It’s Not All About You
Educated: A Memoir
Tara Westover. Random House, ISBN 978-0-399-59050-4
A girl claws her way out of a claustrophobic and violent fundamentalist family into an elite academic career in this searing debut memoir. When Westover finally escaped to attend college and then grad school at Cambridge, her identity crisis precipitated a heartbreaking rupture with her family Her vivid prose makes this saga of the pressures of conformity and self-assertion that warp a family seem both terrifying and ordinary.
The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath
Leslie Jamison. Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-25961-3
In this unsparing and luminous autobiographical study of alcoholism, Jamison recounts her booze-sodden 20s, alongside shrewd profiles of alcoholic writers—including John Berryman, Raymond Carver, and Jean Rhys. The dark humor, evocative prose, and clear-eyed, heartfelt insights Jamison deploys only underscore her reputation as a writer of fearsome talent.
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”
Zora Neale Hurston, edited by Deborah G. Plant. Amistad, ISBN 978-0-06-274820-1
This previously unpublished manuscript from Hurston (1891–1960) is a remarkable account of the life of Cudjo Lewis, born Oluale Kossola, the last survivor of the last American slave ship. In 1927 Hurston interviewed 86-year-old Lewis and documented his life story in this manuscript, whose brevity disguises its richness and depth. Lewis’s story—in his own vernacular—is an invaluable addition to American social, cultural, and political history.
The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation
Miriam Pawel. Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-1-63286-733-9
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Pawel continues to explore the California political landscape with this well-written and deeply researched dual biography of the late Pat Brown, the state’s governor from 1959 to 1967, and his son, Jerry Brown, who was governor from 1975 to 1983 and reelected in 2011. Their stories are set against the backdrop of the rich history of California, illuminated with small historical details.
Reagan: An American Journey
Bob Spitz. Penguin Press, ISBN 978-1-59420-531-6
This captivating and evenhanded biography of America’s first celebrity president reads like a novel but doesn’t skimp on the scholarship. Evocative detail and impressive research, including numerous interviews with a wide array of Ronald Reagan cohorts, from 1930s movie star Olivia de Havilland to national security adviser Robert “Bud” McFarlane, undergird the exceptional writing. Readers need not be Reagan fans or Republicans to enjoy this outstanding biography.
Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star—The War Years, 1940–1946
Gary Giddins. Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-88792-2
The legendary crooner segues from edgy jazz singer to national paterfamilias in the second volume of Giddins’s scintillating biography in which jazz journalist and scholar Giddins revisits the WWII era, when Bing Crosby was at the height of his popularity. Giddins packs exhaustive research and detail into his sprawling narrative while keeping the prose relaxed and vivid, and sprinkles in shrewd critical assessments.
Paul Simon: A Life
Robert Hilburn. Simon Schuster, ISBN 978-1-5011-1212-6
Music critic Hilburn delivers an energetic and elegant biography of American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. Drawing on interviews with Simon and his family and friends—including ex-wives Carrie Fisher and Peggy Harper—Hilburn exhaustively narrates Simon’s life. His brilliant and entertaining portrait of Simon will likely be the definitive biography.
Dave Itzkoff. Holt, ISBN 978-1-62779-424-4
In this perceptive biography, Itzkoff follows Robin Williams from his boyhood through his career, the people who sustained him including his close friend, Billy Crystal, to his ultimate demise. Meticulously sourced and comprehensive in scope, Itzkoff’s work gives Williams’s many fans a rare glimpse of the man behind the celebrity.
Full of Whimsy
Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs
Bill Cunningham. Penguin Press, ISBN 978-0-525-55870-5
The legendary New York Times photographer whose extraordinary eye captured high fashion and high society in his columns turns his focus to his early career in this surprising and sprightly posthumous memoir. Black and white photos document a fantastical bygone era. The glamorous world of 20th-century fashion comes alive in Cunningham’s masterful memoir.
Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense
Jenny Uglow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 978-0-374-11333-9
Uglow follows the wandering life of Edward Lear (1812–1888), whose reputation rests primarily on his fame as a writer of whimsical nonsense verse (“The Owl and the Pussycat”). She also chronicles Lear’s lesser-known life as a skilled draftsman and painter, and a tireless traveler. Definitive and accessible, Uglow’s rich book about a richer life is thoroughly captivating fare for leisurely, curled-up reading.
A Panoply of Histories
Heart: A History
Sandeep Jauhar. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 978-0-374-16865-0
In this memoir/medical history, Jauhar shares profound admiration for what can be accomplished by treating the heart as a machine, while also urging the reader, and the medical community, not to undervalue of the significance of the “emotional heart.” Throughout, the author is thoughtful, self-reflective, and profoundly respectful of doctors and patients alike; readers will respond by opening their own hearts a little bit, to both grief and wonder.
Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood
Karina Longworth. Custom House, ISBN 978-0-06-244051-8
Long before Harvey Weinstein, there was Howard Hughes. Through the riveting and entertaining stories of actresses pursued by Hughes during Hollywood’s golden age, Longworth reveals how the millionaire mogul’s obsessions with sex, power, and publicity trapped, abused, or benefited women who dreamed of stardom. Marquee names such as Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, and Jean Harlow, as well as those who never made it to the screen, fell into his lair.
Intrigue at the Palace
The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House
Norman Eisen. Crown, ISBN 978-0-451-49578-5
In this engrossing tale by Eisen, former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, the changes of 20th-century Europe are illuminated by the stories of one historic Prague building, some of its notable residents, and the author’s mother, a feisty Holocaust survivor. Eisen elucidates the ebb and flow of totalitarianism, painting a picture both hopeful and disheartening. This action-packed yet lyrically written page-turner confers a fascinating human understanding of Europe’s past and present.
How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England: A Guide for Knaves, Fools, Harlots, Cuckolds, Drunkards, Liars, Thieves, and Braggarts
Ruth Goodman. Liveright, ISBN 978-1-63149-511-3
Goodman’s scholarship is exemplary in this entertaining book that provides a window into the nitty-gritty of daily life for merchants, street sellers, and others listed in the subtitle in 1550–1660 England. Illustrations depict such phenomena as fights between women in which the goal was to uncover each other’s hair—and imply the opponent was of loose moral character. This etiquette guide will yield chuckles, surprises, and a greater understanding of everyday life in Renaissance England.
Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis
Sam Anderson. Crown, ISBN 978-0-8041-3731-7
Anderson delivers a rollicking, kaleidoscopic chronicle of America’s 27th largest and quintessentially American city. During the tumultuous Land Rush of 1889, settlers rushed to put down stakes and claim their 160 free acres. The tumult has never ended. From the ups and downs of the city’s Thunder basketball team to impressive achievements of notable individuals, Anderson offers a lively, empathetic, and vibrant saga of a city.
The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England
Graham Robb. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-28532-1
Robb’s move to the “Debatable Land” on the border between present-day England and Scotland inspired this combination bicycle travelogue, regional history, and declaration of admiration. In ancient times, the 33,000 acres on either side of the border were uninhabited, left as communal livestock pastures; later it was home to feuding families and rife with mythology. Robb ruminates through the Celtic, medieval, and present eras, and readers are lucky to join him on his enthralling journey.
The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion
Steven R. Weisman. Simon Schuster, ISBN 978-1-4165-7326-5
Focusing mainly on the 19th century, this expertly told history from Weisman explores conflicts between tradition and modernity within Judaism that first played out in Charleston, S.C., in 1841, and still resonate today. The lesson of the history, writes Weisman, is, “Jews should be unafraid to stand up for how they want to pursue their varied religious paths towards meaning.” Anyone interested in American Judaism will be enlightened by this lucid and entertaining history.
An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere
Mikita Brottman. Holt, ISBN 978-1-2501-6914-3
The 2006 death of handsome newlywed Rey O. Rivera serves as the focal point of this mesmerizing true crime account. Brottman lives in the Belvedere, an apartment complex in Baltimore where Rivera’s body was found, and the author’s morbid curiosity led her to an obsessive investigation of the alleged suicide. The result is a page-turning look at the darker impulses of the human psyche.
The Spy and The Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War
Ben Macintyre. Crown, ISBN 978-1-101-90419-0
Macintyre recounts the exploits of Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent turned British spy responsible for “the single largest ‘operational download’ in MI6 history.” In a feat of real authorial dexterity, Macintyre accurately portrays the long-game banality of spycraft with such clarity and propulsive verve that the book often feels like a thriller. This insightful page-turner has a startling relevancy to the news of the day.
Better Business Books
Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Network that Can Transform Your Life and Career
David Burkus. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0-544-97126-4
Burkus suggests that handing your card to strangers at a cocktail party is not the way to grow your network. Rather, it is your distant or former contacts who will be the most helpful to you. Buoyed by practical advice and prompts for further thought, this is an excellent guide to career advancement for anyone who breaks out in hives at the mere presentation of a business card.
The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders
Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell, with Tahl Raz. Currency, ISBN 978-1-101-90649-1
Inspired by unlikely types who became CEOs, leadership advisers Botelho and Powell identify four characteristics of great leaders. Without the typical biz-book bluster, the authors believe that anyone can attain the ability and mindset to become a CEO.
The Business of Being a Writer
Jane Friedman. Univ. of Chicago, ISBN 978-0-226-39316-2
Publishing veteran Friedman delivers a comprehensive and eminently readable guide that should be on every writer’s desk. While acknowledging John Steinbeck’s observation that “the profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business,” Friedman adopts an encouraging tone in addressing those interested in making their living, or at least some money, from it.
Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great
Carmine Gallo. St. Martin’s, ISBN 978-1-25015-513-9
Gallo presents an energetic and convincing guide to developing critical communications and presentation skills. The art of persuasion, he argues, is no longer an optional “soft skill,” but the most important skill one can acquire. His clear, prescriptive ideas are highly useful in developing readers’ own narratives.
Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else)
Ken Auletta. Penguin, ISBN 978-0-7352-2086-7
New Yorker media critic Auletta masterfully maps the rapidly evolving topography of the advertising industry. Perhaps most prescient is Auletta’s spot-on analysis of the interplay between traditional and social media, including traditional-media executives’ concerns over the tremendous amount of data available to Facebook and Twitter and the related privacy concerns. Auletta’s lively survey serves as an excellent primer to a brave new world.
Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success
Dawn Marie Graham. Amacom, ISBN 978-0-8144-3963-0
Citing findings that most Americans switch careers numerous times during their lives, Graham presents advice for remaking one’s career. She particularly shines discussing the necessity of building an appealing narrative about one’s career. Chatty and upbeat, this is an encouraging and comprehensive guide for anyone looking to jump to a new career track.
The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time
Allen Gannett. Currency, ISBN 978-1-52476-171-4
In this stimulating business manual, Gannett, founder and CEO of the marketing analytics firm TrackMaven, asserts, “There is in fact a science behind what becomes a hit.” Gannett offers the ideal balance of valuable instruction, accessible writing, and refreshing stories, providing tangible evidence that the creative process he advocates actually works for business people.
The Challenge Culture: Why the Most Successful Organizations Run on Pushback
Nigel Travis. PublicAffairs, ISBN 978-1-54176-214-5
In this entertaining and informative business manual, the chairman and CEO of Dunkin’ Brands shares his management philosophy, which focuses on embracing challenge and listening to employees. Smart and insightful, this work offers an insider’s account of the leadership approach behind a successful global brand that executives in any industry can emulate.
Success Through Diversity: Why the Most Inclusive Companies Will Win
Carol Fulp. Beacon, ISBN 978-0-8070-5628-8
Racially homogenous organizations aren’t just bad for society—they’re terrible for the bottom line, argues Fulp, president and CEO of the Partnership, a search and leadership development organization, in this sorely needed work. She offers business people the convincing research and tools they need to prepare for an ever more ethnically and racially diverse society.
Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction
Chris Baily. Viking, ISBN 978-0-52552-223-2
Bailey identifies distraction as an endemic problem plaguing the business world, and just about every facet of modern life as well. In this practical and widely applicable manual, he shows how to manage attention. Highly germane to any fast-paced workplace, this book is a must-read for readers seeking to regain control of their ability to concentrate.
Weaving on a Little Loom: Techniques, Patterns, and Projects for Beginners
Fiona Daly. Princeton Architectural Press, ISBN 978-1-61689-712-3
A gorgeous introduction to weaving, this encyclopedia of techniques is informed by Daly’s expertise as a textile designer. Five projects are beautifully showcased in earthy tones complemented by the book’s matte pages. Weaving, Daly explains, is not a “weekend project” but a commitment; her alluring book convinces readers it’s worth the time and effort.
Mini Crochet Creatures: 30 Amigurumi Animals to Make
Lauren Bergstrom. GMC, ISBN 978-1-78494-389-9
Noncrocheters, novices, and experts alike will get a kick out of Bergstrom’s amigurumi animals, miniature crocheted and stuffed dolls. She offers up 30 projects accompanied by generously sized charts that are easy to follow. Photos of the finished products in cleverly crafted settings (sea creatures surf in ocean blue-green yarn) add whimsy to the book’s general appeal.
Tomoko Fuse’s Origami Boxes: Beautiful Paper Gift Boxes from Japan’s Leading Origami Master
Tomoko Fuse. Tuttle, ISBN 978-0-8048-5006-3
Origami master Fuse’s brilliant book is an almost wordless pictorial road map to creating palm-size paper boxes and containers. With clearly drawn instructions and photographs of finished projects, the book is an excellent introduction to an ancient art form.
How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest
Sarah Corbett. Random House UK (IPG, dist.), ISBN 978-1-78352-407-5
Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, a worldwide network of activists who use crafting as their method of outreach, practices what she preaches in this deeply felt, finely wrought how-to book. She encourages crafters—or even people who’ve never wielded a needle—to “gain wisdom from engaging with global injustices and looking for answers to problems while we craft, engaging our hands, heart, and head.”
Modern Scot Patchwork: Bold Quilts Inspired by Iconic Tartans
Kathy Allen. CT, ISBN 978-1-61745-594-0
In this charming book based on traditional Scottish tartans, quilt designer Allen simplifies the complex process of piecing these tartans into patchwork quilts by including large graphics, charts, and tips. Adding texture to the book, Allen delightfully includes each tartan’s family story, such as the Maxwell, inspired by the story of a man who escaped from prison dressed as one of his devoted wife’s ladies.
Embroidery: A Maker’s Guide
Victoria and Albert Museum. Thames Hudson, ISBN 978-0-500-29327-0
This encyclopedia of embroidery, selected from the collection housed in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, is gorgeous and informative as a reference, and the addition of modernized projects extends it into DIY territory. The book showcases varieties of embroidery throughout history and across cultures. The 15 projects extend the examples of each style, with helpful tips and substitutes.
The Cat Lover’s Craft Book: Cute and Easy Accessories for Kitty’s Best Friend
Neko Shugei. Tuttle, ISBN 978-4-8053-1492-0
Cuteness abounds in this compendium of feline-themed pillows, purses, and pins with a distinctive Japanese pop culture sensibility. From catryoshka pouches—an imaginative take on Russian nesting dollsto knitted umbrella handles resembling cats’ tails, this collection proves that almost anything can bear a feline motif. Cat silhouettes bordering the pages add to the book’s pleasing design.
Travel by Taste
Eating My Way Through Italy: Heading Off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table
Elizabeth Minchilli. Griffin, ISBN 978-1-250-13304-5
Encyclopedic knowledge earned over decades informs this hybrid guide, cookbook with 34 recipes, and deep dive into such essential ingredients as Parmigiano Reggiano. Minchilli encourages visitors to Italy to explore outside the usual tourist-packed areas. She ferrets out unpretentious eateries and offers accessible recipes. Minchilli’s writing is crisply informational and often funny, and her sure grip on Italian culture makes her an excellent culinary guide.
French Food Fantasia
The Cook’s Atelier: Recipes, Techniques, and Stories from Our French Cooking School
Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini. Abrams, ISBN 978-1-4197-2895-2
Mother and daughter Taylor and Franchini offer classic French recipes based on their cooking school in the Burgundy region. Seasonal dishes, such as small galettes with leeks and goat cheese, are interspersed with profiles of local artisans, including a pharmacist-turned-shepherd, whose sheep and goats provide milk for soft cheeses and yogurt. This seductive book is likely to have readers fantasizing about their own escapes to France.
Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan
Chloe Coscarelli. Clarkson Potter, ISBN 978-0-451-49962-2
Coscarelli’s fourth vegan cookbook brims with creativity and a wide array of flavor. Each of the recipes, such as a McVegan Breakfast Sandwich or coconut falafel sliders with mango salsa, features short ingredient lists and cooking instructions especially aimed at those new to vegan cooking. Coscarelli’s recipes are flavorful: the maple barbecue burgers have a tangy smokiness. For those who want to try vegan cooking, this is the perfect cookbook.
Emily: The Cookbook
Emily and Matthew Hyland. Ballantine, ISBN 978-1-5247-9683-9
The husband-and-wife culinary team behind the New York City restaurants Emily and Emmy Squared serve up more than 100 recipes in their excellent debut collection. Culled from their restaurant menus, but designed for home kitchens, the offerings include small plates, sandwiches, pasta, desserts, cocktails, and especially pizza. Often utilizing the flavors of Italy, Asia, and Mexico, the Hylands bring an eclectic flair to some of America’s favorite foodstuffs.
Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One
Anita Lo. Knopf, ISBN 978-0-451-49360-6
In this marvelous debut cookbook, Lo, who was chef and owner of the restaurant Annisa in New York City for 17 years, recalls, “I’ve been dumped almost as many times as I’ve been in relationships,” then lays the groundwork for a clever compilation of recipes fit for anyone, not just the lonely-hearted. Single-serving recipes are accompanied by entertaining, and sometimes self-deprecating stories that inspired them. Lo’s quirky tone and charming illustrations make this a winner.
Orange Blossom Honey: Magical Moroccan Recipes from the Souks to the Sahara
John Gregory-Smith. Kyle, ISBN 978-1-909487-90-1
A food and travel writer, Gregory-Smith has been collecting recipes in Morocco since 2007, and this stellar collection proves to be a great entry point to the cuisine. Chapters are organized by such categories as street food, tagine recipes, and even service stations that double as humble roadside diners. Colorful photos round out this excellent and inviting primer on Moroccan cuisine.
Vegetarian Viet Nam
Cameron Stauch. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-24933-0
In this passionate and thorough exploration of vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine, Stauch offers page after page of enticing fare and includes meatless takes on traditional dishes. Readers who want to make their own seitan or annatto-seed oil will find Stauch’s instructions clear and precise. Most of the effort will come from sourcing ingredients and preparation but once that is done, home cooks will find that the dishes come together quickly.
Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious
Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. HMH/Martin, ISBN 978-0-544-97037-3
In the follow-up to their 2016 James Beard Award–winning Zahav, chef Solomonov and his business partner, Cook (together they have a string of restaurants in Philadelphia), mine the melting pot of Israel for the country’s classic meals. Dishes are examined with quasi-Talmudic love. The history of the sabich—an Iraqi Jewish sandwich of fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs in pita—is related in rapturous detail (“The story of sabich springs from the well of Jewish life”). This duo strikes a heartwarming, enthusiastic tone.
Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes
Todd Richards. Oxmoor House, ISBN 978-0-8487-5441-9
Richards, a James Beard–nominated chef, brings the soul food spirit from his Richard’s Southern Fried restaurant in Atlanta to this sensational debut cookbook. Lovers of Southern cuisine will find grits, corn, shrimp, and peaches showcased, but in unexpected, delightful ways (grilled peach toast with pimiento cheese; collards with ramen). Richards’s “no limits” philosophy pushes the cuisine beyond traditional expectations and celebrates the power of soul food.
Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits
Reese Witherspoon. Touchstone, ISBN 978-1-50116-627-3
Actress and book club host Witherspoon pays tribute to her Southern roots in this charming collection of recipes, how-tos, and personal stories, drawing heavily on life lessons learned from her grandmother. Recipes are grouped by events, with suggestions for what to serve at, say, a book club meeting or a pre-concert gathering. Fried chicken, ribs, and pulled pork sliders with bourbon sauce are highlights among the many enticing dishes.
Sporty Spice for the Holidays
Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL
Jeff Pearlman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0-544-45438-5
Pearlman wonderfully recounts the rapid rise and fall of the United States Football League, which launched in 1983 and proved to be far more than the joke that the NFL wanted to believe it was. Nevertheless, it was bankrupt two years later. In this excellent book for football junkies and just as enthralling for a general audience, Pearlman illustrates how hubris led to the league’s abrupt demise.
The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino: A Story of Corruption, Scandal, and the Big Business of College Basketball
Michael Sokolove. Penguin Press, ISBN 978-0-399-56327-0
Using the tarnished legacy of Rick Pitino, the former University of Louisville basketball coach, as an anchor, Sokolove provides a lucid account of large-scale corruption in college basketball, and a richly detailed, enlightening account of college sports in general. In 2017, Louisville’s program was one of seven initially named by the FBI in an investigation of money laundering, bribery, and wire fraud. Since then, at least a dozen additional schools have been named.
Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal
Ken Bensinger. Simon Schuster, ISBN 978-1-5011-3390-9
In his intense first book, investigative journalist Bensinger explores the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into corruption at the highest levels of international soccer. With the flair of a novelist, he chronicles events from the beginning with the FBI investigation of Chuck Blazer in 2007 to the eventual indictment of 18 people, and the resignation of FIFA’s longtime president.
Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times
Mark Leibovich. Penguin Press, ISBN 978-0-399-18542-7
In this skewering and witty cultural study, Leibovich takes an insider look at the National Football League. Leibovich questions throughout whether the NFL is doomed, not only due to the sport’s violence but also because the people who run it seem to place the league over the players. Enhancing his casual reporting with cynical commentary, Leibovich provides entertaining reading.
The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968
George Howe Colt. Scribner, ISBN 978-1-5011-0478-7
Chronicling one of college football’s most tumultuous games during one of America’s most turbulent years, Colt brings together sports and history in profound fashion. Colt interweaves such topics as civil rights, religious freedom, class struggle, white privilege, and the Vietnam War with anecdotes of players. By focusing on the players as individuals, the accounts of each team’s amazing season and the four-chapter recap of their final, unbelievable game are elevated above entertaining sports reporting to thoughtful, emotional storytelling. This excellent history illustrates sport’s powerful role in American society.
All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters
Joe Namath, with Don Yaeger. Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-42110-2
In this book, whose release is timed to the 50th anniversary of the author’s legendary Super Bowl “guarantee,” the NFL star who first brought show business to sports finally tells the story of his spectacular rise and reign as “Broadway Joe,” his struggles with alcoholism, and the redemption he found in God later in life. Namath went from being a small-town kid from Pennsylvania to a college jock star at the University of Alabama, under legendary coach Bear Bryant. Then at 26—with a Super Bowl title under his belt—he arguably became the most famous athlete in the U.S. Namath reveals the man behind the myth in this memoir that is rich with personal history, private insights, and deep reflection and is as much about football and fame as it is about addiction, fatherhood, and coming to terms with one’s own mortality.
The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created
Jane Leavy. Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-238022-7
Sportswriter Leavy energetically narrates Ruth’s larger-than-life story in an entertaining and colorful biography, beginning with his childhood, when his parents sent the misbehaving seven-year-old Ruth to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys where he learned his baseball skills, to becoming a baseball legend. Ruth joined the Baltimore Orioles in 1914, was sold to the Boston Red Sox a few years later, and a year later was traded to the Yankees, where his power to bring in fans enabled the building of a new stadium in 1923 that became known as “the house that Ruth built.” In his career Ruth had 2,873 hits, 714 home runs, and a lifetime batting average of .342, and as Leavy points out, Ruth lived as hard as he played; he “imbibed whatever life had to offer.” Leavy’s captivating biography reveals Ruth as a man who swung his bat with the same purposeful abandon that he lived his life.
In the Name of the Father: Family, Football, and the Manning Dynasty
Mark Ribowsky. Liveright, ISBN 978-1-63149-309-6
Ribowsky exuberantly explores the ongoing story of the Manning dynasty: former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and the sons Cooper (whose football career was derailed by a diagnosis of spinal stenosis) and former and current star quarterbacks Peyton and Eli, who followed in their father’s footsteps. Ribowsky thoroughly covers the on- and off-the-field drama in this sprawling biography. Football fans will be drawn to this inside look at the Mannings, one of the most talented sports families in American history.
We Are Women, Read Our Roar
Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion
Michelle Dean. Grove, ISBN 978-0-8021-2509-5
This first book by Dean, a journalist and critic, explores the lives and work of a dozen women writers of the 20th century, including Hannah Arendt, Janet Malcolm, Dorothy Parker, and Susan Sontag. This is a stunning and highly accessible introduction to a group of important writers.
Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art
Mary Gabriel. Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-22618-9
These eclectic, free-spirited painters, with their artist husbands and partners, shocked the art world in the 1940s and ’50s with abstract expressionism. Collectors snapped up blue-chip works by male artists, but women artists, despite their contributions, were largely written out of the story. Through the lens of these women’s lives, Gabriel delivers a sweeping history of abstract expressionism and an affectionate tribute to the underappreciated women of America’s avant-garde.
Girl Gang: Fifty Makers, Shakers and Heartbreakers from the Victorian Era
Kirsty Stonell Walker, illus. by Kingsley Nebechi. Univ. of Chicago, ISBN 978-1-911604-63-1
Telling the stories of 50 women—duchesses to laundresses—who were involved with the Pre-Raphaelites, this book brings together stunning illustrations and little-known stories to rewrite the history of an artistic movement that has held its popularity for more than a century. From models to artists, these women redefined what it meant to be attractive and influential in a male-dominated world; they broke new ground in art, business, and women’s rights. This enchanting, revolutionary band of women remain unlikely and compelling role models today.
Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex—and the Truths They Reveal
Lux Alptraum. Seal, ISBN 978-1-58005-765-3
Sex and pornography journalist Alptraum explores the intimate deceptions that women are accused of, including faking orgasms or their virginity, and lying about sexual experience, willingness, and assault. She gleefully pokes holes in assumptions, double standards, and unreasonable expectations that affect women. Forthright, provocative, and studded with irony, Alptraum’s incisive discussion calls for more flexibility, openness, conversation, and variety around sexual narratives and, most crucially, believing women.
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
Rebecca Traister. Simon Schuster, ISBN 978-1-5011-8179-5
In this trenchant analysis, journalist Traister explores women’s anger and American politics, in which “noncompliant, insistent, furious women have shaped our history and our present.” At the core is the idea that the achievements of female political activists such as Florynce Kennedy, Rosa Parks, and Shirley Chisholm have been erased from the record rather than celebrated. She argues forcefully that women are an oppressed majority in the United States.
Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism
Omise’eke Tinsley. Univ. of Texas, ISBN 978-1-4773-1839-3
Tinsley, an African studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin, brings tremendous gusto to her critique of Beyoncé’s 2016 album Lemonade, arguing that the album offers “a spectacular entry point into black feminist conversations.”
She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy
Jill Soloway. Crown Archetype, ISBN 978-1-101-90474-9
This intimate, funny memoir from the creator of the Amazon TV series Transparent, is many things at once: a behind-the-scenes look at the entertainment industry, a sometimes tumultuous but ultimately positive coming-out narrative, a wry and reflective family history, a cri de coeur about gender-based societal strictures, and a success story of, after some missteps, building a workplace culture around allyship.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape
Sohaila Abdulali. New Press, ISBN 978-1-62097-473-5
Abdulali brings precision, clarity, and style to her exploration of a topic often treated as more confusing than it is. A former coordinator of a rape crisis center, she uses her own brutal rape as a touchstone and springboard for this series of extended reflections on the discourse surrounding rape. Though Abdulali doesn’t claim to have answers, the book’s assertions are clear: victims deserve belief, support, and a fair hearing; rapists, not their targets, are responsible for rape; and survivors can go on to live full and joyful lives.