Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Books from Lawrence Wright, Zephyr Teachout, Christian Rudder, Terrence Holt, and Diane Ackerman

As you know from the Boswellians post, today is the day that Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests come out, but we're talking up nonfiction today. The first book on our list is Lawrence Wright's Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David (Knopf). If you're like me, you already devoured Terry Gross's interview on Fresh Air today. The piece* that resulted was unprecedented, and a lot of it came from Carter's unique relationship with Sadat--it just goes to show how important inter-personal relationships are to world events. Joe Klein in his New York Times review explains that the origins of this "magnificent" book about a piece* of history mostly ignored by historians was a play that Lawrence Wright called Camp David. That Wright is a man of many talents; it's too bad I missed his epic opera about Scientology.

When our Harvard/Yale/MIT rep was in today, I asked him if Zephyr Teachout, the author of Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United (Harvard) was related to Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal drama critic. She is not, but their common name led them to a friendship. John noted that Ms. Teachout did just capture a third of the vote in the Democratic primary running against Andrew Cuomo in the Working Families Party. Here is a profile of Teachout in The New Yorker; it turns out that the book doubles as a campaign platform, albeit a particularly academic one.

Speaking of The Wall Street Journal, I just read an article that discussed how online quizzes, all the rage right now, are a goldmine for advertisers too. For some reason, we're much more likely to give out personal relationships if it reveals which character in Grease we most resemble. That's my segue to Christian Rudder's Dataclysm: Who We Are* (*When We Think No One's Looking.) (Crown). It's about how we live so much of our lives online that data scientists can finally observe us in vast numbers, without filters. The author was a co-founder and president of OKCupid (now part of IAC Interactive and also the focus of a Wall Street Journal story--that subscription is really paying off, though this link is to an old article which speculates on them spinning off the Match group. Here's The Washington Post review from recent guest Jordan Ellenberg.

It's a rather black group of covers, isn't it? I'll switch things up with a plug for Internal Medicine: A Doctor's Stories (Liveright), from Terrence Holt. Holt's short stories, In the Valley of Kings, had a long-time staff rec at Boswell and was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham award. Well of course he was a doctor (MDs are such overachievers, are they not?) and as such, here are some essays of being a resident; this time Boswellian Jane flagged this an important and powerful book. Danielle Ofri remarked in The New York Times that Holt's prose was "exquisite and restrained." The much-missed Susan Gusho (of Harry W. Schwartz and Next Chapter, now at Watermark in Wichita) gushes: "Both human and humane, Internal Medicine beautifully spans the gap between doctor and patient, between data and meaning, between science and art. If fiction is a lens revealing greater truth, readers can glean much about the hopes and frailties of doctors and patients, that we are all, finally, heir to." Read the whole review here

At the sister imprint of Liveright, W.W. Norton, a major fall release is The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us, by Diane Ackerman. In what is said to be her landmark book (seems impossible, as she's had several groundbreakers already), "she confronts the unprecedented reality that one podigiously intelligent and meddlesome creature, Homo sapiens, is now the dominant force shaping the future of the planet Earth." Jared Diamond writes: "Ackerman's vivid writing, inexhaustible stock of insights, and unquenchable optimism have established her as a national treasure, and as one of our great authors." Rob Nixon reviewed the book in The New York Times; he called it a "dazzling achievement but questioned some of her pronouncements." And here's Barbara J. King in The Washington Post.

Hope something here captures your attention. Every featured title is Boswell's Best through at least next Monday.

*Originally said "peace." I hit a certain age and my brain stopped catching homonym spellings automatically. This was not a mistake I would have made at 30.

No comments: