Nonfiction Previews, February 2012, Pt. 1: From Math Geniuses to National Defense

Bowers, Scotty with Lionel Friedberg. Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Grove. Feb. 2012. 288p. ISBN 97808021220076. $25. MEMOIR
Bowers landed in Hollywood in 1946 as a back-from-the-war marine and, if this eye-popping memoir is to be believed, managed to sleep with or arrange tricks for just about every star in town. It’s not everyone who can claim Edith Piaf, Vivien Leigh, Cary Grant, and the abdicated King of England Edward VIII as sexual partners or says that he fixed up Katharine Hepburn with about 150 different women. The style here is untutored but raw and sizzly. Something to shock everyone; I bet this will get some attention.

Fox, Julia. Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castille. Ballantine. Feb. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780345516046. $28; eISBN 9780345532312. Download: Random Audio. HISTORY
Life spares no one, not even queens. Having failed to produce a male heir, Katherine of Aragon was rudely shoved aside by husband Henry VIII in favor of Anne Boleyn, and her sister Juana, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was so besotted with her husband that upon his early death she refused to bury his coffin‚ she kept expecting him to come to‚ and was eventually confined by her family. Fox, who won great attention with Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford, should offer an entertaining dual biography. For all Anglophiles.

Isay, Dave. All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2012. 176p. ISBN 9781594203213. $24.95. ORAL HISTORY
Founded in 2003, StoryCorps is an oral history project that sets out to record the stories of Americans of all backgrounds, having archived 35,000 interviews to date. Founder Isay, winner of five Peabodys and a MacArthur Fellowship, has already put together two books from the interviews. Here he presents recollections of love and marriage, as participants relate meeting in, say, a New York toll booth and go on to build families, manage careers, and sometimes face death. The previous titles were New York Times best sellers, and this likely will be, too. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Masters, Alexander. The Genius in My Basement: A Sumography of the Genius Simon Norton, Who Disappeared Mysteriously at the End of the Last Century. Delacorte. Feb. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780385341080. $25. eISBN 9780345532213. BIOGRAPHY
When still in his early twenties, prodigy Simon Norton published The Atlas of Finite Groups, one of the most significant contributions to mathematics in second half of the 20th century. He’s well known to the author, not because Masters studied math and physics in London and Cambridge but because Norton is Masters’s landlord, living in the basement of his building. How Norton got there after his early triumphs is a story Masters can tell; he wrote Stuart: A Life Backwards, a Guardian First Book award winner and multiple award finalist about a homeless man. (Masters ran a homeless hostel for five years.) Not a how-the-mighty-have-fallen curio; Masters will, I believe, offer real depth.

Silver, Charlotte. Charlotte au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781594488153. $25.95. MEMOIR
An indomitable Patton in Pumps, Silver’s mother owned and ran Upstairs at the Pudding, a chandeliered restaurant in Harvard Square, and Silver grew up slurping Shirley Temples there while sometimes catnapping under the bar. Her memoir looks back at shenanigans with the offbeat staff, her growing resentment that so much of her mother’s time went to the restaurant, and her understanding, finally, of how much her mother had sacrificed to keep her business and her family intact. This first book could be a real charmer; it’s refreshing to find a coming-of-age memoir without a lot of venom to spill, and who doesn’t like to read about food?

Treuer, David. Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life. Atlantic Monthly. Feb. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780802119711. $26. CURRENT EVENTS
Winner of a Pushcart Prize and Guggenheim fellowship, among other honors, Treuer is noted for his fiction about Native American life (e.g., The Hiawatha), as well as numerous essays on the subject; he is himself a member of the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota. His first full-length work of nonfiction details life on the reservation, explaining sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation while also assessing charged issues like poverty, casinos, tribal government, and the preservation of Native American language and culture. An important resource well worth investigating.

Unger, David C. The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of National Security at All Costs. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781594203244. $27.95. CURRENT EVENTS
Until World War II, America took a decidedly limited approach to military intervention. Since then, we have been hugely engaged worldwide, focusing on building up national-security institutions and, more significantly, attitudes that have sometimes clouded our judgment. As reported in places like the Washington Post, national security has become so unwieldy that even those in charge don’t know how or whether it works. Unger, on the board of the New York Times for 30 years, argues that our obsession with security issues, which Presidents of both parties have fostered for decades, has damaged the country and must be reversed. Not Bush-was-wrong bashing; thoughtful work for your smart political readers.

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.