Bialosky, Jill. History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life. Atria. Feb. 2011. 272p. ISBN 978-1439101933. $24.
Bialosky has published three collections of poetry (e.g., Intruder) and two novels (e.g., The Life Room) and is executive editor of Norton. All of which might just have been preparation for writing this account of her sister’s suicide at age 21 and the consequences for herself and her family. In sharp, unburdened prose, Bialosky is intent on describing why dealing with suicide is so troublesome and how she finally found her way. Important because with all the self-help/confessionals available, there’s little that really articulates how to cope with such a death‚ as Bialosky herself discovered.
Drury, Bob & Tom Clavin. Last Men Out: The True Story of America’s Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam. Free Pr. ISBN 9781439161012. $26.
Heroic or sorrowful? Here, the authors of The Last Stand of Fox Company reconstruct the story of the last 11 American soldiers to leave Saigon on April 30, 1975. Still a readership and still an important issue; we’ll never put Vietnam to rest.
Eagleman, David. Incognito: The Brains Behind the Mind. Pantheon. May 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780307377333. $25.95.
Director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine and founder and director of the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law, Eagleman knows his neuroscience. He also wrote a highly acclaimed little group of fables called Sum: Forty Tales from the Aferlife, so clearly he can write. This study of how the brain works is going out with a 60,000-copy first printing and an impressive 14-city tour.
Goulian, Jon-Jon. The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt. Random. May 2011. 336p. 9781400068111. $25. eISBN 9780679604488. CD: Random Audio.
Grandson of political philosopher Sidney Hook, son of a doctor, and an Ivy League and law school grad who clerked for a federal judge before becoming (for a time) Robert Silvers’s assistant at the New York Review of Books, Goulian likes to dress in skirts and espadrilles. This is a coming-of-age memoir about defying expectations, finding yourself, and aiming to bring your family along with you. Since Goulian is a high-prolife literary figure in New York, with connections to the New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Slate, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s, among other venues, you’ll doubtless be hearing a lot about this book. It could be really good.
Grayling, A.C. The Good Book: A Secular Bible. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. May 2011. 624p. ISBN 9780802717375. $35.
On the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Grayling, a professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, does the unexpected. He offers a secular Bible that draws on the literature and philosophy of both East and West to offer lessons of moral scope that are not founded in dogma. His design even echoes the Bible, with the narrative divided into 12 sections that include Genesis, Histories, Wisdom, The Sages, Parables, Consolations, Lamentations, Proverbs, Songs, Epistles, Acts, and the Good. Sure to stir talk among sophisticated readers.
Haag, Christina. Come to the Edge: A Memoir. Spiegel & Grau. May 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780385523172. $24. eISBN 9780679604907.
Actress Haag (e.g., ER, Seinfeld) knew John Kennedy Jr. from their prep school days in New York; they acted together in student productions at Brown and eventually launched a five-year affair that ended when Kennedy announced that he wasn’t ready to commit. Evidently, Haag has not spoken at length about this relationship, and her book promises tales you haven’t heard. For all Kennedy watchers.
James, Bill. Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence. Scribner. May 2011. 448p. ISBN 9781416552734. $30.
Famed for his Baseball Abstracts, which launched in the Seventies, James is currently senior adviser on Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox. And now for something completely different‚ a compendium of crime in America and a meditation on why it fascinates us so much. Nothing frivolous about this book.
Jones, Georgette. The Three of Us: Understanding My Mother, Finding My Father, and Growing Up with Tammy and George. Atria. May 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781439198575. $26.
As the title and subtitle suggest, this is a book about top country couple George Jones and Tammy Wynette, as told by their only child. Jones promises never-before-seen photographs and never-before-heard stories (including those of friends and relatives) and will discuss how she was affected by Wynette’s substance abuse and unfortunate clinginess to men. Argh, Schadenfreude; this should get some attention.
Kurlansky, Mark. What? Are These the 20 Most Important Questions in Human History‚ Or Is This a Game of 20 Questions? Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. May 2011. 80p. ISBN 9780802779069. $15.
Having ranged from Cod to The Eastern Stars, Kurlansky touches on Confucius, Plato, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, the Talmud, and Freud (among others) to ask some of our most basic questions in a brief narrative that is itself a series of questions: Why are we here? Why do we die? What is death? What does it mean that outer space is infinite and what is after infinity? What is the significance of birdflight, why does matter decay, and how is our life different from that of a mosquito? Is there an end to these questions or is questioning as infinite as space? No doubt about it, he’s always original. Not for readers who expect answers.
Life, Jeffry. The Life Plan: Dr. Life’s Guide for Men to Great Health, Better Sex & a Stronger, Leaner Body. Atria. May 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781439194584. $26.
Aimed at aging male boomers, this book blends advice on exercise, nutrition, hormones, and holistic medicine to help readers get fitter faster forever and look years younger, too. Is there a reason that this book is coming out right before Father’s Day? You know whether you have an audience.
Lifton, Robert Jay. Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir. Free Pr. May 2011. 368p. ISBN 9781416590767. $28.
Author of the ground-breaking The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, Lifton has indeed borne witness to an extreme century. This would appear to be less a personal memoir than a deeply felt account of some of the darker moments in recent memory and is the nonfiction book on this list I most want to see.
Penn, Robert. It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. May 2011. 224p. ISBN 9781608195381. $23.
In his twenties, Penn biked 40,000 kilometers around the world, and he still rides daily to whatever job he has (at the moment, he’s writing for Financial Times, Observer (UK), and Conde Nast Traveler). Here he uses each part of the bicycle to begin various discussions on the history of cycling and its sociohistorical import. This could find a nice following wherever two-wheeled transport is popular; it got raves in the U.K.
Rempel, William C. At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel. 352p. ISBN 9781400068371. $26. CD: Random Audio. eISBN 9780679604877.
Jorge Salcedo once headed security for the Cali drug cartel, protecting the bosses and their families. Then, in the Nineties, he betrayed them, cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help bring the cartel down. Rempel, who has exclusive access to Salcedo (hiding somewhere in the United States), has followed this story for the Los Angeles Times and here presents it in full. Lots of interest; the very words Cali cartel still set off a frisson of fear.
Robison, Margaret. The Long Journey Home. Spiegel & Grau. May 2011. 432p. ISBN 9781400068692. $26. eISBN 9781588369222.
Already previewed in Prepub, this memoir by the mother of Augusten Burroughs and John Elder Robison has been moved from February to May 2011.