Leonardo DiCaprio and production companies Appian Way and Double Features have acquired rights to Erik Larson's 2003 nonfiction book, The Devil in the White City. DiCaprio will take on the role of the titular 'devil'—Dr. HH Holmes, considered America's first serial killer, who lured anywhere from 20 to 200 women to their deaths in his hotel during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. In the novel, Holmes' murders are framed by the story of architect Daniel Burnham, who designed the fair. As author Larson put it in our 2003 interview, "One guy built this marvelous fair. The other guy built this twisted hotel. They were both architects in a way."
DiCaprio's business partner, Jennifer Killoran, says, "I think that a guy who is that intelligent and that charismatic is nothing less than complex, and it's that complexity that [DiCaprio] is drawn to."
Did you read Devil in the White City? Would you see the movie?
Another 2011 release we have our eye on is Ruth Brandon's Ugly Beauty (Harper). Coming in February, the book is a dual biography of Helena Rubinstein and the founder of L'Oréal, Eugène Schueller, who faced off during the early days of the cosmetics industry. Though Rubinstein's company made her into the first female millionaire, Schueller's brand eventually triumphed, albeit at the price of his reputation—his rise to the top during the 30s and 40s meant collaborating with the Nazis.
From the catalog:
[C]ultural historian and biographer Ruth Brandon uses their conflict to ask important contemporary questions about feminism, standards of beauty, and the often murky intersection of individual political aims and the role of business. Drawn from incredible archival material and a vast historical record, Ugly Beauty is a riveting true story that reads like a thriller, filled with remarkable twists, turns, and larger-than-life characters.
Michael Lewis, author of many popular nonfiction books including The Blind Side, Liar's Poker and Next: The Future Just Happened, has signed a deal with Norton to write a new book titled Boomerang. This one will be about "the effects of the U.S. financial crisis on large and small European countries and how their difficulties impact the US." According to the Norton online catalog, the book will be available in June 2011.
If you'd like some background information on how we got into this financial mess, you might check out the anthology edited by Lewis, Panic!: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity. BookPage reviewer Anne Bartlett described that book as "readable," and I can attest from reading Liar's Poker that Lewis makes finance incredibly interesting—even for those of us who snoozed through econ class in college.
In other Michael Lewis-related news, Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B Entertainment, has bought the film rights to The Big Short.
Do you read Michael Lewis? What other mainstream financial writers would you recommend?
Though the world is still glued to the live account of the Chilean mine rescue operation, a book about the 69-day saga has already been sold in the U.K. (it's currently on submission in the U.S., and has been sold in Germany and France.)
Guardian journalist Jonathan Franklin's 33 Men, Buried Alive will be published by Transworld's Bantam Press in early 2011. It's "based his on-the-scene reporting, which has included private conversations with the miners and the rescue team," according to the deal report in Publisher's Lunch.
More on the deal here.
Pat Conroy announced the National Book Award Finalists today at the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home in Savannah, Georgia.
There are certainly some surprises on the list—small press representation; an absence of Jonathan Franzen; the presence of rocker Patti Smith—along with a few BookPage favorites, like Nicole Krauss, Lionel Shriver and Rita Williams-Garcia.
According to an announcement from the National Book Foundation, this year's bunch of Finalists includes 13 women—"the largest number of women Finalists in a single year in the Awards' history."
Without further ado, here is the list. Click the links to read BookPage reviews.
Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America (Knopf)
Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule (McPherson & Co.)
Nicole Krauss, Great House (Norton)
Lionel Shriver, So Much for That (Harper)
Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel (Coffee House Press)
Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Spiegel & Grau)
John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq
Patti Smith, Just Kids (Ecco)
Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (FSG)
Megan K. Stack, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War (Doubleday)
Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City (Princeton University Press)
Terrance Hayes, Lighthead (Viking Penguin)
James Richardson, By the Numbers (Copper Canyon Press)
C.D. Wright, One with Others (Copper Canyon Press)
Monica Youn, Ignatz (Four Way Books)
Young People's Literature
Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker (Little, Brown & Co.)
Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird (Philomel Books)
Laura McNeal, Dark Water (Alfred A. Knopf)
Walter Dean Myers, Lockdown (Amistad)
Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer (Amistad)
Which books do you hope will win? What books did not make the list that should have?
Winners will be announced on November 17 in New York.
When we posted about Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington back in April, we wondered if there is really more to say about our first president, especially after Joseph J. Ellis' 2004 biography, His Excellency: George Washington.
Washington: A Life comes out today, and BookPage reviewer Roger Bishop puts our doubts to rest, writing that the biography is "magnificently written, richly detailed and always compelling."
If you're a history buff, how's this for a recommendation?—"We now know more about [Washington] than his family, friends and other contemporaries did."
For a taste of the book, watch Chernow (winner of the National Book Award in 1990) give some biographical details on Washington:
Will you check out Washington: A Life? What book trailers have you watched recently?
Working at BookPage has a lot of perks, but one of the best, in my opinion, is getting to look at and read great new books before they're even in the stores. This fall will see the publication of plenty of nonfiction sure-to-be-bestsellers. Here are some of the season's highlights:
Laura Hillenbrand, author of the blockbuster hit Seabiscuit, returns on November 16 with a story of adventure and survival during World War II. Unbroken follows young bombardier Louis Zamperini through his incredible ordeal after his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Hillenbrand's long-awaited follow-up to Seabiscuit will not disappoint her legions of fans.
Several excellent new biographies will hit shelves this fall, including Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life (Oct. 5); Jane Leavy's The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood (Oct. 12); Michael Korda's Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia (Nov. 16); and the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1, which goes on sale Nov. 15. Twain left instructions that his memoirs should remain unpublished for 100 years after his death, so that he could feel free to speak his mind frankly. Who knows what revelations those pages might contain?
In other nonfiction news, Bill Bryson is back this season with At Home: A Short History of Private Life (Oct. 5), in which Bryson narrows his focus from A Short History of Nearly Everything to the confines of his own house, while Simon Winchester's Atlantic (Nov. 2) calls itself a "biography" of the Atlantic Ocean, weaving in both historical facts and personal details from Winchester's own experiences at sea. And on Oct. 26, Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia) treads new ground with The Mind's Eye, a collection of essays on the interplay between vision and recognition, reading and communication, and other brainteasers, including Sacks' reflections on his own experience with eye cancer.
And finally, for those looking for a lighter read, Nora Ephron once more taps into the thoughts and concerns of "women of a certain age" with I Remember Nothing (Nov. 9), a follow-up to the major bestseller I Feel Bad About My Neck, while Vicki Myron returns to the subject of her beloved "small-town library cat" with Dewey's Nine Lives (Oct. 12), a collection of stories about and inspired by Dewey.
With so many excellent books to choose from, which one will you read first?
The next few months will bring two books inspired by the life and work of a long-dead French essayist. The first is a straight biography: in How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Other Press), Sarah Blackwell takes on the literary giant's major question—How to live?—and answers it in 20 different ways based on his work.
Well educated and wealthy, Montaigne retired from society for a long period following the deaths of a daughter (one of six), his brother, his father and a close friend. It was then that he composed his essays in an attempt to understand himself and the world. The witty, intelligent writings had instant appeal and are full of quotable quotes that are still familiar today, such as the title of the second Montaigne biography, When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know that She Is Not Playing With Me? (Pantheon), coming in March.
Have you read Montaigne? Are you interested?
The Long Journey Home (Spiegel & Grau) hits bookstores on March 1, 2011, and early buzz is Robison's story is compelling and well-told. The author, who has been wheelchair-bound since suffering a stroke in 1989, has been largely quiet about her sons' writings, saying only that she doesn't always agree with their portrayals of their early lives, and "I've had to forgive myself for many things."
It's well known that Robison had her own psychological troubles during her sons' childhoods—she attempted suicide and endured at least one abusive relationship.
Will she tell all in the memoir? Will you read it?
Hanna Rosin is one of my favorite contributors to Slate and The Atlantic (her piece titled "The Case Against Breast-Feeding" made waves). She's also an author; her book God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2007.
This month, she has a story in The Atlantic about the unprecedented role reversal of genders taking place in the United States—women are earning larger percentages of their family income, gaining more college degrees and are better positioned for success in fields that will grow in the coming years. Rosin will now turn the article into a book.
To be published by Riverhead in spring 2012, the book will examine "the upended state of gender roles and relations that seems to be putting women on top and leaving men in the dust—in education, work, money, health, home—and in the process radically reshaping cultural and political dynamics."
Like the article in The Atlantic, Rosin's book will be titled The End of Men. According to Publisher's Marketplace, it's "in the tradition of The Feminine Mystique, Backlash, The Beauty Myth and The Second Shift.
Does this sound like something you'd like to read? I enjoyed Gail Collins' 2009 book When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present [read my interview with Collins about the book here], and it seems that Rosin's book might be an appropriate follow-up. Or, if Rosin's article makes you worry about your sons, Richard Whitmire's new book Why Boys Fail might be of interest!
In other news, if you read this blog you know BookPage editors have been reading, discussing and recommending Adam Ross's Mr. Peanut. Rosin recently posted a note from Adam Ross on Slate blog XXFactor; he is responding to Rosin's comment that Mr. Peanut is about "men who obsessively fantasize about killing their wives as their only form of escape." The letter is worth a read, and I look forward to Slate's DoubleX book club podcast of the novel (coming this month).