first episodes follow events from The Inn at Eagle Point, Sherryl Woods (HC/MIRA; OverDrive Sample).
As Deadline describes the story, “It centers on the O’Brien clan—a large Irish-American family living on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in a town designed and founded by three O’Brien brothers. The television series focuses on the drama that ensues when the O’Brien family reunites after years apart to face the memories from their past and learn the importance of reconciliation.” It debuts on August 14 and stars Meghan Ory, Jesse Metcalfe, and Diane Ladd.
Several sneak peeks are available on Hallmark’s show site.
For the month of August Slate is focusing attention on children’s books in their new “pop-up” blog, Nightlight! which aims to “explore the art—and the business—of literature for kids,” in daily posts illustrated by Tina Kügler (Snail and Worm).
The first post is a review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, calling it an “adequate” “delivery device for extremely informed Potter fan fiction,” and continuing, “If Cursed Child is … the first play an entire generation of children will read, theater might be in for a rough couple of decades.”
Laura Miller, Slate‘s books and culture columnist, writes about formidable NYPL childrens librarian Anne Carroll Moore. While her story is well known among childrens librarians and childrens lit fans, Miller introduces her to a wider audience, saying “Beatrix Potter considered her a close friend; she could summon William Butler Yeats to appear at her library events … she was reputed to be able to make or break a book, much as the New York Times’ theater critic was said to determine the fate of a new play.”
Moore believed most books for kids were inadequate. We can only imagine Moore’s reaction to the books discussed in another post titled, “My Kids Read Only Subliterary Branded Commodities. Yours Probably Do, Too!”, which refers to movie and TV tie-ins for kids as “subliterary commodities, book-like objects … the juvenile equivalent of pornography … it’s hard not to take offense at the contempt with which the publishers treat their readership.”
The Slate Audiobook Club is generally a rather highbrow, New Yorker version of a book club. Not so in their latest, as the conversation about the boy who lived, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine), quickly becomes closer to a version of a Big BangTheory geek-out about the best Superman movie.
Slate contributors Katy Waldman, Dan Kois, and L.V. Anderson each have issues with the play script, Kois most of all, who cannot bring himself in the end to actually recommend the play in print form to new readers (see his review here). Anderson mourns the loss of motivations, emotions, and personality missing from the play’s scant information (it is almost entirely dialogue) but does, in the end, suggest it to readers. Waldman, far less invested in the story than her panelists, liked it and thinks it is great fun.
Their conversation centers around what the play does well (introduce interesting new characters and provide rewarding tidbits about those readers already know and adore) and very poorly (it lacks, they say, world building, internal logic, and is far too beholden to fan fiction).
While not as useful as previous discussions for book group leaders, the conversation provides insight into the widely varying reviews and fan reactions.
Poor white Americans tend to vote against their own interests, a phenomenon that has long perplexed political observers. For the 2008 election, a touchstone book was Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War by Joe Bageant (PRH/Crown).
This year, journalists are turning to two new books to try to understand the issue.
Debuting on the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction best seller list this week at #9 is Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance (Harper; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample), which we first wrote about last week, as holds began to soar, based on media coverage.
“Since voters who feel unrepresented don’t expect anything new from practiced politicians, they have become convinced that Trump is talking to and not about them … They’re hearing his anger, an anger they recognize.”
When we checked in June, library holds were minimal, but that has changed. It is now topping a 4:1 ratio in most libraries.
August is technically the beginning of the fall publishing season, so things quiet down a bit before the onslaught of the big fall titles. Nevertheless, librarians and booksellers still managed to find 10 titles coming out next week to recommend (see Peer Picks, below).
The major book news of next week will still be the books of this week, including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine) which just hit the USA Today best seller list at #1. No surprise there, except that, because of the timing of the list, that represents just one day of sales. This week, it’s a People pick (“Spectacular magic and disturbing violence make this a dramatic entry into Harry’s enchanted but troubled world.”)
The first SERIAL podcast was a major phenomenon. It focused on the 20-year old case that put Adnan Syed in prison for the murder of his high school girlfriend. The woman who brought the case to the producers’ attention is Rabia Chaudry, who has worked tirelessly to free Adnan. This is her story. A new trial was recently ordered so the case is in the news once again. People covers the book under the headline, ‘Adnan Syed is Innocent and I Can Prove It: Lawyer Rabia Chaudry.‘ The L.A. Times just published a review.
One of the titles on the majority of the summer reading lists, this is sure to be heavily reviewed. Based on advance holds, it appears that most libraries have underbought this one. It is also the IndieNext #1 pick for the month (see Peer Picks, below)
Irish author McInerney’s debut won the UK’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Marilyn Stasio, in her most recent New York Times Book Review “Crime” column, says she has a “wonderfully offbeat voice … Not only is McInerney’s prose ripe with foul language and blasphemous curses delivered in the impenetrable local idiom, but her style is so flamboyantly colorful it can’t always be contained.”
Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, Luke Dittrich, (PRH/Random House; RH Audio/BOT).
An excerpt titled, “The Brain That Couldn’t Remember: The untold story of the fight over the legacy of ‘H.M.’ — the patient who revolutionized the science of memory” is the cover of this week’s New York Times Magazine. The author was interviewed on Wednesday on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show and will be featured on PBS NewsHour next week. Kirkus assesses it as, “Oliver Sacks meets Stephen King in a piercing study of one of psychiatric medicine’s darker hours.”
Consumer Media Picks
In addition to the new Harry Potter and the latest Oprah pick, People also gives the love to a less well-known title, Lucy Foley’s The Invitation(Hachette/Little,Brown; OverDrive Sample) a romance set on a yacht sailing to Cannes in 1953. People recommends that readers “Pop this tale of love, secrets and obsession right into your beach bag.”
Entertainment Weekly focuses on Dark Matter (PRH/Crown; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), Blake Crouch’s novel that arrived last week to much fanfare. It arrived on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list, but just barely, at #14. EW rates it a B+.
EW‘s head critic, Tina Jordan gives the less anticipated Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood (S&S; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample) an A (review not yet online). In this nonfiction title, the author investigates how to fake her own death to solve her student-loan debt and discovers a weird underground that includes a morgue in the Philippines that sells bogus death certificates.
Ten recommendations from librarians and booksellers hit shelves this week, including four on the August LibraryReads list:
“Arden Arrowood returns to the family home, a stately Second Empire mansion, after the death of her father. She is hoping to find some peace and possibly an answer to the decades old mystery of her twin sisters’ kidnapping. Arden, at age 8, was the only witness to their disappearance, but memory is a tricky thing. The spooky old house, the setting on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River Bluffs, the small town atmosphere, a creepy caretaker, and many family secrets make this novel Un-put-down-able! Highly recommended.” — Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX
“On the surface, Jack and Grace have the perfect marriage, the perfect house, and the perfect jobs. What lies beneath the surface is something so sinister yet so believable that it will horrify most readers. What happens behind closed doors and could, or would, you believe it? This is a superb story of psychological abuse that will have your heart racing right up to the end.” — Marika Zemke, Commerce Township Public Library, Commerce Twp, MI
“Talented chef Olivia Rawlings didn’t make the best decisions in her love life, but it takes an accident with a flambéed dessert to force her into a major life change. She flees to a small town in Vermont and takes a job at a small inn. She soon discovers that even though the town is small, the world she has known is about to get much bigger. Miller’s writing is descriptive enough to imagine Olivia in this setting, smell her pastries baking, and hear the music in the story. Miller has captured the essence of a great character in a setting that could easily feel like home to many readers.” — Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, MO
Miller’s debut made WSJ guide to summer books about food [subscription maybe required] and the August Indie Next list.
“A recently separated woman seeks solace and purpose in a local book group, while her daughter is dealing with her own life-changing problems that just might be resolved with a little literary assistance. The juxtaposition of the idyllic small town and the harsh reality of the seedier side of Paris, the weight of memory and regret, and the power of human connection, along with the engaging characters all work together to create an enthralling read. Readers will be carried away with the hope that these lovely and damaged characters can find their own happy ending.” — Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, South Huntington, NY
It is an Indie Next selection as well as a B&N summer reading choice.
“National Book Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson has crafted a beautiful, heart-wrenching novel of a young girl’s coming-of-age in Brooklyn. Effortlessly weaving poetic prose, Woodson tells the story of the relationships young women form, their yearning to belong, and the bonds that are created — and broken. Brooklyn itself is a vivid character in this tale — a place at first harsh, but one that becomes home and plays a role in each character’s future. Woodson is one of the most skilled storytellers of our day, and I continue to love and devour each masterpiece she creates!” —Nicole Yasinsky, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN
“This is the most fun and unique book I have held in my hands in a long time. It is a ‘non-linear memoir’ consisting of a quiz, random thoughts, poetry, essays, text message communications, family photos, and the captured moments of any given day. This textbook is an education in seeing the world through Rosenthal’s magical viewpoint — necessary for all who want to appreciate life’s little gifts.” —Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC
“Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko has spent his entire life in a cloistered world, but he possesses a keen intellect and an understanding of humanity that far exceeds the confines of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Severely physically handicapped due to radiation poisoning, Ivan has never had a friend beyond his caregivers at the hospital — until Polina is admitted. The two teens form a fast and indelible bond that will leave readers in awe of the tenacity of their commitment. Heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.” —Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN
“Full of quirky characters, passionate lovers, and literary references, this novel takes the reader on a playful romp through both Spain and the human soul. You know how a sprinkle of salt makes chocolate taste sweeter? This book seems all the more timeless for the dashes of modernity throughout — the Spanish detective who references CSI, the wedding band that plays Lady Gaga — all against the intoxicating backdrop of Madrid and Granada. Delightful!” —Nichole McCown, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
“As I read I Will Send Rain, I was transported to the West of the 1930s as the Dust Bowl storms began. Annie Bell is struggling to keep her home, body, and family free of the layers of dust that reappear as fast as they are wiped clean. Her husband has constant dreams of rain; her teenage daughter is blinded by love; her young son suffers from dust pneumonia; and now an admirer is forcing Annie to question her own ethics and being. I was moved by the characters, the historical background, the heartache, and the simultaneous longing and complacency that make this a beautiful and powerful story.” —Lori Fazio, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT
“Clever, smart, and brilliantly comic as it deals with our humanity, our resilient spirit, and the tremendous challenges that demand our cooperative attention, Mr. Eternity is a delight. Who can resist the tale of a 560-year-old American man named Daniel Defoe, who has much wisdom to offer the world and its people. This genre-bending page-turner is a blast to read!” —Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, CA
The biographical film Sully comes out on September 9 with some very big names attached. Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, and Aaron Eckhart all star while Clint Eastwood directs.
It recounts the story of airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger and the day he saved the passengers and crew of flight 155, by safely landing the plane after a bird strike on the Hudson River.
A tie-in comes out this week, Sully: My Search for What Really Matters, Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, III, Jeffrey Zaslow (HC/William Morrow; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample).
The new series Luke Cage, a spin-off of the Jessica Jones show and the next in the comics collaboration between Marvel and Netflix, debuts on Sept. 20. It follows the adventures of Cage, a man with unbreakable skin and super strength, who freelances as a superhero.
A new collected edition is being released this week:Luke Cage: Avenger, Mike Benson et al. (Hachette/Marvel).
Timed to coordinate with its released on DVD and Blu-ray this week, is a special, oversized black and white edition, Batman Noir: The Killing Joke, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland (PRH/DC Comics; OverDrive Sample).
Liane Moriarty’s latest Truly Madly Guilty(Macmillan/Flatiron; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample), which, as we reported, has been showing large holds lists, hits the USA Today‘s best seller list at #2, the highest debut Morality has ever achieved reports the paper, right behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The buzz has also powered her 2012 novel The Hypnotist’s Love Story onto the list at No. 47.
Her publisher is delighted, telling USA Today, “We are thrilled that Liane has debuted the highest she ever has … And if we can’t be No. 1, I can’t think of anyone we’d rather be behind than the boy wizard.”
According to USA Today, Moriarty first made their best-seller list in “2013 with The Husband’s Secret, entering the list at 32 and rising as high as No. 3. She followed that up the next year with a No. 3 debut for Big Little Lies in 2014. This year, her earlier books The Last Anniversary rose to No. 15 and What Alice Forgot peaked at No. 27.”
Reviews for Truly Madly, however, have been uneven. USA Today gave it 2.5 stars out of a possible 4, calling it “a summer bummer” and The New York Times gave it a less than stellar early review. Entertainment Weekly gives it a B, saying “it begins to feel like a very special, very frustrating episode of CSI: BBQ … [but] what sets Moriarty’s writing apart in the genre generally dismissed as chick lit has as much to do with her canny insights into human nature as her clever plotting … for Moriarty’s many fans, that should be truly, madly good enough.” The Washington Post has the most positive take.
But not all is rosy in the wizarding world. Even as the script-book debuted, Rowling announced that Harry Potter is now over, saying “I think we’re done … This is the next generation, you know. So, I’m thrilled to see it realised so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”
The script-book is also getting some push back after its initial glowing reviews. The NYT reports, “While many readers were ecstatic about the chance to have more material on Harry and his friends, others have faulted Ms. Rowling for licensing out her story and characters. Some fans have lashed out online, saying they feel they were duped and misled by the prominence of Ms. Rowling’s name on the cover.”
The Independent reports fans are having trouble with the format (despite being told in advance it was a script and not a novel and not by Rowling herself) and are vocal about their disappointment. The paper quotes some very unhappy Amazon readers, one who calls it “poorly planned fan fiction” and another who wrote “Rowling, you owe your fans a BOOK! I like to rename this Harry Potter and the great scam.”
For readers advisors looking for science fiction and fantasy titles for the end of summer, io9 offers a list of 15 suggestions, ranging from the return of blockbuster authors to worthy reads by lesser-known writers.
Sure to cause excitement are new books by Orson Scott Card and China Miéville.
Card joins with author Aaron Johnston on The Swarm: The Second Formic War (Volume 1) (Macmillan/Tor Books; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample), the first book in a new trilogy “set before the events of Ender’s Game [and after the events chronicled in the First Formic War series] … about the people of Earth’s ongoing battle in space with their dreaded alien opponents.”
Tahir “follows up her hit debut with a sequel that returns to the dystopian Martial Empire. It picks up right where An Ember in the Ashes left off, following slave Laia and soldier Elias as they continue the quest to break her brother out of prison.”
io9 says of Jemisin’s newest that “it continues the story of The Fifth Season—last year’s acclaimed tale of an apocalypse-prone planet teetering on the brink of yet another catastrophic climate change, and the complex characters who have a hand in its fate.”
The author of Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal, returns with a new story, Ghost Talkers (Macmillan/Tor; OverDrive Sample). io9 describes it as “Espionage meets spiritualism … Set during World War I, it follows the adventures of an American heiress serving in England as part of the Spirit Corps—a group of mediums who help the war effort by using their psychic powers.”
Also look for The Hike, Drew Magary (PRH/Viking; OverDrive Sample), a book that “blends folklore and video games [and is] about a suburbanite who gets lost while hiking through an unfamiliar forest—and soon, to his surprise, finds himself on an epic and magical quest.”
Written decades after the events in his book took place, Brinkley-Rogers, now 77, takes readers back to the summer of 1959 when he was stationed as a young sailor in Japan. There he met an older woman and the two fell into a significant friendship centered on “poetry, literature and music, a postwar cultural exchange heightened by a dramatic subplot involving yakuza gangsters,” according to The Costco Connection.
In a sidebar Ianniciello says she was “completely knocked off my feet” while reading, finding the book a “beautifully moving testament to the power of love.”
The book is thus far flying largely under the radar and several of the libraries we checked have yet to place orders. However, Bustle did pick it as one of their 17 featured nonfiction books of August, saying it:
“is the moving account of how writer Paul Brinkley-Rogers fell in love with a Japanese woman in 1959 while stationed overseas and never managed to get over her. Through both his depiction of their relationship and the touching letters they wrote one another, the book shares pieces of her fascinating life and her country’s history and how she left her mark. The memoir is a beautiful love letter in itself.”
Keep your eye on it. While Pennie’s Picks are eclectic, ranging from already established hits such as Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton to lesser-known titles, her picks of the latter often result in their showing up on best seller list.
Jeffrey Toobin wrote the definitive book about one of the highest profile crime of the 1990’s, The Run of His Life, about O. J. Simpson. The popularity of two recent TV series on the case, one of which is based on that book, demonstrate there is a strong interest in revisiting such stories.
Going back even further in his latest book, Toobin takes a new look at the story of the 1974 kidnapping and arrest of Patty Hearst: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, (PRH/Doubleday; OverDrive Sample).
Following in the footsteps of Toobin’s O.J. title, Deadline Hollywood reports film rights were acquired prior to publication.
Libraries ordered the book modestly and holds are growing as a result of media attention. In an almost hour long conversation on NPR’s Fresh Air, Toobin talks to an enthralled Terry Gross about the case.
Hearst was the 19-year-old granddaughter of the famous newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and while her case was a sensation at the time, Toobin found that nothing new had been written about the case in decades and decided to investigate it again.
Placing the story in its time, Toobin calls the period a “toxic, dangerous, scary time in America. … During the early and mid ’70s, there were 1,000 — 1,000!— bombings a year in the United States … [due to] a violent political culture.”
In this environment “the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small, armed revolutionary group with an incoherent ideology and unclear goals” kidnapped Hearst – at a point in her life where she was at “a particularly vulnerable and restless moment in her life … uniquely receptive to new influences.”
Against the standard story line that Hearst was brainwashed or suffering from Stockholm syndrome, Toobin argues that she “responded rationally to the circumstances she was confronted with at each stage of the process” and joined her kidnappers in their crimes.
Under her own power, says Toobin, she committed real harm, “She robbed three banks. She shot up a street in Los Angeles. She helped plant bombs in several places in northern California.”
Toobin says she “had multiple opportunities to escape over a year and a half. She went to the hospital for poison oak and she could’ve told the doctor, ‘Oh by the way, I’m Patty Hearst.’ She was caught in an inaccessible place while hiking and the forest rangers helped her out, and she could’ve said, ‘Oh by the way, I’m Patty Hearst.’ She didn’t escape because she didn’t want to escape.”
She was eventually captured and sent to prison for 7 years, but only served 22 months before President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. President Bill Clinton pardoned her years later. Toobin calls both actions “the purest example of privilege on display that frankly I have ever seen in the criminal justice system.”
In her advanced NYT review, Janet Maslin writes, “As Mr. Toobin sees it, Patty — now Patricia again — was always an adroit opportunist, never a deep thinker, and remained an artful pragmatist under any circumstances.”
The Washington Post calls it “terrific” and “riveting” book, a “lurid crime story with its own toxic mix of race, class, celebrity and sex.”
Why do some people get car sick? Why do humans exaggerate? Why are some people great at Jeopardy and awful balancing a checkbook?
Terry Gross explores those questions and much more during a Fresh Air interview with Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and author of Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To (Norton; OverDrive Sample).
The two talk about how the brain is highly illogical – if it were a computer it would alter the information stored within it to “suit your purposes, to suit your preferences … [its] egotistical … the brain tweaks and adjusts the information it stores to make you look better.”
Burnett also explains what happens with short-term memory: why you can walk into a room and forget why you went there in the first place. He calls it as fleeting as the “foam on your coffee.”
The fascinating and oddly practical information clearly engages Gross, who applies what Burnett says to her own life.
He offers more tidbits in a Smithsonian interview, where he explains what causes us to feel like we are falling in our sleep only to jerk awake (“It could have something to do with our ancestors sleeping in trees”) and how Tylenol can soothe a broken heart – because the brain actually feels the loss of a romantic partner and acetaminophen effects that part of the brain.
Burnett writes the “Brain Flapping” column for The Guardian. One of its competitors, the Independent, calls his book “a wonderful introduction to neuroscience [that] deserves to be widely read.”
Libraries have bought fairly low but are seeing growing holds.