Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Whole Mess of New Nonfiction at Boswell--Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Bryson, Mark Twain, and More.

As I might have noted previously, recapping new fiction two weeks in a row can have dangerous consequences. For one thing, this is nonfiction season and that means a dramatic shakeup in the Boswell's Best. If you haven't browsed the section in a few weeks, it will seem mighty fresh. I am tempted here to make a harvest pun, but I will resist for now.

The highest profile release is likely Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Little, Brown). Do I dare drop everything and read this? I still haven't read his What the Dog Saw collection, but aside from that, I haven't missed a book. Here's an interview with Gladwell in the UK Guardian. "If my books appear oversimplified, then you shouldn't read them" is the teaser."

I was just chatting with someone about Graham Nash's Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life (Crown Archetype). He's one of those guys that comes up in every rock music history, being a member of The Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and then without Young, and then without Stills. But he also shows up on the periphery of a lot of other musician's stories. Just look who he thanks in the back of the book. We were saying that last year had an onslaught of such releases, but the load seems a bit lighter this year, giving the book a better chance.

Speaking of groupies (and we were, sort of), Bill Bryson has his own rabid fan base. A few week's ago I had to talk down a bookseller from driving to Nashville to see the author. What I should have noted is that if you're going to do this, he's also going to be in Skokie. Here's the whole tour. The new book is One Summer: America, 1927 (Doubleday). It's the year of Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, a tabloid sensation murder trial, flagpole sitter Alvin Kelly, the great Mississippi flood, The Jazz Singer, and Al Capone's murderous reign, plus the secret banker's meeting that led to the Great Crash two years later.

As someone who goes through a lot of proofreading, you can only imagine the interesting conversations we have about proofreading. Semicolon or colon, m dash or n, where does the period go between a single and double quote? The answer is "between the two," per Mel. I'm sure Keith Houston, writer of the Shady Characters blog, would chime right if he could. But since he's across the pond, we can only read Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols and Other Typographical Marks (Norton). Hey, Keith, in the United States, though it's still okay either way, we prefer the serial comma; we noticed it is missing from your jacket.

I actually read a bit of Monique Brinson Demery's Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu (Public Affairs). She's a footnote to many in the Vietnam War, a once-glamorous celebrity who, per the author, retreated into exile and seclusion until Demery tracked her down in Paris thirty years later. It's the first history of the Dragon Lady herself, one that Philip Caputo calls "a riveting detective story and a fascinating portrait of a woman far more complicated than her media image."

And finally, though I like to stop at five, I would be remiss not to mention Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2 (University of California), edited by Benjamin Griffin and Harriet Elinor Smith, and other editors of the Mark Twain Project. Per the publisher, this eagerly awaited volume delves deeper into Mark Twain's inner world. It ranges from his earliest childhood to his final years, when he sat down to write his own story. Volume 1 was a phenomenon. Let's see how folks take to part two. Here's some background from the Endpapers blog that came out two years ago. I'm sure they are happy that it's finally out.

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