One of my favorite documentaries (and movies, period, if you want to know the truth) of the past couple years was The September Issue, the behind-the-scenes story of the September 2007 issue of Vogue.
Even if you aren't particularly interested in fashion, or you don't understand Anna Wintour's fame, I think you'd still be intrigued by the dynamics of the storied magazine—and appreciate the creative process of putting together an 840-page publication.
This is relevant to book lovers because yesterday Publishers Marketplace announced that Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington will write a memoir. The book will be about "her modeling days in Sixties London, the car accident that changed her career path and her ascendancy through fashion's ranks as a stylist and editor at British Vogue and, later, its American counterpart." Random House reportedly paid a whopping $1.2 million for the book. The editor is Susan Kamil, who has worked on such recent BookPage favorites as The Imperfectionists, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
But back to The September Issue. The eccentric Coddington—who wears all black, has wild red hair and doesn't mind sparring with Wintour to advocate for a spread she's passionate about—completely stole the movie. On YouTube you can watch one of my favorite scenes, of Coddington at Versailles.
I am so excited to read Coddington's story. Which artist or creative person would you like to write a book?
Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and former editor of Newsweek (now he's executive editor and executive vice president at Random House) has edited an essay collection called Beyond Bin Laden: America and the Future of Terror. The collection will be released as an eBook on May 9.
Here's what you'll find in the book, from a Random House press release:
a group of penetrating analysts and leaders look ahead to the world after Bin Laden—to the future of Al Qaeda, of Afghanistan, of Pakistan. They explore the political, military, and cultural implications of the post–Bin Laden war on terror.
Also in BookPage: Earlier this week I blogged about Steve Coll's The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century—a must-read for those who want more information on the entire Bin Laden family. Since I posted that recommendation, Coll has signed a deal to write a book about Bin Laden in the past decade.
One of the books I'm most looking forward to this fall is—surprise!—not a novel. It's the latest biography of a Russian ruler from Robert K. Massie. His last few books have been on World War I, so it's exciting to see him returning to the subject that made him famous. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House) will be published on November 29.
Though Catherine's eventful life would be a gripping read in any case, I have high hopes for Massie's version: his 1981 book, Peter the Great won the Pulitzer and is pretty much the best bio ever. The first time I read it, while taking a European history class in college, I peppered my friends with tidbits about Peter for weeks. (Roach problem? Peter the Great was afraid of roaches! Your dorm room is too small? The cabin Peter built for himself was only about 700 square feet, and his bedroom was barely large enough for him to lie down! Hate your boyfriend's beard? Take a page from Peter and tell him if he enters your presence wearing one, you'll rip it out!)
By the time you finish, you feel as though you know this temperamental, 6-foot-7 red-headed Russian tsar personally—maybe that's why I hopped straight into his lap when we met inside the Peter & Paul Fortress almost two years ago.
Catherine the Great is possibly the only ruler whose life story can equal Peter's. We're lucky that Massie is planning on telling it! Apologies in advance to my colleagues and friends if my conversation this fall centers on a former German princess who was more beloved by the Russians than her native-born husband, whose assassination she may or may not have participated in . . .
Edited to add: I interviewed Robert K. Massie about this book—check it out here.