Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Google's Rivals, Rushdie's Clown, Dowd, Vlad: New Paperbacks

Google's Rivals, Rushdie's Clown, Dowd, Vlad: New Paperbacks

By Edward Nawotka

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Vlad the Impaler is still alive and sucking in Elizabeth Kostova's novel ``The Historian,'' one of October's paperback releases.

Also this month: books on porn, Google, Teddy Roosevelt.

In ``Shalimar the Clown'' (Random House), Salman Rushdie explores the origins and mind-set of a Muslim assassin. Rushdie, who himself remains under a fatwa, argues that terrorism originates not with religion and politics but with personal grudges. The story in this impassioned novel centers on a Jewish U.S. diplomat slain by a Kashmiri Muslim. The novelist, whose recent work has slipped of late, benefits from the return to the subcontinental settings of his powerful early novels ``Midnight's Children'' and ``Shame'' and portrays the mountainous region of Kashmir as a lost Eden corrupted by its collision with modernity.

``The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture'' by John Battelle (Portfolio). Google has a huge slab of the market in finding out what the world wants and so an edge in leveraging that knowledge into real dollars and cents, argues this highly regarded Silicon Valley journalist.

``Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide'' by Maureen Dowd (Berkley). The New York Times columnist offers her gloss on the age-old question of boys-versus-girls and applies a provocative smear of high-heeled, lipsticked pragmatism to the face of 21st- century feminism.

``The Historian'' by Elizabeth Kostova (Back Bay). A fat page turner in which an American living in Europe is led on a dangerous quest across Europe to find evidence that the 15th- century villain Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, is still alive.

``The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy'' by Charles Morris (Owl). A hagiographical portrait of the four men who embodied the Gilded Age and amassed vast fortunes in oil, gold and steel in the years following the Civil War.

``The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey'' by Candice Millard (Broadway). Millard, a former National Geographic editor, recounts the 1914 exploration of a remote section of the Amazon River in Brazil where the plump ex- president was tracked by cannibals, contracted malaria and nearly died.

``Mission to America'' by Walter Kirn (Anchor). A young member of a dwindling matriarchal cult in Montana is sent forth to locate and convert a mate and finds himself irreversibly transformed by the uninhibited sexuality, self-obsession and vapidity he encounters in a Colorado resort town.

``Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy'' by Moises Naim (Anchor). The editor of Foreign Policy looks at a side effect of globalization: the booming underground trade in drugs, weapons, laundered money, counterfeit goods and human beings.

``How to Make Money Like a Porn Star'' by Neil Strauss and Bernard Chang (Regan Books). The author of porn star Jenna Jameson's biography ``How to Make Love Like a Porn Star'' depicts the behind-the-scenes reality of the skin-flick industry in this unnerving graphic novel, equal parts titillation and morality tale.

``Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife'' by Mary Roach (Norton). A frequently funny chronicle of Roach's encounters with researchers looking for evidence that life continues beyond the grave, including a man trying to weigh the consciousness of a leech.

(Edward Nawotka is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Woodward Gets Bush, Plus Weill, Fiorina, Mellon: New Nonfiction

By Edward Nawotka

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- October's new nonfiction brings John Grisham's first venture outside the fictional world (the story of a man wrongly sent to death row) and Bob Woodward's third look at the Bush White House. Former Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill serves up his life's story and Lou Dobbs mulls the American dream.

``State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III'' by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster) is the month's big ``Iraq is a mess'' book, one of a growing list. The Washington Post writer's first two chronicles of the Bush White House were too soft on the president, depicting Bush mainly as a resolute leader and the White House as a cohesive unit. Time moves on. Many bodies later, and many billions too, the ace reporter comes up with evidence that Bush and his advisers, particularly Donald Rumsfeld, are stubborn and arrogant and deaf to dissent.

``The Real Deal: My Life in Business'' by Sandy Weill (Warner). The ex-Citigroup boss recounts how he rose from the streets of Depression-era Brooklyn and parlayed a job as a $35-a- week runner for Bear Stearns into a seat atop one of the biggest financial institutions in the world.

``The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game'' by Michael Lewis (Norton). Lewis does for football what he did for baseball in his bestselling ``Moneyball,'' showing how a variety of less-than- obvious factors, from evolving defensive strategies to conditioning, can affect a player's career and the outcome on the gridiron.

``Tough Choices: A Memoir'' by Carly Fiorina (Portfolio). The ousted chairwoman and chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, who oversaw the company's merger with Compaq, delivers a tell-all on her troubled six-year tenure and offers words of wisdom for women executives. Maybe she feels less troubled given the current H-P turmoil.

``War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back'' by Lou Dobbs (Viking). The CNN newscaster has been using his anchor's desk as a bully pulpit to rant against corporate outsourcing, illegal immigration and the federal deficit, the sum of which he claims amounts to ``class war'' on middle-class America.

``Thunderstruck'' by Erik Larson (Crown). Learn how in 1910 Dr. H.H. Crippen poisoned and skinned his wife, then fled England with his mistress on a cruise ship to North America. The authorities pursued in a transatlantic chase that featured shipboard reports sent via Guglielmo Marconi's new wireless telegraph. Larson's ``Devil in the White City'' has sold more than a million copies, so expect the new one to be piled high in stores.

``The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town'' by John Grisham (Doubleday). A cautionary tale about a mentally ill former minor-league baseball player sent to death row for the rape and murder of an Oklahoma cocktail waitress in 1981 -- and eventually exonerated by DNA evidence.

``Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor'' by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh (Harvard University Press). A sociologist ventures into a poor black neighborhood on Chicago's South Side and finds a world where nearly everyone, from clergy to prostitutes, relies on unregulated, unreported and untaxed work to survive.

``Mellon: An American Life'' by David Cannadine (Knopf). A huge biography (800 pages) of the legendary financier, politician and philanthropist Andrew Mellon, who served as secretary of the treasury under presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, was blamed for the Depression, and founded the National Gallery of Art.

``Andrew Carnegie'' by David Nasaw (Penguin Press). Another masterly and long (896 pages) biography of a controversial Gilded Age titan: the Scotsman Carnegie, who evolved from a cotton- factory bobbin boy into a ruthless steel magnate and the world's richest man.

``Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession with Cosmetic Surgery'' by Alex Kuczynski (Doubleday). Entertaining, sobering survey taking in everything from South African ``surgery safaris'' to ``foot face lifts'' -- by a New York Times reporter who says she has had a few things done herself.

``The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir'' by Bill Bryson (Broadway). The author of ``A Short History of Nearly Everything'' is nostalgic and sarcastic about his all-American 1950s Iowa childhood as he depicts an ennui lurking beneath the surface of that seemingly happy-go-lucky era.

``The Architecture of Happiness'' by Alain de Botton (Pantheon). The English polymath and author of ``How Proust Can Change Your Life'' returns with another breezy, brainy philosophical meditation, this time describing how public and private architecture influence emotion.

``Heist: Superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, His Republican Allies, and the Buying of Washington'' by Peter Stone (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). How the lobbyist in the black fedora went about peddling power, allegedly bilking four Indian tribes of tens of millions of dollars and schmoozing with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

``Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell'' by Karen DeYoung (Knopf). The retired general and former secretary of state sat for six interviews with DeYoung in which he explained how his military career shaped him, why he declined to run for president and his strained term at the White House.

``The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream'' by Barack Obama (Crown). The junior senator from Illinois, who is being touted as the future of the Democratic Party, delivers his first political manifesto, just in time for the midterm elections.

``Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York'' by Adam Gopnik (Knopf). The Francophile New Yorker magazine writer's charming sequel to his memoir ``Paris to the Moon'' follows the Gopnik clan as it relocates to New York, and the author describes the wonders and challenges of being a parent and child in the big, magical city.

``Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer'' by Maureen Ogle (Harcourt). A history of America's favorite ballpark libation, from the heady years of early European immigration through World War I and the anti-German sentiment that declared ``the worst of all our German enemies are Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, and Miller,'' to the advent of ``lite'' beer and microbrews.

``Violin Dreams'' by Arnold Steinhardt (Houghton Mifflin). A memoir by the Guarneri String Quartet's first violinist, in which he recounts that he hated to practice but was slowly consumed by a passion to master the music, in particular the difficult violin solos of Bach. (Includes a CD of Steinhardt performing.)

(Edward Nawotka is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

`Cold Mountain' Frazier Returns; King, Ford, Eggers: New Novels

`Cold Mountain' Frazier Returns; King, Ford, Eggers: New Novels

By Edward Nawotka

Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Nine years after the blockbuster Civil War story ``Cold Mountain,'' Charles Frazier returns with ``Thirteen Moons'' (Random House), which again features a man searching for his long lost love, this time a squaw he won in a card game. The ponderous white-person-meets-red-person tale depicts a man mulling his role in the fate of the Cherokee as they oppose the belligerent Andrew Jackson and America's greedy western expansion.

October is crammed with big name authors from Dave Eggers to Stephen King.

``The Lay of the Land'' by Richard Ford (Knopf). The third novel featuring real-estate agent Frank Bascombe (the first was ``The Sportswriter,'' the second the Pulitzer Prize-winning ``Independence Day'') finds Frank, now 55, remarried, battling prostate cancer and hosting a bittersweet Thanksgiving dinner as the disputed 2000 presidential election rages in the background.

``Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette'' by Sena Jeter Naslund (Morrow). The author of the well-received ``Ahab's Wife'' creates a lush fictionalization of the life of the notorious French queen, the court of Louis XVI and the machine that made their crowns superfluous, the guillotine.

``What Is the What'' by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's). Eggers's novel, based on the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, depicts the perilous 1,000-mile trek across East Africa of one of Sudan's ``lost boys,'' driven from his home and confronting starvation, violent militants and wild animals before finding sanctuary in the U.S.

``The Echo Maker'' by Richard Powers (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The difficult, often brilliant author of ``The Time of Our Singing'' weaves a mystery with the story of Nebraskan Mark Schluter, who wakes up from a coma confused about the identity of his loved ones. An anonymous note sends him on a quest to find the truth behind the strange auto accident that put him in the coma.

``Restless'' by William Boyd (Bloomsbury). In this atmospheric espionage-meets-domesticity tale from the author of ``Any Human Heart,'' a frustrated Oxford academic's mother reveals she's a former World War II spy and recruits her daughter to help settle an old score.

``The Light of Evening'' by Edna O'Brien (Houghton Mifflin). A fraught reunion between 78-year-old Dilly, dying in a Dublin hospital and reminiscing over her youth as an immigrant in 1920s New York, and her estranged daughter Eleanora, a controversial novelist living in England, sets up the fiery Irish novelist's meditation on mother/daughter relationships.

``The Uses of Enchantment'' by Heidi Julavits (Doubleday). The year is 1985 and 16-year-old Mary Veal vanishes from her New England prep school only to return a month later claiming she was abducted and abused. The aftermath leads to trouble and soul searching in this captivating third novel by the editor of the literary magazine the Believer.

``Lisey's Story'' by Stephen King (Scribner). A revealing tale that depicts the trials of a writer's widow who ventures to the source of her dead husband's inspiration for his award- winning novels, a bizarre place called Boo'ya Moon, where the real and the imagined commingle.

``One Good Turn'' by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown). Atkinson's ingenious new comedy-thriller brings back ex-cop and millionaire Jackson Brodie, first seen in the author's ``Case Histories,'' who is plunged into the lives of a motley crew of Edinburgh denizens -- including a crime novelist and a Russian dominatrix -- and deep into the city's underbelly during its Fringe Festival.

``Black Girl/White Girl'' by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco). In 1975 Minette Swift, a black student at a seemingly tolerant Pennsylvania liberal arts college, dies after a series of racist incidents. Her roommate Genna, the white daughter of a hippie mother and activist father, reconstructs the events.

``Rescue Missions'' by Frederick Busch (Norton). A powerful, final collection of short stories from the late, esteemed author of more than two dozen books, including 1999's memorable ``The Night Inspector,'' spans territory from the war in Iraq to Upstate New York.

``Farewell Summer'' by Ray Bradbury (Morrow). A slender sequel to Bradbury's beloved 1957 young-adult novel ``Dandelion Wine'' revisits Doug and Tom in Green Town, Illinois, in 1928, and finds the boys feuding with the town's old men, believing if they win they will never grow old.

``The End: Book the Thirteenth -- A Series of Unfortunate Events'' by Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins). A secret is revealed in this final volume of the wildly popular children's book series starring the three Baudelaire orphans and their nemesis, Count Olaf.

``The Collectors'' by David Baldacci (Warner). Top thriller writer Baldacci reconvenes his ``Camel Club'' of quirky conspiracy buffs, first seen in the 2005 novel of the same name, to investigate the sudden deaths of the speaker of the House and a scholar in the Library of Congress. The trail leads through Atlantic City to a rogue CIA assassin.

(Edward Nawotka is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Edward Nawotka at ink@edwardn.com .
Last Updated: October 2, 2006 10:11 EDT