Time for another of my periodic round-ups of what it looks like when our books get out there in the world. Let me start with some late information about forthcoming titles, particularly fall books for which review and publicity plans are just coming into focus:
USAToday and USAToday.com “Science Snapshot” columnist Dan Vergano recently interviewed Frank Wilczek about The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces (Basic, 9780465003211). Mr. Wilczek will be quoted and the book will be mentioned in
It was of course a bit unusual this fall for the Basic Books Group to be publishing not one but two works of fiction. But the truth is that both fit very well within Basic’s central mission of publishing serious, readable works on history and matters of current interest. Early buzz is building for Walter Mosley’s first Socrates Fortlow book in over 10 years, The Right Mistake: the Further Philosophical Investigations of Socrates Fortlow (Basic Civitas, 9780465005253), keyed by a starred PW review: “In the face of gangs, drugs, poverty and racism, Mosley poses the deceptively simple question—‘What can I do?—and provides a powerful and moving answer.”
And the other work of fiction on the list – Larry Beinhart’s
I continue to be optimistic that Farnaz Fassihi’s Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in
I hope it’s okay that I keep pointing to starred reviews in PW – they sure are a nice affirmation. Another recipient is Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt, by Joyce Tyldesley (Basic, 9780465009404): “This entertaining biography hits the elusive sweet spot between scholarship and readability…. Writing with an easy mastery of her subject, Tyldesley always seems to be able to lay her hands on the perfect lively detail, whether an excerpt from an obscure bureaucratic document or a description of a kind of giant robot that paraded through the streets of Alexandria pouring libations of milk from a gold bottle. Though she makes it clear we’ll never know what Cleopatra was ‘really’ like, Tyldesley provides a memorable journey through the rich and contradictory sources of our knowledge about her.” We were also pleased (and a bit surprised) to see an early review from Feminist Review: “Tyldesley’s work is surprisingly readable for those of us who are not Egyptologists and historians. It makes the reader feel privy to the exciting battles, intimate moments and private life of the queen…. Cleopatra: Last Queen of
We’ve gotten some very nice advance praise (although no starred PW, alas) for Mona Lisa in Camelot by Margaret Leslie Davis (Da Capo, 9780738211039), including from LA Times art writer Suzanne Muchnic: “No detail goes unexamined, no gesture unexplored in Margaret Leslie Davis's impassioned account of Mona Lisa's historic journey from France to America. Much more than a story about the travels of a world-famous painting, this is a tale of international diplomacy, personal relationships, cultural symbolism and—most of all—the power of two great ladies.” You may recall my saying that I found this to be an unexpected delight. It will get a first serial in Vanity Fair’s December issue, so hopefully that will drive folks in for it.
I sold it in a long time ago, but please don’t lose sight of Ronald Wright’s What is
John Palfrey and Urs Gasser’s Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (Basic, 9780465005154) is another late arrival from the spring season, but also worth the wait. Booklist declared, “As old institutions crumble, there is a need for just this sort of enlightening, commonsensical, and positive guide to digital reality.” Nice advance praise came as well from Howard Gardner (“From now on, any attempt to understand what it is like to grow up or to live one's life in a digital world must begin with the outstanding, original synthesis”) and Lawrence Lessig (“Digital technologies are changing our kids in ways we don't yet understand. This beautifully written book will set the framework for a field that will change that. It is required reading for parents, educators, and anyone who cares about the future”). (Wow, that would be a lot of people….) The authors are scheduled appear on Talk of the Nation, and at Bay Area and Seattle events.
I am Potential: Eight Lessons on Living, Loving, and Reaching Your Dreams, by Patrick Henry Hughes (Da Capo, 9780738212982) “is likely to be the feel-good story of the year,” says Carol Besse of
And of course, the time draws near when we unleash Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven: A Gutsy Guide to Becoming One Hot and Healthy Mother! (Running Press, 9780762431052). PW gave the latest title in the franchise by Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman a stellar (if not a starred) review: “Characteristically feisty and foul-mouthed … these in-your-face, incisive authors have done their research, exposing a host of health issues related to the use of bovine growth hormone and antibiotics in farm animals. Repeating the mantra ‘you and your baby are what you eat,’ they explain the effects of pesticides in foods (with links to learning disabilities, developmental delays and behavioral disorders), how a high protein diet in pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure, stress and diabetes in the child, and the connection between mercury in fish and birth defects. Insisting that a vegan diet is healthy for both baby and mom (a claim substantiated by the AMA), the authors also include sample menus and vegan tips to satisfy food cravings. Passionately questioning the status quo, Freedman and Barnouin make a compelling case for a vegan pregnancy.” The book will be in stores by late September, and, as usual, there will be a huge publicity blitz. And from what I can tell, there is not a lot out there about vegan pregnancy, so there’s yet another market they might be able to corner (now that they’ve conquered the world of professional athletes).
Bridging between the soon-to-land and already-in-your-store, is Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (Da Capo). The movie is coming in October, and Toby Young is already on the hustings promoting. The movie trailer premiered on Entertainment Tonight and The Insider; was featured on MSNBC.com and TVGuide.com; blogged about on gossip sites like Jossip; and can now be seen on all of the movie sites (Movieweb, AOLMovies, etc.). Mr. Young will also be a guest judge for 3 episodes of Top Chef in November (who thought that would be a good idea?). You’ve got two versions to choose from: the original paperback (9780306812279), or the movie tie-in (9780306816130). I’ve attached a sell-sheet for the latter, so you can see what the cover will look like.
In the spirit of the Olympics (did you see that men’s 4x100 Freestyle Relay? crazy!), let me start in on those books already available with a couple books about
Deborah Stone’s reasoned but still passionate argument in favor of an affirmatively engaged government, The Samaritan’s Dilemma: Should Government Help Your Neighbor? (Nation, 9781568583549) has been getting strong praise from unexpected sources. It’s not surprising that this would get noticed by Bill McKibben -- “We need each other. As this very fine book reminds us, the recent American creed of hyper-individualism is making us less happy and more vulnerable--real solace lies in rebuilding the kind of communities that take care of everyone. Everyone.” But I was impressed that it got reviewed in the August issue of O: The Oprah Magazine: “Stone’s calm, logical, and immensely reassuring book dismantles the standard arguments against a more caring society…and persuades us that acts of charity and social responsibility actually make us stronger as individuals and better citizens of a democracy…when the time comes for our next president to assemble a cabinet, Deborah Stone could be appointed our first Secretary of Compassion.” Now there’s an idea.
Even as the first of the show trials at Gitmo was unwinding, Mahvish Khan was speaking out about the absurd world in which they were set. She made appearances on Talk of the Nation and Your Call with Rose Aguilar, as well as at a number of bookstores up and down our coast, to discuss her book, My
Lucas Conley recently faced the nation on The Colbert Report, pitting the good vibrations of his refreshing Sunkist soda against the 23 flavors of Colbert’s Dr. Pepper. They squared off over Mr. Conley’s delightful OBD: Obsessive Branding Disorder (PublicAffairs, 9781586484682), which recently got a nice review in the
John Mutter of Shelf Awareness recently wrote a fine feature about Sam Wyly and his memoir of entrepreneurship, 1,000 Dollars and an Idea (Newmarket, 9781557048035): “The memoir/business book is written in elegant, declarative style and chronicles the author's life and career, starting as a record-breaking salesperson at IBM, then founding his first company and becoming a millionaire before age 30.” Mr. Wyly and his wife also recently bought Explore Booksellers in
For the second time in this roundup I’ll cite praise for one of our books from Lawrence Lessig: of Michael Heller’s The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives (Basic, 9780465029167), Mr. Lessig recently wrote, “His clear and beautifully crafted analysis is absolutely compelling, and will fundamentally change the debate in core policy areas. There are very few books that reorient a field. Almost none that reorient many fields. This is in that ‘almost none’ category: Paradigms will shift. Many of them.” BusinessWeek seemed to agree, writing that “Although the idea may be unfamiliar, after reading this book you’ll start seeing its spooky tentacles everywhere.” James Surowiecki devoted a recent “Financial Page” in The New Yorker to Mr. Heller’s book, and Slate.com called it “One of the most perceptive popular books on property since Das Kapital.” Goodness. And don’t forget that no less august a forum than Penthouse Magazine determined “This could be one of this year’s most important books.” Mr. Heller will be holding events in the San Francisco Bay Area, but even if you can’t make one of those, you might want to check out the video interview posted on Time Magazine’s “Curious Capitalist” blog: http://time-blog.com/curious_capitalist/2008/07/the_muchignored_problem_of_was.html
(By the way: I don’t know if it’s because Penthouse Magazine’s reviewers have been so attentive to Perseus books recently, but they’ve arranged to carry the first serial of Mac Montandon’s forthcoming Jetpack Dreams: One Man’s Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention that Never Was (Da Capo, 9780306815287) in November. For a brief introduction to the curious landscape that book traces, check out a recent article in the New York Times about jetpack enthusiasts, nay, obsessives: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/science/29jetpack.html?scp=1&sq=jetpack%20dreams&st=cse.)
Billie Jean King’s Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the
Vincent Bugliosi is intense and determined, and he continues to burn up the blogs and the “alternative” media, taking his case to the people, even if the mainstream outlets still generally ignore his admittedly aggressive The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Vanguard, 9781593154813). He has a couple big events scheduled in
Popmatters.com recently reviewed Harpoon, by Andrew Darby (Da Capo, 9780306816291): “Darby’s experience as a reporter is visible in his writing. The text is analytical yet clear, packed with valuable supporting quotes from authorities in every area. From international diplomats to whalers themselves, Darby has sought the right people to speak with…As well as being a wonderful and comprehensive analysis of whaling from its inception to the present, the text can be regarded as a parable of people’s inability to respond to environmental crises as they unfold.” It also got a starred review as the on-line “Pick of the Week” from PW, which called it “a definitive work on the past and present of whaling…. Darcy tracks international efforts to curb whaling, which have been stymied through the years by diplomatic maneuvers and outright fraud, concluding that decades of work by both ecologists and governments have still not guaranteed that any species will survive human predation; one hopes his exceptional history will act as a bulwark.”
Let me suggest as a great history hand-sell: The Black Death: a Personal History, by John Hatcher (Da Capo, 9780306815713) received a glowing review by New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester: “This totally absorbing book presents the best account ever written about the worst event to have ever befallen the British Isles. In the hands of John Hatcher…the extraordinary tragedy of the great plague…has been brought to life in a manner rarely attempted, and with a level of success even more rarely achieved…[Hatcher writes] medieval history ‘from the inside’…The technique, offered here with masterly precision and for a lay audience, makes for a history book like very few others, and a triumph at that…Mr. Hatcher has turned his highly specialized attentions to the minutiae of the tale, and in doing so has come up with a book — half fact, half highly informed speculation — that can have few rivals.” Read the full review here: http://www.nysun.com/arts/the-black-death-john-hatchers-remarkable-history/80591/
Another great history hand-sell is the Timothy Snyder’s The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (Basic, 9780465002375), which got a fantastic review by John McFarland in Shelf Awareness: “The tumult of 20th-century Europe, in all its destruction, confusion and change, comes into sharp focus as Timothy Snyder views it through the lens of Habsburg Archduke Wilhelm (1895-1948), dubbed the Red Prince by Germans upset about his pro-liberation stance for the Ukraine…. Snyder draws parallels between the Habsburg dream at the beginning of the 20th century and the organization of the European Union at the beginning of the 21st. His argument that the E.U. bears significant similarities to the Habsburg blueprint for organizing independent nation states under an over-arching authority is one more illuminating flourish in this brilliant work of history that also allows space to note twin ironies: the Habsburg crown now appears on every bottle of beer produced at the Zywiec brewery in Poland (formerly run by Archduke Albrecht, confiscated by the Nazis, taken over by the Polish communist government and now owned by Heineken); in Vasyl Vyshyvanyi Square in Lviv, Ukraine, there is a pedestal dedicated to Wilhelm using his Ukrainian name--Vasyl Vyshyvanyi stands for Vassily the Embroidered--but the pedestal is missing a statue.” The Seattle Times also found it entrancing: “Deeply researched and beautifully written, The Red Prince captures in shimmering colors the death of old
Hey, speaking of
These days there is a lot about contemporary Russia that should raise interest – so let me briefly mention a few titles, in case you’ve got anyone clamoring: The New Cold War: Revolutions, Rigged Elections, and Pipeline Politics in the Former Soviet Union by Mark MacKinnon (Basic, 9780786720835); or, for the seriously hardcore, Russia and the Soviet Union An Historical Introduction from the Kievan State to the Present, Sixth Edition, by John M. Thompson (Westview, 9780813343952). And there will be some very interesting and timely material on Russia’s aggressive foreign policy stance in America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft (Basic, 9780465015016), which should be arriving in stores shortly; both of these esteemed statesmen will be doing a lot of media, including Charlie Rose and The Colbert Report.
And let’s hope
While I’m piling on the depressing news, I want to point as well to Paradise Lost:
Okay, let’s try to turn things around a bit. One path to spiritual renewal might be Stuart Kauffman’s Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion (Basic, 9780465003006). Science Magazine says that it “sparkles from every angle as its author gallops through the relevant science, philosophy, economics, history, ethics, poetry and – well, we had better use the word because Kauffman does: religion…. Bringing science and religion together globally in the way that Kauffman wishes is not going to be easy – as other ecumenical movements have repeatedly found – but it is necessary.”
Or you could turn to Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist, by Sharman Apt Russell (Basic, 9780465005178). In a feature last month The Oregonian called it “a brilliant and wise exploration of the philosophy [pantheism] -- from Marcus Aurelius to American transcendentalists -- through the lens of her own life.” I found this quite lovely – peaceful and centering, the way it should be.
Speaking of Oregonians… congratulations to Douglas Wolk, whose
Finally, let me give a shout of thanks to Southern California Booksellers, who put two Perseus titles on their shortlist for this year’s SCIBA nonfiction book award: Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden, by Jeanne Kelley (Running Press, 9780762431830), and Cancer on $5 a Day (Chemo not Included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life, by Robert Schimmel (Da Capo, 9780738211589). I know the authors, and everyone at world headquarters, appreciate your support.
That’s all for now, my friends. Keep on keepin’ on-