Nonfiction Previews, October 2012, Pt. 3: Colbert, Janzen, Khan, & Underwater Dogs

Anastas, Benjamin. Too Good to Be True: A Memoir. New Harvest: Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9780547913995. $25. MEMOIR
Appreciated by the cognoscenti, the author of novels like An Underachiever’s Diary that should be better known, Anastas was broke and frustrated with his career when his pregnant wife left him for another man (a writer, no less). This is an account of how he fought to maintain a relationship with his son‚ especially important because his own childhood was so fractured. (What can you say about a mom who lets her nutty therapy group hang a sign around her three year old’s neck proclaiming Too Good To Be True?) Expect something different‚ but nakedly there.

Casteel, Seth. Underwater Dogs. Little, Brown. Oct. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9780316227704. $19.99. PHOTOGRAPHY
An award-winning pet photographer and (bless him) an animal adoption activist, Casteel got the bright idea of photographing dogs swimming, working mostly from below to create spooky-adorable images and the occasional fierce shot of a sharp-toothed canine going straight for a ball. Since he began posting them online, his images of doggie-paddling pooches have garnered 150 million views. Possible cult status here.

Colbert, Stephen. America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t. Grand Central. Oct. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780446583978. $28.99. CD/Downloadable: Hachette Audio. HUMOR
America is No. 1, except that it’s not, really, proclaims political satirist Colbert. We don’t make anything anymore, and our future is in the hands of the Chinese. Does Colbert have recommendations? Feel free to deep-fry this book‚ it’s a rich source of fiber. Maybe laughing will help.

Douglas, Tom. The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle. Morrow. Oct. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780062183743. $35. COOKBOOKS
Here’s what you could be eating if you get this latest book from Douglas, James Beard Association Award winner for Best Northwest Chef and Bon Appétit Best Restaurateur of 2008: cinnamon sugar and mascarpone doughnuts, streusel-topped monkey bread with caramel dipping sauce, and a triple coconut cream pie that Serious Eats founder Ed Levine calls one of the best pies in the country. Not to mention some yummy savory treats, too. What are you waiting for? With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Eisenberg, John. Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780547435503. $27. SPORTS
Award-winning sports author Eisenberg tells an appropriately Texas-sized story. In the early 1960s, with pro football everywhere on the ascendant but for Texas, where college football still held sway, two young oil tycoons founded rival pro football teams in Dallas. The Cowboys’ Tom Landry looked to winning games, while the Texans’ Lamar Hunt aimed to build a fan base, and each triumphed in his own way. Eisenberg is a natural to tell the story since he grew up in 1960s Texas. An obvious purchase unless everyone in your town hates sports.

Elliott, Chris. The Guy Under the Sheets: The Unauthorized Autobiography. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780399158407. $26.95. HUMOR
Um, hot affairs with Lee Radziwill and Kathie Lee Gifford? Time spent dismembering bodies for the Mob? I think it’s safe to say that this book is not meant as a wholly accurate reminiscence. Expect entertainment from out-there comic Elliot, star of Adult Swim’s Eagleheart, author of The Shroud of the Thwacker, and part of a comic dynasty: his father is Bob Elliott of Bob & Ray and daughter Abby is a Saturday Night Live cast member.

Gershon, Gina. In Search of Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 176p. ISBN 9781592407668. $22.50. MEMOIR/PETS
She’s done movies (Showgirls), television (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and theater (as a founding member of the group Naked Angels), but when her beloved cat vanishes, Gershon plays her most important role ever: impassioned cat lady hunting obsessively for her missing pet. As she wanders L.A.’s byways, she encounters an array of quirky and sometimes helpful folks, from an earnest newspaper deliveryman to a Santeria priest who clobbers her with a chicken to Ellen DeGeneres’s know-it-all pet psychic. And of course in finding Cleo she finds out some things about herself. A cat-loving, colorful travelog.

Gómez, Carlos Andrés. Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781592407781. $26. MEMOIR/SELF-HELP
I will not rest until one dream is made real: that we might redefine what it is to be a man. That we redefine what it means to say, ‚Äòman up.’ Sound too dreamy? Will men, especially young men, listen? In fact, Gomez, New York’s Slam King in 2006 and a two-time International Poetry Slam Champion, as well as an actor (he costarred in Spike Lee’s Inside Man) and a former social worker in Harlem and the South Bronx, is an energized example of street-smart credibility. As detailed in one of his spoken-word poems, his epiphany came when, on the verge of a bar fight, he found his eyes welling with tears. We’ve heard that men should feel free to show such emotion, but obviously the message needs repeating. Gómez delivers it for the 21st century.

Howe, Sean. True Believers: The Secret Origins of Marvel Comics. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2012. 496p. ISBN 9780061992100. $25.99. POPULAR CULTURE/BUSINESS
In the early 1960s, minor-player Marvel Comics introduced a host of brightly bedecked and brave but sometimes humanly fallible superheroes like Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk; now it’s the No. 1 comics company in the world. Here’s an unauthorized history from former Entertainment Weekly editor Howe; the 35,000-copy first printing seems small.

Janzen, Rhoda. Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?: A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems. Grand Central. Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781455502882. $24.99; lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. MEMOIR
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Janzen’s pointedly funny memoir of returning home to her cheerily faithful family when her life was at low ebb, dwelled on the New York Times best sellers list for more than 40 weeks, sometimes in the top spot. Her new memoir charts her growing comfort with faith, though she goes for the hallelujah-swaying Pentecostals rather than the staid Mennonites, and eventually meets the right guy. If this is anything like her last memoir, hang on; with a multicity tour and reading group guide.

Jillette, Penn. Every Day Is an Atheist Holiday. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780399161568. $25.95. HUMOR
Half of Penn & Teller, the world-famous magic act whose long-running Showtime series was nominated for 13 Emmys, Jillette has also flown solo, having appeared often on TV talk shows and written a bunch of best sellers. This new collection of essays gleefully stomps on Christmas carols, Halloween, children’s over-the-top birthday parties, and more while recalling the finer moments in life. Wildly funny, but not for the honk-if-you-love-Jesus folks.

Khan, Salman. The One World Schoolhouse: A New Approach to Teaching and Learning. Twelve: Hachette. Oct. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9781455508389. $26.99. EDUCATION
While tutoring his niece online in algebra, hedge fund analyst Khan got a bright idea. Wouldn’t it be cool to provide a free, first-class education online to anyone who wanted it? Now, the Khan Academy is flourishing on YouTube, with millions viewing and subscribing to courses in every area imaginable. Khan is routinely approached by schools interested in learning how to reach students more effectively with digital tools, and he was just named one of Time‘s 100 Most Influential People in the World. A book on the all-important topic of education that’s not all theory.

Lagasse, Emeril. Emeril’s Kicked-Up Sandwiches: Stacked with Flavor. Morrow. Oct. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780061742972. pap. $24.99; eISBN 9780062210432. COOKBOOKS
A sandwich cookbook with a 100,000-copy first printing? Okay, this is Emeril Lagasse, proprietor of 12 restaurants, author 16 best-selling cookbooks, cookware baron, and host of cooking shows on the Hallmark and Cooking channels. Included are kicked-up classics like Fried Soft Shell Crab with Lemon Caper Mayo, plus wraps, breakfast sandwiches, pressed and grilled sandwiches, and even sweet stuff (Red Velvet Whoopee Cushions). Lots of fans, so buy one‚ or more; this is a paperback original, and it wouldn’t last for long in my kitchen.

Milgrim, David. Siri & Me: A Modern Love Story. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 112p. ISBN 9780399161599. $15.95. HUMOR
Our hero Dave practically lives online; cyberspace is his space. So it’s no wonder that his deepest, most touching relationship is with cybergirl Siri, the voice inside his iPhone. She really understands him. From the author of the best-selling Goodnight, iPad; did you know that there are more than 37 million iPhone users out there who love Siri, too?

O’Brien, Geoffrey, ed. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. 18th ed. Little, Brown. Oct. 2012. 1472p. ISBN 9780316017596. $50. REFERENCE
The immortal Bartlett’s, which contains more than 25,000 quotations, is published once a decade. This 18th edition, brought to you by Library of America editor in chief O’Brien, includes 2500 new quotes and more than 800 newcomers ranging from Julia Child to David Foster Wallace. Quotes have been culled to bring in more foreigners and women and more material from fiction and poetry; a companion app brings this chestnut into the 21st century. My favorite featured quote, from Walter Benjamin: Books and harlots have their quarrels in public.

The Onion. The Onion Book of Known Knowledge. Little, Brown. Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780316133265. $29.99; CD: Hachette Audio. HUMOR
Onion books are usually New York Times best sellers, and Onion online has won 19 Webbys, so forgive this offbeat journalistic entity its pride as it boasts that this comprehensive reference source is the last book ever published. A typical entry: Woodstock, landmark music festival that brought together half a million future bankers and hedge fund managers. Lots of folks groove to this kind of humor.

Patronite, Rob & Robin Raisfeld. In Season: More Than 140 Fresh and Simple Recipes Inspired by Farmer’s Market Ingredients. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780399161100. $35. COOKBOOKS
Eating what’s in season: it seems like common sense, but until recently it was not common practice. But now it’s the rage, with farmer’s markets sprouting up in just about every state. The authors drawn on their popular In Season for New York magazine to offer 140 recipes‚ from chefs nationwide‚ that show us, for instance, how best to use fiddlehead fern. Yes!

Robles, Anthony. Unstoppable. From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781592407774. $26. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. MEMOIR/SELF-HELP
Three-time all-American wrestler. The 2011 NCAA National Wrestling Champion. Nike-sponsored athlete (with his brand-name Unstoppable apparel). Robles would seem to have it all, but he was born without a right leg. Here’s the story of how he persevered, from coming in last in his first wrestling season to his current championship heights and an intensive speaking tour that has already introduced him to 15,000 high school and college students and their coaches.

Skinner, David. The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780062027467. $25.99; lrg. prnt. HISTORY/POPULAR CULTURE
Published in 1961, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary abandoned the traditionally prescriptive approach and offered straightforward description of how language was actually being used at the time. It even included the word ain’t. A seemingly sensible (and scientific) move, but it caused an uproar, and Dwight Macdonald decried it as the end of civilization. Editor of Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities publication where an early version of this work first appeared, Skinner covers not just the making of the new dictionary but the tumultuous reaction. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Strogatz, Steven. The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780547517650. $27. MATHEMATICS
Strogatz, a Cornell professor of applied mathematics, doesn’t stick with x but shows that math is intimately involved with art, science, philosophy, business, and humdrum, everyday life in ways you might never have imagined. Trust the author of the New York Times column The Elements of Math, which appeared online in 2010, to explain everything from how Google searches the Internet to how many people you should date before making that big choice. If you think this book will have only a select audience, think again; Strogatz’s column always made the most-emailed list and got hundreds of comments. With 50,000-copy first printing.

Weil, Andrew, M.D., & Sam Fox with Michael Stebner. True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure. Little, Brown. Oct. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780316129411. $29.99. COOKBOOKS
The high-profile promoter of both our mental and our physical well-being, Weil‚ best-selling author (e.g., Spontaneous Healing) and founder/director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine‚ opened True Food Kitchen in 2008 with Fox, three-time James Beard Restaurateur of the Year nominee. The aim? Really tasty food that also assures our well-being. With over 125 recipes‚ personally, I’m down with the Corn and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli and the Pomegranate Martini (and I don’t even drink martinis)‚ and note that Weil and Fox hope to open 20 True Food restaurants over the next few years.


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.