Nonfiction Previews, October 2012, Pt. 4: Meet Mao, Custer, & Chess Prodigy Phiona Mutesi

Barofsky, Neil. Bailout: How I Watched Washington Rescue Wall Street While Abandoning Main Street. Free Pr: S. & S. Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781451684933. $26. CURRENT EVENTS
In 2008, Barofsky was appointed Special United States Treasury Department Inspector General to oversee the Troubled Assets Relief Program. But he resigned his post in 2011, citing family reasons. Not a lot of word on the contents of this book, but the title says it all.

Criss, Peter. Makeup to Breakup. Scribner. Oct. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781451620825. $26. MEMOIR
Wow, the musicians are really talking. Last week I featured memoirs from Billy Ray Cyrus, Kenny Rogers, John Taylor, Pete Townshend, and Neil Young, and note the Cyndi Lauper tell-all below. Here, founding KISS drummer Criss spills all about his painted band and his own version of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll.

Crothers, Tim. The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster. Scribner. Oct. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451657814. $26. BIOGRAPHY/GAMES
At age 11, Phiona Mutesi had a lot of strikes against her; barely literate, she lived in the worst slums of Kampala, Uganda. Then a slum dweller who had become a missionary taught her to play chess, and three years later she was an international champion. Basing this book on his National Magazine Award‚ nominated story, Sports Illustrated senior writer Crothers tells a story that isn’t just inspirational but a corrective to our most damning assumptions.

Denby, David. Do the Movies Have a Future? S. & S. Oct. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781416599470. $27. FILM
These collected essays from the noted New Yorker critic don’t just talk about movies; they talk more broadly about where the movie business is going. As art is squeezed out by the car-crash mentality and digitization takes over, perhaps the whole business‚ which has long furnished America’s most popular form of entertainment‚ will end up dead. Here, too, are discussions of Denby’s favorite directors and the great critics James Agee and Pauline Kael. Essential for film fans.

Feinstein, Michael. The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs. S. & S. Oct. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781451645309. $45 with CD. BIOGRAPHY/MUSIC
Ambassador of the Great American Songbook, as he’s called, Feinstein lucked out at age 20 when he got a job with Ira Gershwin. Here he shares both reminiscences of their six-year partnership and his unique insights into the glory that is George Gershwin’s music. When it comes to the great Gershwins, I’m not the only person to proclaim Love Is Here To Stay, and Feinstein’s structuring of his narrative in terms of 12 key songs is intriguing. Can’t wait to hear the accompanying CD.

Han Han. This Generation: Dispatches from China’s Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver). S. & S. Oct. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781451660005. $23. MEMOIR/CURRENT EVENTS
After Han dropped out of high school, he wrote a novel titled Triple Door that has sold more than 20 million copies, then went on to become a singer, a sharp-tongued blogger of the moment, and a star on the rally racing circuit. Now he’s an international celebrity who’s changed our view of China, and his observations here range from racing to patriotism. Seriously, this sounds cool.

Lauper, Cyndi with Jancee Dunn. Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir. Atria: S. & S. Oct. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781439147856. $28.99. MEMOIR/MUSIC
For girls (and others) who want to have fun: a memoir from Lauper, who’s sold more than 30 million albums globally and has been nominated for a stack of awards, including 14 Grammys. She starts here with her tough early years, when she abandoned home at age 17 and survived by her wits‚ and doing things like cleaning a Hare Krishna temple for free food. Then come the glories and (inevitable) hardships of fame.

McMurtry, Larry. Custer. S. & S. Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781451626209. $40. BIOGRAPHY
McMurtry on George Armstrong Custer; now that should be larger than life. With no cavalry survivors and only scattered Indian accounts after Custer and his 7th Cavalry attacked a large Lakota Cheyenne village on the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory, it’s hard to say what really happened on that hot June day in 1876. But McMurtry’s chronicle of the man should be colorful‚ for one thing, there are 150 four-color illustrations.

Nepo, Mark. Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred. Free Pr: S. & S. Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781451674668. $25. INSPIRATION
You’ll know cancer survivor Nepo from his No. 1 New York Times best seller, The Book of Awakening‚ not to mention his appearances on Good Morning America and Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday program (OWN TV). Emphasizing our relationships to wisdom, experience, and one another, he here uses his own hearing loss to explain how we can return daily to what really matters in life.

Pantsov, Alexander V. & Steven I. Levine. Mao: The Real Story. S. & S. Oct. 2012. 736p. ISBN 9781451654479. $35. BIOGRAPHY
Moscow-born Pantsov, now a history professor at Capital University and author of books like The Bolsheviks and the Chinese Revolution 1919-1927, joins with China politics and foreign affairs expert Levine to craft a biography of one of the towering leaders/monsters of the 20th century. Key here is access to Russian documents not available to previous researchers. Interesting to see where this goes, since as China rises and rises, a new Mao biography seems important.

Schwarzenegger, Arnold. Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. S. & S. Oct. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9781451662436. $32.50. CD: S. & S. Audio. MEMOIR
Body-building champion. Movie star. Governor of California. And immigrant. Schwarzenegger presents his life story as the realization of the American dream. Long on his achievements, then (note the subtitle), but he’s also said to be honest about his regrets‚ and that would pique reader interest. With a national tour.

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. Alex says:

    I can’t wait for the Cyndi Lauper bio. I hope they make a movie too.