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 Twain left instructions that his memoirs should remain unpublished for 100 years after his death, so that he could feel free to speak his mind frankly.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?
Admit it: there's at least one fail-proof cue out there that is guaranteed to get you to pick up a book. A time period, a cover image, a setting, a theme—everyone has a trigger. Sometimes the book delivers, sometimes it doesn't, but either way you're going to at least give it a try.
Paging through the Crown catalog turned up one for me—A Man in Uniform, which goes on sale December 28. It set off the following alarms:
Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl
by Donald Sturrock
Simon & Schuster • $30.00 • September 14, 2010
I admit that after Trisha blogged about Storyteller, the authorized biography of Roald Dahl, I expected the book to be rather ho-hum. How dishy can an authorized biography really be?
But then a line in an Independent article about the dark private lives of children's authors caught my eye: "The creator of Willy Wonka, the Twits and Fantastic Mr Fox was often less than fantastic as a human being. He was an anti-Semite, a chronically unfaithful husband and a raging bully to business associates, teachers and friends." This can apparently be gleaned from Sturrock's book. So, I've picked it up and am enjoying the biography. (I'll confess that I haven't gotten to the parts that reveal the unappealing parts of his personality, although I have flipped to the center photo spreads to look at pictures of Dahl with his first wife, the movie star Patricia Neal. )
If Dahl's memoirs Boy and Going Solo left you eager for information, or you want to know about the man behind Matilda and The BFG--Storyteller is definitely worth a read. A teaser:
The Edwardian children's writer Edith Nesbit thought that the most important quality in a good children's writer was an ability to vividly recall their own childhood. Being able to relate to children as an adult, she believed, was largely unimportant. Roald Dahl could do both. His seductive voice, the subversive twinkle in his eye, and his sense of the comic and curious gave him an ability to mesmerize almost every child who crossed his path--yet he could also remember and reimagine his own childhood with astonishing sharpness. The detail might sometimes be unreliable, but what never failed him was an ability instinctively to recreate and understand the child's point of view. It was something of which he was very proud. He knew he could do it and that a great many others could not. Sitting in his high-backed faded green armchair by the fire at Gipsy House, a glass of whiskey in one hand, he once talked to me about it with considerable pride. "It's really quite easy," he would say. "I go down to my little hut, where it's tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight again." Or, as his alter ego, Willy Wonka, put it in an early draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: "In my factory I make things to please children. I don't care about adults."
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?
Tom Tykwer finally has a cast for his epic of all epic films, Cloud Atlas. Based on David Mitchell’s book of the same title, the movie will star Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, Halle Berry and James McAvoy in a story that should make The Fountain look like a kid’s movie. In addition to Tykwer’s direction, Cloud Atlas will be produced by the Wachowskis [the Wachowski brothers are best knows for The Matrix series].
The longer you read, the more perfectly the pieces fit into a whole; the further you're drawn into the novel, the more removed your perspective becomes. The reaction this creates is a unique one: large-scale understanding that holds within it the small-scale but vital dramas of the human heart. It sounds incredible, and it is.
Also in BookPage: Read an interview with Mitchell about Black Swan Green; read a review of his newest novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.
President Barack Obama has written a children's book titled Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters. It will be published on November 16 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers and have a first printing of 500,000 copies.
According to a press release from Random House, the President completed the manuscript prior to taking office in January of 2009. The book's proceeds will be donated to "a scholarship fund for the children of fallen and disabled soldiers serving our nation."
The story is "a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation—from the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington."
Loren Long will illustrate. For a sample of his work, see this Meet the Illustrator Q&A he did with BookPage in 2008 about Drummer Boy.
ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper reports that this book is part of the three-book, $1.9 million deal that then-Sen. Obama reached with Random House in 2004. Of course, the first two books were the international bestsellers Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope.
As far as I know (I'll post an update if I learn otherwise), this is the first time a sitting president has published a book. It may also be the first time a president has published a children's book. That territory is usually covered by First Ladies (Hillary Clinton's Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets; Laura and Jenna Bush's Read All About It!).
Will you check out Of Thee I Sing? What other people do you hope will be profiled?
I will admit that I haven't read anything by National Book Award finalist Cristina García (for Dreaming in Cuban, 1992)—although there are a couple of things that have drawn me to The Lady Matador's Hotel, her newest novel.
For one, BookPage reviewer Rebecca Shapiro compares it to Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, one of my favorite books; both novels are about a group of seemingly random international characters thrown together in the wake of political turmoil. In Bel Canto, the characters are thrown together in an embassy, all hostages. In The Lady Matador's Hotel, they are guests at a hotel. Instead of an opera singer, the center figure is—you guessed it—a female matador.
Which brings me to my second reason for wanting to pick up this book. I lived in Andalucía for a year in college and became somewhat fascinated by the sport of bullfighting, eventually going to watch a corrida de toro in Seville. As you might imagine, female matadors are few and far between, so it's interesting that García chose to write about such an unusual character.
In this book trailer, García explains why she chose the characters she did:
Does this trailer make you curious to read The Lady Matador's Hotel?
Readers of The Book Case expressed major excitement when we blogged about the publication of The Land of Painted Caves, the sixth and final book in the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel. (It's coming March 29, 2011.)
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And this weekend USA Today had more news for Auel fans: "On Oct. 6, the series will be released for the first time as e-books; paperback editions will be reissued with new covers next spring." Note that since the novels are published by Random House, they will not be available in Apple's iBookstore.
September 30 will be the 30th anniversary of the publication of The Clan of the Cave Bear—the start of a series that has now sold 45 million books worldwide (and certainly inspired this blogger, as a high school student, to stay up late reading). Will you celebrate by re-visiting the story of Ayla, Auel's protagonist?
Also in BookPage: Read an interview with Auel about The Shelters of Stone, the fifth book in the series.
Kim Edwards hit the big time in a big way with her 2005 debut novel, The Memory Keeper's Daughter. The novel became a word-of-mouth hit and a book club favorite. We said this family drama about a doctor and his wife who deny their daughter's existence once they discover she has Downs syndrome "reveals the strength of family bonds under unique and difficult circumstances."
Next year, Edwards will have another chance to delight readers with Lake of Dreams (Viking), which will hit shelves on January 4. From the catalog:
At a crossroads in her life, Lucy Jarrett returns home from Japan, only to find herself haunted by her father's unresolved death a decade ago. Old longings stirred up by Keegan Fall, a local glass artist who was once her passionate first love, lead her into the unexpected. Late one night, as she paces the hallways of her family's rambling lakeside house, she discovers, locked in a window seat, a collection of objects that first appear to be useless curiosities, but soon reveal a deeper and more complex family past. As Lucy discovers and explores the traces of her lineage—from an heirloom tapestry and dusty political tracts to a web of allusions depicted in stained-glass windows throughout upstate New York—the family story she has always known is shattered. Lucy's quest for the truth reconfigures her family's history, links her to a unique slice of the suffragette movement, and yields dramatic insights that embolden her to live freely.
With surprises at every turn, brimming with vibrant detail, The Lake of Dreams is an arresting saga in which every element emerges as a carefully placed piece of the puzzle that's sure to enthrall the millions of readers who loved The Memory Keeper's Daughter.
Ellen Hopkins fans have a lot to be excited about.
Fallout, the final book in a free verse trilogy that includes Crank (2004) and Glass (2007), comes out tomorrow. (Crank is about a girl's life spinning out of control after she becomes addicted to crystal meth, and was inspired by Hopkins' daughter's experience. Glass continues Kristina's story, and Fallout is told from the point of view of her children.)
And now Hopkins will write her first adult novel, called Triangles. According to Publisher's Marketplace, it's about "the dark side of love and friendship for three women at mid-life, as they face infidelity, the trials of parenting adolescents, and turning forty."
The novel will be published by Atria, and Hopkins has tweeted that it will likely come out in the fall of 2011.
I wonder if Triangles will be told in free verse, which is a trademark of the author. This writing style was praised in BookPage's review of Tricks, in 2009: "Hopkins is a fine practitioner of the free-verse novel; her voices are distinct and put readers directly into the minds and hearts of her characters."
Are you a fan of Hopkins' teen books? Will you look for Triangles?