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Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
'Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge' by Etan Thomas, with Nick Chiles, is a perfect Father's Day book.
'Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge' by Etan Thomas, with Nick Chiles, is a perfect Father's Day book.•Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge, edited by Etan Thomas with Nick Chiles (New American Library, $25.95). Thomas, a former NBA player who writes for the Huffington Post, collects essays on being a dad from Andre Agassi, Ice Cube, Michael Moore, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other celebrities.•A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver by Mark Shriver (Henry Holt, $24). A son pays tribute to his dad, founder of the Peace Corps and brother-in-law of President Kennedy. Sargent Shriver died in 2011, after struggling with Alzheimer's.•Mum's List: A Mother's Life Lessons to the Husband and Sons She Left Behind by St. John Greene (Dutton, $25.95). A best-selling British memoir by a father of two about his wife, who died of cancer after creating a list of 100 things she wanted her family to know and do after she was gone.•Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad by Dan Bucatinsky (Touchstone, $14.99, paperback original). An adoption memoir by an actor, writer and producer (HBO's The Comeback).For more information about reprints & permissions, visit our FAQ's. To report corrections and clarifications, contact Standards Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include name, phone number, city and state for verification. To view our corrections, go to corrections.usatoday.com.
The more things change, the more tourists stay the same.
Granted, today's visitors to the Med will find more modern creature comforts — and a lot more ancient rubble — than Steven Saylor's fictional teenage crime-solver Gordianus does in 92 B.C on his tour of the Seven Wonders of the World. And if they're lucky, they'll encounter fewer murders and no virgin sacrifices.
But there isn't any traveler who won't recognize the joys and terrors of tourism, from lying innkeepers and rude waitresses to the thrill of cultural discovery and surpassed expectations.
And if you're going to tour the ancient world, you could find no better guide than Saylor, who has proven his mastery of the form in his two-part (so far) history of Rome, Roma and Empire, and in his sprawling mystery series built around Gordianus the Finder. That's the same Gordianus who appears here in a much younger version, solving his first cases as he moves from town to town, accompanied by Antipater of Sidon, a famous and real poet.
As befits the format (basically, one case per chapter) and the detective's youth, the mysteries are simple stuff — but they're not the draw. If you've read the Gordianus novels, this book serves as an enjoyable prequel; if you haven't, it's an entertaining introduction. But either way, the best reason to read it is for Saylor's uncanny ability to paint a vivid picture of ancient life and pull you into it
After all, you're never actually going to get to visit the real Seven Wonders. Consider this book an excellent summer substitute.
Friday, June 22, 2012
In 'Tumbleweeds,' one of this week's new books, a love triangle unfolds in a small town.Leila Meacham
In 'Tumbleweeds,' one of this week's new books, a love triangle unfolds in a small town.1. American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama by Rachel L. Swarns (Amistad, $27.99, non-fiction, on sale June 19)What it's about: A book-length expansion of a New York Times story that staff reporter Swarns co-wrote on the first lady's ancestors, who survived slavery and the Jim Crow South.The buzz: It's a doubleheader in bookstores for the Obamas as American Tapestry goes on sale the same day as David Maraniss' biography, Barack Obama: The Story. Publishers Weekly calls Tapestry a "layered, scrupulously researched, and wrenching chronicle."2. The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow (Simon & Schuster, $25, fiction, on sale June 19)What it's about: In this prequel, Winslow tells the back story of the three characters from Savages, best friends and pot dealers Ben and Chon, who risk everything to save O, the girl they both love.The buzz:The Kings of Cool is primed to get fans hot and bothered for Oliver Stone's film version of Savages, due in theaters July 6 and starring Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively.3. Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham (Grand Central, $25.99, fiction, on sale June 19)What it's about: A love triangle unfolds in a small town in the Texas Panhandle that loves Friday night football.The buzz: Meacham made a splash two years ago with her novel Roses, which earned comparisons to Gone With the Wind and went on to become a USA TODAY Top 50 best seller.4. An American Son by Marco Rubio (Sentinel, $26.95, non-fiction, on sale June 19)What it's about: A memoir by the junior senator from Florida and rising Latino star in the Republican Party.The buzz: Will he be Mitt Romney's pick for No. 2?5. Never Tell by Alafair Burke (Harper, $24.99, fiction, on sale June 19)What it's about: The wealthy family of a New York prep school student who drowns in the bathtub doubts she killed herself (despite a suicide note) and forces a police investigation.The buzz: Burke brings back popular NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher (Dead Connection) to investigate a juicy Gossip Girl-style case.For more information about reprints & permissions, visit our FAQ's. To report corrections and clarifications, contact Standards Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to email@example.com. Include name, phone number, city and state for verification. To view our corrections, go to corrections.usatoday.com.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
At last, a serious, well-researched book about raising children which also includes that crucial characteristic every parent needs — a sense of humor.
Sally Koslow's excellent Slouching Toward Adulthood explores the economic and cultural forces creating the growing hordes of adult children failing to launch — i.e., start careers, become financially independent, move out of the parental nest. Or as Koslow calls them: "adultescents."
As Amy Chua's The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother wailed, a nation where the next generation is a bunch of Twitter-addicted slugs with obese egos and no work ethic has a problem. Rather than adding to the mass hysteria, Koslow offers sensible advice for both the kids and their perplexed parents, leavened by self-deprecating anecdotes and insights from her childhood in Fargo, N.D.
The inspiration for Slouching came from Koslow's own life. A veteran magazine editor and novelist, Koslow has two sons. In 2001, her then 25-year-old college grad son returned to Manhattan from the West Coast and moved in with his parents. An expected music job evaporated after 9/11. Having her unemployed adult son rising at noon and partying with his friends was horrifying.
It was cold comfort to learn that the boomerang plague had also invaded millions of other homes. Almost 6 million people between the ages of 25 to 35 are back home with the parental units. Koslow writes about her own experience — her nest is now empty — but she expands the book beyond the memoir genre by interviewing parents, adult children and experts around the country.
A huge chunk of the problem is the economy. Many of these kids can't find jobs. Even if they can, they often can't afford to live on their own because of student loans. Others are dealing with issues like children, divorce and foreclosed homes.
But for many, the problem is cultural.
"Our young adult children now exist in a perfect storm of overconfidence, a sense of never-ending time, and a grim reaper of a job market," Koslow writes. Growing up in a magic bubble of specialness crafted by their adoring Boomer parents, these unique snowflakes want to travel, create, express themselves. Working hard for the money? Not for these free spirits.
The adults aren't helping. Koslow believes parents often infantilize their adult children because it makes parents feel needed. The result: entitled but incompetent children and exploited but enabling parents.
Koslow's advice: Step back so the kids can step forward.
You've probably already seen headlines and articles triggered by the juicy details in David Maraniss' Barack Obama: The Story, about the president's pot-smoking school days or his college girlfriend's recollections of his "sexual warmth" and emotional "coolness."
But there's far more to this revealing and deeply reported coming-of-age story, a term usually applied to novels. The book, which will go on sale Tuesday, is not a traditional biography.
Obama doesn't enter the narrative until page 165, when he's born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu. The first six chapters explore his family roots in Africa and Kansas, where his great- grandmother, Ruth Dunham, who was married at 15, committed suicide at 26. Her sons would go to live with their grandparents, "setting a generational pattern," Maraniss writes, "that would be repeated a half-century later."
The book ends in 1988, when Obama enters Harvard, emerging from "the chaos of peripatetic forebears," a childhood in "distant Hawaii and more distant Indonesia," and "rootless feelings of a double outsider as a biracial and cross-cultural kid" who barely knew his Kenyan dad.
Maraniss, an associate editor at The Washington Post whose books include First in His Class, about the young Bill Clinton, is a good writer and a great reporter. He marvels at the improbability of Obama's story but stops short of celebrating.
The book is more about personality than policy or politics. At times, it reads like a novel filled with stories too unlikely for fiction. But if it's exhaustive, it can be exhausting in its details.
It explores Obama's "determination to avoid life's traps." It presents him as a product not just of his family, but of his times and of the places where he grew up, including the home he found in Chicago. It warns that "to view him primarily through a racial lens can lead to a misinterpretation of the root cause of his feelings of outsiderness."
I suspect that if the president, whom Maraniss interviewed, had time to read all 641 pages, he would not be angry enough to sue. But he might find the book too revealing to thank the author. Which makes it the best kind of political biography.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
By Jocelyn McClurg, USA TODAY
Here's a look at what's buzzing in the books world today.
Easy listening: Going on a road trip with the kids? Or even to the mall by yourself to find a bathing suit (always fun)? Summer is a great time to listen to books on audio. USA TODAY's Deirdre Donahue offers a survey of her favorites, from Jim Dale reading the Harry Potter books, to the immortal hilarity of P.G. Wodehouse's The Code of the Woosters.
So bad they're good: For real? Check out these truly appalling book jackets, dubbed "The Worst Book Covers in the History of Literature."
'Girl' power: Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl' is a summer smash, entering USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list this week at No. 7.
Meanwhile, Galley Cat finds its five favorite book references in Flynn's thriller.
War story: Antony Beevor's new book is The Second World War. The British military historian chats with The Daily Beast.
By Jocelyn McClurg, USA TODAY
Dan's the man: What happens when a Brooklyn dad moves to the 'burbs? In time for Father's Day, USA TODAY's Bob Minzesheimer hitches a ride to Costco with funny guy Dan Zevin, author of Dan Gets a Minivan.
More Father's Day reads: Looking for a book for Dad to show you love him? USA TODAY's Bob Minzesheimer offers four more titles.
New Obama biography: David Maraniss of The Washington Post offers a revealing look at the president. Read Bob Minzesheimer's 3 ½ star review of Barack Obama: The Story.
USA TODAY Best Sellers: What's the buzz on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list this week? Oprah Winfrey scores with her revived book club as Cheryl Strayed's Wild climbs to No. 14, while Gillian Flynn scores her first USA TODAY best seller in style as Gone Girl debuts at No. 7. Tracey Garvis Graves, whose self-published On the Island sits at No. 26, gets a publishing deal.
Capote classics: There's nothing like a new design to goose interest in an older book. Entertainment Weekly spotlights Vintage's eye-catching new paperback jackets for seven Truman Capote titles, including In Cold Blood.
London talking: John Lanchester's sprawling new novel Capital is a modern-day portrait of London. Read his Q & A with The New York Times.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Simon & Schuster, $25, fiction, on sale June 19
What it’s about: In this prequel, Winslow tells the back story of the three characters from Savages, best friends and pot dealers Ben and Chon, who risk everything to save O, the girl they both love.
The buzz: The Kings of Cool is primed to get fans hot and bothered for Oliver Stone’s film version of Savages, due in theaters July 6 and starring Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively.
Monday, June 18, 2012
By Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY
Oprah Winfrey — once an unrivaled force in selling books — is back.
Her impact can be seen on USA TODAY's Best-Selling books list as Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild, the first title in Winfrey's relaunched club (announced June 1), rises from No. 92 to No. 14.
Although Winfrey's syndicated talk show ended in 2011, her last book club selection was Charles Dickens' Great Expectations/A Tale of Two Cities in 2010. In the club's heyday, 20 Winfrey picks hit No. 1 on USA TODAY's list. Wild has already surpassed 2001's Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance which reached No. 22.
Wild marks the first time an e-book edition is the most popular format for an Oprah book club selection.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Robert Goolrick, whose debut novel, 'A Reliable Wife,' was a smash in 2010, next tells a tale about life in a small Virginia town, much like White Stone, where he lives. 'Heading Out to Wonderful' is out Tuesday.By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
Robert Goolrick, whose debut novel, 'A Reliable Wife,' was a smash in 2010, next tells a tale about life in a small Virginia town, much like White Stone, where he lives. 'Heading Out to Wonderful' is out Tuesday.Once a hard-partying New York ad executive who ended up on welfare and in Alcoholics Anonymous, he is now well known as the author of a highly praised, best-selling debut novel, A Reliable Wife, and a blistering tell-all family memoir, The End of the World as We Know It.Instead of passing wanton nights at New York nightclubs, today he finds himself signing books everywhere from Paris to Los Angeles, all part of a nine-week tour to promote his latest novel, Heading Out to Wonderful (Algonquin, $24.95). It goes on sale Tuesday. Not bad for a man who admits he once led a "tortured life," until he found "the nerve to write," an endeavor that has, for better or worse, put him on a grueling book tour this summer."The problem is I don't know what to pack," he confesses before heading to Europe, in a conversation on the screened porch of his Virginia home, which boasts a fabulous view of the Rappahannock River off in the distance.But compared with his fast-lane days, when the office receptionist used to sell him cocaine from her desk drawer, the challenges of packing for a book tour seem downright domestic.Over a lunch of crab and lobster ni?oise salad he has prepared, Goolrick, 63, talks candidly about his ever-evolving life, his writing and his love of his native state. He calls his new novel "a love letter to Virginia."Robert Goolrick, while a novelist and memoirist, is also an accomplished essayist, musing on everything from the “passion of place” to what twists of fate make a person become homeless. A few of his essays can be found on his website, robertgoolrick.com.
One of his most amusing involves his thoughts about Facebook and why he left the social site. His piece ran in The Daily Beast in 2010:
“Facebook to me is the cocktail party of the new millennium. When I joined years ago, it was like a community bulletin board where people you knew would post items of interest or urgency or charm,” he begins. “Now it’s turned into Grand Central Station at rush hour, with everybody bumping into everybody else, and a track announcer droning on and on the list of trains and platforms, echoing in the cavernous halls so that one can’t hear anything or tell what platform the 6:10 to Greenwich will be leaving from. Facebook is a cocktail party thrown in Grand Central at rush hour.”
He was happy with his decision to unfriend the world. His publisher was not.
So is he back now? Yes.
“Algonquin thought it would be a good idea with a new book coming out.”Not that it's always pretty. Heading Out to Wonderful is filled with the pettiness of small-town life, violence and racism, all common in 1948 rural Virginia. "But the people are my people, who I am," he says, adding that he set his newest novel in summertime for a reason. "I remember the summers so clearly."Goolrick grew up in Lexington, Va., where his father taught at Virginia Military Institute. Even today, he looks the part of a Southern prep, dressed nattily in a navy blue-and-white-striped blazer from Brooks Brothers, jeans and loafers.His newest novel is based on a true story he was told long ago while visiting a Greek isle, a tale that stayed with him for 25 years. It involves a small-town love affair gone terribly wrong. So he transported the Greek characters to rural Virginia and made the youngest, a boy named Sam, the narrator. Sixty years later, Sam tells the story of an enigmatic stranger, Charlie Beale, who arrives in town and falls in obsessive love with another man's teenage bride, Sylvan Glass. Trouble brews.Goolrick recites the novel's first line: "The thing is, all memory is fiction. You have to remember that." And with that, he's off, storytelling the way he did in A Reliable Wife, once again building his tale to a riveting and violent end.A Reliable Wife (2009) became a huge success and the darling of book clubs. It was on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list for 32 weeks in 2010, reaching No. 6, and has sold just over a million copies in the USA.Chuck Adams, Goolrick's editor at Algonquin, says that when he first read Wife, "I knew immediately there was an amazing story there, with bigger-than-life characters … and emotions that people can relate to."He compares the novel to the works of Edna Ferber (Show Boat, Giant, Cimarron) — "big setting, big story." That big story is about to be made into a movie by Columbia Pictures.Finding his nicheDoes Goolrick have stars in mind who could play Catherine Land, the not-so-reliable wife? "I do," he says, chuckling, "but it hardly matters."Goolrick knows he will be losing control of his now-famous story but hopes Hollywood remains true to the tale of a mail-order wife who shows up at a Wisconsin train station on a cold winter's day in 1907, carrying not only her bags but a scheme: to marry the man who ordered her, kill him, then live out her days as a wealthy widow. But her new husband has plans of his own, too.A sophomore novel is always a challenge, and Goolrick has a tough act to follow. Publishers Weekly says his newest tale of doomed love — sound familiar? — "resonates like a folk ballad" and packs an "emotional punch." Kirkus Reviews called it "powerful but problematic," however.Goolrick pays little attention to reviews and is still amused by the fact The New York Times never reviewed A Reliable Wife.Instead, he just writes, getting down to work early, settling in front of his Apple computer on a worn red velvet armchair at 5 a.m. He says he's happier than he should be when writing: "I'm safe." His friends agree he is finally where he belongs.Goolrick was fired from his New York advertising job at Grey Advertising when he was 53, something he says often happens to older employers in the advertising world. He had been there nearly 30 years.But he credits his years writing ad copy — from Kohler faucets to Pantene — for making him a better writer. "It teaches you to cover a lot of information in a short space."Living hand to mouth after his advertising days, he came to the novel-writing game late, in his mid-50s, but his editor agrees that Goolrick's training served him well. "A Reliable Wife did not read like a first novel," says Adams. "It was very mature."But it takes Goolrick a long time to get a novel started, because he tells the story to himself over and over again in his head, like he did with the tale he heard back in Greece. "I don't write anything down. The South is an oral culture. I have to be able to tell the story at a dinner party, but when I do write, I do it quite quickly."Having moved back to Virginia three years ago, he says he's in a good place these days. Goolrick repeats the word "safe" often, saying he's happy living alone (he has had affairs with both men and women but never married) in this rented 1870 farmhouse with his Sussex spaniel, Preacher, whose grandfather won the Westminster dog show.It's far from the childhood trauma he revealed in his memoir. He alleges sexual abuse at the hands of his father that began when he was only 4 years old. He spent a good portion of his adult life trying to escape the memories through drugs, alcohol, medication and psychiatric sessions. For a time, he was cutting himself with razors.Not surprisingly, one of the themes in his newest novel is the vulnerability of children. His narrator, young Sam, is witness to more than his share of horrors at the hands of adults."Childhood is a dangerous place," says Goolrick. "No one leaves unscarred. It's an important theme. You never hear from the victims. It's what happens after that, later in life, that is so destructive."His editor Adams says the darkness of Goolrick's childhood "shades everything he writes."Sober yet 'exotic'Goolrick says he has never discussed the memoir with anyone, including his sister and brother. His brother did not speak to him for two years after the book came out. His alcoholic parents are both dead."It caused all kinds of ruckus," he says, adding that the dust eventually settled. In interviews, he says that people who knew his parents well have called him a liar or accused him of having an "overactive imagination." But he's still happy he wrote the book. "You can't write an honest memoir if you're feeling sorry for yourself."Goolrick has been sober for 21 years, although he still smokes a pack of Marlboros a day. He suspects he is looked upon as an "exotic" by the town locals but says he's treated as a regular person, "which is why I moved here." He didn't want to be part of the "literary freak show" in New York, perhaps why his publisher is out of Chapel Hill, N.C., and not Manhattan.He's working on a novel about a young girl who lives on a commune and flies — "but only at night" — and then he's going to write a prequel to Heading Out to Wonderful, zeroing in on the two suitcases Charlie Beale carries into tiny Brownsburg, Va. One is filled with money, the other knives that he uses in his new job at the local butcher shop.And the mystery of that suitcase full of money?"You'll have to read the next book," he says.For more information about reprints & permissions, visit our FAQ's. To report corrections and clarifications, contact Standards Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include name, phone number, city and state for verification. To view our corrections, go to corrections.usatoday.com.
They're perhaps the most dissected element of a woman's wardrobe — shoes, the anchor of an outfit and the soul of Rachelle Bergstein's mostly lively look at the history of stilettos, sneakers and sundry other leather- and rubber-soled objects of swoon.
To be sure, a rhapsody of shoes is well-trod bookshelf terrain — indeed, Bergstein cobbles together some of her Ferragamo-to-Louboutin timeline from other shoe-centric tomes. But Women From the Ankle Down freshens up the genre with its chatty yet authoritative tone. (Bergstein, a 2003 English lit grad from Vassar, stumbles when she gets too term-paper thinky on a subject that — let's face it — is more unbuttoned that laced up.)
Trotted out chronologically are tales tracing Salvatore Ferragamo's humble beginnings in an Italian village and his emergence as Hollywood's sultan of stilettos. Lana Turner's white, open-toed pumps in The Postman Always Rings Twice? Those were his. And though Marilyn Monroe's white halter dress always nabs top fashion billing when it comes to The Seven Year Itch, Bergstein rightly pays tribute to the matching size 7AA strappy Ferragamo sandals that teeter over the iconic subway grate.
There are ripping yarns tied to other A-list leather-and-sequin creations: Judy Garland's (multiple pairs of) ruby slippers, Nancy Sinatra's go-go boots that were made for walkin'. (Bergstein, in an unfortunately rare bout of primary reporting, chatted up Sinatra, though that interview seems to have yielded little sizzle.) And the title notwithstanding, Bergstein fetes the famous footwear of a few men, including John Travolta and his Saturday Night Fever Cuban-heeled loafers — another instance of a significant celluloid shoe getting upstaged by an outfit (Travolta's white suit).
Of course, no contemporary recounting of shoes would be complete without a discussion of how Sex and the City made Manolo Blahnik a household name and cemented the idea of luxury, triple-figure footwear stashed in even upper-middle-class closets. But Bergstein spends too much time rehashing the pricey-pump-as-girl-power argument familiar to even casual consumers of recent pop culture. She has more fun rummaging through the Depression-, postwar- and disco-era wardrobes of women past.