Sophie Hannah Does Agatha Christie, Gail Sheehy Revisits Her Own Passages, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Sept. 2014, Pt. 1

Hannah, Sophie. The New Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery. Morrow. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062297211. $25.99. CD: HarperAudio. MYSTERYhercule
Because only Shakespeare and the Bible outsell Agatha Christie, internationally best-selling  author Hannah must have been thrilled when the Christie estate authorized her writing a new Christie mystery—the first time it has ever done so. Given Hannah’s tendency toward twisty psychological suspense and tart wit, the choice seems good. Hannah here resurrects the beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, though plot details have not been officially released. Note that Morrow is reissuing Christie’s After the Funeral with a new foreword by Hannah explaining why it’s her favorite Poirot mystery; look for distribution on World Book Night, Apr. 23.

Hobbs, Jeff. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League but Did Not Survive. Scribner. Sept. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781476731902. $27. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Robert Peace grew up on the mean streets of Newark, NJ, raised by a mother earning just $15,000 a year while his father languished in jail. Innate intelligence and, doubtless, immeasurable drive got him to Yale, where he studied molecular biochemistry and biophysics. But as roommate and close friend Hobbs explains, Peace inevitably faced the stress of living in two very different worlds and finally feeling at home in neither. Eventually, the streets won out—and did him in.

Oliver, Lauren. Rooms. Ecco. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062223197. $25.99. PARANORMAL
Oliver has already triumphed in the YA arena with Before I Fall and the “Delirium” trilogy, all oliverlaurenNew York Times best sellers; film rights for her various titles have been sold to both Universal Pictures and Fox 2000. Her first novel for adults has already been called “a magnificent gothic fugue on the themes of longing and buried secrets” by Time critic Lev Grossman, author of “The Magicians” trilogy. After Richard Walker dies, his embittered ex-wife and two sullen children arrive at his overstuffed mansion to claim their inheritance. The house also comes with two ghosts, proper Alice and sharp-tongued, cynical Sandra, who exchange observations that no one can hear—until a new ghost appears and starts communing with Walker’s son, Trenton. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

Ford, Lita. Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir. It Bks. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062270641. $26.99. MEMOIR/MUSIC
Readers will know Ford as the former lead guitarist of The Runaways, the legendary Los Angeles band that helped open rock to women, as well as a platinum-grade solo musician; Rolling Stone once called her “heavy metal’s leading female rocker.” Few know of her horrendous marriage to a musician husband who thoroughly controlled and brutalized her, until she finally escaped—at the cost of her sons. Billed as tough, raw, and honest; with a 75,000-copy first printing.

Moran, Caitlin. How To Build a Girl. Harper. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062335975. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062335999. LITERARY FICTIONmoran
British cultural critic Moran broke out here with 2012’s How To Be a Woman, an eye-opening look at women today through Moran’s life story that spent 18 weeks on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best sellers list and eight weeks on the ebook nonfiction best sellers list; it also won major reviews from venues like People and Slate, as well as significant NPR coverage. Her fiction debut echoes aspects of her life—e.g., joining the music weekly Melody Maker at 16 and changing her first name to Caitlin (pronounced Cat-lin)—before she went on to a nearly two-decade career as a prize-winning columnist at the London Times. Here, after an embarrassing incident on local TV, 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan decides to remake herself as out-there Dolly Wilde, ready to support her offbeat, struggling family with her writing. Soon, she’s drinking regularly, having lots of sex with various men, and writing acidulous reviews of rock bands. But can you really build the perfect girl? With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Sheehy, Gail. Daring: My Passages: A Memoir. Morrow. Sept. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780062291691. $28.99. MEMOIR
Sheehy is best known for Passages, a New York Times best seller about milestone moments in adult life that was named by the Library of Congress one of the ten most influential books of our times. Here’s a reminder that she is also a veteran journalist who has served as contributing editor to Vanity Fair for three decades, won the New York Newswomen’s Club Front Page sheehyAward seven times, and profiled everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein—thus breaking ground for women in journalism. Sheehy’s memoir brings us along as she walks the streets with prostitutes to reveal the dangers of prostitution and conducts a wild affair with New York magazine creator Clay Felker that ended in a happy marriage. With a 125,000-copy first printing.

Thomas, Matthew. We Are Not Ourselves. S. & S. Sept. 2014. 640p. ISBN 9781476756660. $28. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
An epic tale about an Irish American couple and the constraints of the American dream, this first novel is benefiting from tremendous in-house enthusiasm. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a poignant, pointed read that should please a broad range of readers. Eileen Tumulty, raised by her immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in the 1940s and 1950s, is determined not to settle for one of the boisterous, glad-handing types her girlfriends adore. Serious-minded scientist Ed Leary seems exactly the right sort to carry her to the larger world, but their marriage founders as she realizes that he really doesn’t care about increasingly bigger, better homes, cars, and jobs. The portrait of a marriage and of a crucial time in American history; great for book clubs.

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.