Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Alien invasions, arsenic and Molotov cocktails: UPCOMING BOOKS

Posted on Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Here are some books that are coming out over the next month ... 

Disaster Preparedness: A Memoir, by Heather Havrilesky (Riverhead, 250 pages, Dec. 30) The Salon.com journalist has written a memoir about the after-effects of divorce while living in 1970s North Carolina. Dad was a womanizing professor; Mom decided to move out; Heather and her sibs could never again trust whatever adults had to say. So Heather started planning escape routes in case of floods or alien invasions.

The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman's Fight for Justice, by Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn (Palgrave Macmillan, 250 pages, Jan. 4) According to Bolkovac, who won a wrongful termination lawsuit against them, DynCorp International (a private security firm) systematically kept Bosnian women in the late '90s in debt bondage and forced prostitution.

Being Polite to Hitler, by Robb Forman Dew (Little, Brown; 300 pages; Jan. 6) This novel is the third of a trilogy (following The Evidence Against Her, 2001, and The Truth of the Matter, 2005) about a family in small-town Ohio; this one covers 1953-73: polio scares, the space race, civil rights, etc. Dew, who's married to a history professor in Massachusetts, debuted with Dale Loves Sophie to Death back in 1981; Robert Penn Warren was her godfather.

Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche, by James S. Miller (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 430 pages, Jan. 4) Short biographies of 12 famous philosophers, focused on the question of how best to live the good life: Augustine found God within himself, while Nietzsche found no god anywhere.

Molotov's Magic Lantern: Travels in Russian History, by Rachel Polonsky (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 420 pages, Jan. 4) She travels to the land of Dostoyevsky and the Cossacks, then all the way to Siberia and Lake Baikal. But it all starts when she's invited to live in the once impressive, now rundown building which once housed Vyacheslav Molotov (as in cocktail, as in Stalin's second-in-command). A kind of literary travelogue of the grimmest aspects of Russian history.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland (Random House, 400 pages, Jan. 11) In 2005, art historians stumbled onto caches of letters proving that the famous Tiffany lamps weren't devised by Tiffany at all. He never publicly acknowledged that most of the creative work was done by "the Tiffany girls" under the direction of one Clara Driscoll. Vreeland, who specializes in fiction about art history (like Girl in Hyacinth Blue, about a Vermeer painting, told in reverse chronology), now presents this novelized version of Clara Driscoll's dilemma in choosing between career and marriage.

Death and the Virgin Queen: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart, by Chris Skidmore (St. Martin's Press/Phoenix, 450 pages, Jan. 18) Published in Britain last February to great acclaim (from Lady Antonia Fraser and Philippa Gregory, among others), this historical account by a current M.P. claims to solve a longtime mystery. In 1560, the most desirable match in Europe, just 27 years old, wanted to marry her non-royal lover, Robert Dudley. But then, under suspicious circumstances, Dudley's wife got dead. And now Skidmore's got the coroner's report.

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, by Deborah Blum (Penguin paperback reprint, 330 pages, Jan. 25) People used to think that radium would make you glow with power. Aconite is so powerful that the ancient Greeks thought it came from the saliva of Cerberus, the three-headed dog. And thallium makes your hair fall out. Today, we may have CSI and Bones, but Blum's book goes back to when chemists and detectives were just starting to figure it all out. Check out our Dec. 16 Gift Guide issue for more book-buying suggestions, along with our Books blog (see link at bottom of this page).


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