Titles to Know and Recommend, Week of Jan. 4, 2016

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Whether it’s chicken or egg, the year kicks off with a raft of diet and health books as well as People magazine’s annual issue on humans (and, frighteningly this year, pets) who have lost half their body weight. Even the NYT Book Review explores self-help books in its first cover feature of the year, also offering a rare review of several diet books.

Some other voices are breaking through, however. As noted in the NYT BR podcast, there is a counter-trend of people admitting to their failures. Even People attests to this; one  of their “Picks of the Week” is Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life, Kelsey Miller (Hachette/Grand Central). The NYT BR also covers the very flawed and human Michael Ian Black’s satiric Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies, Mostly Mine (but also my mom’s, which I know sounds weird).

00-ew1397-1398-marvel-first-lookEntertainment Weekly also attests to the trend. The first issue of the new year offers “First Looks” at the major upcoming events in entertainment for 2016. Just one book gets the treatment, one by a woman who has never conquered the issue of weight, feminist Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, set to be published in June (Harper).

The titles covered here, and several other notable titles arriving in the upcoming week, are listed with ordering information and alternate formats, on our downloadable spreadsheet EarlyWord New Title Radar, Week of Jan. 4 2016.

Holds Leaders

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Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, Marie Kondo (Ten Speed, RH Large Print; OverDrive Sample).

Holds are growing on this followup to the continually popular book on the life-changing magic of tidying up. Take note that a rival book arrives next week, one that comes with a strong recommendation from our GalleyChatter columnist, Robin Beerbower, New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else), Fay Wolf (PRH/Ballantine).

Forty Thieves, Thomas Perry (Mysterious Press).

Perry’s standalone thriller is getting acclaim, from a starred Booklist review to LJ‘s verdict that it “presents two intriguing couples whose relationships are as compelling as the action that drives them. The novel speeds to a surprising conclusion that will satisfy Perry’s many followers and generate new fans.”

Media Attention

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Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom For Modern Times, Al Roker and Deborah Roberts (PRH/NAL; Penguin Audio).

By the Today Show‘s Roker and his wife Deborah Roberts, a 20/20 correspondent, this is poised to get media attention.

NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football, Johnny Anonymous  (HarperCollins/Dey Street).

Billed as a book that will deliver “fun stuff, scary stuff, controversial stuff” on the NFL by a lineman writing anonymously, the NYT‘s daily reviewer Dwight Garner says it doesn’t deliver the goods and that “The N.F.L. has nothing to fear from this mild book.” The New York Daily News sees it differently quite differently, however.

Peer Picks

The first full week of January ushers in a bevy of IndieNext Picks. All nine are listed below with annotations by booksellers.

9780062270412_df6afThe Past, Tessa Hadley (Harper; Dreamscape Media; OverDrive Sample).

“A novel about a family vacation is often used as a device to bring out the worst flaws of the characters; here, it is used to bring out the best of Hadley’s writing talent. She brings the family together, introducing them one by one: Harriet, the outdoorsy one; Alice, the dramatic one; Fran, the motherly one; Roland, the scholarly brother. The siblings, along with assorted children, spouses, and a young friend, spend three weeks in the crumbling house that belonged to their grandparents, trying to decide what must be done with it. Readers who enjoy character-driven novels, such as ones by Kate Atkinson, Margaret Drabble, or Jane Gardam, will welcome this novel.” – Yvette Olson, Magnolia’s Bookstore, Seattle, WA.

This is also People magazine’s “Book of the Week.” The reviewer agrees with the above assessment, that the set up is familiar, but that “Hadley is so insightful, such a lovely writer that she … makes you feel for these imperfect people, want to scold them and ultimately accept them as they are.”

9781250077691_6461eThe Sound of Gravel: A Memoir, Ruth Wariner (Macmillan/Flatiron Books; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).

“This is a memoir made extraordinary simply by the fact that the author lived to tell the tale. Wariner grew up in a polygamist cult across the Mexican border, the 39th of her father’s 41 children. Surrounded by crushing poverty and repeated tragedy, little Ruth was taught that girls are born to be used by callous men and an angry God. However, she had just enough contact with her maternal grandparents and the outside world to realize the bizarre practices at home didn’t match up with the rest of civilization. With quiet persistence, she grew into an adolescent and began to consider the possibility of escape. Riveting and reminiscent of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.” – Mary Laura Philpott, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

Also gets a resounding A from Entertainment Weekly.

9780316309677_33ac1After the Crash, Michel Bussi (Hachette Books; Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

“This old-fashioned crime novel by a French geography professor considers the miraculous survival of a three-month-old infant girl in an airplane crash in the Jura Mountains in which all perished — including a second three-month-old baby. An 18-year struggle is unleashed between two rival sets of grandparents on opposite ends of the economic scale, one of which is accorded custody of the child. Does she really belong to that family? Is her brother really her brother? As the age of majority of the survivor approaches, the questions become more urgent and the private detective who has been on the case for 18 years tries to bring some closure.” – Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT.

9780385538893_5aff7The Guest Room, Chris Bohjalian (PRH/Doubleday; Random House Audio; OverDrive Sample).

“From the explosive beginning all the way to the adrenaline rush of its conclusion, The Guest Room packs an emotional punch that will leave the reader gasping. When a bachelor party goes terribly wrong and two Russian mobsters wind up dead in his home, financier Richard Chapman finds himself struggling to save his job and marriage. Intertwined with Richard’s story is the tale of Alexandra, a young sex slave with a narrative voice that will break your heart. Nobody does domestic drama quite like Bohjalian. Once again he proves himself a master of page-turning literary fiction.” – Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN.

9780544526709_77cb2Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

“When Cora’s Aunt Ruth, whom she hasn’t seen since childhood, shows up on her doorstep, mute yet demanding Cora follow her, Cora makes a split-second decision to do that to escape her dead-end job and the father of the baby she is carrying. The tale of the road trip that follows and the details of Ruth’s past are told in alternating chapters until they merge. The cast of characters and settings are mysterious and creepy, like something out of a David Lynch movie. Readers will be compelled to keep the pages turning until the secrets are revealed.” – Kelley Drahushuk, The Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, NY.

The book also earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

9781501117398_b06acThe Children’s Home, Charles Lambert (Simon & Schuster/Scribner; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample).

“Tragically disfigured and reclusive, Morgan lives in a secluded country estate with only his housekeeper, Engel, to keep him company — until the children start to arrive. The first, an infant named Moira, is left in a basket on the doorstep; others soon follow — including the oddly precocious David — the eldest at five years old. But what does the children’s enigmatic presence portend for Morgan and the world in which he lives? Through lyrical prose, Lambert creates an absorbing and dream-like narrative that recalls both the pastoral gothic of Shirley Jackson and the dystopic vision of John Wyndham.” – Dan Doody, University Book Store, Seattle, WA.

9781451691658_485acThe Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley, Eric Weiner (Simon & Schuster; Simon & Schuster Audio).

“In his latest quest, acclaimed travel writer Weiner takes readers on a journey to discover creative places that inspire and cultivate geniuses. Time-traveling from ancient Athens to modern Silicon Valley with Hangzhou, Florence, Edinburgh, Calcutta, and Vienna as stops along the way, Weiner conducts a grand tour of those places thought to be conducive to ingenuity. He asks, What was in the air, and can we bottle it? A fascinating and entertaining literary treat connecting culture and creativity.” – Kathleen Dixon, Fair Isle Books, Washington Island, WI.

9781616203825_38961Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Ed Tarkington (Workman/Algonquin Books; HighBridge Audio).

“Tarkington’s debut novel feels positively Shakespearean in its sense of family dynamics and the sometimes destructive power of love, but it speaks with the deceptively plain, poignant language of a Neil Young song. Set in the 1980s in a small Virginia town, the book tells the coming-of-age story of Rocky Askew as he copes with fraternal abandonment, dangerous liaisons, caregiving, and one town scandal after another with little help other than his brother Paul’s old vinyl collection. Only Love Can Break Your Heart speaks to anybody working to function, however imperfectly, in any type of family.” – Andrew Hedglin, Lemuria Bookshop, Jackson, MS.

9781616955908_80cb0The Gun, Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Allison Markin Powell (Soho Crime; OverDrive Sample).

“Alienation and obsession are dissected in this unsettling, spare novel. Nishikawa, a listless college student, happens upon a dead man during a nighttime walk. He inexplicably picks up the pistol lying by the body and brings it to his apartment. From this precipitous moment, the weapon becomes an obsession. Nishikawa finds his tedious reality taking on new meaning through the possibilities of an object that was designed to kill, and yet he must conceal his fetish from his classmates, lovers, and — most importantly — the police, who suspect that he has the gun. This award-winning noir novel, translated from Japanese, is an unflinching, dark story of one man’s expanding consciousness — and threat.”  – Cindy Pauldine, the river’s end bookstore, Oswego, NY.


9781101965498_0e088The big tie-in news of the week is that finally, after delaying its release date for weeks to prevent leaks about the story line, the publishers of the Star Wars novelization are allowing print readers access to the physical book (the ebook has been out since the movie opened).

As we reported, the book is by the same author who wrote the first Star Wars novelization decades ago, although the credit went to George Lucas.

The Force Awakens (Star Wars), Alan Dean Foster (PRH/Del Rey/LucasBooks; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample).

On Feb. 3, ABC will begin airing a miniseries detailing the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme with Richard Dreyfuss playing Madoff and Blythe Danner playing his wife, Ruth.

1484752694_147e8The show is based on the 2009 book by ABC News’s chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, The Madoff Chronicles (Inside the Secret World of Bernie and Ruth) (Kingswell; OverDrive Sample).

A tie-in edition will be published this week.

Also in the works is an HBO movie about Madoff, Wizard of Lies, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. It is expected to air some time this year.


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