Nowadays, the title of a nonfiction book is almost invariably followed by a phrase hyping the contents, including words like incredible, survival or secret. No such subtitle is needed for two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough’s latest book, The Wright Brothers, even though it contains all three elements.
Not long after his family moved from Memphis to rural Mississippi, young Harrison Scott Key began to notice how out of step he was with his surroundings. Willing to rise at 4 a.m. to accompany his father and brother on hunting trips, he nevertheless preferred to read, or bake, or simply not shoot things. With The World’s Largest Man for a parent, though, those options often took a backseat to a day spent in camouflage with gun at the ready.
Willie Nelson was born to be a rambling man, but he was also born to be a gifted songwriter and storyteller. In his rambunctious and meandering memoir, It’s a Long Story, Nelson regales readers with stories of his life, from his childhood in Abbott, Texas, to his now-famous run-in with the IRS over back taxes in the 1990s.
Nationhood was never a goal of the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence refers to “Free and Independent States.” After the Revolutionary War ended, a majority of the population was opposed or indifferent to a transition from individual states to a federal government. In his brilliant and exciting new book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, historian Joseph J. Ellis tells the story of how a small group of leaders, disregarding popular opinion, took the American story in a new direction
In his early Cold War novels, John le Carré referred to something called “Moscow Rules”: the tradecraft used by spies in a hostile city when they had to be super-cautious to avoid getting caught. If you want to learn the 21st-century equivalent of those rules, The Spy’s Son is a great place to start—although in real life, they don’t always work as smoothly as in fiction.
Clearly it’s not just cats that have nine lives. In Robert Weintraub’s exceptionally well researched and engaging No Better Friend, we meet Judy, a purebred English pointer and hero of World War II.
Ronald Reagan is trending. Everyone from Ted Cruz to Barack Obama sings his praises. Why is Reagan so popular? Was it his movie-star looks? His cowboy swagger? His “America first” doctrine? H.W. Brands covers it all in his thorough biography, Reagan.
The frequent surprises in Oliver Sacks’ guardedly self-revelatory autobiography begin with the book’s cover photo. There we see a buff, leather-jacketed Sacks astride his new BMW motorcycle in Greenwich Village in 1961. Who knew that the genial, gray-bearded, best-selling writer-neurologist once portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie Awakenings (1990) was such a hunk in his late 20s? Or a state-champion lifter on Southern California’s Muscle Beach? Or a physician addicted for a while to amphetamines? Or a closeted gay man who had sex during the week of his 40th birthday and then not again until he fell in love at 75?
Janis Heaphy Durham walked into the bathroom of her home one year to the day after the death of her beloved husband, only to stare in amazement at what appeared to be a handprint on the mirror. This was just one of many strange things that had happened since Max’s premature death from esophageal cancer at age 56. Was Max trying to contact her from beyond the grave? In her gripping new book, The Hand on the Mirror: A True Story of Life Beyond Death, Durham reveals her own awakening to possibilities beyond the material world.
More people live alone in America and more American women identify as single than ever before. Kate Bolick’s blockbuster 2011 Atlantic cover story, “All the Single Ladies,” ignited a conversation about how unmarried women are changing contemporary culture. In her thoughtful follow-up to that article, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, Bolick considers the deeper questions emerging from the statistics on single women. How do women (like Bolick, like this reviewer) who are working, living and aging alone construct meaningful, loving lives? How do we negotiate between solitude and community?