Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Boswell's Best Focus--Nonfiction Hardcovers from Bob Mankoff, Michael Gibney, John Feinstein, Andrew Pettefree, and Simon Schama.

I was listening to Bob Mankoff's very amusing and meta-cartoonish interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air yeterday, and right then, I knew that whatever else we did, I had to focus on How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons (Henry Holt). It's not just a memoir, but a history of humor. Mankoff is not just the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, he's also a cartoonist himself. Most importantly, he judges the caption contest. Oh, and Janet Maslin in The New York Times calls the book "fizzy." I think that's good, unless you get the hiccups. Or maybe it's good when you have the hiccups. Or maybe that's the hiccoughs. Moving on...

I think I mentioned previously that Little Random House (in this case Ballantine) has become the go-to publisher for cooking lit, with the latest release being Michael Gibney's Sous Chef, which has a nice quote from one of their more successful authors,Gabrielle Hamilton ("excellent"). Gibney thanks "Pamela" in his acknowledgments and she seems to be his editor. Doesn't he know you are supposed to use your editor's full name, especially as just about everyone except his agent got first and last shoutouts? I'm assuming the person in question is Pamela Cannon. All Things Considered had a piece on the book, calling this "the high adrenaline dance behind your dinner."

While the first two titles are New York centric, John Feinstein's Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball (Little, Brown) is set in the vast reaches of America, and yes, the Dominican Republic. But wait, with the Brooklyn Cyclones, even Minor League Baseball (abbreaviated MILB, by the way) can be New York centric. But no, this is focused on Triple A teams only, so the closest we can get is the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. I went to a Kenosha Twins game with my friend Michael once. Alas, they are gone. Jeff Greenfield reviewed the book for The Washington Post, which he calls "a welcome pre-game companion." I guess a DC MILB fan would venture to see The Norfolk Tides, right? Oh, and did I miss that Feinstein moved to Doubleday, after many years at Little, Brown?

Speaking of newspapers, and we always are, Yale has a new book out called The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself, by Andrew Pettefree. The age of news followed the age of print, giving us pamphlets, edicts, journals, and news sheets, expanding the news community from local to a worldwide audience, as they tell it. The author teaches at University of St. Andrews, and has a a fan in Jeremy Paxson, who in the Guardian (UK) favorably compares the book to Alain De Botton's The News: A User's Manual. I don't often reprint minces (I've coined that term for a petty criticism), but I am so amused by De Bottons' labeling as "a sleek, metropolitan, know it all" that I had to reprint it and note that I could only aspire to that.

Is it bad to be labeled a know it all if you in fact know it all? Simon Schama could be classified as that, and he gives us another reason in his newest book, The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (Ecco), 1000 BC-1492 AD.  My first thought in fact was, "Now when is this PBS series airing?" and sure enough, it's a coming...tonight! Please tape it and come to our Brigid Pasulka event instead, ok? But if you do like your history rich and "magnificently illustrated", you will likely enjoy this book that tracks "their experience across three millenia, from their beginnings as an ancient tribal people to the opening of the new world in 1492." Schama was on Diane Rehm last week and in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd explains more about the series and Schama's role in it.

New, Jews, or Sous, this week's book are all Boswell's Best, meaning they are 20% off through March 31.

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