Barbara’s Pick
Albers, Patricia. Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter; A Life. Knopf. May 2011. 544p. ISBN 9780375414374. $40. eISBN 9780307595980.
Mitchell was a steel heiress and debutante who won ice-skating competitions and went on to marry Barney Rosset Jr., owner/publisher of Grove Press. Oh, and she was one of the more remarkable figures in 20th-century American painting, an Abstract Expressionist who hung out in New York with Jackson Pollock, Frank O’Hara, and Saul Steinberg, to name just a few. Mitchell’s life is intriguing enough; as told by Albers, author of the excellent Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti, it should make for a nonstop read. Pair with Gail Levin’s Lee Krasner, out in March 2011 from Morrow; I’m not sure how heavily this book will be promoted but to me it’s definitely cool.

Bola√±o, Roberto. Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches, 1998‚ 2003. New Directions, dist. by Norton. Apr. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780811218146. $24.95.
The Savage Detectives and later 2666, a National Book Critics Circle award winner, brought Bola√±o crashing into the attention of U.S. readers. Those two novels were published by Farrar, but rights to Bola√±o’s other works reside with New Directions, which has been issuing them steadily. Along with nine novels, two story collections, and five books of poetry, Bola√±o wrote plenty of incidental works, collected here for the delectation of fans.

Burns, Sarah. The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding. Knopf. 2011. May 2011. 272p. ISBN 9780307266149. $25. eISBN 9780307596598.
On April 20, 1989, a young woman was found in New York’s Central Park, raped and beaten so badly that she had lost most of her blood. Five black and Latino teenagers confessed to the crime and served full prison terms before serial rapist Matias Reyes admitted his guilt. No blood or DNA evidence had ever connected the teenagers to the wilding, as it was called. Recent Yale grad Burns considers not just the case itself but the circumstances that allowed it to happen, in particular, the violence and racial tensions endemic in the city at that time. Expect interest, especially in the New York area; a documentary is in the works, with Ken Burns at the helm.

Deen, Jamie & Bobby Deen & Melissa Clark. The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up: Grilling, Tailgating, Picnicking, and More. Ballantine. May 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780345513632. $25. eISBN 9780440423645.
Paula Deen’s sons are good cooks, too; their Food Network TV Show, Road Tasted, made it big, and they even have their own magazine, Deen Bros. Good Cooking. Here they offer 100 recipes for outdoor cooking, from tailgating to clambakes. Just in time for summer; buy wherever people grill, especially in the South.

Deresiewicz, William. A Jane Austen Education. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9781594202889. $25.95.
And not just Austen, though Nation contributing writer Deresiewicz did write the scholarly Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets. Here he talks about how literature in general has shaped him. Could be juicy for bibliophiles; watch.

di Robilant, Andrea. Irresistible North: From Venice to Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers. Knopf. May 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780307269850. $25. eISBN 9780307596628.
In 1558, statesman Nicol√≤ Zen published a narrative, complete with nautical map, detailing the North Atlantic voyage undertaken by two ancestors‚ in the 1380s‚ 90s. In the 1800s, it was declared a fraud. When di Robilant (A Venetian Affair) rediscovered the narrative, he set out to reconstruct the Zens’ voyage and consider whether it was faked‚ and, if so, why? Sounds so intriguing; how could anyone, particularly a history enthusiast, resist?

Grant, Jennifer. Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant. Knopf. May 2011. 192p. ISBN 9780307267108. $24. eISBN 9780307596673.
When Grant was born, her father‚ debonair Cary Grant‚ was 63. Blessedly, this does not appear to be a dig-the-dirt, get-even memoir but an evocation of life with the great actor among Hollywood’s most glamorous stars. Grant may now be an actress herself, but she graduated with a degree in history from Stanford, so I’m guessing she can write. For all those folks still pining after her father; with a four-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

Gross, Jane. A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents‚ And Ourselves. Knopf. Apr. 2011. 368p. ISBN 9780307271822. $26.95. ISBN 9780307596680.
New York Times journalist Gross, who launched the paper’s The New Old Age blog, here details her experiences caring for a suddenly frail and ailing mother to show readers how they can cope effectively with an aging parent. In the process, she sweeps from the mundane‚ keeping an extra pair of glasses in the car‚ to the momentous‚ dealing with Medicare. Gross’s journalism has always been commendable; with an eight-city tour to Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Kempe, Frederick. Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth. Putnam. May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780399157295. $28.95.
In Cold War Berlin, the United States and the Soviet Union stood nose to nose, with the possibility of nuclear war just a misstep away. Kempe, a former Wall Street Journal editor/writer andcurrently president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, uses new documents and conducted his own interviews to bring that time back to life. Good to revisit this era.

Madrick, Jeff. Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present. Knopf. May 2011. 480p. ISBN 9781400041718. $30. eISBN 9780307596710.
With so many books treating the recent crash, it’s refreshing to see Madrick go for some historical perspective, tracing our current troubles back to the 1970s. Profiling individuals from Milton Friedman to Richard Nixon to Ivan Boesky, he examines the stampede away from community concern to focused self-interest. Again, lots of crash books out there; will readers get this message? With a five-city tour to Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

Murkoff, Heidi & Sharon Mazel. What To Expect: The Second Year. Workman. May 2011. 500p. ISBN 9780761152774. $NA.
No, this is not a revision of What To Expect: The Toddler Years. It’s an all-new book that will be followed by What To Expect: The Preschool Years. Once that has been released, Toddler will be retired. Obviously, it’s essential.

Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9781594203008. $27.95.
The Internet means absolute freedom, right? You can gobble up any information you want. In fact, argues’s board president, there’s an unnoticed trend toward “personalization” that restricts what you’re getting. Uh oh, the Internet as Big Brother; ReadOn.

Penrose, Roger. Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe. Knopf. May 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780307265906. $28.95. eISBN 9780307596741. CD: Random Audio.
Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Oxford and recipient of the Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, Penrose knows his universe. He’s here to tell us that it won’t evanesce into massless energy, as now posited, but is accelerating rapidly toward another Big Bang. Bound to shake up your science readers; there’s a remarkable audience for books like this.

Quirk, Jessica. What I Wore: A Recipe for Style, Day by Day and Season by Season. Ballantine. May 2011. 144p. ISBN 9780345526106. pap. $18. eISBN 9780440423669.
Quirk’s how-to-dress guide is based on the cookbook model: start with guidelines and some core recipes, then build creatively. It’s also based on Quirk’s popular blog of the same name, which with more than 11,000 visitors daily and 1.2 million page views a month is nothing to sneeze at, especially in a tight pencil skirt. There’s all-new stuff here, plus 100 full-color illustrations done by Quirk herself, all building on a reputation that’s been burnished by profiles in venues like Glamour and Time Out New York. If you’ve got fashionistas in your midst, consider.

Ronson, Jon. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9781594488016. $25.95.
The journalist who gave us The Men Who Stare at Goats returns with another tale from the outer edge, this one focused on psychopaths and those who study them. Ronson even meets a psychologist who claims that psychopaths lurk among the ranks of CEOs and politicians and explains how to flush them out. Madness does seem to intrigue.

Schama, Simon. Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Running Around in History, Art, Politics, and Culture. Ecco: HarperCollins. Apr. 2011. 432p. ISBN 9780062009869. $27.99.
The author of many a hefty, award-winning tome (e.g., Citizens, The Power of Art), Schama also writes shorter pieces, which give him a chance to lighten up‚ or at least write in a more meditative, glancing style. This collection ranges from food to Bob Dylan to Barack Obama to travels in New Orleans, post-Katrina, and should delight your smarter readers.

White, Betty. If You Ask Me: (And Of Course You Won’t). Putnam. May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780399157530. $NA.
More Hollywood anecdotes, plus insights on issues like love, sex, television, and celebrity. White is hot, and not just in Cleveland; last May she became the oldest person ever to host Saturday Night Live after a huge Facebook campaign. There’s word that she’s launching her own calendar and clothing line to aid the animal welfare charities she supports. It seems that there’s room for one more Betty White book on your shelf.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.