Tag Archives: W.W. Norton

W. W. Norton offers a pair of must-read books, both true stories and both riveting

W.W. Norton has released a pair of books that will whet the appetite of fans of literary biographies as well as true crime thrillers.

Colin Asher’s Never a Lovely So Real ($39.95) is the definitive biography of National Book Award-winning novelist Nelson Algren (The Man With the Golden Arm), whose career as a writer was stalled by a decades-long FBI investigation into his ties to the Communist Party, and ultimately subsumed by changing tastes in literature. In its starred review, Publishers Weekly calls the book “a generous, stylish portrait of an impulsive, directionless outsider who nonetheless established a place among the lions of mid-twentieth century American literature”.

Noted fans of Algren’s include Don DeLillo, whom Algren mentored, and Russell Banks; he was friends with Richard Wright and had a long affair with Simone de Beauvoir. CUNY literature instructor Colin Asher’s close reading of Algren’s work, and his access to Algren’s FBI file, allow him to reconstruct in vivid detail Algren’s life, from his Depression-era struggles to his Army service to his sudden fame and then his struggles late in his life. A fascinating glimpse into the world of a writer who deserves to be remembered and re-read by new generations of readers.


In The Last Job: The “Bad Grandpas” and the Hatton Garden Heist, ($26.95), New York Times reporter Dan Bilefsky’s offers a riveting account of the biggest bank heist in the U.K. since the Great Train Robbery. Over Easter weekend 2015, a motley crew of six English thieves, several in their sixties and seventies, couldn’t resist coming out of retirement for one last career-topping heist. Their target: the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit, in the heart of London’s medieval diamond district.

Perhaps not the smoothest of criminals—one took a public bus to the scene of the crime; another read Forensics for Dummies in hopes he would learn how to avoid getting caught—they planned the job over fish and chips at their favorite pubs. They were cantankerous and coarse, dubbed the “Bad Grandpas” by British tabloids, and were often as likely to complain about one another as the current state of the country. Still, these analog thieves in a digital age managed to disable a high-security alarm system and drill through twenty inches of reinforced concrete, walking away with a stunning haul of at least $19 million in jewels, gold, diamonds, family heirlooms, and cash.

Petrucelli’s Picks: 2018 Gift Guide: The Year’s Best Celebrity (Auto)Biographies, Part Three

It’s a shame many still don’t know his name. Or his genius.
Nikola Tesla invented the radio, the induction motor, the neon lamp, and the remote control. His scientific discoveries made possible X-ray technology, wireless communications, and radar, and he predicted the Internet and even the smart watch. Today, he is hailed as a visionary by the likes of Elon Musk (whose electronic cars bear his name) and Larry Page, the founder of Google. His image appears on stamps, the Encyclopedia Brittanica ranks him as one of the ten most interesting historical figures, and Life magazine lists him as one of the one hundred most famous people of the last millennium. And yet, his contemporaries and fellow inventors Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi achieved far greater commercial success and popular recognition.

In Tesla: Inventor of the Modern (W. W. Norton & Company, $26.95), Richard Munson asks whether Tesla’s eccentricities eclipsed his genius. Ultimately, he delivers an enthralling biography that illuminates every facet of Tesla’s life while justifying his stature as the most original inventor of the late nineteenth century.


Harvey Sachs’s Toscanini: Musician of Conscience (Liveright, $24.95) recounts the 68-year career of conductor Arturo Toscanini, an artist celebrated for his fierce dedication, photographic memory, explosive temper, impassioned performances and uncompromising work ethic. Toscanini collaborated with Verdi, Puccini, Debussy, and Richard Strauss; undertook major reforms at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera; and eventually pioneered the radio and television broadcasts of the NBC Symphony.

His monumental achievements inspired generations, while his opposition to Nazism and fascism made him a model for artists of conscience. In this persuasive and compelling new biography, Sachs illuminates the crucial―the central―role Toscanini played in our musical culture. Set against the roiling currents of twentieth-century Europe and the Americas, Toscanini is a “necessary” portrait of this “complex, flawed, but noble human being and towering artist” (Wall Street Journal) whose peerless influence reverberates today.


A book about Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, as a beach read? Absolutely. And much more entertaining than, say, a collection of Peanuts. In President Carter: The White House Years (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $40) Stuart E. Eizenstat presents a comprehensive history of the Carter Administration, demonstrating that Carter was the most consequential modern-era one-term U.S. President. The book is behind-the-scenes account of a president who always strove to do what he saw as the right thing, while often disregarding the political repercussions.


Adventures of a Young Naturalist–The Zoo Quest Expeditions (Quercus, $26.99) is the story of voyages taken by David Attenborough. Staying with local tribes while trekking in search of giant anteaters in Guyana, Komodo dragons in Indonesia, and armadillos in Paraguay, he and the rest of the team contended with cannibal fish, aggressive tree porcupines, and escape-artist wild pigs, as well as treacherous terrain and unpredictable weather, to record the incredible beauty and biodiversity of these regions. Don’t take our word for it: Says Barack Obama of Attenborough: “A great educator as well as a great naturalist.”


Immortalized by Shakespeare as a hunchbacked murderer, Richard III is one of English history’s best known and least understood monarchs. In 2012 his skeleton was uncovered in a UK parking lot, reigniting debate about this divisive historical figure and sparked numerous articles, television programs and movies about his true character. Richard III: England's Most Controversial King by [Skidmore, Chris]In Richard III: England’s Most Controversial King (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99)  acclaimed historian Chris Skidmore has written the authoritative biography of a man alternately praised as a saint and cursed as a villain. Was he really a power-crazed monster who killed his nephews, or the victim of the first political smear campaign conducted by the Tudors?


In Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History (Liveright, $28.95) Yunte Huang recounts the peculiar, and often ironic, rise of Chang and Eng from sideshow curiosity to Southern gentry—an unlikely story that exposes the foibles of a young republic eager to tyrannize and delight in the abnormal. Famous for their quick wit (they once refunded a one-eyed man half his ticket because he “couldn’t see as much as the others”), Chang and Eng became a nationwide sensation, heralded as living symbols of the humbugged freak.  Their unrivaled success quickened the birth of mass entertainment in America, leading to the minstrel show and the rise of showmen like P.T. Barnum.

And it is here that we encounter a twist. Miraculously, despite the 1790 Naturalization Act which limited citizenship to “free white persons” (until 1952), Chang and Eng became American citizens under the Superior Court of North Carolina. They then went on to marry two white sisters—Sarah and Adelaide Yates—and father 23 children despite the interracial marriage ban (in place until 1967). They owned 18 slaves and became staunch advocates for the Confederacy, so much so that their sons fought for the South during the Civil War. Huang reveals that it was perhaps their very “otherness” that worked for them: they were neither one individual, or quite two.


Forty-five years after Bruce Lee’s sudden death at 32, Matthew Polly has written the definitive account of Lee’s life. Following a decade of research, dozens of rarely seen photographs, and more than one hundred interviews with Lee’s family and friends, Bruce Lee: A Life (Simon & Schuster, $35) breaks down the myths surrounding Bruce Lee and delivers a complex, humane portrait of the icon.

The book  explores Lee’s early years: his career as a child star in Hong Kong cinema; his actor father’s struggles with opium addiction; his troublemaking teen years; and his beginnings as a martial arts instructor. Polly chronicles the trajectory of Lee’s acting career in Hollywood, from his frustration seeing role after role he auditioned for go to a white actors in eye makeup, to his eventual triumph as a leading man, to his challenges juggling a sky-rocketing career with his duties as a father and husband. Polly also sheds light on Bruce Lee’s shocking end—which is to this day is still shrouded in mystery—by offering an alternative theory behind his tragic demise.


Marion Ross’ warm and candid memoir, My Days: Happy and Otherwise (Kensington, $26), brims with loving recollections from the award-winning Happy Days team—from break-out star Henry Winkler to Cunningham “wild child” Erin Moran. The actress shares what it was like to be a starry-eyed young girl with dreams in poor, rural Minnesota, and the resilience, sacrifices, and determination it took to make them come true. She recalls her early years in the business, being in the company of such luminaries as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Noel Coward, yet always feeling the Hollywood outsider—a painful invisibility that mirrored her own childhood. She reveals the absolute joys of playing a wife and mother on TV, and the struggles of maintaining those roles in real life. But among Ross’s most heart-rending recollections are those of finally finding a soulmate—another secret hope of hers made true well beyond her expectations.


Writing The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations (Simon & Schuster, $30)  while confronting a mortal illness, John McCain looks back with appreciation on his years in the Senate, his historic 2008 campaign for the presidency against Barack Obama, and his crusades on behalf of democracy and human rights in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Always the fighter, McCain attacks the “spurious nationalism” and political polarization afflicting American policy. He makes an impassioned case for democratic internationalism and bi-partisanship. He tells stories of his most satisfying moments of public service, including his work with another giant of the Senate, Edward M. Kennedy.  McCain recalls his disagreements with several presidents, and minces no words in his objections to some of Frump’s statements and policies. At the same time, he offers a positive vision of America that looks beyond the evil Frump.


Remembered primarily as America’s leading, most influential physician, Benjamin Rush led the Founding Fathers in calling for abolition of slavery, equal rights for women, improved medical care for injured troops, free health care for the poor, slum clearance, citywide sanitation, an end to child labor, free universal public education, humane treatment and therapy for the mentally ill, prison reform and an end to capital punishment. 

Using archival material from Edinburgh, London, Paris, and Philadelphia, as well as significant new materials from Rush’s descendants and historical societies, Harlow Giles Unger’s Dr. Benjamin Rush: The Founding Father Who Healed a Wounded Nation (Da Capo Press, $28) restores Benjamin Rush to his rightful place in American history as the Founding Father of modern American medical care and psychiatry.


In 1929, 30-year-old gangster Al Capone ruled both Chicago’s underworld and its corrupt government. To a public who scorned Prohibition, “Scarface” became a local hero and national celebrity. But after the brutal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre transformed Capone into Public Enemy Number One, the federal government found an unlikely new hero in a 27-year-old Prohibition agent named Eliot Ness. Chosen to head the legendary law enforcement team known as “The Untouchables,” Ness set his sights on crippling Capone’s criminal empire.

Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago (William Morrow, $29.99) draws upon decades of primary source research—including the personal papers of Ness and his associates, newly released federal files, and long-forgotten crime magazines containing interviews with the gangsters and G-men themselves. Authors Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz have recaptured a bygone bullet-ridden era while uncovering the previously unrevealed truth behind Scarface’s downfall. Together they have crafted the definitive work on Capone, Ness, and the battle for Chicago.


Arthur Fellig’s ability to arrive at a crime scene just as the cops did was so uncanny that he renamed himself “Weegee,” claiming that he functioned as a human Ouija board. Weegee documented better than any other photographer the crime, grit, and complex humanity of mid-century New York City. In Flash, we get a portrait not only of the man (both flawed and deeply talented, with generous appetites for publicity, women, and hot pastrami) but also of the fascinating time and place that he occupied.

So we finally have the first biography of the man with the camera in Christopher Bonanos’Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous (Henry Holt, $32). Weegee lived a life just as worthy of documentation as the scenes he captured. With Flash, we have an unprecedented and ultimately moving view of the man now regarded as an innovator and a pioneer, an artist as well as a newsman, whose photographs are among most powerful images of urban existence ever made.

Petrucelli Picks: 2018 Gift Guide: The Year’s Best Celebrity (Auto)Biographies, Part One

The stories these great books tell!
And now we tell you. Save money and buy these at amazon.com; Christmas delivery is guaranteed.

Simply the best book of the year: Becoming (Crown, $40). As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.


Back to Amy (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) boasts nearly 100 photographs of Amy Winehouse when she was on the cusp of fame, including many never-before-seen images. Charles Moriarty shows Winehouse as you’ve never seen her before: Consisting of two shoots spread across London and New York in the lead-up to the release of her debut album Frank, these photos capture a sense of fun, mischief and style, giving an early glimpse of a star in the making.


Susan Shumsky spent 20 years travelling the world with The Beatles’ spiritual guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who inspired many of the songs) and lived in the Indian Ashram where The Beatles wrote the White Album.

Now it’s time to welcome Shumsky’s Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru (Skyhorse Publishing, $26.99).The book not also reveals the unknown meanings and inspiration behind the album’s lyrics, but is bursting with new material on the scandals, rows and breakdowns that erupted during this dramatic episode.


From the Mod revolution and the British Invasion of the ’60s, through the psychedelic era of the ’70s, and into the exuberance and excesses of stadium rock in the ’80s, Kenney Jones helped to build rock and roll as we know it. He was the beat behind three of the world’s most enduring and significant bands.

He wasn’t just in the right place at the right time. Along with Keith Moon, John Bonham and Charlie Watts, Jones is regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time, sought after by a wide variety of the best-known and best-selling artists to bring his unique skill into the studio for the recording of classic albums and songs―including, of course, the Rolling Stones’s “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It).” Finally, he tells his story with humor and pathos in Let the Good Times Roll: My life in Small Faces, Faces and The Who
(Thomas Dunne Books, $29.99).


“It’s taken me three years to unpack the events of my life, to remember who did what when and why, to separate the myths from the reality, to unravel what really happened at the Holiday Inn on Keith Moon’s 21st birthday,” writes Roger Daltrey, in Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story (Henry Holt, $30). the powerhouse vocalist of The Who. The result of this introspection is a remarkable memoir, instantly captivating, funny and frank, chock-full of well-earned wisdom and one-of-a-kind anecdotes from a raucous life that spans a tumultuous time of change in Britain and America.

Amidst all the music and mayhem, the drugs, the premature deaths, the ruined hotel rooms, Roger is our perfect narrator, remaining sober (relatively) and observant and determined to make The Who bigger and bigger. Not only his personal story, this is the definitive biography of The Who.


Despite Emily Dickinson’s fame, the story of the two women most responsible for her initial posthumous publication―Mabel Loomis Todd and her daughter, Millicent Todd Bingham―has remained in the shadows of the archives. A rich and compelling portrait of women who refused to be confined by the social mores of their era, After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America’s Greatest Poet (W.W. Norton, $27.95)explores Mabel and Millicent’s complex bond, as well as the powerful literary legacy they shared.

Utilizing hundreds of overlooked letters and diaries to weave together the stories of three unstoppable women, Dobrow explores the intrigue of Dickinson’s literary beginnings


GuRu (Dey St., $26.99) is a  timeless collection of philosophies from renaissance performer and the world’s most famous shape-shifter RuPaul, whose sage outlook has created an unprecedented career for more than thirty-five years. The thin yet hefty tome is packed with more than 80 photographs that illustrate the concept of building the life you want from the outside in and the inside out. And Jane Fonda’s introduction is anything but a drag.


In Jarmila Novotná: My Life in Songeditor William V. Madison brings Novotná’s own English-language version of her best-selling memoir to readers for the first time. The memoir details how, following her debut in 1925 at the National Theater in Prague, her fame quickly evolved into a tremendous musical career at a time of unprecedented political upheaval.Novotná provides eyewitness accounts of the Nazi takeovers of Germany and Austria, the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the aftermath of the Velvet Revolution in 1989, as well as her extensive travels in the United States during and after World War II.

And the stories about her time in Hollywood (what she recaalls as an “unending stream of parties”)! Tales of Louis B. Mayer, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor and Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower.


The title says it all: Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) is a  rich biography of the legendary figure at the center of the century’s darkest secrets—the untold story of golden age Hollywood, modern Las Vegas, JFK-era scandal and international intrigue.

The last protégé of Al Capone, the Mob’s “Man in Hollywood” introduced big-time crime to the movie industry, corrupting unions and robbing moguls in the biggest extortion plot in history. A man of great allure and glamour, Rosselli befriended many of the biggest names in the movie capital―including studio boss Harry Cohn, helping him to fund Columbia Pictures–and seduced some of its greatest female stars, including Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe.

Following years in federal prison, Rosselli began a new venture, overseeing the birth and heyday of Las Vegas. Working for new Chicago boss Sam Giancana, he became the gambling mecca’s behind-the-scenes boss, running the town from his suites and poolside tables. Based upon years of research, Lee Server has written with compelling style and vivid detail.


With raw honesty and the fresh, pitch-perfect prose of a natural-born writer, and with all the humility and authenticity her fans have come to expect, Sally Field’s In Pieces (Grand Central Publishing, $29) brings readers behind-the-scenes for not only the highs and lows of her star-studded early career in Hollywood, but deep into the truth of her lifelong relationships–including her complicated love for her own mother.

Powerful and unforgettable (even the cover’s photo is haunting), the book is an inspiring and important account of life as a woman in the second half of the twentieth century. Simply riveting.


 

A trio of great new releases from W.W. Norton & Company

Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories ($19.95, on sale now)is a mesmerizing interpretation of fourteen iconic Kafka stories. Long fascinated with the work of Franz Kafka, Kuper began illustrating his stories in 1988. Initially drawn to the master’s dark humor, Kuper adapted the stories over the years to plumb their deeper truths. His style deliberately evokes Lynd Ward and Frans Masereel, contemporaries of Kafka whose wordless novels captured much of the same claustrophobia and mania as Kafka’s tales.

Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories

Kuper has reimagined these iconic stories for the twenty-first century, using setting and perspective to comment on contemporary issues like civil rights and homelessness. Longtime lovers of Kafka will appreciate Kuper’s innovative interpretations, while Kafka novices will discover a haunting introduction to some of the great writer’s most beguiling stories, including “A Hunger Artist,” “In The Penal Colony,” and “The Burrow.” Kafkaesque stands somewhere between adaptation and wholly original creation, going beyond a simple illustration of Kafka’s words to become a stunning work of art.


In End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World’s Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals ($35, on sale November 13) paleomammologistRoss D.E. MacPhee a look into the fascinating lives and puzzling demise of some of the largest animals on earth. Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller roamed the earth. These great beasts, or “megafauna,” lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone. What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths?

End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals

MacPhee explores that question, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to explain critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses. Gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten bring these megabeasts back to life in vivid detail.


Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley($26.95, on sale November 13) is an intimate, eye-opening portrait of San Francisco transformed by the tech boom that asks: Can a city lose its soul? The tech boom of our time is changing San Francisco at warp speed. Famously home to artists and activists, and known as the birthplace of the Beats, the Black Panthers and the LGBTQ movement, the Bay Area has been transformed by Silicon Valley. But the richer the region gets, the more unequal and less diverse it becomes, and the cracks in the city’s facade begin to show. Writer and filmmaker Cary McClelland has spent several years interviewing people at the epicenter of the Bay Area’s rapid change: tech innovators, venture capitalists, coders, homeless advocates, pawn brokers, prosecutors and public defenders, tattoo artists, and tour guides.
Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley
Silicon City masterfully weaves together their voices and unforgettable stories to create a dynamic portrait of a beloved city and a cautionary tale for the entire country.

Want to know a secret? here’s a look at some new books for a new year, from W.W. Norton

Whenever we hear great news, we like to share it. Here, a sampling of the must-read, must-read titles coming from W.W. Norton next year. Why are are telling you so early? So you have save the bucks given to you throughout the holidays and then cash in on them! You’re welcome.

Bluff City: The Secret Life of Photographer Ernest Withers
By Preston Lauterbach (on sale January 15, 2019)
The little-known story of an iconic photographer, Ernest Withers, whose work captured and influenced a critical moment in American history.

book cover

 From his position at the heart of the cultural revolution, Withers took some of the most legendary images of the ’50s and 60s: Martin Luther King Jr. riding a newly integrated bus in Montgomery, Alabama; Emmett Till’s uncle pointing an accusatory finger across the courtroom at his nephew’s killer. From Black Power meetings to raucous Memphis nightclubs where Elvis brushed shoulders with B.B. King, Withers was simultaneously gathering information for the FBI. In this gripping narrative history, Preston Lauterbach examines the complicated political and economic forces that supported Withers’ seeming betrayal of those he witnessed.

Team Human
By Douglas Rushkoff (on sale January 22, 2019)
Our technologies, markets, and institutions often contain an anti-human agenda. Douglas Rushkoff, digital theorist and host of the Team Human podcast, reveals how forces for human connection have turned into ones of isolation and repression: robots taking our jobs, algorithms directing our attention, and social media undermining our democracy.
book cover

But all is not lost. It’s time for Team Human to take a stand, regenerate the social bonds that define us and, together, make a positive impact on this earth.

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery
By Christie Aschwanden (on sale February 5, 2019)
An eye-opening, myth-busting exploration of how the human body can best recover and adapt to sports and fitness training.

book cover

In Good to Go, acclaimed FiveThirtyEight science writer Christie Aschwanden takes readers on an entertaining and enlightening tour through the pseudoscience behind the latest sports recovery trends, products and services, providing answers to the fundamental question: Do any of them actually help the body recover and achieve peak performance?

Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir
By Jessica Hindman (on sale February 12, 2019)
When aspiring violinist Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman lands a job with a professional ensemble, it is a lifelong dream come true. But the ensemble proves to be a sham—when the group “performs,” the microphones are never on. Instead, the music blares from a CD that sounds suspiciously like the Titanic soundtrack.

book cover

With vulnerability, humor, and sharp insight into ambition and gender, Hindman tells a surreal coming-of-age story that perfectly articulates the anxieties and illusions of her generation. As Sounds Like Titanic swells to a crescendo, it gives voice to the failed promises of a nation that takes comfort in false realities.

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen
By Mary Norris (on sale April 2, 2019)
The beloved Comma Queen returns with a buoyant and charming book about language, love, and the wine-dark sea. In Greek to Me, Mary Norris delivers another wise and witty paean to the art of expressing oneself clearly and convincingly, this time filtered through her greatest passion: all things Greek.

book cover

 Filled with Norris’s memorable encounters with Greek words, Greek gods, Greek wine—and more than a few Greek waiters—Greek to Me is the Comma Queen’s fresh take on Greece and the exotic yet strangely familiar language that so deeply influences our own.

Provocative and compelling, “Kafka’s Last Trial” is a riveting read, a brilliant meditation on cultural ownership and national identity

When Franz Kafka died from tuberculosis at 40 in 1924, he left one last instruction to his closest friend and confidant, the celebrated author Max Brod: Burn [my] remaining manuscripts, diaries, and letters unread.

Brod did not follow the request.

Instead of destroying Kafka’s manuscripts, Brod devoted the rest of his life to canonizing Kafka as the most prescient writer of the twentieth century.

In Kafka Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy (W. W. Norton & Company, $26.95 hardcover) Benjamin Balint, one of our most perceptive and engaging scholars of Jewish literature, tells the tale of the fate of Kafka’s works—from Max Brod’s harrowing escape to Palestine with the manuscripts as Nazi invaders closed in  on Czechoslovakia in 1939, to a gripping account of the contentious international legal battle over the ownership of Kafka’s oeuvre, which reached its climax in Israel’s high court in 2016.

In addition to the gripping legal drama, the book doubles as a first-rate biography of both Kafka and Brod. Balint details the course of their heady friendship, marked by Kafka’s introversion and self-scrutiny and Brod’s exuberance. Brod was a critic, novelist, translator, and a seminal figure in the group of intellectuals known in the early years of the twentieth century as the “Prague Circle,” and Balint illuminates how the literary debates and disputes in taste between Kafka and Brod animated much of Kafka’s own writing. Despite the lackluster reception of Kafka’s early works, Brod worshipped Kafka and was the first to recognize his literary genius. This recognition led Brod to betray his friend’s dying wish and preserve for the world such foundational works of literary modernism at The Castle, The Trial, Kafka’s diaries, and the harrowing Letter to His Father.

With compassion, wit, and erudition, Balint unpacks the complicated trial—dense with dilemmas legal, ethical and political, and filled with surreal ironies worthy of the term “Kafkaesque.” The case pitted three powers in the struggle for the legacy: the National Library
of Israel, which asserted that Kafka’s work belonged in the Jewish homeland; the deep-pocketed German Literature Archive in Marbach, which had been negotiating to purchase the estate of
Max Brod—and therefore the materials left behind by Kafka; and the elusive Eva Hoffe, who had inherited Kafka’s estate from her mother, Esther Hoffe, Brod’s secretary and erstwhile
lover. When the dust of the case settled, only one of these parties would be granted the literary legacy of this cryptic genius.
Balint also reveals Kafka as a man inhabiting a borderland between cultures—steeped in German literature and culture, but also fascinated by Zionism, by the Hebrew language, and by Yiddish theatre. Balint situates Kafka’s life and cultural heritage within the larger strains of the cultural diaspora, revealing the motives behind Israel’s insistence on laying claim to Kafka’s manuscripts.

Provocative and compelling, Kafka’s Last Trial is the definitive account of this captivating and tortuous case, as well as a brilliant meditation on cultural ownership and national identity.

Richard Munson’s “Tesla” asks: Did Tesla’s eccentricities eclipsed his genius?

It’s a shame many still don’t know his name. Or his genius.
Nikola Tesla invented the radio, the induction motor, the neon lamp, and the remote control. His scientific discoveries made possible X-ray technology, wireless communications, and radar, and he predicted the Internet and even the smart watch. Today, he is hailed as a visionary by the likes of Elon Musk (whose electronic cars bear his name) and Larry Page, the founder of Google. His image appears on stamps, the Encyclopedia Brittanica ranks him as one of the ten most interesting historical figures, and Life magazine lists him as one of the one hundred most famous people of the last millennium. And yet, his contemporaries and fellow inventors Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi achieved far greater commercial success and popular recognition.

In Tesla: Inventor of the Modern (W. W. Norton & Company, $26.95), Richard Munson asks whether Tesla’s eccentricities eclipsed his genius. Ultimately, he delivers an enthralling biography that illuminates every facet of Tesla’s life while justifying his stature as the most original inventor of the late nineteenth century.

Born at midnight during a lightning storm, between “today and tomorrow,” as Munson writes, Tesla’s unusual entry into the world foreshadowed a life in flux. He was raised a Serb in what is now Croatia by a religious father and a mother who encouraged his early scientific investigations. Though he never married and often craved isolation, he could be a master showman, entertaining crowds by exposing himself to thousands of volts of electricity. He enjoyed lavish living—he dressed impeccably and lived for years at the Waldorf Astoria—but died penniless after letting a series of promising business opportunities slip away. His alternating-current system formed the basis of the electric grid and long-distance electrical transmission, and yet he spent his later years feeding the pigeons in Bryant Park, speculating about communication with other planets, and maintaining an unusual exercise regimen (including toe-wiggling exercises) that he claimed sustained his health. He was alternately praised as a “man ahead of his time” and labeled an eccentric unable to draw practical application from his prophecies.

In this authoritative and highly readable biography, Munson explores the paradoxes that defined this underappreciated genius, as well as the relationships that altered the course of his life. Drawing on colorful accounts of his lectures and demonstrations, Munson brings to vivid life the “War of the Currents,” during which Tesla and Edison publicly debated the merits of direct and alternating currents. Compelling excerpts from Tesla’s correspondence with George Westinghouse reveal the complexities of this partnership—Westinghouse brought Tesla’s polyphase system to the world, but the company’s struggle to survive a culture of robber barons and monopolies led Tesla to sacrifice lucrative royalty payments. An examination of Tesla’s friendship with Robert and Katharine Johnson reveals the inventor’s human side, as does an account of his acquaintance with Mark Twain.

Image result for tesla inventor

In these and other relationships both personal and professional, Tesla alternately amazed and infuriated his admirers, often letting ego and stubbornness get in the way of business deals that might have converted his visions into reality and commercial success. But, as Munson argues, even his failures in business and public relations can’t obscure the fact that he “made at least five outstanding scientific discoveries . . . that others ‘rediscovered’ up to forty years later and for which they then won Nobel Prizes.” He was a “poet and visionary,” from whom we can still learn today, an out-of-the-box thinker whose regard for innovation over money speaks to our current need for clean energy solutions.

While others, most notably Edison, produced more recognizable products, Tesla’s discoveries power our modern economy, even if those of us benefiting from them understand little of his contribution. In Tesla, Richard Munson grants the inventor the recognition he deserves for both his practical achievements and prophetic visions, skillfully placing him within the context of his time while acknowledging the many ways in which he lived outside of time, ultimately ushering in a future that others could not yet see.

Chuck Palahniuk’s “Adjustment Day” tells the story of a U.S on the brink of chaos

For more than two decades, Chuck Palahniuk has been holding up a dark mirror so that we might view ourselves—all too often leading us to wonder, is the darkness within the mirror or within our own psyches? Palahniuk’s works have been hailed as “astonishing,” “diabolical,” “powerful,” “important.” His reality-bending tales have sparked debate and stirred controversy.

Now, Palahniuk has returned home to the publisher that launched his career 22 years ago with Fight Club. W. W. Norton & Co. has released Adjustment Day ($26.95), a book that does for the current apocalyptic zeitgeist what Fight Club did for ’90scorporate unease. Indeed, Palahniuk has said: “Adjustment Day is to Fight Club what Atlas Shrugged is to The Fountainhead—a bigger package of bold characters and norm-bashing ideas.”

In this devastating and comic novel of rebellion, he looks at the heart of America and finds it frightening. Palahniuk has never pulled his punches. Here is a book designed to challenge, to provoke, to enrage—everyone. Adjustment Day tells the story of a United States on the brink of chaos—a simmering cauldron, ready to boil over.

The book calls to mind a politicized Hieronymus Bosch panel, wherein the disaffected citizens of a lost world prepare to take control—or blow everything up trying. And the directives for these widespread acts of malice and assassination all seem to be coming from a single source: a mysterious blue-black book with a gold-embossed cover.  A book that brands the carrier as a hero.  A volume found in no library, and which can be purchased in no bookshop.  A book that men carry “every day, everywhere, as they’d carry a flag into battle.”

 

The road to all things Broadway can be found in architect Fran Leadon’s “Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles”

They say the neon light are bright on Broadway. But Manhattan’s “Broadway” is much more than flashing marquees and glitzy shops. It is a 13-mile street stretch that runs from State Street at Bowling Green through the borough of Manhattan. (There’s 2 miles through the Bronx, exiting north from the city to run an additional 18 miles through the municipalities of Yonkers, Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and Tarrytown, and terminating north of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.
Broadway is the oldest north–south main thoroughfare in New York City, dating to the first New Amsterdam settlement, although most of it did not bear its current name until the late 19th century. The name Broadway is the English language literal translation of the Dutch name, Brede weg.

The road to all things Broadway can be found in architect Fran Leadon’s Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles (W.W. Norton, $35).

Broadway takes us on a mile-by-mile journey that traces the gradual evolution of the 17th-century’s Brede Weg, a muddy cow path in a backwater Dutch settlement, to the 20th-century’s Great White Way. We learn why one side of the street was once considered more fashionable than the other. We witness construction of the Ansonia Apartments, Trinity Church, and the Flatiron Building and the burning of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. We discover that Columbia University was built on the site of an insane asylum.
Library of Congress
Our fave Broadway site: the Flatiron Building, way back when
Along the way we meet Alexander Hamilton; Edgar Allen Poe; John James Audubon; Emma Goldman; “Bill the Butcher” Poole; “Texas” Guinan, and the assorted real estate speculators, impresarios, and politicians who helped turn Broadway into a living paradigm of American progress, at its best and worst. With maps and more than 75 black-and-white photos throughout, Broadway tells the vivid story of what is arguably the world most famous thoroughfare.

Professional chef Cameron Stauch explores the clever ways that Vietnamese cooks transform imitation meats into exquisite, uniquely delicious dishes

We are happy to serve up some exciting news about a cookbook that W.W. Norton releases on March 13. This is no ordinary cookbook:  The dishes in Vegetarian Việt Nam ($35) make use of the full arsenal of Vietnamese herbs and sauces to make tofu, mushrooms, and vegetables burst with flavor like never before.

In the years he spent living and cooking in Vietnam, professional chef Cameron Stauch learned about a tradition of vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine that is light and full of flavor. He dishes out an essential introduction to meatless Vietnamese cooking; the nearly 100 recipes  have been  devised over centuries by Mahayana Buddhist monks.

Featuring practical and sophisticated recipes, Staunch explores the clever ways that Vietnamese cooks transform imitation meats into exquisite, uniquely delicious dishes such as Lemongrass Chile “Chicken” Strips Stir-Fry, Turmeric Tofu Wrapped in Wild Pepper Leaves, Sweetened Sticky Rice with Shredded Coconut, Green Mango Rice Paper Ribbons, and Soy Ginger Glazed Eggplant. Seconds anyone?

In these versatile and wide-ranging recipes, Staunch teaches the home cook how to use annatto seed oil, toasted rice powder, tamarind liquid, and nutty mushroom pâté, among other Vietnamese pantry essentials, to produce the spicy, tangy, crunchy and sweet dishes that will have readers wondering how they ever lived without vegetarian Vietnamese meals

Cameron cooks banh xeo pancakes for lunch.

With a lavishly illustrated glossary that helps you recognize the mushrooms, noodles, fruits, and vegetables that make up the vegetarian Vietnamese pantry, Vegetarian Việt Nam will unlock an entire universe of flavor to people who want healthy, tasty, and sustainable food.