George Hodgman had defined himself by his work as an editor in New York City. Newly out of a job, he returns home to small-town Paris, Missouri, and discovers that his mother, Betty, is in need of full-time care. Their affection and shared humor dance around the unspoken; Hodgman is gay, a fact his parents never acknowledged.
“I’m of two minds,” we say. Or, “I changed my mind.” These phrases roll casually off the tongue, but we don’t mean them literally. Maybe we should, according to two new books that explore the fascinating history and tantalizing future of neuroscience.
Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, with its intriguing and evocative title, was an international bestseller that fed Western readers’ appetite for learning about life under a fundamentalist regime. Her new book, The Republic of Imagination, bears some of the hallmarks of that success—literary criticism blended with personal history—but it flips the equation, offering an assessment of Nafisi’s adopted country (she became an American citizen in 2008) through the lens of her passion for literature.
Twenty years after he recorded “The Letter” at the age of 16—a song that became a mega-hit for the Memphis-based Box Tops—Alex Chilton mused: “I guess my life has been a series of flukes in the record business. The first thing I ever did was the biggest record I’ll ever have." Alex Chilton’s powerful musical legacy shaped bands as diverse as R.E.M. and the dB’s, yet his remarkable life story has never been the subject of a biography—until now. In A Man Called Destruction, music critic Holly George-Warren (The Road to Woodstock) vividly narrates Chilton’s rise to early fame.
In her memoir, The Ogallala Road, Julene Bair chronicles the last days of her family’s Kansas farm, as well as the bittersweet love affair that feeds her hope of saving the place her folks called home. She makes the case that modern farming practices are inexorably eroding the vast resources her ancestors took for granted, and she mourns the unraveling of the tapestry that once bound together her family, their history and the land they shared.
One of those guys seemingly born to wear a tux, Robert Wagner proves an expert tour guide in the sometimes dishy, always perceptive You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age.
As adolescents, they devoted their lives to dance . . . Both have grappled with eating disorders and refer to themselves as perfectionists. Both have struggled to find ways to practice their craft without being undone by it. And both make it clear that the physical demands of their career are severe but not impossible to manage. The dancing is indeed doable. It’s the psychological stuff that’s the real killer.
Grab your tickets and climb aboard Train, Tom Zoellner's full-steam-ahead, rollicking express ride on the great trains of the world. Part memoir and part history of the railroads in several countries, Zoellner's chronicle of days and nights spent crammed in crowded coaches or sleeper cars, chatting with crossing guards at remote outposts in India, or marveling at the engineering of formerly grand stations now in disrepair recalls both the romance and the risk of riding the rails.
At the time of his death, Abraham Lincoln was immensely popular with the Northern public. The country’s political elite, however, regarded him as a good country lawyer ill-suited to deal with the heavy responsibilities of a wartime presidency. Influential writers and politicians of all stripes blamed him for a series of political blunders.
The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success is true to its title, flipping an entrenched view of success on its ear. Author Megan McArdle argues for the value of failure, not just in business but law enforcement, job hunting, even love. Writers like to toss around the Samuel Beckett advice to “fail better,” but what does that mean in practice?