Abramson, Jill. The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout. Times Bks: Holt. Sept. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780805093421. $25.
Managing editor of the New York Times, Abramson launched a column on the paper’s website about her new golden retriever puppy, Scout, and hit pay dirt. Readers not only raced to the column but send pictures of their own pups, leading to the creation of the most visited photo album on the site in 2009. But this is not just cutesy stuff; Abramson goes beyond her column to talk about important issues‚ shelters or breeders, the pack-leader approach or positive reinforcement‚ that should interest the seriously canine inclined.

Coelho, Paulo. Aleph. Knopf. Sept. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780307700186. $24.95; eISBN 9780307957016. CD: Random Audio.
Best-selling inspirational author Coelho was having a crisis of faith, so he did what we all do in that situation: he traveled through Europe, Africa, and Asia and met again with a woman he loved 500 years ago. His books having sold over 130 million copies in 160 countries in 72 languages, you know there’s an audience.

Deb, Siddhartha. The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India. Faber & Faber. Sept. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9780865478626. $26.
Deb grew up in the northeastern corner of India, won a fellowship to Columbia, published two novels as well as numerous book reviews and other pieces in publications like the Boston Globe and n + 1, then returned to India in 2004 to work underground for the Guardian at a call center in New Delhi. He turned his experiences into this account of the massive contradictions of India, where caste and technology live side by side and BMWs sit idle before gentle cows. India’s future is the world’s, so we need to pay attention, and as a novelist Deb should give his writing a narrative arc. Read with Patrick French’s India: A Portrait, out in June.

Fonda, Jane. Prime Time: Creating a Great Third Act. Random. Sept. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781400066971. $27. lrg. prnt. CD: Random Audio.
Now that we’re living so much longer, there aren’t just second acts but third acts in American life. To prepare us, mega-selling author/institution Fonda offers tips on food, exercise, love, and fulfilling ourselves emotionally and spiritually as we pass 60 and head for the final curtain. Wondering how this might differ from other advice books (including Fonda’s) and sort of missing radical Jane, but obviously this is for every help-yourself collection serving people of a certain age.

Friedman, Thomas L. & Michael Mandelbaum. That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World We Invented‚ and How We Can Come Back. Farrar. Sept. 2011. 128p. ISBN 9780374288907. $18. CD: Macmillan Audio.
Globalization. Infotech shakeup. Out-of-control energy consumption. Lasting deficits. The four big problems we’re not grappling with, according to three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Friedman (The World Is Flat) and Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy program at Johns Hopkins. Here they analyze the problems and offer some solutions, including the revival of our core values (okay, vague) and establishment of a third party (good idea but workable?). Sure to grab attention, given Friedman’s rep, and get the debate going.

My Pick
Gruber, Jonathan (text) & Dean Motter (illus.). Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works. Hill & Wang. Sept. 2011. 128p. ISBN 9780809094622. $30; pap. ISBN 9780809053971. $13.95.
Just who is Gruber to explain health care reform to us? He’s an award-winning MIT economist, director of the Health Care Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a key architect of the wide-ranging Massachusetts health care plan, a member of the board now implementing that plan, and an adviser to Obama (as well as Clinton and Edwards, preelection) whose work shaped the national reform plan passed in 2010. Gruber sees health care reform as essential and threats of revocation as tragic; it’s also tragic that most Americans don’t really understand the issues involved. Hence this graphic approach, provided with the help of award-winning artist/illustrator Motter. The format should help clarify the thorny issues involved and reassure interested readers who were afraid of getting pricked. Let’s hope that everyone who should read this book does so.

Kluger, Jeffrey. The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781594488313. $26.95.
In a July 6, 2006, story, The New Science of Siblings, Time senior writer Kluger noted that while scientists trying to figure out what really shapes us have hit successively on parents, genes, and peers, they still came away with as many questions as answers. Somewhere, there was a sort of temperamental dark matter exerting an invisible gravitational pull of its own. More and more, scientists are concluding that this unexplained force is our siblings. Here he expands on this and other stories he has written (e.g., The Power of Birth Order) to show what our longest-lasting relationship means to us. We’re always digging for insights about ourselves‚ in Birth Order, Kluger quotes University of Texas professor Toni Falbo as saying “People read birth-order books the way they read horoscopes‚ so I’m betting this book will be very popular.

Lehrer, Jim. Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to McCain-Obama. Random. Sept. 2011. 224p. $26. ISBN 9781400069170. CD: Random Audio.
Former president George H.W. Bush once told PBS News Anchor Lehrer that the presidential debates were tension city, though if Lehrer himself felt that way, it never showed. Dubbed the dean of moderators by CNN’s Bernard Shaw, he has held sway over 11 presidential debates with enviable aplomb. Here he recalls those debates, detailing how the candidates prepared and how they fared. This should be an eye-opener from someone who saw it all up close and personal.

Millard, Candice. The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. Doubleday. Sept. 2011. 368p. ISBN 9780385526265. $27.95. CD: Random Audio.
Millard made her mark with The River of Doubt, which tracked Theodore Roosevelt’s exploration of a previously uncharted but assuredly dangerous tributary of the Amazon. Here she sticks closer to home but also covers little-know territory, recounting the efforts to save President James A. Garfield after he was struck down by an assassin in 1881. History lovers will be intrigued.

MyCoskie, Blake. Start Something That Matters. Random. Sept. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9781400069187. $25.
MyCoskie didn’t just create TOMS Shoes, which for every pair of shoes purchased gives a pair of shoes to a needy child. He also proposed the One on One business model, detailed here, which combines profit building with philanthropy and personal fulfillment. It’s part of a new movement called Conscious Capitalism, and it sounds good. MyCoskie will be given a 2011 Character Approved award this week, so expect to see more of him.

Trillin, Calvin. Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin. Random. Sept. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781400069828. $26.
|There’s no such thing as quite enough of Trillin, which this collection should prove by offering highlights of his best work. You do have to love a writer who humbly observes that the average shelf life of a book is somewhere between milk and yogurt. Books by Dan Brown or Danielle Steel may have a longer shelf life, but they contain preservatives. Worth considering even if you have all his other books; Trillin did the selecting and organizing, which should tell us something interesting.

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.


  1. Bookmarked, Interesting post!