Thursday, May 11, 2006

Medicis, Oppenheimer, Alien Lizard Star in Latest Paperbacks

Medicis, Oppenheimer, Alien Lizard Star in Latest Paperbacks

(The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Bloomberg.)

By Edward Nawotka

May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Lorenzo de Medici, physicist Richard Feynman, actor Eli Wallach and a talking alien lizard are just some of the characters featured in the latest paperback releases.


``American Mania: When More Is Not Enough'' by Peter Whybrow (Norton): Psychiatrist Whybrow suggests that our brain chemistry and natural risk-and-reward system may prevent many of us from taking satisfaction in our extreme affluence.

``The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage'' by Eli Wallach (Harcourt): This memoir by a first-class raconteur collects Hollywood stories from his 50-year career, starting with the Actors Studio and ranging through roles from ``The Magnificent Seven'' to ``Mystic River.''

``The Silicon Eye: Microchip Swashbucklers and the Future of High-Tech Innovation'' by George Gilder (Norton): The story of Foveon, a maker of chips for digital cameras, as it fights to gain a share of the $2 billion market with a new product.

``American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer'' by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin (Vintage): This year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography is a magisterial portrait of the physicist who built the atom bomb and struggled with the consequences for the rest of his life.

``Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard Feynman'' edited by Michelle Feynman (Basic Books): The late bongo-playing physicist who solved the riddle of why the Challenger shuttle exploded displays wit, smarts and charm in these letters selected by his daughter.

``Faith at War: A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, From Baghdad to Timbuktu'' by Yaroslav Trofimov (Picador): A Wall Street Journal reporter describes his three-year, post-9/11 journey crisscrossing of the Muslim world, with its array of Islamic cultures and much open hostility to the U.S.

``Embroideries'' by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon): The third graphic novel from the Iranian emigre reveals the surprising sex lives of Iranian women in simple yet provocative black-and-white drawings.

``Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth- Century Florence'' by Tim Parks (Norton): Parks, best known for his novels set in Italy, shows how Cosimo and Lorenzo ``The Magnificent'' de Medici built a fortune while trying to avoid arrest by the Catholic Church for usury.

``The Decline of the West'' by Oswald Spengler (Vintage): This reprint abridges Spengler's original edition, first published in Germany in 1918, of his influential survey of world history, among the first books to suggest that civilizations rise and fall in cycles.

``Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man's Search for the West'' by W.K. Stratton (Harcourt): This vivid memoir of the author's search of his ``rodeo bum'' father takes Stratton to tiny cow towns across the West and along a sports circuit pungent with leather, dung and adrenaline.

``Oh the Glory of It All'' by Sean Wilsey (Penguin): The son of a San Francisco butter magnate and a gossip columnist serves up this portrait of the artist as a young, rich misfit, from skateboarding punk to reform-school reject.

``De Kooning: An American Master'' by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (Knopf): The authors won a Pulitzer for this page- turning biography of the Dutch-born painter who pioneered abstract expressionism.

``Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit'' by Ryan Nerz (St. Martin's Griffin): Nerz documents the year he spent gorging on everything from Nathan's hot dogs to matzo balls as a competitor in the most revolting sport on the planet.

``Nature Noir: A Park Ranger's Patrol in the Sierra'' by Jordan Fisher Smith (Mariner): Smith takes the romance out of the forest idyll in relating his 14 years working a 48-mile stretch of Sierra Nevada river canyons frequented by as many dope fiends and armed miners as bird watchers and campers.

``Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite'' by Paul Arden (Portfolio): Arden, a former creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, offers this sequel to his best-selling ``It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be'' -- more visual jokes, aphorisms and self-help platitudes meant to provoke lateral thinking.


``A Long Way Down'' by Nick Hornby (Riverhead): Hip British author Hornby returned after his lighthearted hits ``High Fidelity'' and ``How to Be Good'' with a novel about four Londoners who accidentally meet on New Year's Eve when all four plan to commit suicide by jumping off the same building.

``Acts of Faith'' by Philip Caputo (Vintage): The author of ``A Rumor of War'' sets his new novel amid the aid workers, missionaries and mercenaries involved in the ongoing war in the Sudan, where an American pilot changes from flying food to smuggling arms and an evangelical Christian falls in love with a rebel leader.

``The Ha-Ha'' by Dave King (Back Bay): The story of how brain-damaged Vietnam vet Howard Kapostash, who hasn't spoken in the 30 years since the war, finds his voice when his ex- girlfriend Sylvia, heading into rehab, dumps her 9-year-old son on him.

``The Club Dumas'' by Arturo Perez-Reverte (Harcourt): Demonology and swashbuckling action are part of this intricate, international bestseller about a 19th-century bibliophile- detective.

``The History of Love'' by Nicole Krauss (Norton): One of the finest novels of last year, this tells of the intersecting lives of octogenarian locksmith Leo Gursky as he tries to stave off loneliness in his dotage and 14-year-old Alma Singer, who reminds him that love lasts.

``Specimen Days'' by Michael Cunningham (Picador): The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ``The Hours'' returned with three interconnected novellas that track a man, a woman and a boy across three centuries of New York history and on into the future, where one morphs into a talking alien lizard.

``Haunted'' by Chuck Palahniuk (Anchor): This collection of 23 horror stories by the author of ``Fight Club'' and other perverse novels of adolescent fantasy is often so sick and twisted that some listeners passed out when he read them on his book tour.

``Indecision'' by Benjamin Kunkel (Random House): The much- hyped debut novel stars Dwight B. Wilmerding, a 28-year-old with a crummy job at Pfizer and an anemic love life. His malaise prompts him to use some of his employer's products and leads him into drugs and self-discovery in Ecuador.

``Trance'' by Christopher Sorrentino (Picador): This experimental novel, a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award, fictionalizes the day-to-day lives of members of the 1972 Symbionese Liberation Army as they shoplift socks, fret over sunglasses, and abduct and assimilate Patty Hearst.

``The Third Brother'' by Nick McDonell (Grove): A thriller about a Columbia University student working in Hong Kong who is sent to Bangkok to write about drug tourism and hunt down a missing journalist. The trail brings him back to New York just as it is engulfed in the horror of 9/11.

``Visigoth'' by Gary Amdahl (Milkweed): A gritty collection of eight short stories, set mostly in Minnesota and Alaska, about modern men -- middle managers, politicians, athletes and bad husbands -- who covet power, sex and success and aren't afraid to use violence to get it.