Local Lit: This Year’s Authors

30 Nov, 2011

By Melina Maresca


Read them if you haven’t already; buy them as gifts for the holidays, and help support local authors.  Books are listed in alphabetical order by author and descriptions are from the publishers.


FICTION


Neil Abramson, South Salem resident:


Unsaid (Center Street, 2011)


As a veterinarian, Helena had mercifully escorted thousands of animals to the other side. Now, having died herself, she finds that it is not so easy to move on. Meanwhile, David, her shattered attorney husband, struggles with grief and the demands of caring for her houseful of damaged and beloved animals. But it is her absence from her last project, Cindy-a chimpanzee who may unlock the mystery of communication and consciousness- that will have the greatest impact on all of them . . .  In the explosive courtroom drama that follows, all the threads of Helena’s life entwine and tear as Helena and David confront their mistakes, grief, and loss, and discover the only way to save Cindy is to understand what it really means to be human.


Praise for Unsaid:


“An extraordinary story of animals, mortality, and the power of love. Everyone needs to read this novel!” — Garth Stein, author of the international bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain


 


Don DeLillo, Broxville resident:


The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories (Simon & Schuster 2011)


From one of the greatest writers of our time, his first collection of short stories, written between 1979 and 2011, chronicling—and foretelling—three decades of American life.  Set in Greece, the Caribbean, Manhattan, a white-collar prison and outer space, these nine stories are a mesmerizing introduction to Don DeLillo’s iconic voice, from the rich, startling, jazz-infused rhythms of his early work to the spare, distilled, monastic language of the later stories . . .These nine stories describe an extraordinary journey of one great writer whose prescience about world events and ear for American language changed the literary landscape.


Praise for The Angel Esmeralda:


Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: Don DeLillo, a master of using exactly as many words as he needs to paint the sharpest possible picture, has published his first story collection . . . . DeLillo’s short fiction is a series of pointillist landscapes; entire worlds spring from the section of the canvas he chooses to frame for us. Lean in and pay attention–every glimpse counts. —Mia Lipman, amazon.com


 


Andrew Gross, Purchase resident


Eyes Wide Open (William Morrow, 2011)


New York Times bestselling author Andrew Gross solidifies his position as one of today’s very best suspense authors with Eyes Wide Open. Joining his previous bestsellers The Blue Zone, The Dark Tide, Don’t Look Twice, and Reckless, Eyes Wide Open is another brilliant example of the contemporary thriller done absolutely right. In this relentlessly exciting page-turner, a man must investigate a shattering personal tragedy that is somehow connected with a charismatic cult leader from the ‘60s.


Praise for Eyes Wide Open:


“An emotional, frightening study of evil with believable characters and a relentless pace. Readers who wearpacemakers will want to check their batteries before they open the book.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


 


Wendy Corsi Staub, Katonah resident:


Scared to Death (Avon, December 28, 2010)


The phenomenal New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub returns with Scared to Death, a masterwork of spine-tingling suspense that boldly reaffirms her position among Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, and other premier masters of the contemporary thriller.   Even if you have yet to experience the delicious chills of her previous dark masterwork, Live to Tell . . . this pulse-racing story of two mothers who must combat their deepest terrors to protect their endangered children will leave you breathless and…Scared to Death!


Praise for Scared to Death:


Solid Gold Suspense!”—Lee Child


 


NON-FICTION


Deborah Baker, resident of Larchmont:


The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism (A 2011 National Book Award Finalist) (Graywolf Press, 2011)


What drives a young woman raised in a postwar New York City suburb to convert to Islam, abandon her country and Jewish faith, and embrace a life of exile in Pakistan? The Convert tells the story of how Margaret Marcus of Larchmont became Maryam Jameelah of Lahore, one of the most trenchant and celebrated voices of Islam’s argument with the West.  A cache of Maryam’s letters to her parents in the archives of the New York Public Library sends the Pulitzer Prize-finalist biographer Deborah Baker on her own odyssey into the labyrinthine heart of twentieth-century Islam.  Casting a shadow over these letters is the mysterious figure of Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, both Maryam’s adoptive father and the man who laid the intellectual foundations for militant Islam.  Like many compelling and true tales, The Convert is stranger than fiction. It is a gripping account of a life lived on the radical edge and a profound meditation on the cultural conflicts that frustrate mutual understanding.


Praise for The Convert:


“[A] stellar biography that doubles as a mediation on the fraught relationship between America and the Muslim world. . . . [The Convert] is a cogent, thought-provoking look at a radical life and its rippling consequences.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


 


Ralph Branca, Rye resident,


A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace (Scribner 2011) (contributor David Ritz)


Ralph Brance is best known for throwing the pitch that resulted in Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World,” the historic home run that capped an incredible comeback and won the pennant for the New York Giants in 1951. Branca was on the losing end of what many consider to be baseball’s most thrilling moment, but that notoriety belies a profoundly successful life and career.  A Moment in Time details the remarkable story of a man who could have been destroyed by a supreme professional embarrassment—but wasn’t. Branca came up as a young phenom, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers during their heyday . . . . It’s no stretch to say that New York baseball was the center of the sporting universe and that the players were part of the fabric of the neighborhoods, of the city itself. A Moment in Time offers a rare first-person perspective on the golden era of baseball . . . . Ralph Branca sits us down and tells us an entertaining, deeply inspiring, classic baseball tale.


Praise for A Moment in Time:


The essence of a man’s life cannot be captured by any singular event or circumstance. Ralph Branca’s new autobiography A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak and Grace (Scribner, 2011), attempts to quell the notion that his career is summarized by the high-inside fastball he threw to Bobby Thomson on October 3rd, 1951.. . . A Moment In Time represents how even though Branca will forever be linked to that fateful day in the Polo Grounds,  it does not define the totality of his career; however, yet gives him the platform to tell the entire story.” — examiner.com


 


Seth Godin, Hastings resident:


Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (Portfolio Trade, paperback 2011)


In bestsellers such as Purple Cow and Tribes, Seth Godin taught readers how to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. But this book is different. It’s about you – your choices, your future, and your potential to make a huge difference in whatever field you choose.  There used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art . . . And in today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom.


Praise for Linchpin:


“It’s easy to see why people pay to hear what he has to say.” —Time


 


Lucia Greenhouse, Rye resident:


fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science (Crown, 2011)


Lucia Ewing had what looked like an all-American childhood. She lived with her mother, father, sister, and brother in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where they enjoyed private schools, sleep-away camps, a country club membership, and skiing vacations. Surrounded by a tight-knit extended family, and doted upon by her parents, Lucia had no doubt she was loved and cared for. But when it came to accidents and illnesses, Lucia’s parents didn’t take their kids to the doctor’s office–they prayed, and called a Christian Science practitioner.   fathermothergod is Lucia Greenhouse’s story about growing up in Christian Science, in a house where you could not be sick, because you were perfect; where no medicine, even aspirin, was allowed . . . And in December 1985, when Lucia and her siblings, by then young adults, discovered that their mother was sick, they came face-to-face with the reality that they had few–if any–options to save her. Powerless as they watched their mother’s agonizing suffering, Lucia and her siblings struggled with their own grief, anger, and confusion, facing scrutiny from the doctors to whom their parents finally allowed them to turn, and stinging rebuke from relatives who didn’t share their parents’ religious values.  In this haunting, beautifully written book, Lucia pulls back the curtain on the Christian Science faith and chronicles its complicated legacy for her family.


Praise for fathermothergod:


“Through this memoir, readers will see how even those closest to us can remain a mystery.”—Library Journal


 


Marilyn Johnson, Briarcliff Manor resident:


This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians And Cybrarians Can Save Us All (Harper Perennial, paperback 2011)


Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper, disks, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians—they can help!  Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that, in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us—expert and hopelessly baffled alike—can get along without human help. And not just any help: we need librarians, the only ones who can save us from being buried by the digital age. This Book Is Overdue! is a romp through the ranks of information professionals—from the blunt and obscenely funny bloggers to the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI. These are the pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.


Praise for This Book Is Overdue:


“Topical, witty…. Johnson’s wry report is a must-read for anyone who’s used a library in the past quarter century.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


 


James Kaplan, Hastings-on-Husdon resident:


Frank: The Voice (Anchor, paperback 2011)


Frank Sinatra was the best-known entertainer of the twentieth century—infinitely charismatic, lionized and notorious in equal measure. But despite his mammoth fame, Sinatra the man has remained an enigma.  Now James Kaplan brings deeper insight than ever before to the complex psyche and turbulent life behind that incomparable voice, from Sinatra’s humble beginning in Hoboken to his fall from grace and Oscar-winning return in From Here to Eternity. Here at last is the biographer who makes the reader feel what it was really like to be Frank Sinatraas man, as musician, as tortured genius.


Praise for Frank: The Voice:


“A biography that reads like a novel. . . . Kaplan does a nimble, brightly evocative job of tracing the development of Sinatra’s art, and his remarkable rise and fall and rise again.” —Michiko Kakutani, “Top 10 Books of 2010,” The New York Times 


 


Kostya Kennedy, Larchmont resident:


56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports (Sports Illustrated, 2011)


Seventy baseball seasons ago, on a May afternoon at Yankee Stadium, Joe DiMaggio lined a hard single to left field. It was the quiet beginning to the most resonant baseball achievement of all time. Starting that day, the vaunted Yankee center fielder kept on hitting-at least one hit in game after game after game.  In the summer of 1941, as Nazi forces moved relentlessly across Europe and young American men were drafted by the millions, it seemed only a matter of time before the U.S. went to war. The nation was apprehensive. Yet for two months in that tense summer, America was captivated by DiMaggio’s astonishing hitting streak. In 56, Kostya Kennedy tells the remarkable story of how the streak found its way into countless lives, from the Italian kitchens of Newark to the playgrounds of Queens to the San Francisco streets of North Beach; from the Oval Office of FDR to the Upper West Side apartment where Joe’s first wife, Dorothy, the movie starlet, was expecting a child. In this crisp, evocative narrative Joe DiMaggio emerges in a previously unseen light, a 26-year-old on the cusp of becoming an icon. He comes alive-a driven ballplayer, a mercurial star and a conflicted husband-as the tension and the scrutiny upon him build with each passing day.


Praise for 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports:


“56-the number alone still has meaning, but there is a compelling and textured story behind it, a story that pre- and postdates the summer of 1941. Kostya Kennedy tells that story beautifully.” Bob Costas


 


Jeff Pearlman, New Rochelle resident:


Sweetness: The First Definitive Biography of Chicago Bears Superstar Walter Payton (Gotham, 2011)


The first definitive biography of Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton.  At five feet ten inches tall, running back Walter Peyton was not the largest player in the NFL, but he developed a larger-than-life reputation for his strength, speed, and grit. Nicknamed “Sweetness” during his college football days, he became the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards, capturing the hearts of fans in his adopted Chicago.


Crafted from interviews with more than 700 sources, acclaimed sportswriter Jeff Pearlman has produced the first definitive biography of Payton. Sweetness at last brings fans a detailed, scrupulously researched, all-encompassing account of the legend’s rise to greatness. From Payton’s childhood in segregated Mississippi, where he ended a racial war by becoming the star of his integrated high school’s football team, to his college years and his twelve-year NFL career, Sweetness brims with stories of all-American heroism, and covers Payton’s life off the field as well. Set against the backdrop of the tragic illness that cut his life short at just forty- six years of age, this is a stirring tribute to a singular icon and the lasting legacy he made.


Praise for Sweetness:


”Walter Payton’s life was thrilling, complicated, triumphant, and turbulent, and it takes an artful storyteller to present it all properly. Thankfully for Payton–and for us, the readers of this splendid book–there is Jeff Pearlman to provide precisely the perfect touch.” —New York Post


 


Jacques Steinberg, Larchmont resident:


You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon (Viking 2011)


A New York Times bestselling author (and NY Times reporter) takes readers inside the Ironman triathlon. As he did so masterfully in his bestseller, The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg creates a compelling portrait of people obsessed with reaching a life-defining goal. In this instance, the target is an Ironman triathlon-a 2.4-mile open-water swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, then finally a 26-mile marathon run, all of which must be completed in no more than seventeen hours.  Steinberg focuses not on the professionals who live off the prize money and sponsorships but on a handful of triathletes who regard the sport as a hobby. Vividly capturing the grueling preparation, the suspense of completing each event of the triathlon, and the spectacular feats of human endurance, Steinberg plumbs the physical and emotional toll as well as the psychological payoff on the participants of the Ford Ironman Arizona 2009. His You Are an Ironman is both a riveting sports narrative and a fascinating, behind-the scenes study of what makes these athletes keep going.


Praise for You Are an Ironman:


“The athletes are fascinating in their own right, which helps to create an instant bond with readers and should make the book a compelling and inspirational read for obsessive exercisers and couch potatoes alike.” — The Associated Press


 


Priscilla Warner, Larchmont resident:


Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life (Free Press, 2011)


Priscilla Warner has had a great life: a supportive husband, a flourishing marriage, two loving sons, and a bestselling book, The Faith Club. Despite all her good fortune and success, she suffers from anxiety and panic attacks so debilitating that they leave her unable to breathe. She’s tried self-medicating—in high school, with a hidden flask of vodka—and later, with prescription medications—daily doses of Klonopin with a dark-chocolate chaser. After forty years of hyperventilating, and an overwhelming panic attack that’s the ultimate wake-up call, Warner’s mantra becomes “Neurotic, Heal Thyself.” A spirited New Yorker, she sets out to find her inner Tibetan monk by meditating every day, aiming to rewire her brain and her body and mend her frayed nerves. On this winding path from panic to peace, with its hairpin emotional curves and breathtaking drops, she also delves into a wide range of spiritual and alternative health practices, some serious and some . . . not so much.  Written with lively wit and humor, Learning to Breathe is a serious attempt to heal from a painful condition. It’s also a life raft of compassion and hope for people similarly adrift or secretly fearful, as well as an entertaining and inspiring guidebook for anyone facing daily challenges large and small, anyone who is also longing for a sense of peace, self-acceptance, and understanding.


Praise for Learning to Breathe:


“Wise, searching, fearless, and big-hearted, Priscilla Warner’s search for inner peace will resonate with anyone who has ever been anxious or at sea—in other words, all of us. She is a comforting and stabilizing guide through her own life—and ours. This book is a gift.” –Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion, A Memoir


 


Dorothy Wickenden, Pelham resident:


Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West (Scribner, 2011)


Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood attended grade school and Smith College together, spent nine months on a grand tour of Europe in 1910, and then, bored with society luncheons and chaperoned balls and not yet ready for marriage, they went off to teach the children of homesteaders in a remote schoolhouse on the Western Slope of Colorado. They traveled on the new railroad over the Continental Divide and by wagon to Elkhead, a tiny settlement far from the nearest town. Their students came to school from miles away in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string.  Dorothy Woodruff was the grandmother of New Yorker executive editor Dorothy Wickenden. Nearly one hundred years later, Wickenden found the buoyant, detailed, colorful letters the two women wrote to their families. Through them, she has chronicled their trials in the classroom, the cowboys and pioneering women they met, and the violent kidnapping of a close friend . . . None of them imagined the transforming effect the year would have—on the children, the families, and the teachers.  Wickenden set out on her own journey to discover what two intrepid Eastern women found when they went West, and what America was like at that uncertain moment, with the country poised for the First World War, but going through its own period of self-discovery.


Praise for Nothing Daunted:


“An enchanting family memoir…A brilliant gem of Americana.” — Washington Post Book World


 


–Loop columnist Melina Maresca lives in Rye and loves books. melina.maresca@yahoo.com


 


 


 


 
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