Video: Movie Trailer for Hidden Figures

This looks amazing! The movie is out in January 2017. So proud to be associated with the book, which you can read on September 6th.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (9780062363596) by Margot Lee Shetterly. $27.99 hardcover. 9/6/16 on sale.

Book of the Week: The Art of Memoir – Mary Karr

Memoir is now such a ubiquitous genre that it’s sometimes hard to believe its current popularity is a relatively recent development. You can pretty clearly trace it back to the 1995 publication of Karr’s The Liar’s Club (and shortly after, Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.)

The Liar’s Club spent more than a year on the bestseller lists. At the time, Jonathan Yardley at The Washington Post introduced his review of the book by trying to put memoir’s then new popularity into context:

It’s difficult to get much perspective on large events when they’re happening right around you, but even from this vantage point it seems safe to say that literary historians of the future will look back to our times and remark upon two significant developments. One is the withering away of American literary fiction, a victim in part of forces beyond its control and in part of its own willful withdrawal from society. The other is the diversion of the confessional urge upon which literary fiction has fed into nonfiction, most specifically the memoir. Indeed, if matters continue at their present pace, the memoir may well be our most important literary form by the turn of the millennium.”

Twenty years later, that observation looks downright prescient. So it’s perhaps appropriate that Karr herself now weighs in on the role of memoir in our personal lives, contemporary culture, and our literature.

Don’t be tempted to think this is a just a craft book for aspiring writers–this is a craft book the way Stephen King’s On Writing was. By which I mean, that craft is an organizing point—but the book is so much more. It’s an erudite, generous and a wide-ranging look at memoir and how to approach it. Best of all is hearing Karr’s voice—hilarious, irreverent, and incisive. It’s an intellectual and literary pleasure.

The initial media line-up includes The NYTBR (review and feature), Fresh Air, Washington Post, WSJ, New Republic, Elle and O Magazine. It’s also an Indie Next Pick

[A]n instructive guide to the genre. Not only does Karr write exquisitely herself (and without pretense, often with raw authenticity—‘One can’t mount a stripper pole wearing a metal diving suit’), she clearly adores memoirs; the appendix of nearly 200 suggested (‘required’) memoirs is a delightful and useful bonus. The text is a must-read for memoirists, but will also appeal to memoir lovers and all who are curious about how books evolve….As if auditing her class, readers learn from her commentary on the memoirs of Vladimir Nabokov, Michael Herr, Frank McCourt, Hilary Mantel, and others. Karr lends her characteristic trueness and ‘you-ness’ to the subject of writing memoirs, wisely (and quite often humorously) guiding readers in their understanding and experience of the art.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Karr’s sassy Texas wit and her down-to-earth observations about both the memoir form and how to approach it combine to make for lively and inspiring reading. A generous and singularly insightful examination of memoir.”
   — Kirkus Reviews

“A master class on the art of the memoir. ”
   — New York Times Book Review

“Mary Karr has written another astonishingly perceptive, wildly entertaining, and profoundly honest book-funny, fascinating, necessary. The Art of Memoir will be the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come.”
— Cheryl Strayed

“For both readers and writers of memoir, this book is like taking a class from your favorite professor–but from the comfort of your couch and with no assignments! (Woo hoo!) I learned that in memoir, voice is one of the most important parts to get right, and this is something Karr has clearly mastered. Once you finish, you’ll want to start in one of Karr’s three previously published memoirs right away.”
— Ingrid Goatson, Boulder Book Store, Boulder CO

The Art of Memoir (9780062223067) by Mary Karr. $24.99 hardcover. 9/15/15 on sale.

New Nonfiction: The Universe – edited by John Brockman

I read lots of change memos explaining why we are moving on sales dates around after our catalogs are published. Lots. Generally the reasons range from the mundane to the predictable (“timed to a new publicity opportunity…”) But this is, hands down, the coolest change memo rationale ever: to capitalize on the recent discovery of gravitational waves which proves cosmological inflation theory.”

Yeah! I am channeling a knowledgeable young woman in Perennial marketing who goes on to explain: “Inflationary theory was co-developed by Andrei Linde and Alan Guth and others in the 1980s and basically explains the ‘bang’ in The Big Bang theory. Both Linde and Guth have essays on the subject in The Universe… To understand just how big of a deal this is, watch this charming video of Professor Linde receiving the news”:

I’m still not sure what they are talking about…but I am convinced. And I guess I need to read a few essays from this book, which is part of Brockman’s series that includes Thinking, Culture, and The Mind. As with the other volumes in this series you’ll get world-class thinkers and explainers like Brian Greene and Walter Isaacson cluing you in to the astronomical (I couldn’t resist) changes surrounding us.

The Universe: Leading Scientists Explore the Origin, Mysteries, and Future of the Cosmos (9780062296085) by John Brockman. $15.99 trade paper original. 6/24/14 on sale.

New Nonfiction: Smart People Should Build Things – Andrew Yang

If I ran the world, the paperback version of this book would be the required Freshman Reads title on every campus. For the moment, here’s hoping for good review coverage and for parents and mentors who will press this inspiring, readable book into the hands of high schoolers everywhere.

Yang is the founder of Venture for America—a sort of Teach for America for entrepreneurs. Yang relates his own story as he makes the argument that law and financial firms are among the few fields actively recruiting and training college students for their post-college careers. That means that the “best and brightest” are being guided towards working for companies that don’t really “make” anything that grows the country. At a time when engineering firms are closing because they can’t find enough new employees, Yang’s argument that we need to recruit engineers and cultivate entrepreneurs seems not only timely but necessary. Venture for America recruits from the best and brightest, matches those graduates with firms who need talent, in cities that need new business.  The result is win-win: fledgling graduates apprentice in firms that need their talent to grow.

Yang suggests that many young people graduate from college and seek jobs in finance, law, and medicine because it’s expected of them. The downside is that many of these promising young people hit their mid-20s with tons of student debt, and realize they’ve been trained very narrowly, in addition to not enjoying their jobs. How much could the world be changed if these young and energetic people went to startups, rather than going corporate? Yang’s pitch for entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to more structured careers is enticing…”
— Publishers Weekly

“This book is a roadmap for young people in designing their careers, a playbook for policy makers for rebuilding our cities, and a path forward to moving entrepreneurship back to the center of the American economy.”
— Arianna Huffington

Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America (9780062292049) by Andrew Yang. $26.99 hardcover. 2/4/14 on sale.

Learning Something New About Doris Lessing

Prisons We Choose to Live Inside By Doris LessingSometimes I think I should have a heading called “This is Why It Takes Me so Long to Get My Work Done.” When Doris Lessing passed away recently, marketing sent out a list of her best-selling titles. I should have just posted it but I found myself curious about exactly which books sold the very best.

I figured The Golden Notebook was a no brainer. When I ran a sales report, sure enough it sells head and shoulders among the rest of her canon. The surprise was finding a book I’d never even heard of high up at the top of the list, too. So that led to a little more digging to find out what exactly Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (9780060390778) is about. The book turns out to be a collection of five essays originally delivered in 1985 as part of the Canadian Massey Lecture Series. The cultural topic Lessing chose to address “how to think for ourselves, how to understand what we know, how to pick a path in a world deluged with opinions and information, how to look at our society and ourselves with fresh eyes.” Cool.

More noodling around looking for reviews…. Not so much out there. Some more Googling turns up a nice blog piece by the author Andrew Blackman offering a helpful evaluation with this keynote: “A clear-sighted, well-argued plea for individuality of thought in an age of mass emotions and social conditioning.” Hmm. Given my current black mood about crowd sourcing and the general glorification of the herd, I’m interested. More digging around only to find my local library has de-accessed it and Harper’s out. Guess I’ll have to wait for our 12/2/13 reprint.

It’s an hour later and….Oh yeah, here’s what I was supposed to be doing:  Below is list of Lessing’s greatest hits, should you want to check stock:

ISBN Title price
9780061582486 The Golden Notebook (deluxe ed.)     18.99
9780060931407 The Golden Notebook     16.95
9780061673740 The Grass Is Singing     13.99
9780060953461 The Grass Is Singing     13.95
9780060927967 Love Again     13.95
9780060937553 The Sweetest Dream     14.95
9780060834876 Cleft, The     13.95
9780060924331 African Laughter     15.00
9780060926649 Under My Skin     15.95
9780060924171 Real Thing, The     13.95
9780060530112 The Grandmothers     13.95
9780060930561 Mara and Dann     15.95
9780061672248 On Cats     16.99
9780062318961 Adore     12.99
9780060959692 Martha Quest     14.99

New Nonfiction: The Boy Detective – Roger Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt’s essays for Time and PBS have won two George Polk Awards, the Peabody, and the Emmy. He is the author of six off-Broadway plays and sixteen books. But I think the book he might be most associated with Making Toast, his bestselling 2010 memoir about how he and his wife helped raise his daughter’s small children after her death.

Several eloquent, thoughtful, heartfelt meditations came after that book—each a bestseller—and I predict the same for his newest, which is a reminiscence and reflection on his New York City childhood. I put it alongside classics like E.B. White’s Here is New York and Frank McCourt’s Tis. For an lovers of old fashioned literary nonfiction, this one’s a treasure.

Walking the Manhattan streets of his childhood, Rosenblatt uses the city landscape to delve into eclectic ruminations on the nature of time and space, the slipperiness of reality and memory. By mixing in history, literary references, geography, philosophy, and poetry, he is somehow able to create a 14th Street where (or when) Luchow, a 19th-century restaurant, sits side by side with a modern Trader’s Joe’s store. Rosenblatt’s writing is honest, yet it produces a magical world unto itself…. [T]he idea of controlling the uncontrollable comes into play throughout the book. But Rosenblatt isn’t out to uncover the meaning of life—he is celebrating the fact that ‘life calls for nothing but itself.’”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Rosenblatt shares poignant memories of the landscape of his childhood: the New York Public Library, Gramercy Park, Union Square, Madison Square Garden, and long-gone tenements and movie theaters. With the beautiful, lyrical writing and thoughtful reflection for which he is known, Rosenblatt offers beautifully rendered memories of childhood and ongoing curiosity about the city he so obviously loves.”
— Booklist

The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood (9780062241337) by Roger Rosenblatt. $19.99 hardcover. 11/5/13 on sale.

New Nonfiction: Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening – David Hendy

This is my favorite bedtime book so far the season—a history of humanity in thirty sounds (and thirty concise chapters perfect for dipping into one at a time before bed). Forgive me for cribbing from our marketing copy to explain this one. It’s just so well written that I can’t improve on it. 🙂

“Hendy uses sounds—not just music and speech but also echoes, chanting, drumbeats, bells, thunder, gunfire, the noise of crowds, the rumbles of the human body, laughter, silence, eavesdropping, mechanical sounds, noisy neighbours, musical recordings, radio—in order bring new meaning to some of the drama and struggle of human history in a new, enlightening way.

“To trace the story of sound is to tell the story of how we learned to overcome our fears about the natural world, perhaps even to control it; how we learned to communicate with, understand, and live alongside our fellow beings; how we’ve fought with each other for dominance; how we’ve sought to find privacy in an increasingly noisy world; how we’ve struggled with our emotions and our sanity. It encompasses the roar of the baying crowd in ancient Rome, medieval power-struggles between rich and poor, the stresses of industrialization, the shock of war, the rise of cities, the unceasing chatter of 24–hour media. For although we might see ourselves inhabiting a visual world, our lives are shaped by our need to hear and be heard.”

Hendy also has a fascinating blog: Noise | A human history on BBC Radio 4. The text is supplemented by gorgeous visuals—but is curiously silent. I guess we go to the BBC for that element.

A social history of sound from the Pal eolithic to the present—David Hendy reconstructs the acoustic environments of our ancestors and contemporaries in words, conjuring them to life for the mind’s ear. Brilliant and thought-provoking—curl up somewhere noisy and enjoy!”
— Nigel Warburton, author of A Little History of Philosophy

Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening (9780062283078) by David Hendy. $27.99 hardcover. 10/15/13 on sale.