Since his death in 2005, Richard Pryor has been named as the No. 1 comedian of all time by Comedy Central and continues to influence the American comedy scene to this day. In Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him, authors David and Joe Henry draw from a wide range of sources and personal experiences, including conversations with Pryor himself, in their exploration of the man behind the comedy legend.
While the Henry brothers' admiration for Pryor certainly shines through, Furious Cool does not shy away from the darker details of Pryor's rise to fame—his turbulent upbringing, emotional conflicts and drug abuse are all essential details in this story, making this a very honest and engrossing read.
Watch the great documentary-style trailer from Algonquin below:
Are you interested in reading Furious Cool? Any other biographies on your list?
Forty years after the murder of Sharon Tate, it would seem that everything about Charles Manson has already been reported. Jeff Guinn proves this all wrong in his new book, Manson, which uncovers never-before-heard stories and follows Manson's entire life, from childhood to adulthood.
With exclusive interviews and photographs, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Mason goes beyond previous biographies to provide a well-written and complete study of a man who has perplexed many for decades.
Read our review here and watch the trailer below from Simon & Schuster to learn more about the research and writing of Manson.
What do you think, readers? Will you be reading Manson?
Journalist Masha Gessen is working on a book about the Tsarnaev brothers for Riverhead.
The book will explain who the brothers were, where they came from, what shaped them, and how they came to do what they appear to have done. From their displaced beginnings, as descendants of ethnic Chechens deported to Central Asia in the Stalin era, it will follow the brothers from strife-ridden Kyrgyzstan to war-torn Dagestan, and then, as new émigrés, to the looking-glass, utterly disorienting peace and order of Cambridge, Mass. Most crucially, it will reconstruct the struggle that ensued for each of the brothers, between assimilation and alienation, and their alleged metamorphosis into a new breed of home-grown terrorist, with their feet on American soil but their loyalties elsewhere, a split in identity that can be the breeding ground for a deadly sense of mission.
A publication date has yet to be set.
On Tuesday, my personal favorite book of 2011, Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, came out in paperback. I love the regal red touch they added to the cover.
But wait—there's more! Modern Library has reissued new versions of Massie's previous books on the Romanovs: the book that started it all, Nicholas & Alexandra (1969); Pulitzer Prize-winner and my personal fave biography of all time, Peter the Great (1980); and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter (1995), written after the discovery of the royal bones in a mass grave in Siberia. (via)
These editions have beautiful matching covers with typography that looks vaguely Cyrillic without being obnoxious (doesn't the small "a" recall the Russian "?"?) and the double-headed eagle that was the royal family's symbol. Their appeal is almost enough to make me consider buying new versions, even though I got my well-loved copies signed when Massie visited Nashville last fall and therefore will never, ever consider giving them up.
Do reprints ever tempt you into buying multiple copies of old favorites? Is anyone with me in the RKM fan club? :)
As part of our Best Books of 2011 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
When it comes to reading about the lives of the Romanovs, Robert K. Massie is the ne plus ultra of biographers. Combining top-notch writing with a deep understanding of Russian culture and a knack for sussing out the most interesting tidbits of a life, Massie has created a compassionate and compelling portrait of one of history’s most maligned rulers.
Read our interview with Robert K. Massie about Catherine the Great. Check out our full list of the Top 50 Books of 2011.
So this morning, we asked you to tell us what YOUR favorite book of 2011 was. Now, we're kicking off our "Best Books of 2011" coverage by sharing books #31-#50 from our Top 50 Books of 2011 list. In a year of best-selling biographies, anticipated debuts and long-awaited releases from literary heavyweights, our editors voted on the books they loved to come up with a list that encompasses all of the above while making room for a few surprises.
Let us know what you think of our selections—share your own with us—and stay tuned as we reveal more titles from the list over the coming weeks, leading up to the publication of the Top 10 books in our December issue.
31. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
32. Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
33. To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild
34. The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
35. Great Soul by Joseph Lelyveld
36. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
37. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
38. A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
39. West of Here by Jonathan Evison
40. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
41. The Realm of Hungry Spirits by Lorraine Lopez
42. Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
43. Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
44. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
45. The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey
46. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
47. A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant
48. The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
49. Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst
50. My New American Life by Francine Prose
What was your favorite book of 2011? Tell us, and you'll be entered to win 10 books in the genre of your choice.
Big news for book nerds: Robert A. Caro's fourth book* about Lyndon Johnson is coming out in May 2012, reports the AP.
The first three books were called The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power (1982); The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent (1990); and The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate (2002).
The fourth book will be called The Passage of Power. According to Knopf, who has published all of the LBJ books, this one will "focus on the years 1958 to 1964, from the time Johnson began seeking the presidency, through his years as vice president under John F. Kennedy, to becoming president after JFK's assassination." (Wow.)
So far, Caro's LBJ books total more than 2,000 pages and have sold more than 1.5 million copies. Master of the Senate won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003, as well as the 2002 National Book Award.
I haven't read Caro's biographies myself, but my boyfriend feels the same way about them as Trisha feels about Robert K. Massie. Let's just say that I've been treated to many a read-aloud from Caro's books through the years. My favorite tidbit? Our 36th president was apparently as vulgar as he was ambitious, and enjoyed giving dictation and conducting other business while sitting on the toilet.
Have you been holding out for this day since 2002, when the last LBJ installment came out? Are you looking forward to reading The Passage of Power?
*Edited to add: I originally reported that this will be the fourth and final book in Caro's series, but in fact there will be a fifth volume.
. . . so we're celebrating with a contest!
October 11 marked the 50th anniversary of Joseph Heller's magnum opus, Catch-22. Though originally not well-received, it turned the genre of the war novel on its head with its black comedy and anti-heroism. Very few books are able to resonate so powerfully for 50 years, but the story of Yossarian has remained relevant for soldiers and students alike.
In Just One Catch, the definitive Heller biography, Tracy Daugherty reconstructs the author's life, and as our reviewer wrote, it "illuminate[s] the post-World War II culture of American fiction—from the emergence of Jewish sensibilities as a key narrative element to the influence of mass advertising and television to the corporatization of book publishing."
In honor of the 50th anniversary, we're giving away a Catch-22 prize pack:
Here’s how you can win . . .
TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post telling us which fictional character or work of American literature has most influenced you.
CONTEST DETAILS: One winner will be chosen by random.org from among entries received by 6 pm CST on October 26. The winner will receive copies of Just One Catch and the 50th anniversary edition of Catch-22. This prize must be shipped to a North American address.
ETA: Congratulations to our winner, Jonathan! The fictional character he finds most inspiring is Jay Gatsby.
Thank you to all who entered! Contest is now closed.
Steve Jobs has stepped down from Apple, but an authorized biography of this innovative leader is on the horizon. Walter Isaacson, whose past subjects include Henry Kissinger, Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, has been following Jobs for the past two years to research Steve Jobs: A Biography.
The book, which will be published by Simon & Schuster on November 21, is billed as a no-holds-barred look at Jobs' life—Jobs himself has said that it covers many events "that I am not proud of . . . but I don't have any skeletons in my closet that can't be allowed out."
Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp says of the book, "This is the perfect match of subject and author, and it is certain to be a landmark book about one of the world's greatest innovators."
While this biography will doubtless be full of fascinating tidbits, we're especially interested in learning more about a little-known fact about Jobs that has a literary angle. His parents gave him up for adoption but later had a daughter. Jobs found her when he was 27—turns out she is the acclaimed literary novelist Mona Simpson (read our review of her 2000 novel Off Keck Road). An argument for nature over nurture?
The title of his memoir was Dreams From My Father, but Barack Obama has never hidden the debt he owes to his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham (the quote in the title of this post is his). In the new book A Singular Woman, biographer Janny Scott tells the story of Dunham's life, from her early years in Kansas to her time in Indonesia and her untimely death at 52 in Hawaii.
"To describe Dunham as a white woman from Kansas is about as illuminating as describing her son as a politician who likes golf. . . . [t]he label obscures an extraordinary story," says Scott in her introduction. She spoke with Dunham's uncle and both of her children, as well as hundreds of other family members, to compile this exhaustive biography.
More books about mothers and motherhood can be found in our Mother's Day feature.