Tag Archives: non-fiction

Rich season of fiction expected this fall

For the weightiest novel this fall, or most any season, Alan Moore has the grandest ambition.

“The intention was to somehow combine four or five different books or impulses for books into one coherent whole,” the author known for the graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta says of Jerusalem, a 1,266 page words-only union of science and fantasy that references everyone from Albert Einstein to Oliver Cromwell.

Moore worked a decade on his all-encompassing tale, set in his native Northampton, England.

“This is the book in which I have written most directly about the things that are most central to my life, these being my family and the place that I emerged from. By making the narrative so personal and specific I hoped to conjure a kind of universality, an evocation of the families and places that we all come from at some point in our ancestry, irrespective of who or where we are, but the fact remains that the materials of ‘Jerusalem’ come from a source very close to me.”

 

Big books

Fall is the time for “big books,” whatever the page length, and some of the top fiction authors from around the world have new works coming, including: Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Rabih Alameddine, Emma Donoghue, Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Chabon.

Ann Patchett, owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, looks forward to selling Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiographical novel Another Brooklyn and Colson Whitehead’s celebrated, Oprah Winfrey-endorsed historical novel about slavery, The Underground Railroad.

Ann Patchett, the author, will be promoting her novel Commonwealth, although she’ll keep it low-key at Parnassus Books.

“I’ll sign them, put them in a linen bag, send them off with a picture of my dog Sparky. Sparky is the ‘value added’ element,” she says.

Another author-book store owner, Jeff Kinney, has completed Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, the 11th installment in his multimillion selling series. He will tour worldwide on behalf of Double Down, but at Kinney’s An Unlikely Story, in Plainville, Massachusetts, the message is “try not to overdo it on the Wimpy Kid front.”

“We have two small roller units with my books, and that’s about it. I don’t think someone coming off the street would know I own the bookstore if they hadn’t heard beforehand,” Kinney said.

Whitehead’s novel is among several notable accounts of black life, past and present.

Wesley Lowery’s They Can’t Kill Us All is The Washington Post reporter’s book on the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, includes essays and poems on race by Isabel Wilkerson, Kevin Young and 16 others.

Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, which has been adapted for a feature film, documents the historic contributions made by black women mathematicians to the country’s space program.

Douglas R. Egerton’s Thunder at the Gates tells of the black Civil War soldiers made famous in the movie Glory, which he calls a “powerful, beautifully acted” production that “manages to get absolutely everything wrong.”

Egerton says fiction and nonfiction on slavery and the Civil War have become more prominent in recent years.

“When I was younger, novels that wrestled with slavery were few and often published by obscure presses,” he says. “That appears to be no longer true. Perhaps also the sesquicentennial of the war and the dawn of Reconstruction has led … to a rebirth of scholarship about black history. One of the depressing things about going to conferences now is to wander through the book exhibit and realize how many new books there are that I need to read!”

Two books that could contain tough words for presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are scheduled for Nov. 15, the week after Election Day: Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In is expected to include his thoughts on his surprisingly competitive primary battle with Clinton, while Megyn Kelly’s Settle for More will likely recount her feud with Trump and her thoughts on ousted Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

In music, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run could be the hottest rock memoir since Keith Richards’ Life was released in 2010.

The Band’s Robbie Robertson offers Testimony this fall, while My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire is a posthumous release from Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, featuring an introduction by Steve Harvey and foreword by producer David Foster.

Brian Wilson and fellow Beach Boys founder (and first cousin) Mike Love continue their long-running and occasionally litigious family competition as Wilson releases I Am Brian Wilson and Love has Good Vibrations.

Often cast as the business-minded Beach Boy, at odds with the visionary Wilson, Love provides detailed accounts of how he wrote the lyrics to many of the Beach Boys’ best-known songs.

“The problem is you have hundreds of thousands of words about us, not always by people who were actually there,” Love says. “I wanted to show how I was actually working on the songs with my cousin, writing the lyrics while he was creating those incredible chord processions and harmonies.”

Other musical memoirs are coming from Tom Jones, songwriter Carol Bayer Sager and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones.

Beatle fans with some extra cash might consider A Hard Day’s Night: A Private Archive, a $125 volume of photographs, documents and memorabilia about the 1964 film that stunned critics and delighted fans. Annotation is provided by one of the world’s foremost Beatle experts, Mark Lewisohn.

“It isn’t only the end-product that’s extraordinary, it’s the background story, too. It always comes down to the people, to the four guys themselves,” Lewisohn told the AP.

“Why was A Hard Day’s Night their first film when it could have been their third or fourth? They’d had movie offers for six months before this one and turned them all down, because The Beatles were always innately clear on what not to do as well as what to do. They were prepared to risk never appearing in a film at all than say yes to something ‘soft,’ which in their vocabulary meant ‘stupid.’”

What makes us scream? Read on…

Margee Kerr says she has the best job in the world: She studies fear for a living, and loves to scare herself as part of her research.

Kerr is a sociologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and just in time for Halloween, she’s written a book called “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear.”

The book documents Kerr’s adventures around the world experiencing extreme attractions, ranging from the tallest roller coasters in Japan to the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk in Toronto, where participants are tethered to the skyscraper for an outdoor walk 116 stories off the ground.

Kerr also works at a haunted attraction in Pittsburgh called ScareHouse, analyzing customer responses to help keep the fright levels just right. “We’re trying to scare people in a way that’s going to make them feel good,” she said.

Kerr is interested in the notion that society usually regards “fear as a negative force. But there’s another side to fear that’s fun and fulfilling,” and that’s the sweet spot sought by recreational activities — whether skydiving, ziplining, roller coasters or haunted houses.

“When we know we’re not really in any physical danger, we can enjoy the endorphins and the dopamine. That response is similar to being really excited and happy,” she said.

Her quest for the “Scream” book took her on “many, many adventures across the world, doing as many scary and thrilling things as I could. I look at it from the cultural perspective, the physiological perspective and the psychological perspective: Why do we engage with this type of material? Part of it is the natural high we get from activating the flight-or-fight response in a safe environment.”

Kerr says the trick is to figure out what types of situations “trigger our flight or fight response. What are people afraid of, what’s going to tap into the fear?”

For example, “we know from science that seeing the whites of people’s eyes will activate the amygdala _ the emotional processing center of our brain.” That intense response to another being’s eyes explains why scary attractions often have “dolls with big eyes or animatronics with wide-open eyes.” Startling sounds, fast-moving props and other sudden visual effects also trigger instinctive responses, upping the fear factor without putting people in real danger.

She added that part of the draw for an extreme adventure or attraction is that “you are testing your own resilience. When you come out the other side of a scary movie or haunted house, you have accomplished something. You’ve tested your will. Even though we know nothing will hurt us, the self-esteem boost is real.”

As for her own responses, she found the CN Tower Edgewalk to be “way more terrifying than I thought it would be.” Skydiving, on the other hand, was pure pleasure for Kerr.

Kerr says her research can have implications beyond theme parks and haunted houses by helping people understand how to tolerate stress. “We’re trying to find the best ways to teach people how to experience their emotions in ways that are healthy and not debilitating,” she said. “When people lean into the experience and test themselves in an environment that is safe, they come to learn they can handle stress and they are stronger than they thought they were.”

Melissa Rivers is funny and affectionate in ‘Book of Joan’

Melissa Rivers wanted to laugh — and she wants her readers to do the same.

Consider it mission accomplished on both counts, thanks to her best-selling memoir, “The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation” (Crown Archetype). It’s a touching, revealing and above all funny paean to her mother, Joan Rivers, who died last September at 81 after complications from minor throat surgery.

The book is free of a daughter’s grief, or her undeniable anger. (Rivers has filed a malpractice lawsuit against the Manhattan clinic where her mother suffered what she has called “shocking and, frankly, almost incomprehensible” incompetence.) Instead, the approach is light-hearted, affectionate — and funny.

“Writing it gave me permission to laugh and joke, and a safe place to do so,” says Rivers, who, still reeling from her loss last fall, set to work with her writing partner, Larry Amoros, a long-time family friend and writer for Joan who could add his own rich store of recollections.

“We wanted to call the book ‘Cheaper Than Therapy,’” says Rivers, “but we were afraid it would get mixed up in the Self-Help Therapy section of the bookstore.”

In the first pages, Rivers attempts to summarize this pint-sized, outspoken force of nature: “My mother was a comedian, actress, writer, producer, jewelry monger, tchotchke maker, spokesperson, hand model, ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ winner and a self-appointed somewhat-goodwill-ambassador to 27 Third World countries that were unaware they had a goodwill ambassador.”

The book nods at an early concept offered the publisher: a collection of Lessons I Learned From My Mother. It was an idea Rivers balked at. “I don’t know if people would want to take THAT advice,” she laughs.

Yes, there was a method to Joan’s madness, but it formed the logical underpinnings of someone who didn’t always cater to logic.

Joan on marriage: “Your father didn’t care if I went to bed mad. He cared if I went to Bergdorf mad.”

Joan on cosmetic surgery: “Better to have a new you coming out of an old car than an old you coming out of a new car.”

Rivers, now 47, grew up close to both her parents.

“People always said I was much more like my father (film and TV producer Edgar Rosenberg) than her, and they had a successful marriage. Maybe that’s why she and I were so bonded.”

One thing that tied them together: “Our love of the ironic and the absurd. Nothing was better than looking at each other when we were out somewhere” with a wordless exchange conveying, “Oh, have we got something to talk about when we get in the car! Can you BELIEVE what just happened?!”

No wonder Joan and Melissa were also bonded professionally. Together they blazed a new frontier of style and snark on the glitziest red carpets, while Joan became a connoisseur of couture catastrophes as host of “Fashion Police,” which Melissa produced.

That show, minus queen bee Joan, returned on E! in January and promptly suffered a meltdown with cast strife and the abrupt departures of panelist Kelly Osbourne and new host Kathy Griffin. It is off the air again until fall.

“We came back too fast. None of us was ready,” says Rivers. “It was extremely painful. I spent way too much time crying about the show and what it represents to me. But we learned. No, I don’t know who is going to be in the cast. But now I’m actually excited to figure it out.”

The pain of loss is ever-present in Rivers’ life. Her mother’s death is all too recent while, even after three decades, she says she still misses her father, who committed suicide in 1987.

But in her book, death rears its head in wryly humorous terms.

“I don’t know, or pretend to know, what happens to us after we die,” writes Rivers as she builds to one of her many laugh-lines. “Nobody really does, except the dead, and they’re not talking (at least not to me, but I have AT&T: I can barely get living people on the phone).”

Whistling past the graveyard? Joan Rivers wasn’t afraid of death, her daughter insists.

“It was an obsession: ‘This is gonna happen.’ But we would discuss it as calmly as you’d ask for a glass of water. She was very much at peace with the idea.”

Maybe so, but she held her own at bay for 81 unbridled years. And as readers of “The Book of Joan” will surely realize between the laughs, it still came too soon.

A colorful account of the birth of modern art in Paris

At the dawn of the 20th century the Parisian district of Montmartre was still largely rural, a hillside village dotted with windmills, vineyards and tumbledown shacks.

There, a ragtag band of young artists, many of them foreigners, gravitated to the district’s cheap studios and galleries to nurture their artistic ambitions and, at night, divert themselves at its seedy bars and cabarets.

Their ranks included the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Kees van Dongen, Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque and Amedeo Modigliani, to name just a few, and by now, more than a century on, their stories have been told many times.

In her latest book, “In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art,” the British writer Sue Roe offers a lively and concise account of their lives during a 10-year period when they struggled to find new ways to express themselves and, in the process, rocked the foundations of Western art. It was a time when beauty itself “was open to redefinition,” Roe writes in a chapter describing Picasso’s momentous first encounter with African art in the Musee du Trocadero.

Like her previous book on the Impressionists, “In Montmartre” is a bit of a group biography, focusing mainly on a half-dozen artists and weaving in details about friends, families and business associates.

While she doesn’t break much new ground, she’s very good at synthesizing and distilling complicated art movements and ideas without getting bogged down in technical details or jargon. And she offers up plenty of juicy tidbits about the artists’ love affairs, infidelities, opium parties and eccentric habits.

Also, Roe gives the women in the story their due, not just the artists but also the models and muses. We get vivid portraits of the American expatriate writer Gertrude Stein, her companion Alice B. Toklas and some lesser-known figures in the Montmartre crowd, including Picasso’s model and lover Fernande Olivier, who wrote memoirs of their life together, and the French painter Marie Laurencin.

Roe’s book is a great introduction to one of the most pivotal periods in 20th century art. Even those familiar with the era will likely find that it broadens their understanding of key players and events. And for art lovers who can’t get enough of this intoxicating decade in Paris on the eve of the First World War, the lengthy bibliography will suggest new avenues for exploration.

‘The Poser’ is darkly funny

The central character in Jacob Rubin’s “The Poser” is a young man with the ability to instantaneously and flawlessly imitate anyone.

Encouraged by his mother and discovered by a hack agent, Giovanni Bernini goes from being ridiculed and, often, feared by his small-town peers to garnering widespread acclaim as The World’s Greatest Impressionist. The rest of his arc of fame follows a trajectory at which cynics will knowingly nod, and Rubin’s precise and inventive writing wonderfully captures the enigmatic character as he travels this arc as well as the philosophical questions such a character raises.

“The Poser” is an exciting debut and I recommend it for its noirish beats.

It is also richly, darkly funny. The novel is set in a fictional country that resembles America in the 1940s and 1950s, and Rubin has exquisitely created this world; it is easy to get lost in it.

My one reservation concerns the handful of female characters, all written to a flat type, which I could forgive for being true to the noir genre, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed by it, particularly in a work that at its heart offers a deeply sensitive exploration into matters of identity and authenticity.

Are you reading what Mark Zuckerberg’s reading? Pinker’s ‘The Better Angels’

Mark Zuckerberg has made his next book club pick, a release he considers especially timely after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Facebook CEO announced earlier this week he would take on Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” a widely discussed and occasionally criticized 2011 book that contends violence has decreased in modern times and the world has become more humane. Zuckerberg posted the news on his Facebook page and on a community page he set up for his club, A Year of Books.

“Recent events might make it seem like violence and terrorism are more common than ever, so it’s worth understanding that all violence — even terrorism — is actually decreasing over time. If we understand how we are achieving this, we can continue our path towards peace,” Zuckerberg wrote. “A few people I trust have told me this is the best book they’ve ever read.”

Among the book’s admirers is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has called it his “favorite book of the last decade” and “a long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time.”

Two weeks ago, Zuckerberg declared he would read a new book every other week in 2015, and he invited his millions of Facebook friends to join him and participate in an online discussion. His first choice, Moises Naim’s “The End of Power,” quickly became a best-seller on Amazon.com and elsewhere. But only 162 comments appear for last week’s book club chat held on the community page, which has more than 260,000 likes.

Within hours of Saturday’s announcement, “Better Angels” jumped from No. 6,521 on Amazon to No. 501.

Pinker, 60, is a leading psychologist, linguist and cognitive scientist who teaches at Harvard University and has written several popular books, two of which, “The Blank Slate” and “How the Mind Works,” were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

“The Better Angels” is indeed long, more than 800 pages, so Zuckerberg is already fine-tuning his promise for a book every two weeks. He wrote that he’ll need a month to finish “The Better Angels,” but will recommend a shorter work in two weeks that can be read at the same time.

Pinker’s book also continues Zuckerberg’s apparent preference for nonfiction works, written by men. His Facebook page lists 13 books recently read — 10 nonfiction and all by male authors.

The big reads in book news in 2014

Like a serial for the digital age, the book world’s most dramatic story of 2014 unfolded in installments, often in real time.

A dispute about e-book revenues between Amazon.com and Hachette Book Group led to Amazon’s removing buy buttons, cutting discounts and reducing orders for works ranging from J.K. Rowling’s latest detective thriller to J.D. Salinger’s “Nine Stories.” The battle lasted for months. Hachette author Stephen Colbert flipped the bird to Amazon, right on camera. Amazon suggested that frustrated customers might try buying books elsewhere.

You could call the resolution happy, and open-ended. The two sides agreed to a multiyear deal in mid-November and Hachette books were back in full for the holiday season. Amazon and Hachette each declared itself satisfied.

But it’s hard to say what has changed. Douglas Preston, a Hachette author who became a leading Amazon critic, expressed a common view among writers when he told The Associated Press recently that the standoff demonstrated that the online retailer is “ruthless and willing to sanction books and hurt authors.” Amazon’s image may have suffered but it still controls some 40 percent of the market, by the estimate of major New York publishers, and still has a hold on those who say they fear it.

James Patterson, a Hachette author who has donated more than $1 million to independent sellers and worried that Amazon might put them out of business, said in a recent interview that he likes to shop at the Classic Bookshop near his home in Palm Beach, Florida.

“And I do a little bit (of shopping) online,” he added.

Amazon?

“I do a little bit online,” he repeated, then said of Amazon.

“I do understand where they’re coming from.”

Here are other highlights from 2014:

• YESTERDAY’S NEWS: Many of the big fiction books of 2014 were not published in 2014: An Oprah Winfrey pick, Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings”; Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Goldfinch,” a Hachette release so in demand that even Amazon left it alone; and a handful of novels helped by movie adaptations — Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” John Green’s “The Fault In Our Stars” and Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken.”

Phil Klay’s book of contemporary war stories, “Redeployment,” won the National Book Award, but a people’s prize for top literary hardcover of 2014 would likely go to a novel about World War II, Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” which has sold more than 180,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks around 80 percent of sales.

• ROCK STARS: Readers have been treating young adult writers like rock stars, which is better than how they’ve been treating rock stars — at least those of a certain age. At 48,000 copies, “One Direction: Who We Are: Our Official Autobiography” was more popular than the combined Nielsen sales for books by Carlos Santana, Joe Perry and Jerry Lee Lewis.

• DIVERSITY: BookCon, a self-styled “pop culture” version of BookExpo America, launched in 2014 and immediately failed by only inviting white authors to speak. In response, a social media campaign was born, and a grassroots movement, We Need Diverse Books, soon followed.

One of We Need Diverse Books’ advisers is Jacqueline Woodson, who won the National Book Award for her young adult book “Brown Girl Dreaming.” She also, quite unintentionally, helped raised a substantial amount of money for the organization. After she won her prize, awards emcee Daniel Handler of “Lemony Snicket” fame made an awkward joke about watermelon that even Handler later acknowledged was racist. He apologized and eventually donated $110,000 to WNDB.

Woodson, a published author for nearly 25 years, sees the industry alternating between cycles of recognition and neglect. Now, she believes, recognition is underway, citing Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed as among the promising young adult writers. Meanwhile, Woodson wants to get around to an adult book she’s been meaning to write. “My plan for January is to get quiet again, and write.”

• GETTING PERSONAL (AND POLITICAL): Lena Dunham only begins the story. It was a good year for personal essays, including those that are more than personal, with acclaimed collections from Roxane Gay, Charles D’Ambrosio and Meghan Daum among others. Leslie Jamison, author of the best-selling “The Empathy Exams: Essays,” wrote in a recent email that “readers are becoming increasingly drawn to forms of personal writing that also look outward at the world: that blend the revelations of memoir with the inquiries of journalism and criticism.”

• THE FACTS: With nonfiction still essentially a print market, and with bookstore space far smaller than a decade ago, it’s hard these days to be a historian — unless you’re Bill O’Reilly. The Fox News host’s latest recounting of a famous death, “Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General,” has sold more than 700,000 copies, according to Nielsen. That’s far more than the combined Nielsen sales for the most recent books (both published before 2014) by two of the world’s most famous historians: Robert Caro’s “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson.” and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.” O’Reilly’s book, co-written by Martin Dugard, also easily surpassed the combined sales of two of the biggest political books of 2014: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Hard Choices” and George W. Bush’s biography of his father, and fellow ex-president, “41.”

• THE CLOUD: Trip Adler is the CEO of Scribd, a leading e-book subscription service, an emerging part of the digital market. He believes e-books are the future, but is admittedly surprised that print is holding up so well.

Asked why he thinks print has endured, he pauses. “I don’t know,” he says. “I can brainstorm a bunch of reasons. Book technology has kind of lagged behind video and music. Even subscription services came to books last. Why weren’t the book services first? I can’t say why.”

For himself, Adler likes e-books and relies on Scribd for suggestions. “I open the Scribd app and whatever books are recommended to me I read,” he said. “I have not read a print book in a long time. I’m kind of the Silicon Valley type.”

Boosting books: Obama buys 17 books at independent store

President Barack Obama tried to draw attention to independently owned businesses on the Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday, a day that is increasingly being marketed as one for deal-hungry consumers to remember to patronize small businesses while doing their holiday shopping.

He bought several bags of books — 17 titles in all — during a stop at Politics and Prose, a popular Washington bookstore now owned by a former Washington Post reporter and his wife, also a former Post reporter who later worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House and State Department.

In recent years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been advertised as “Small Business Saturday.” It’s designed to drive foot traffic to independent, mom-and-pop-type stores in between the frenzy of Black Friday sales at mass retailers and the Cyber Monday deals available online.

Obama browsed the bookstore’s racks with his daughters, Malia and Sasha. He held one shopper’s baby and chatted with bestselling crime novelist David Baldacci. While paying at the cash register, another patron encouraged Obama to close the U.S. facility in Cuba where suspected terrorists are detained.

“Hope you can close Guantanamo,” the patron said.

“We’re working on it,” Obama replied, then jokingly added to the nearby crowd of shoppers: “Any other issues?”

Obama also joked, “Hope it works,” when he handed his credit card to the cashier. That appeared to be a reference to an incident where a restaurant declined his credit card while he dined out in New York City in late September.

Obama bought a mix of titles apparently chosen to satisfy readers young and old. The White House declined to reveal how much he paid.

Among the books in the president’s shopping bags for mature readers were:

• “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China” by New Yorker writer Evan Osnos.

• “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” by surgeon Atul Gawande.

• “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.

For younger readers, Obama’s purchases included:

• Three titles in the “Redwall” series by Brian Jacques.

• Two titles in the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park.

• “A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More” by Doreen Cronin.

Obama and his daughters also shopped at Politics and Prose on the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year.

A look at the new books offered this fall, fiction, non-fiction and in-between

So many memoirs are coming out this fall, written in so many ways.

Neil Patrick Harris, for instance, decided that his early 40s was too young for a “life” story, even for a Tony- and Emmy-winning actor. So he has completed “Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography,” in which Harris steps back into the second person to allow you to imagine yourself onstage, on television, or, in November 2006, on edge as you prepare to tell the world you’re gay. 

“I couldn’t wrap my mind around a structure that made sense to me — to pass on words of wisdom or to write some salacious tell-all. My life hasn’t been like that,” Harris said during a recent interview.

“So I came upon this conceit of ‘choose your own adventure,’ to allow readers to choose which autobiography they were interested in. You can have poignancy; you can have funny remembrances, or whatever path you want to follow.”

Lena Dunham of “Girls” fame has written “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned,’” a non-advice advice book in which she hopes that readers will know when and when not to emulate “a girl with a keen interest in having it all.” Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” promises a “big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice.”

Keith Richards, having taken care of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in his million-selling “Life,” turns sentimental with the picture book “Gus and Me,” a tribute to his grandfather, musician Gus Dupree. Neil Young honors a favorite hobby in “Special Deluxe”: cars. “Jimmy Page” is a “photographic autobiography” by the Led Zeppelin guitarist. “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” is not entirely in his own words, alternating between first-person memories and third-person accounts by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author-journalist Rick Bragg.

Former President George W. Bush already has written a memoir, “Decision Points,” so for his new book (currently untitled) he tells the story of his father, George H.W. Bush. “Steve Jobs” author Walter Isaacson returns to the virtual world with “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

Fiction readers can look forward to books from Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham and David Baldacci, among others. Anne Rice brings back the undead for “Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles” and “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin shares some of the back story in “The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire).”

Some of the top literary writers also have books out. David Mitchell of “Cloud Atlas” fame has written “The Bone Clocks” and fellow British novelist Ian McEwan’s latest is “The Children Act.” Hilary Mantel, a two-time Man Booker Prize winner for her novels about the court of King Henry VIII, names names in the 20th century with the story collection “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.” Denis Johnson’s “The Laughing Monsters” is the author’s first full-length work of fiction since “Tree of Smoke” won the National Book Award in 2008. Marilynne Robinson returns to the Iowa setting of her Pulitzer-Prize-winning “Gilead” with “Lila.”

Six years ago, few noticed when Garth Stein had the bright idea to write a novel told from a dog’s point of view, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” Thanks to 4 million copies sold, and more than three years on The New York Times’ best-seller list, Stein should have plenty of attention for “A Sudden Light,” which features a boy and a mansion.

“It’s what every writer dreams of, to be talked about as much as I was for ‘Racing in the Rain,’” Stein says. “But I’m a writer, and a writer’s got to write and I finally had to announce my retirement from ‘Racing in the Rain.’ As I said to my publisher, ‘I have to go in the cave. Don’t come in here. I’ll come out of the cave when it’s time.”

For some books this fall, the bold-faced name isn’t the author.

“The Monogram Murders” is a new mystery featuring Agatha Christie detective Hercule Poirot. Christie gets star billing on the cover, but the writer, approved by the Christie estate, is Sophie Hannah. “Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot” offers a new case to solve for baseball star-turned police chief Jesse Stone, the sleuth of nine novels by Parker, who died in 2010. The author this time is Reed Farrel Coleman.

Sidney Sheldon lives on, at least in name, through British author Tilly Bagshawe. Her latest is “Sidney Sheldon’s Chasing Tomorrow,” a novel written “in his inimitable Sheldon style,” Bagshawe promises on her website. Dick Francis died in 2010, but a new thriller is called “Dick Francis’s ‘Damage”” in U.S. editions. The author’s son, Felix Francis, wrote the novel and prefers the British title: “Damage,” with FELIX FRANCIS printed above the title and “A Dick Francis Novel” at the bottom.

“It’s a Dick Francis novel in that it’s got horses and was written in the first person and the main character is both courageous and loyal,” Felix Francis said.

“I like the idea that I am giving my father immortality, or perhaps I am keeping his name alive. I just hope that if it goes on it becomes a little bit smaller and mine a little bit bigger.”

Netflix makes push into documentaries

Netflix is making a push into documentaries, with the subscription service announcing deals to premiere four new films in the next few months.

Netflix has always made non-fiction films available to subscribers, but until recently they have been projects initially made for theatrical release or on television networks.

Netflix said it now wants filmmakers to make their work specifically for the service, or use Netflix to offer the first wide distribution.

The first of the four new films to be released will be “Battered Bastards of Baseball,” about a defunct minor league baseball team. It will premiere on Netflix on July 11.

“Mission Blue,” a documentary about marine biologist Sylvia Earle and her campaign to create a network of protected marine sanctuaries, is set for Aug. 15.

Later this year the service will premiere “E-Team,” a film about human rights workers from the makers of the Oscar-winning documentary “Born Into Brothels,” and “Print the Legend,” about 3-D printing.

Lisa Nishimura, head of Netflix’s documentary unit, said the service is intentionally trying to present films on a wide variety of topics. Its selling point to filmmakers is that Netflix will make the documentaries available on the service for a lengthy period of time. TV networks and theatrical releases can offer a bigger burst of attention, but the films are generally only available for a short period.