Nonfiction Previews, November 2012, Pt. 3: From Kirstie Alley to Kurt Vonnegut

Alley, Kirstie. The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine Al Dente). Atria: S. & S. Nov. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781451673586; eISBN 9781451673609. $25. MEMOIR
From Cheers stardom to weight ups and downs advertised on Oprah to her recent turn on Dancing with the Stars, larger-than-life Alley has been in our sights. Here she considers her life especially in terms of the men she’s loved and hated, slept with or not, shaped and been shaped by, e.g., Woody Harrelson, L. Ron Hubbard, and Dancing partner Maks. Well, certainly fun reading for fans; author appearances in Boston, Chicago, Kansas, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.

Furth, Robin. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance, Revised and Updated. Scribner. Nov. 2012. 672p. ISBN 9781451694871. pap. $26. REFERENCE
Stephen King began The Dark Tower over three decades ago and has pushed it past 3000 pages. Furth first issued his reference to the work in 2006 and now offers a revised and updated edition. If you’ve got King fans (and who doesn’t?), this is certainly something to consider.

Hill, Michael. Elihu Washburne: The Diary and Letters of America’s Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris. S. & S. Nov. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9781451665284. $26. HISTORY
Washburne’s name isn’t known to the average reader, but as U.S. minister to France during the Franco-Prussian war who stayed in Paris and aided others throughout the siege and the subsequent bloody Commune, he witnessed an extraordinary time in modern history not much written about. Hill‚ that unusual creature, an independent historical researcher‚ presents Washburne’s diaries and letters with his own commentary. Note the introduction by David McCullough.

LaPlante, Eve. Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother. Free Pr: S. & S. Nov. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781451620665. $26. LITERATURE
When we think of Louisa May Alcott’s formative years, we think of her famous father but rarely of her mother, Abigail May Alcott, always thought to be self-effacingly in the shadows. In fact, reports LaPlante, a great niece of Abigail who drew on newly discovered family papers for this book, she was a forthright feminist and political activist who actively encouraged her daughter’s writing. I bet there will be interest in this new slant on an ever-popular cast of characters.

Mann, William J. Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand. Houghton Harcourt. Nov. 2012. 576p. ISBN 9780547368924. $30. BIOGRAPHY/THEATER
A noted biographer of Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn, Mann does something a little different here, focusing on the years that made Barbra Streisand a star: the early Sixties, when she vaulted from hopeful nobody to the star of Funny Girl on Broadway and singer with three platinum albums. To write this, he drew on the private papers of folks like David Merrick, Bob Fosse, Garson Kanin, and Jerome Robbins to explain how Funny Girl was built from the ground up. Theater lovers will swoon.

Porter, Jessica. The MILF Diet: Change Your Life, Change Your Body, Change Your Future, Deliciously. Emily Bestler Bks: Atria. Nov. 2012. ISBN 9781451655681. $24; eISBN 9781451655711. COOKING
Author of The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, Porter here moves on to the still sexually attractive older woman (the polite way of defining the slang term MILF), arguing that MILFs can benefit from dumping meat and refined sugar and glorying in whole grains, organic seasonal vegetables, sea vegetables, natural sweeteners, and mostly plant-based proteins. Lot of recipes, photographs, and advice and not aimed solely at vegans; hey, it’s worth a try!

Ray, Rachael. My Year in Meals. Atria: S. & S. Nov. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781451659726. $35; eISBN 9781451659740. COOKING
Food Network star and best-selling cookbook author Ray doesn’t just cook for us; she cooks for friends and family. Here she offers down-home recipes that she makes for her family weekly and fun (if more demanding) stuff she makes for fancy dinner parties. Lots of techniques, lots of tips, lots of cooking stories.

Scott, Jennifer L. Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris. S. & S. Nov. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781451699371. $23. STYLE
As we’re reminded by books from Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat to Elaine Sciolino’s La Seduction to Ines de la Fressange’s Parisian Chic, Americans really do want to emulate the French in lifestyle matters. Personally, I don’t think anything could make me chic, but I’d be glad to try this primer from the writer and editor of the Daily Connoisseur. Drawing on her time in Paris (in the elegant 16th arrondissement, no less), Scott gives us tips on dressing well (with a ten-item wardrobe), grooming (what about that no-makeup look?), and simply enjoying life.

Solomon, Andrew. Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Scribner. Nov. 2012. 672p. ISBN 9780743236713. $35. PSYCHOLOGY
Winner of the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon and a board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Columbia Medical School, Solomon began seeing illness and identity as related when he covered the deaf pride movement in the 1990s. Here, he expands on this notion by exploring how families deal with children who fall outside the perceived boundaries of normal‚ those with dwarfism, Down syndrome, or exceptional genius, for instance, or those who commit serious crimes, develop mental illness, or are conceived by rape. In the end, he shows how both family and child redefine themselves, often in the face of great hostility. Not specialized reading; there will be broad interest.

Tabor, James D. Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. S. & S. Nov. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781439123317. $26. RELIGION
Renowned scholar of the origins of Christianity, Tabor explains that all was not sweetness and light among early leaders as James, Peter, and Paul argued vehemently over key questions (e.g., should converts first become Jews?), causing Paul to pull away and preach his own brand of the new religion. For serious readers.

Valastro, Buddy. Kitchen Boss: Italian-American Family Favorites as Only Buddy Can Serve Them Up. Free Pr: S. & S. Nov. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781451674309. $30. COOKING
We knew him first as the Cake Boss, but he’s much more. Valastro’s hit television shows also include Kitchen Boss, and here he shows us how he’s jazzed up classics, e.g., Steak √† la Buddy. Get wherever Valastro’s shows are popular, and look for a multicity Cake Boss tour.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. Delacorte. Nov. 2012. 464p. ISBN 9780385343756. $35. LITERATURE
Vonnegut’s life as told by his letters; a smart idea for a writer with such a distinctive voice. Edited by novelist/screenwriter Dan Wakefield, Vonnegut’s friend for over 40 years, the pieces here range from Vonnegut’s letter home after being freed from a German POW camp to protests directed at school boards that had banned his books to exchanges with other writers like Norman Mailer and Günter Grass. Five years after his death, Vonnegut remains in the public eye; Slaughter-House Five still sells more than 100,000 copies a year .





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. Robyn says:

    Thanks for the great reviews! There are several that I have just put on my list to read. I am reading a great nonfiction book called “The iChurch Method: How to Advance Your Ministry Online” by Jason Caston. This a non-fiction book written for Christian ministries on how to effectively promote and engage their ministry online. This is a great book, written for every Christian.