Video: Chasing Space – Leland Melvin

Former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver Melvin shares his personal journey. It’s a story about community, perseverance and grace. In an inspired co-publication, it is also available in an edition for middle grade readers: Chasing Space: Young Readers Edition.

Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances (9780062496720) by Leland Melvin. $25.99 hardcover. 5/23/17 on sale.

 

Autobiography Short Take: The Nine of Us – Jean Kennedy Smith

Here’s some Baby Boomer nostalgia for the holiday tables. Smith is the last remaining sibling of JFK, RFK and Teddy Kennedy. The mystique of the Kennedy clan still holds strong sway over my generation and this recollection of a golden childhood—with 60 family photos—is perfectly timed to the season.

“Smith is the last remaining child of Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, and her tender memoir recounts the family’s early home life….Her narrative takes readers back in time to the 1930s–1950s, when the now nearly mythic Kennedy family consisted of two devoted parents and their nine children….Smith divulges domestic routines and rules; chronicles the family’s love of the ocean and sports, especially touch football, sailing, and tennis; and explores her mother’s insistence upon ‘cultivation of the mind’ and learning about the world….Smith sprinkles numerous family photos and quotes throughout the narrative, providing additional dimension. This is a sweet and loving look back at the Kennedy family.”
Publishers Weekly

The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy (9780062444226) by Jean Kennedy Smith. $29.99 hardcover. 10/25/16 on sale.

Book of the Week: Jungle of Stone –

Imagine standing in a new world jungle populated by what you believe is a primitive civilization and seeing a Mayan pyramid rise above the trees. Talk about a mind-blowing paradigm shift. It happened to European explorers over and over and the tales riveted 19th century readers. Incidents of Travel in Yucatan by John Lloyd Stephens was one such book. (As a point of literary trivia, that book was published in the U.S. by Harper Brothers in 1843 and called “Perhaps the most interesting book of travel ever published” by Edgar Allan Poe.)

This modern adventure marries travel, history and archeology to trace the original 19th century journey of Stephens and his illustrator Frederick Catherwood. There’s plenty of adventure as the Carlsen intertwines his own adventures with those of the original expedition, which face densely forested jungles, disease, hostile indigenous populations and even a civil war. Even more interesting, Carlsen shows how Stephens and Catherwood made the breakthrough that proved the Mayans themselves—and not some lost culture—were responsible for these architectural marvels. Fans of The Lost City of Z will not be disappointed.

 “Thrilling. … Carlsen traces the arduous journeys of lawyer John Lloyd Stephens and architect/artist Frederick Catherwood into the jungles of Central America. … In a battered Toyota, Carlsen followed their footsteps, and he evokes in palpable detail the tangled forests, punishing deserts, and cliffhanging mountain paths that they traversed. … A captivating history of two men who dramatically changed their contemporaries’ view of the past.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

 Carlsen fully captures [Stephens’ and Catherwood’s] awe before the ruins they described, illustrated, and published to such popular acclaim. Beyond their adventures, Carlsen credits the duo with an intellectual breakthrough about Mayan civilization: that it was an indigenous evolution, not derivative of another culture. Ably researching this pair and affectingly depicting their friendship, Carlsen makes an exemplary contribution to the lost-cities genre.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Journalist Carlsen travels through Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, tracing the footsteps of Frederick Catherwood and John Lloyd Stephens, the amateur archaeologists whose 1839 expedition offered Euro-Americans their earliest awareness of Mayan civilization. At the time, the cultural and religious chauvinism of whites on both sides of the Atlantic encouraged the view that indigenous Americans had been nothing more than ‘primitive, inferior people.’ But Stephens and Catherwood’s journey, as described through their pivotal writings, provided irrefutable evidence the Maya had created ‘one of the most sophisticated early civilizations on earth’ and forced their readers to rethink basic assumptions about race, culture, and evolution. Carlsen depicts the two men’s arduous expedition with verve and vigor…”
—  Publishers Weekly

“Carlsen’s cogent and well-written dual biography successfully illuminates the fascinating tale of these intrepid pioneers of a lost civilization.”
Library Journal

Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya (9780062407399) William Carlsen. $28.99 hardcover. 4/26/16 on sale.

New Memoir: Love, Loss and What We Ate – Padma Lakshmi

Sometimes my general pop cultural cluelessness serves me well as a reader. I was working my way through a notebook of manuscript excerpts in preparation for sales conference last year when I ran across a couple of chapters from this book. No cover art, no author picture, no bio…just words on the page. And the read was fascinating.

But it was more than the story itself; the writing in this memoir was really lovely—sensual, introspective, carefully observed. So I was off to Google…Who was this Padma Lakshmi?

The answer, of course, is that she is hugely well-known: the host of the Emmy Award-winning, top-rated Bravo series Top Chef, the author of two cookbooks, and a supermodel. To that already impressive resume, she will soon likely add “best-selling memoirist.”

This is all by way of saying, don’t expect the typical celebrity memoir. It’s published by Ecco, our imprint which specializes in literary fiction and nonfiction. (Think memoirists like Patti Smith and Anthony Bourdain as well as fiction like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and The Son.) While this memoir certainly includes a behind-the-curtain look at a very glamorous life—marriage to Salman Rushdie, life in front of TV and movie cameras—it is also about a life of dislocation lived across several cultures and continents. It is, the editorial team promises, “A memoir rich with sensual prose and punctuated with evocative recipes, it is alive with the scents, tastes, and textures of a life that spans complex geographies both internal and external.”

As you might imagine, the review and publicity line-up is great. It starts with a People first serial and a feature interview, followed by coverage in Glamour, Elle and O, The Oprah Magazine. Lakshmi will also be on NBC’s Today show, Ellen, The View and Dr. Oz.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir (9780062202611) by Padma Lakshmi. $26.99 hardcover. 3/8/2016 on sale.

Book of the Week: Brief Candle in the Dark – Richard Dawkins

This is the second in Dawkins’ recollections of his remarkable life in science. The first book was a bestseller and I expect even better sales for this volume that covers his intellectual maturity and his provocative professional career.

Following the first volume of his memoirs, An Appetite for Wonder, Dawkins reminisces about his life from the 1976 publication of his bestselling The Selfish Gene to the present. The text is fascinating, thoroughly readable, and joyful even as it is wildly eclectic and rambling. Dawkins describes the book as “a series of flashbacks divided into themes, with digressive anecdotes.” Whether he is relating his experiences popularizing science or summarizing his travels to the Galápagos Islands, Dawkins tells a good tale as he expounds upon the value in broadly promoting science literacy. In his last full chapter, which takes up a full third of the book, he revisits the scientific ideas for which he is best known in professional, if not popular, circles….Dawkins offers great insight into the nature of science and introduces readers to many of the major players responsible for creating the field of evolutionary biology.”
Publishers Weekly

Brief Candle in the Dark provides so many pleasures in which to revel: the searing clarity of scientific insights and explanations; the depth of wit and width of erudition; a prose which can soar to poetry while never losing its accuracy; an inspired delight in the beauty of nature’s ways and a just as inspiring delight in the gifts and talents of others. The Richard Dawkins who comes shining through these wonderful pages is as generous as he is brilliant, calling to mind Darwin’s ringing words: There is grandeur in this view of life.”
— Rebecca Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex

Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science (9780062288431) by Richard Dawkins. $27.99 hardcover. 9/29/15 on sale.

Publicity: Fast Girl – Suzy Favor Hamilton

The explosive story of a bipolar Olympic athlete whose illness later drove her to become a high end escort was picked up everywhere when it broke. Now Favor Hamilton tells her own story for the first time.

The book is embargoed in anticipation of major publicity. A joint first serial with both People and Sports Illustrated will be on the stands 9/9. Favor Hamilton will then appear on ABC’s 20/20 on Friday 9/11 and GMA and Dr. Phil on Monday, 9/14. A satellite radio tour starts later that week.

Bookstores: this book has a strict street day but please note that the on sale is Monday, 9/14 rather than the usual Tuesday laydown.

Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness (9780062346223) by Suzy Favor Hamilton. $26.99 hardcover, with photo insert. 9/14/15 one day laydown.

Movie Tie In: True Story – Michael Finkel

True Story is a ten-year-old memoir and crime story that might have drifted off your backlist. It’s soon to be released as a film; the book itself got terrific reviews in 2005. It’s worth another pass on the paperback displays.

“Astute and hypnotically absorbing . . . there’s a burning sincerity and beautifully modulated writing on every page.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Combines crime and intellectual heft…could well become a classic of the genre.
Washington Post Book World

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa (9780062339270) by Michael Finkel. $15.99 trade paperback movie tie-in. 3/24/15 on sale.