Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Are YOU Ready To See Your
Fixer Upper?

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

9780718079185_a0cf7The hosts of HTGV’s popular design show Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines, have teamed up with New York Times bestselling collaborator Mark Dagostino on a memoir.

The Magnolia Story (Thomas Nelson) is due out on Oct. 18 (Magnolia is the name of their various businesses).

People offered a “first look” at the cover and reports the memoir starts long before the couple became famous for their 360-degree restorations of houses in need of repair.

Casual viewers of Fixer Upper may be surprised that the book is published by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, not known for design books. Although they don’t talk about it on the show, the Gaines have a strong Christian faith (the Billy Graham web site published a story last fall titled, “How God Used Billy Graham to Influence Fixer Upper Family“) and The Magnolia Story is primarily a memoir.

Joanna Gaines is also working on a design book, as noted in a press release, to be published by Thomas Nelson Gift Books in early 2017.

Expect an extensive media campaign for the memoir closer to pub. date.

HAMILTON Goes Off Broadway

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Screen-Shot-2015-12-31-at-10.04.01-AMThe hip hop musical Hamilton is sweeping the box office and every award it encounters. Yesterday, the Broadway sensation headed off-Broadway, all the way to the White House.

It was actually a return performance. Seven years ago, rapper and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda gave the president a taste of a “concept album based on the life of I someone I think embodies hip hop: Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton.” Yesterday, the full cast performed songs from the resulting musical.

In this first clip, the President talks about the musical and then the cast performs the opening number, “Alexander Hamilton.”

Here the cast performs “My Shot.”

There was a even a Rose Garden rap session, which, fulfilling POTUS’s prediction, immediately went viral.

Miranda’s preview of the work in progress seven years ago brought the President to his feet.

The Ten-Dollar Founding Father

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

One of the year’s most unlikely success stories is that of a Broadway musical about one of the Founding Fathers, in rap.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 10.04.01 AMHamilton: An American Musical hit Broadway in August following its Off-Broadway success. So hot are tickets that it’s even getting coverage in the UK, where it has yet to be staged, The Telegraph reports,

“It’s being billed as a game-changer in Broadway history, the first musical since Rent to bring the kind of popular music people are actually listening to in clubs, on the radio, at home, to the Broadway stage.”

The show album is also breaking records. Playbill reports that it has gone “where no other Broadway score has gone before: #1 on the Billboard chart of rap albums.” This month, it was announced as one of the nominees for a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

As Hamilton the man is getting more attention, so is Ron Chernow, the historian and biographer who wrote the National Book Award winning Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004), which is central to the show’s creation. Rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway musical In the Heights, read it on vacation and instantly saw its potential as a musical. It was a six-year trip to realization with Chernow serving as the show’s historical adviser.

The Wall Street Journal features the author in a Christmas Day article on the show and its effect on the his celebrity. Says Chernow, “I never dreamed that I would be autographing Playbills … [this year has been] a biographer’s wish-fulfillment fantasy” adding, “With any piece of writing, you’re hoping that it will change something, and it seldom does. Between the book and the show, we really changed the perception of Alexander Hamilton.”

As part of a Time special edition, Alexander Hamilton: A Founding Father’s Visionary Genius—and His Tragic Fate, Chernow explains that Hamilton’s reputation is seeing a revival partly because,

“America has grown into the contours of the country of [Hamilton’s] imagination … We have caught up to his prophetic vision.”

Readers are also catching up. Chernow’s biography of Hamilton has been on the NYT Paperback Nonfiction list for the last six weeks, reaching a high of #2 and holds are growing in many libraries we checked.

9781594200090_4ee8fWhile not actually a tie-in, the trade paperback edition now features the logo from the show on the cover.

The Wall Street Journal posted a video with clips from the show.

Before it moved to Broadway, CBS Sunday Morning featured a story on Hamilton, Chernow, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

More is coming, including road show versions, a likely Tony Award, and a book about the musical.

9781455539741_0d3dcHamilton: The RevolutionLin-Manuel Miranda with Jeremy McCarter, (Hachette/Grand Central Publishing; Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio). Playbill, quoting a release, reports,

“The book will be designed to look like an object from Hamilton’s era and will include photos and artifacts in addition to interviews, essays and sidebars to accompany the central narrative of Hamilton’s life story and how and why Miranda crafted that life into the stunning stage work over the course of six years.”

Chernow told The Wall Street Journal he is currently working on a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, which the paper says, he is writing “faster than usual, energized by the impact of 2015.”

On the Dowager

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

9781250081483_24d0dJust in time for Sunday’s debut of the final season of Downton Abbey in the U.S., a new biography of one of the show’s favorite stars, Maggie Smith by Michael Coveney (Macmillan/St. Martin’s; Macmillan Audio) is published today.

Like it’s subject, says the Washington Post review, it reveals little about her personal life, but much about her acting career, pointing readers to some of her lesser-known, but “superb” films like A Private Function (1984), the “heartbreaking” The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987) and her monologue, Bed Among the Lentils for the 1988 BBC TV series Talking Heads. Quite different from her role on Downton Abbey, it shares its dry humor.


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.