Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NEW BOOKS: Goose-stuffing, radioactivity, autism, and Vladimir Putin

Posted on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 2:40 PM

click to enlarge 9780061351327.jpg
Consider this as lagniappe before our Dec. 16 Gift Guide suggestions for books ...

Mostly nonfiction this week — and some of these titles aren't yet available.

The Memory Chalet, by Tony Judt (Penguin, 240 pages, Nov. 11)  
Tony Judt died last summer of Lou Gehrig's disease. Physically unable to write, he would compose personal essays, then "record" them inside the imagined "rooms" of a Swiss chalet that he visited once when he was young. Sex, politics, food, road trips, class differences, riots and revolution are among the topics.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, ed. Joan Reardon (Houghton Mifflin, 430 pages, Dec. 1)  
You saw Julie & Julia, now get the backstory: more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent. The topics include recipes, of course, but also political gossip, how to learn French, how to host a cocktail party, and how to stuff a goose.  

Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, by Lauren Redniss (It Books, 200 pages, Dec. 21)  
A combination of science, biography, romance, history and art. Redniss recounts the pioneering work of the husband-and-wife team in collage-like drawings. Marie Curie — a Polish woman who discovered two elements and won Nobel Prizes in both physics and chemistry while working in male-dominated fields — is a story in herself.

Twin: A Memoir, by Allen Shawn (Viking, 240 pages, Dec. 30) 
Imagine being 2 years old and having a twin sister. She starts to show signs of autism. When you're 10, she's institutionalized, but you hope she'll come home someday soon. Now it's 50 years later. She never came home. (Shawn's father, William, was once editor of The New Yorker; his brother Wallace is the well-known actor and playwright.)

The Lover's Dictionary, by David Levithan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 220 pages, Jan. 4)  
A modern love story told through dictionary entries. For example:

basis, n. There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.

If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it — you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance....

Levithan (Boy Meets Boy, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist) has written a YA novel that transcends its unusual format by getting philosophical about love.

The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev, by Daniel Treisman (Free Press, 540 pages, Jan. 4)   Are Russians just more comfortable with autocratic rulers? Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin liberalized the country and moved it, haltingly, toward a more democratic process and freedom of the press. But Vladimir Putin, who still acts as prime minister alongside his puppet Dmitri Medvedev, is the one who remains popular. A UCLA historian tries to figure out why.

Peruse more suggestions for reading here and in our Dec. 16 Multimedia Gift Guide.

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