Oh! We so love tattletales, books that reveal the underbellies of stars and singers and criminals and musicians and authors and politicians . . . even if they are written by the celebs themselves.
Our picks for the best of 2019 . . .
Since he never wrote his memoirs and seldom appeared on television, most people have little sense of Mike Nichols’ searching intellect or his devastating wit. They don’t know that Nichols, the great American director, was born Mikail Igor Peschkowsky, in Berlin, and came to this country, speaking no English, to escape the Nazis.
They don’t know that Nichols was at one time a solitary psychology student, or that a childhood illness caused permanent, life-altering side effects. They don’t know that he withdrew into a debilitating depression before he “finally got it right,” in his words, by marrying Diane Sawyer.
In Life Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols as Remembered by 150 of His Closest Friends (Henry Holt and Co., $30), Ash Carter and Sam Kashner offer an intimate look behind the scenes of Nichols’ life, as told by the stars, moguls, playwrights, producers, comics and crewmembers who stayed loyal to Nichols for years. This volume is also a snapshot of what it meant to be living, loving, and making art in the 20th century.
Why recommend Free, Melania (Flatiron Books, $27.99) about woman who’s to the most discipicable piece of scum in the world? She’s not stupid. She married the asshole because she got a green card and lots of moolah should he leave her for say, Stormy Daniels.
This “First Lady” thinks she’s the “new” Jackie Kennedy, mainly because her Sugar Daddy buys her expen$sive duds she could never have afforded if she stayed back in Slovenia. Now that we think about it, use the book for kindling.
A Wild and Precious Life (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99) is remarkable portrait of an iconic woman. Queer Edie Windsor became internationally famous when she sued the U.S. government, seeking federal recognition for her marriage to Thea Spyer, her partner of more than four decades. The Supreme Court ruled in Edie’s favor, a landmark victory that set the stage for full marriage equality in the US. Beloved by the LGBTQ community, Edie embraced her new role as an icon; she had already been living an extraordinary and groundbreaking life for decades.
In this memoir, which she began before passing away in 2017 and completed by her co-writer, Edie recounts her childhood in Philadelphia, her realization that she was a lesbian, and her active social life in Greenwich Village’s electrifying underground gay scene during the ’50s. She was also one of a select group of trailblazing women in computing, working her way up the ladder at IBM and achieving their highest technical ranking while developing software.
More notable queer writing: How We Fight for Our Lives (Simon & Schuster, a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Saeed Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears.
Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.
Nikki Haley is widely admired for her forthright manner (“With all due respect, I don’t get confused”), her sensitive approach to tragic events and her confident representation of America’s interests as our Ambassador to the United Nations during times of crisis and consequence.
In With All Due Respect (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99), Haley offers a first-hand perspective on major national and international matters, as well as a behind-the-scenes account of her tenure in the Trump administration.
This book reveals a woman who can hold her own―and better―in domestic and international power politics, a diplomat who is unafraid to take a principled stand even when it is unpopular, and a leader who seeks to bring Americans together in divisive times.
We never liked him when he shackled Princess Di. We never liked him when married a horse named Camilla. But we do like King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of Britain (Diversion Books, $27.99). With exclusive interviews and extensive research, Robert Jobson debunks the myths about the man who will be king, going beyond banal, bogus media caricatures of Charles to tell his true story.
Jobson―who has spent nearly 30 years chronicling the House of Windsor, and has met Prince Charles on countless occasions―received unprecedented cooperation from Clarence House, the Prince’s office, in writing this illuminating biography.
Sir Ian McKellen has starred in more than 400 plays and films; he is that rare character, a celebrity whose distinguished political and social service has transcended his international fame to reach beyond the stage and screen.
The breadth of his career―professional, personal and political―has been truly staggering; add his tireless political activism in the cause of gay equality and you have a veritable phenomenon. Garry O’Connor’s Ian McKellen: A Biography (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) probes the heart of the actor, recreating his greatest stage roles and exploring his personal life.
Stan Lee was the most famous American comic book creator who ever lived. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) presents the origin of “Stan the Man,” who spun a storytelling web of comic book heroic adventures into a pop culture phenomenon: the Marvel Universe.
How he got to that place is a story that has never been fully told―until now. Danny Fingeroth’s book attempts to answer some of those questions. It is the first comprehensive biography of this powerhouse of ideas who, with his invention of Marvel Comics, changed the world’s ideas of what a hero is and how a story should be told.
Princess Leia is gone, she flew off into the stars in 2016. In Carrie Fisher: A life on the Edge (Sarah Crichton Books , $30) Sheila Weller’s turns her talents to one of the most loved, brilliant, and iconoclastic women of our time: actress, writer, daughter and mother Carrie Fisher.
We follow Fisher’s acting career, from her debut in Shampoo, the hit movie that defined mid-’70s Hollywood, to her seizing of the plum female role in Star Wars, which catapulted her to instant fame. We explore her long, complex relationship with Paul Simon and her relatively peaceful years with the talent agent Bryan Lourd.
Weller sympathetically reveals the conditions that Fisher lived with: serious bipolar disorder and an inherited drug addiction. Still, despite crises and overdoses, her life’s work―as actor, novelist and memoirist, script doctor, hostess and friend―was prodigious and unique. We witness her startling leap―on the heels of a near-fatal overdose―from actress to highly praised, bestselling author, the Dorothy Parker of her place and time.
No one needs to say farewell to Sir Elton John since there are two fascinating book about the original rocket man. In Me (Henry Holt and Co. , $30), his first and only official autobiography, John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his swimming pool to disco-dancing with Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation to conquering Broadway.
All the while Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade. In Me, Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing.
An ideal companion: Elton John by Terry O’Neill: The Definitive Portrait, With Unseen Images (Cassell, $34.99). John and O’Neill worked together for many years, taking more than 5,000 photographs.
From intimate backstage shots to huge stadium concerts, the photographs in this book represent the very best of this archive, with most of the images being shown here for the first time. O’Neill has drawn on his personal relationship with John to write the book’s introduction and captions.
In The Bourbon King: life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius (Diversion Books, $27.99), Bob Batchelor breathes life into the tale of George Remus is a grand spectacle and a lens into the dark heart of Prohibition. That is, before he came crashing down in one of the most sensational murder cases in American history: a cheating wife, the G-man who seduced her and put Remus in jail, and the plunder of a Bourbon Empire. Remus murdered his wife in cold-blood and then shocked a nation winning his freedom based on a condition he invented—temporary maniacal insanity.
JAY-Z: Made in America (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99) is the fruit of Michael Eric Dyson’s decade of teaching the work of one of the greatest poets this nation has produced . . . as gifted a wordsmith as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Rita Dove. But as a rapper, he’s sometimes not given the credit he deserves for just how great an artist he’s been for so long.
This book wrestles with the biggest themes of JAY-Z’s career, including hustling, and it recognizes the way that he’s always weaved politics into his music, making important statements about race, criminal justice, black wealth and social injustice. As he enters his fifties, and to mark his thirty years as a recording artist, this is the perfect time to take a look at JAY-Z’s career and his role in making this nation what it is today.
Janis Joplin has passed into legend as a brash, impassioned soul doomed by the pain that produced one of the most extraordinary voices in rock history. But in Janis: Her Life and Music (Simon & Schuster, $28.99), Holly George-Warren provides a revelatory and deeply satisfying portrait of a woman who wasn’t all about suffering. Janis was a perfectionist: a passionate, erudite musician who was born with talent but also worked exceptionally hard to develop it.
She was a woman who pushed the boundaries of gender and sexuality long before it was socially acceptable. She was a sensitive seeker who wanted to marry and settle down—but couldn’t, or wouldn’t. She was a Texan who yearned to flee Texas but could never quite get away—even after becoming a countercultural icon in San Francisco.