Nonfiction Previews, May 2012, Pt. 2: Augusten Burroughs, Leonard Mlodinow, Auma Obama

Brinkley, Alan. John F. Kennedy: The American Presidents Series: The 35th President, 1961‚ 1963. Times Bks: Holt. May 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780805083491. $23. BIOGRAPHY
Pulitzer Prize winner Brinkley adds his bit to the American Presidents series, edited by Arthur S. Schlesinger and Sean Wilentz, with this focused biography of John F. Kennedy. Not an enviable task, given how much has been written about Kennedy, but Brinkley should be up to it. Especially valuable if you are collecting the series or have students needing something concise.

Burroughs, Augusten. This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. St. Martin’s. May 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780312563554. $24.95. CD: Macmillan Audio SELF-HELP
This is indeed billed as self-help, though one cannot expect the author of Running with Scissors to deliver the standard pabulum; the title alone suggests Burroughs’s impish, in-your-face, tongue-in-check intentions. Among the issues addressed: how to be thin, how to be fat, how not to be healed, how to finish your drink, and how to feel like crap (for this you need advice?). There’s a one-day laydown on May 8 and a 350,000-copy first printing; quite likely quite big.

Guttenberg, Steve. The Guttenberg Bible. St. Martin’s. May 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780312383459. $25.99. MEMOIR/PERFORMING ARTS
Forget being an actor. You don’t have the look, you don’t have the talent, and your name is ridiculous. You are the last guy I would ever pick to be a movie star. So an agent told Guttenberg, who went on to headline such films as Diner and Police Academy. Here’s a reputedly funny and self-deprecating look at how he pulled it off. The 75,000-copy first printing is good-sized for someone who made his name a while back.

Hendrix, Leon & Adam Mitchell. Jimi Hendrix: A Brother’s Story. St. Martin’s. May 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780312668815. $25.99. BIOGRAPHY/MUSIC
Jimi Hendrix is such an icon that it’s hard to imagine him as a child, going to kindergarten, punching out little brother Leon, and then picking up a guitar and learning his first chord. Here, Leon, who has his own band, gives us an insider’s look at the Sixties star’s tough upbringing inSeattle and rise to fame. These classic rock bios are doing so well.

Huang, Wenguang. The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781594488290. $25.95. MEMOIR
It’s not every memoir that has a coffin at its heart. But that coffin mattered to Huang’s grandmother, who wanted not to be cremated but to be buried, though burial was banned byChina’s government as a backward-looking practice. Huang’s father finally built her the little wooden box she wanted and appointed the author (at age eight) to be its guardian, which meant that he had to sleep next to it each night. Now a Chicago-based translator, writer, and NPR commentator, Huang began reflecting on how his coffin guarding and his family’s 15-year-long focus on his grandmother’s impending death must have shaped his life. Yet another interesting way to look atChina, something readers crave.

Mlodinow, Leonard. Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior. Pantheon. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780307378217. $25.95; eISBN 9780307907448. PSYCHOLOGY
You’ll know Mlodinow as author of the best-selling The Drunkard’s Walk, coauthor with Stephen Hawking of the mega-best-selling A Briefer History of Time, a Caltech physicist‚ and author of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Here he explains how the unconscious mind drives everything we do. Perhaps easier to grasp than physics, and the idea of the unconscious appeals to us all. Big for the smart set.

Morrissey, Rick. Ozzie’s School of Management: Lessons from the Dugout, the Clubhouse, and the Doghouse. Times Bks: Holt. May 2012. 236p. ISBN 9780805095005. $26.
An award-winning sports writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, Morrissey gives us the world according to Ozzie Guillen, manager of the Miami Marlins, who’s as likely to drub his own players in print as he is to take on the opposing team. He’s also considered one of baseball’s best managers, which makes this behind-the-scenes look at how Ozzie operators of particular interest to sports fans.

Obama, Auma. And Then Life Happens: A Memoir. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781250010056. $25.99. MEMOIR
Born directly afterKenya gained its independence, the author did not meet her famous brother, now President of theUnited States, until the 1980s. They became better acquainted through joint study of their family history, and she encouraged his political aspirations. But this isn’t simply a memoir about their relationship. It’s also about the culture clash Auma experienced when she settled in England for love, then recognized that she felt caught between two worlds and returned home to work with the youth of Kenya. And that’s the really interesting part of the book, though people will likely pick this up to get a glimpse of the young Barack.

Winstead, Lizz. Lizz Free or Die. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). May 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781594487026. $25.95. CD: Penguin Audio. ESSAYS
Cocreator and former head writer of The Daily Show and also a force behind Air America Radio, Winstead doesn’t just make folks laugh; she’s also a sharp social critic. This collection of essays considers how she found her voice, starting with childhood as the outspoken daughter of strict Catholic parents. Winstead has worked mostly behind the scenes, so this book is like a coming-out party; expect lots of media‚ obviously, given her connections.

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.