Memoirs from Musicians (Charlie Wilson), Journalists (Robert Chirstgau, Kevin Sessums), a Genius Gamer (Garriott de Cayeux ), & More | Nonfiction Previews, Feb. 2015, Pt. 1

Christgau. Robert. Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic As a Young Man. Dey Street: HarperCollins. Feb. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780062238795. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062238818. MEMOIR
Chief music critic at the Village Voice for more than three decades and still going strong as a columnist and visiting arts professor at New York University, Christgau shaped rock as he shaped rock criticism in the second half of the 20th century. Though he’s ranged far, catching Muddy Waters in Chicago and Janis Joplin at the Fillmore, his roots are in New York—he’s a Queens boy who moved to Manhattan’s Lower East Side before it became chic and sleek—and his memoir recalls a city now lost. Loved those Voice columns, and I’m hardly a rocker; with a 25,000-copy first printing.

Connor, Phillip. All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found. Norton. Feb. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780393088762. $25.95. MEMOIR
Fire Season, Connors’s account of the redemptive ten years he spent working in a fire-lookout tower in New Mexico, won the Banff Mountain Book Grand Prize and the Reading the West Book Award and was named Best Nature Book of the Year by Amazon. Now here’s an account of what brought Connors to that tower, ranging from his family’s failing Minnesota farm to a drug-stuffed neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Dowling, Tim.  How To be a Husband. Blue Rider. Feb. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780399172939. $26.95. HUMOR
An American journalist working at the Guardian in the U.K., Dowling writes a genial column about his personal life called “Weekend.” It’s a nice set-up for this humorous work, which tracks how in ten years he went from New York City bachelor to London-based husband with three boys. It’s decidedly not advice on how to be a good husband or father, as the author emphasizes, and the publisher sees best-seller possibilities along the lines of Dave Barry’s You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty.

Garriott de Cayeux, Richard with David Fisher. Untitled. Morrow. Feb. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780062286659. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062286673. MEMOIR
Huge in the gaming industry—he founded Origin Systems, Destination Games, and Portalarium and coined the term avatar—Garriott is also an adventurer who’s seen Antarctica, the Titanic, and the starry out-there; here’s one Explorers Club member who has traveled to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz TMA-13. Here, Garriott takes readers along on some of his greatest adventures. Bound to have some surprises; the author once threw a Titanic-themed jobranibash that involved sinking a ship full of his guests.

Jobrani, Maz. I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One On TV: Memoirs of a Middle Eastern Funny Man. S. & S. Feb. 2015. 208p. ISBN 9781476749983. $24. MEMOIR
Jobrani is a stand-up comedian (founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour), film actor (13 Going on 30), series regular (ABC’s Better Off Ted), TV guest star (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and two-time TED talker, but as his title suggests, being Iranian American has complicated his career—not to mention his life. His forthright but amused and amusing approach to the issue (“Could I be a terrorist without even knowing it?”) makes this memoir valuable both for readers who can’t imagine his situation and for those who understand it all too well.

Lightman, Alan. Screening Room: Family Pictures. Random. Feb. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780307379399. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101870037. MEMOIR
Lightman is a theoretical physicist who has taught at Harvard and MIT and an internationally best-selling novelist especially noted for Einstein’s Dreams and The Diagnosis, a National Book Award finalist. Now he adds memoirist to that brimming portfolio, here digging into the memories of aging relatives to better understand his larger-than-life grandfather, who lifted the family to prominence with his glittery movie theater empire but was known to crush souls. What makes the story even more vital is the backdrop: Memphis from the 1930s to the 1960s, as segregation remained rigidly intact and the music scene exploded. With walk-ons from Elvis, Martin Luther King Jr., and more.

Jordan, Brad “Scarface” & Benjamin Meadows Ingram. Diary of a Madman: The Geto Boys, Life, Death, and the Roots of Southern Rap. It: HarperCollins. Feb. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780062302632. $26.99. MEMOIR
The grand old man of Southern rap, Jordan has led the way for numerous Southern-based acts and labels with his 11 solo albums and seven albums with gangsta rap groundbreakers the Geto Boys. Here he chronicles his tough childhood (he dropped out of high school to sell crack) and firecracker ride to the top when he heard the music coming out of New York and made it his own. With lots of photos and a 50,000-copy first printing.

Porpora, Kenny. The Autumn Balloon. Grand Central. Feb. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781455545162. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781455545155. lib. ebk. ISBN 9781455579532. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. MEMOIR
Porpora tells a story both heartbreaking and heartening. In the autumn, his mother used to porporarelease balloons bearing messages into the Long Island sky, with each balloon commemorating a family member lost to addiction. She herself was sinking deep into alcoholism and, with the house in foreclosure, took her son and the dog to Arizona. Eventually, Porpora talked his way into college, found a new life, and graduated from the Ivy League; now he’s a breaking news editor at the Huffington Post and a New York Times freelancer. The publisher is betting on his good media connections to help the book along while emphasizing that the starkly beautiful prose style makes it less a paint-by-the-numbers memoir than a great literary read.

Rae, Issa. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. 37 Ink: Atria. Feb. 2015. ISBN 9781476749051. $25. HUMOR/ESSAYS
Creator of the Shorty Award–winning hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Rae sees herself as socially inept: “My name is “J” and I’m awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right.” But it’s not every self-proclaimed introvert whose online content has attracted over 20 million views and over 150,000 YouTube subscribers. These funny essays should speak to everyone, even the ineffably cool.

Sessums, Kevin. I Left It on the Mountain: A Memoir. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780312598389. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250023179. MEMOIR
Hey, not a bad life: now editor in chief of 429, Sessums has interviewed the likes of Hugh sessumsJackman and Madonna, having worked for Andy Warhol at Interview and Tina Brown at Vanity Fair after his journeyman years in New York as an actor. Yet on his 53rd birthday, he felt like an empty shell. Here, following up on his New York Times best seller, Mississippi Sissy, he examines the cost of anonymous sex, addiction, and an HIV Positive diagnosis while revealing a path to redemption that led him from Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Camino de Santiago de Compostelo to deeper contemplation. Lessons for leaving one’s pain high up and far away.

Wilson, Charlie. I Am Charlie Wilson. 37 Ink: Atria. Feb. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781476790077. $25.95. MEMOIR
A seven-time Grammy-nominated artist and legendary R&B and Funk singer-songwriter-producer, Wilson has been making—and shaping—music for five decades, collaborating with key talent from Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones to Snoop Dog and Justin Timberlake. He still averages 75 to 100 shows a year. Here’s his account of the high points, plus the low points like addiction and prostate cancer.


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.