Nonfiction, Nov. 2013, Pt. 3: A Dozen Arts Titles, from Mozart to Norman Rockwell to the Spider-man Musical

Berger, Glen. The Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History. S. & S. Nov. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781451684568. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781451684582. MUSICALS
Chosen by Julie Taymor to collaborate on the book of the Spider-man musical, Emmy Award–winning television and theater writer Berger saw the entire musical unfold over seven years, from rehearsals to dreadful reviews to  the show’s final status as one of the top ten highest-grossing musicals in Broadway history. Millions have seen the show, millions more want to, and everyone is hungry for that inside look.

Delbanco, Nicholas. The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts. New Harvest. Nov. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780544114463. $25. BIOGRAPHY/ARTS
Delbanco investigates prodigious talent and what delivering on it really means by focusing on three artists who couldn’t keep delivering because they died young: Stephen Crane, Dora Carrington, and George Gershwin. Or had they already done their best work? From an elegant author of fiction and nonfiction; his Lastingness: The Art of Old nicely bookends this new title.

Garfield, Simon. To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing. Gotham Bks: Penguin Group (USA). Nov. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781592408351. $27.50. REFERENCE/WRITING
From love letters to letters of recommendation, from early letter-writing manuals to epistolary novels to the correspondence of famous folks ranging from Erasmus to Princess Diana, this work discusses the art of letter writing and its swift shrinkage in the Internet era. From the author of the beloved best seller, Just My Type.

Hilburn, Robert. Johnny Cash: The Life. Little, Brown. Nov. 2013. 608p. ISBN 9780316194754. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780316248693. BIOGRAPHY/MUSIC
Decades-long music critic/editor for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn had advantages when penning this big bio of country music legend Cash. He not only was a friend of Cash but also had access to many of Cash’s private papers through his estate. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Hood, Ann. Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting. Norton. Nov. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780393239492. $24.95. NEEDLEWORK
Get out your needles. Award-winning author Hood (The Red Thread) has asked 27 writers, from Elizabeth Berg and Ann Patchett to Sue Grafton and Andre Dubus III, for original essays on what knitting has meant to them.

Johnson, Paul. Mozart: A Life. Viking. Nov. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9780670026371. $25.95. MUSIC
Noted historian Johnson’s subjects have ranged from Napoleon to Darwin to Jesus, so why not that transcendent musical genius, Mozart? Johnson rethinks aspects of Mozart’s life from health to finances but focuses on the magisterial music. Especially nice for generalists.

Keller, Timothy. Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. Dutton. Nov. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780525954354. $19.95. RELIGION
Famed pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Keller argues that Jesus didn’t give easy answers to our most basic questions, e.g., What’s my purpose? What does it mean to live successfully? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Here he evokes ten crucial encounters in the New Testament to show how Jesus wanted us to ponder these concerns. From a hugely best-selling author.

Lewisohn, Mark. Tune In: The Beatles—All These Years. Crown Archetype. Nov. 2013. 1248p. ISBN 9781400083053. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780804139342. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. MUSIC
The author of the highly regarded Complete Beatles Recording Sessions and Complete Beatles Chronicle, Lewisohn knows his Fab Four stuff. Here, he offers the first in a trilogy chronicling the band, giving us deep detail on their lesser-known Liverpool and Hamburg years. Imagine, still revelations after all this time.

O’Connor, Flannery. A Prayer Journal. Farrar. Nov. 2013. 112p. ed. by W.A. Sessions. ISBN 9780374236915. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780374709693. LITERATURE
Written in 1946–47 while O’Connor was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and only recently discovered, this devotional journal shows the author speaking directly to God, working out both her religious sentiments and her literary aspirations. Fans will appreciate the insight into her work.

Solomon, Deborah. American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell. Farrar. Nov. 2013. 512p. ISBN 9780374113094. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780374711047. BIOGRAPHY/FINE ARTS
Praised for her biographies of Jackson Pollack and Joseph Cornell (and fussed at for focusing on art instead of film when interviewing Steve Martin about his art world–based novel at New York’s 92nd Street Y in 2010), noted art critic Solomon makes a surprise leap to rock-solid Americana artist Norman Rockwell. But as she says, Rockwell painted “a history of the American people that had never happened,” and she goes on to detail his not-so-apple-pie personality; he even ended up in treatment with psychotherapist Erik Erikson. This work  should surprise some folks.

Wall, Mick. AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place To Be. St. Martin’s. Nov. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9781250038746. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250038746. MUSIC
Famed British rock writer Wall, who has chronicled Led Zeppelin, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and Metallica, moves on to AC/DC. The band started in Australia in 1973 with Scottish brothers Angus and Malcolm Young and has been going strong since then, having sold something like 200 million albums. Their story is rock’s story, and fans will want.

Wasson, Sam. Fosse. Eamon Dolan: Houghton Harcourt. Nov. 2013. 672p. ISBN 9780547553290. $32. BIOGRAPHY/PERFORMING ARTS
Bob Fosse won an astonishing eight Tony Awards for his choreography, and the celebrated Fosse style of dance is indelible. But he acted and directed, too, and Wasson—not a dance critic but a cultural historian who writes most frequently on film—should give him larger context in this biography. I just hope he’s taken a few jazz dance classes, if only for fun. With a 40,000-copy first printing.


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.