Nonfiction Previews, Sept. 2013, the Last Roundup: From Mary Beard to Eileen Rockefeller

Beard, Mary. Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations. Liveright: Norton. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780871407160. $28.95. HISTORY
Described by the New York Times as “the closest thing, if it exists, to a celebrity classics professor” in a story about her having stood up to some naysayers who abused her on the Internet, Cambridge scholar Beard here vivifies the classics world. Her sweeping account takes in not just Julius Caesar but how people cleaned their teeth a few millennia back. Incredibly cool.

Benedict, Jeff & Armen Keteyian. The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football. Doubleday. Sept. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780385536615. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385536622. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. SPORTS
Sports Illustrated reporter Benedict and 60 Minutes correspondent Keteyian join forces to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about college football. Read with John U. Bacon’s Fourth and Long (S. & S. Sept. 2013), which gives a positive spin on the game.

Blum, Howard. Dark Invasion: Spies, Terror, and the First Defense of the Homeland. Crown. Sept. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780307461759. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780307461773. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
The author of New York Times best sellers like American Lightning and an Edgar Award winner to boot, Blum tells the suspenseful true-life story of German plans to bring terrorism and sabotage to America even before it entered World War I; though neutral, the country was suspect because it maintained trade with the Allies. Police Inspector Tom Tunney, head of the NYPD Bomb Squad, put together what’s being described as the first Homeland Security team.

Doonan, Simon. The Asylum: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences. Blue Rider Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780399161896. $25.95. HUMOR
The creative ambassador for Barneys New York whose books include Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, Doonan offers a sassy set of autobiographical essays on the fashion industry—just in time for New York’s Fall 2013 Fashion Week. With a six-city tour that will of course include New York.

Elia, Miriam & Ezra Elia. The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990–1990. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 96p. ISBN 9780399165979. pap. $14.95. HUMOR
This wicked little book by a sister-and-brother team from Britain features a hamster in existential anguish as he whirls about his wheel: “They can take my freedom, but they will never take my soul.” Billed for fans of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey and actually quite funny, if you like dark.

Ephron, Delia. Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog (etc.). Blue Rider Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9780399166556. $25.95. ESSAYS
Ephron’s essays cover friendships, dogs, and the romantic comedy that wrecked her in her twenties, but everyone will be eager to read “Sister,” her essay on her sibling and writing companion, the late, great Nora Ephron.

Green, CeeLo with Big Gipp & David Wild. Everybody’s Brother. Grand Central. Sept. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781455516674. $27. MEMOIR/MUSIC
The vivid shape-shifting singer/songwriter, a multiplatinum and Grammy Award–winning artist now appearing in Las Vegas in “CeeLo Green IS Loberace,” offers a personal account of his rise to fame and fortune. Expect in-your-face honesty; with a 200,000-copy first printing.

Herman, Arthur. The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization. Random. Sept. 2013. 624p. ISBN 9780553807301. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780553907834. HISTORY/PHILOSOPHY
Idealizing Plato, classifying Aristotle: according to Herman, Western thought has been a constant tug of war between the beliefs of these two philosophers, who have jointly shaped our way of thinking. A fabulous way to understand over two millennia of history, all in one book; from the Pulitzer finalist for Gandhi & Churchill.

Houston, Keith. Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks. Norton. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780393064421. $25.95. LANGUAGE
If you like books by David Crystal and Simon Garfield, you will probably also like this story about punctuation marks and symbols like @, #, and -, from Roman graffiti all the way up the Internet. The author’s website,, is much loved.

Jones, Brian Jay. Jim Henson: The Biography. Random. Sept. 2013. 672p. ISBN 9780345526113. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780345526137. BIOGRAPHY
Two years old when Sesame Street debuted in 1969, Jones belongs to the Muppet generation and should bring the right sensibility to this biography of Muppets creator Jim Henson. Written with the cooperation of Henson’s family, friends, and associates, this book opens up Henson’s private life while also detailing the business of getting Henson’s various projects onscreen.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Silence: A Christian History. Viking. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780670025565. $27.95. RELIGION/HISTORY
Professor of the History of the Church at St. Cross College, University of Oxford, and the award-winning author of Christianity (also a best seller), MacCulloch examines silence in Christian history, from Jesus’s focus on quietude to the silence within medieval monastic communities to less appealing forms of silence, like the current cover-up of sexual scandal in the Catholic Church. The four-city tour plans for large venues and doubtless some debate.

Mah, Ann. Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris. Pamela Dorman Bks: Viking. Sept. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780670025992. $25.95. MEMOIR/FOOD
A journalist, author (Kitchen Chinese), and wife of a U.S. diplomat, Mah passionately loves food and Paris. (You can’t beat this quote: “I’ve always felt there are two states of existence: Being in Paris, and being out of it.”) So she was understandably delighted when her husband was given a three-year assignment to the city. Later, when he was sent to Iraq alone for a year, she spent her time searching out the perfect pain au chocolat and soupe au pistou. The next best thing to eating there.

Martin, Judith & Nicholas Ivor Martin. Miss Manners Minds Your Business. Norton. Sept. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780393081367. $25.95. ETIQUETTE
Joined by her son, director of operations at the Chicago Lyric Opera, Miss Manners is minding your business—that is, your behavior in the office and while emailing and using social media for business purposes. Plenty of folks need this.

Musser, Rebecca with M. Bridget Cook. The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice. Grand Central. Sept. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781455527854. $27. MEMOIR
Raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), Musser was compelled to become the 19th wife of the church’s leader, 85-year-old Rulon Jeffs. She finally fled, putting unbearable sexual abuse behind her and starting a new life and family away from the church. In 2007, intent on helping her younger sisters and other girls, she took the witness stand and helped send many FLDS leaders to prison. This will be a shocking read.

Perlmutter, David, MD, with Kristin Loberg. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Little, Brown. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780316234801. $27. HEALTH
According to Perlmutter, a Linus Pauling Award–winning neurologist, wheat, carbs, and sugar could be responsible for everything from that nasty headache you’re having to your grandma’s Alzheimer’s. I’m in trouble here; thank goodness he offers some solutions.

Rockefeller, Eileen. Being a Rockefeller, Becoming Myself. Blue Rider Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780399164088. $27.95. MEMOIR
The youngest daughter of David and Peggy Rockefeller and a great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller, the author grew up surrounded by 22 cousins and untold wealth but was taught early the importance of social obligation. Today she is the founding chair of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers and the Growald Family Fund. With a five-city tour to, Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and locales in Maine and Vermont.

Schickler, David. The Dark Path. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781594486456. $27.95. MEMOIR
You’ll know Schickler as the author of the celebrated story collection Kissing in Manhattan and cocreator of Cinemax’s Banshee PA. Here he offers a soul-baring account of growing up Catholic and questioning his faith. An in-house favorite.

Sokolove, Michael. Drama High. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781594488221. $27.95. PERFORMING ARTS
Levittown, PA, may be down and out, but it does have at least one terrific asset—drama teacher Lou Volpe, whose high school productions are routinely scouted by agents and whose stage host dry runs for Broadway-bound shows. I’m on the next train to check this out; others can try New York Times Magazine writer Sokolove’s story for inspiration.

Thompson, Bill III. Bird Homes and Habitats. Houghton. Sept. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780618904464. pap. $14.95. BIRDS
Listen up, bird watchers. This third book in the Peterson Field Guides/Bird Watcher’s Digest “Backyard Bird Guides” series, written by the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, will tell you everything you need to know about sheltering birds in your backyard. More photos than pages, and all in color.

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.