Gates, Hallberg, Hoffman, Yuknavitch, & More | Last of the Sept./Oct. 2017 Picks

Davis, Lanny J. The Unmaking of the President 2016: The Case Against FBI Director James Comey and How He Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency. Scribner. Oct. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781501177729. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781501180408. POLITICAL SCIENCE
Yale-trained lawyer Davis, who served in the administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, offers state-by-state analysis showing the impact of former FBI Director James Comey’s October 28 letter informing Congress that the bureau was investigating additional emails possibly relevant to Hillary Clinton’s email case, closed in July. The contrast between polls conducted directly before October 28 and at election time reveals the impact of the FBI announcement, issued against justice department policies and containing no new information about improper emails. And look what we got.

Gates, Henry Louis Jr. 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro. Pantheon. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9780307908711. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780307908728. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
Preeminent scholar Gates both honors and updates 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro, published in 1934 by mostly self-taught African American journalist/historian Joel A. Rogers. Both informative and fun, the book is presented in question-and-answer format that illuminates intriguing aspects of African American history. Who was the first African to arrive in America? How much African ancestry does the average African American have? Who was the first black American woman to be a self-made millionaire? Soon you’ll know.

Hallberg, Garth Risk. A Field Guide to the North American Family: An Illustrated Novella. Knopf. Oct. 2017. 144p. ISBN 9781101874950. pap. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781101874967. LITERARY FICTION
A newly minted Granta Best of Young American Novelists, Hallberg burned big in the literary landscape with his debut novel, City of Fire, a multi-best-booked New York Times best seller that’s huge and hugely inventive. This illustrated novella, originally published in 2007 and here refreshed with a whole new full-color design, is actually his first fiction, and it’s as gemlike as City of Fire is sprawling. Illustrated with vivid photographs, it tells the story of two suburban Long Island families in 63 vignettes that can be ordered in any way. At first look, wholly Hallbergian and a good introduction/reintroduction to his work.

Hoffman, Alice. The Rules of Magic. S. & S. Oct. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9781501137471. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501137495. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Set in New York just before the Sixties started to swing, this new novel gives backstory to Hoffman’s beloved Practical Magic, published in 1995 and telling the story of the unorthodox Owens women. Love is always a problem for the Owenses, cursed since 1620, when Maria Owens was accused of witchcraft because she fell for the wrong man. Now, Susanna Owens warns her three children—shy and lovely Jet, trouble-magnet Vincent, and testy Franny with the blood-red hair—that they must avoid walking in the moonlight, wearing red shoes, seeking out cats, crows, or candles, and falling in love. But the children have different ideas, especially after discovering some family secrets, and seek to cast off the Owens curse forever. With an eight-city tour.

Myles, Eileen. Afterglow (a dog memoir). Grove. Sept. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780802127099. $24. MEMOIR
A “kick-ass counter-cultural icon” (The New Yorker) with 20 books to her name and a stack of awards ranging from a Lambda Book Award to the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Prize, Myles goes heartfelt here with an account of a pit bull named Rosie she picked out of a litter on the street and kept close by her side for 16 years. Mourning Rosie’s death, she recounts how Rosie has shaped her life and work—more than just saving her, as the tagline usually goes, but making her who she is. Dog lovers everywhere will understand. Catch Myles at United for Libraries’ “Out and Proud: LGBTQ Literature” at ALA in Chicago.

O’Hagan, Andrew. The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age. Farrar. Oct. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780374277918. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374717094. LITERARY
One of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists and a three-time Man Booker nominee, with E.M. Forster, James Tait, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize honors to his name, the ever interesting O’Hagan uses his literary skills to craft three essays exploring identity and reality in cyberspace. “Ghosting” chronicles O’Hagan’s experiences ghostwriting the autobiography of elusive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. “The Invention of Ronnie Pinn” shows O’Hagan taking the identity of a young man who had died and using it to create someone wholly new online. And “The Satoshi Affair” considers whether Australian web developer Craig Wright is Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. What’s real and who’s who? Trust art to have an answer.

Olmstead, Robert. Savage Country. Algonquin. Sept. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781616204129. $26.95. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
Heartland Prize winner for Coal Black Horse and Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist for The Coldest Night, Olmstead again gives us the rough side of American history with the 1873-set story of Elizabeth Coughlin, left bankrupt when her husband dies, who takes over the buffalo hunt he had planned in the hopes of finding some recompense for herself and the families of her husband’s hired men. The Comanche are quiet, but floods, fires, rattlesnakes, rabies, and blue northers make the going tough. Then there’s the heart-destroying task of slaughtering noble animals.

Perl, Jed. Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898–1940. Knopf. Oct. 2017. 704p. ISBN 9780307272720. $50; ebk. ISBN 9780451494214. BIOGRAPHY/ART
Former art critic for the New Republic and the author of several books, including the New York Times Notable Book New Art City, Perl draws on letters and papers not previously accessed, plus dozens of interviews, to show how groundbreaking, crowd-pleasing artist Alexander Calder started out. His peregrinations from Roaring Twenties Greenwich Village to interwar Paris to an old farmhouse in Connecticut, his marriage to Louisa Cushing James, his interest in collaborating with dance and theater artists—all are covered here. Not surprisingly, there are more than 350 illustrations in color and black-and-white.

Philipps, David. Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth, and Future of the Mustang, America’s Horse. Norton. Oct. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780393247138. $27.95. NATURE
It says something when a Pulitzer Prize–winning national reporter for the New York Times tackles a subject, and the mustang represents the fault line between managed and unmanaged that defines America today, with ranchers, scientists, animal rights activists, slaughterhouse employees, and government officials all arguing over what to do about these hoof-stomping, mane-shaking beauties. With wild horses also defining America’s history and mythology, this book is good reading for just about everyone.

Tuck, Lily. Sisters. Atlantic Monthly. Sept. 2017. 176p. ISBN 9780802127112. $20. LITERARY
Newly married, the unnamed narrator of National Book Award winner Tuck’s brief, pungent book should be happy. But the memory of her husband’s first wife might as well be an uninvited guest sitting heavily in the room. What was the first wife really like? Can our narrator ever measure up? How does she manage with her stepsons?  And how many readers could relate to her plight? Not surprisingly, it doesn’t end well.

Yuknavitch, Lidia. The Misfit’s Manifesto. TED: S. & S. Oct. 2017. 120p. ISBN 9781501120060. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501120077. SELF-HELP
Yuknavitch is the author of the eye-opening novels Dora: A Headcase, The Small Backs of Children, and, most recently, The Book of Joan, which has been making big news this spring and just received major coverage in the New York Times Book Review. So it’s hard to imagine her a misfit, the topic of her popular TED talk, which has received 1.5 million views. But the facts are there: she flunked out of college twice, has two failed marriages and two jail terms under her belt, and has spent time in drug rehab. Still, she stuck with her dream of becoming a writer and finally learned to accept and even embrace her misfit status, seeing misfits as actually as having something different to contribute.

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.

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