Nine years ago Lauren Hillenbrand published the beloved book Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which made people who thought they couldn't possibly care a whit about horse racing think again. Will she do the same for a public that's had an awful lot of "war is hell" thrown at it over the last few years? Probably. The story of Louis Zamperini is a particularly harrowing and inspiring one. Shot down over the Pacific, he and two mates drifted for weeks on a life raft before being captured by the Japanese. And then it got bad. Gary Krist reviewing the book in the Washington Post says that although early chapters read like "Seabiscuit Redux," ultimately, "[s]ometimes the publisher's press release doesn't need to exaggerate." And NYT book reviewer Janet Maslin says Lauren Hillenbrand "knows a winner when she sees one. Ms. Hillenbrand has given Mr. Zamperini the full Seabiscuit treatment in Unbroken.” The Book Frog says all signs point to Unbroken being a great gift item for recipients of all ages and backgrounds. After all, who doesn't like an inspirational story that ends with its hero alive at 93?
There are thrillers this week from both James Patterson and Clive Cussler, who, with the addition a couple of years ago of son Dirk as a co-writer, has stepped his publishing rate up to nearly Pattersonian proportions: this week's release of Crescent Dawn marks his fifth title this year. Patterson's own Cross Fire--this one written, it appears, without a co-writer--is his sixth or seventh this year. Or maybe his eighth...I've only been back actively bookselling since the middle of September, so I'm not sure. Listen, those who love these guys love them, so I'm not going to seek out any reviews to share here. I've never heard of a fan being disappointed by a single entry from either one.
Salman Rushdie's Luka and the Fire of Life is his second children's book, a follow up to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, published twenty years ago. Beth Jones, writing in the U.K.'s Telegraph thinks it falls short of his first effort. She says, "Haroun was an apologia for literature from one of the most controversial authors of the century. Luka and the Fire of Life, however enchanting, doesn’t quite manage to recapture that sense of urgency and importance"
Walter Mosley is truly a renaissance writer. Though Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, in which the history of L.A. from the post-war era up to the present day is seen through the prism of WWII vet and P.I. Rawlins' cases, he has published works of science fiction and literary fiction in addition to his much-lauded mysteries; his newest book, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, falls into the latter category, telling the story of Ptolemy Grey, a 91 year old with a deteriorating mind, who signs up for a medical experiment which will give him his mind back while cutting short his life before he lives out another year.
Two very different memoirs are released this week. Historian Tony Judt, who died earlier this year just a couple of years after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, managed to complete two full-length books during that time, as well as publishing a series of autobiographical essays in The New Yorker. This book, The Memory Chalet, is comprised of those essays, which are said to be remarkable. And on the other side of the cultural gap, a memoir from rapper and bad boy Jay-Z. Decoded was excerpted in part in the New York Post recently, and Rolling Stone says that the excerpts "promise that the book will be every bit as entertaining as fans have been anticipating. Pulled over by cops with drugs in the car? Check. Anger at Cristal's apparent repudiation of the hip-hop culture that brought it millions? Sure. Great stories about Notorious B.I.G.? Indeed." Hey, to each his own.
This week's entry in the never-ending parade of political books is from leftie Richard Wolffe. It's nice to see some literature coming from the other end of the political spectrum for a change. Lately it's been all tea parties and apocalypse.
This week's big fat biography is Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda.
This week's big fat cookbook is One Big Table, a collection of 600 recipes compiled by former New York Times Magazine food writer Molly O'Neill.
And this week's big fat (and kinda weird) coffee table book is My Passion for Design, by none other than Babs herself.
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