As part of our Best Books of 2010 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Gail Caldwell's memoir of friendship, Let's Take the Long Way Home, was a big hit in the BookPage office this year. (In fact, not a single one of us was able to read it without crying.) It's not only a stunning exploration of the bonds of friendship and the way that those relationships evolve over time; it's also a beautiful tribute to Caldwell's friend, the writer Caroline Knapp (best known for Drinking: A Love Story), who died of lung cancer in 2002.
Caldwell and Knapp first met after a mutual friend, a dog trainer, told them they should get to know each other. They were both writers, both utterly devoted to their dogs, and before long, it became clear that they had another trait in common: They were both recovering alcoholics.
In just under 200 pages, Caldwell delves into her friendship with Knapp, and the depth of her grief after Knapp's death, with an insight and intensity I have rarely seen elsewhere. I could throw a raft of adjectives at her prose—sharp, luminous, haunting, joyful—but I can't hope to capture the precise qualities that make reading this memoir such a profound experience. Suffice it to say that I was a different person when I put it down, having witnessed the best part of human nature: the ability to love our friends, wildly and fully, for all of their flaws as well as their strengths, and to allow ourselves to be loved in return.
Read an interview with Gail Caldwell in BookPage.
Browse BookPage’s Best of 2010 coverage.
Getting closer to the top! Sign up for BookPageXTRA to get an early look at our Top 10 Books of 2010, to be revealed on December 7.
11. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (Dial, May 2010)
12. The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine, June 2010)
13. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (Doubleday, November 2010)
14. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff (Little, Brown, November 2010)
15. The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass (Pantheon, September 2010)
Find the rest of our Best of 2010 coverage here.
Keith Richards' memoir, Life, is shooting up the bestseller list and making the cover of the New York Times Book Review. It's also available on audio—and listening to Richards' life story just might be the more compelling option. Why? Well, it's narrated by two living legends: Keith Richards and actor Johnny Depp, as well as London musician Joe Hurley.
Keith introduces the book and reads the last chapter. Gotta love that accent.
Depp lends his actor's chops early on in Life. This excerpt is from the opening scene, which finds Richards and the Stones down South in front of a drunk judge on drug charges.
Depp told Entertainment Weekly, "Naturally, a catastrophic understatement would be required in order to fully detail the honor bestowed in being asked to partake in presenting the Life, quite literally, of The Maestro; an individual so legendary, a soul so revolutionary and a friend so dear. It’s quite a tale, as you might imagine." BookPage reviewer Martin Brady agrees, saying that Life is "one of the best pop music books ever assembled." (Read the review here.)
What makes you choose an audiobook over its print counterpart?
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?