Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Early Word: New Non-Fiction Books (an O.J.-Free Zone)

How many shopping days 'til Christmas? Don't know. You do the math. All I'm here for is to feature, in this installment of The Early Word, some non-fiction titles for your perusal and amusement.

BIOGRAPHY

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. Gabler takes full advantage as the first writer to have gained access to Disney’s archives to write with great biographical breadth and depth. From Disney’s bleak upbringing to the development of a rich imagination that led to unimaginable success in film, television, theme parks, music, book publishing, and merchandising, this richly detailed 880-page tome has it all. Including some of the names originally considered for the dwarfs in Snow White: Deafy, Dirty, Awful, Blabby, Burpy, Gabby, Puffy, Stuffy, Nifty, Tubby, Biggo Ego, Flabby, Jaunty, Baldy, Lazy, Dizzy, Cranky, and Chesty.

Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw. Forget Disney. Do I even have to tell you how richly detailed this book is?

Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir by Robert Hughes, esteemed art critic, biographer, historian, polemicist, television commentator, and now memoirist.

Mandela: The Authorized Portrait. A sumptuously illustrated and comprehensive tribute to the South African statesman’s life and work.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson. A memoir and follow-up to the humorist’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell
by Karen DeYoung. Soldier, and especially in this comprehensive look, much more.

HISTORY

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. The subtitle clues you in, but even knowing that this book is The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, doesn’t do it justice. The author of Everything You Know Is Wrong has provided not only a compelling step-by-step historical account of the worst cholera outbreak in 19th-century London, he traces the pathways to solutions that revolutionized the way we think about disease, cities, and science. Ultimately, the work of foresighted health pioneers who mapped out the disease's spread resulted in efficient public waste disposal systems, and disease control measures that saved millions worldwide.

Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution by James L. Swanson and Daniel Weinberg. Praised as the definitive illustrated history of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, this unique work contains over 300 documents, portraits, memorabilia and arcana.

The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism by Paul Kengor. Here’s the rest of him. Especially in the 40th President’s role as a Cold War victor.

Dangerous Nation by Robert Kagan. Far from any notion of the United States as an historically isolationist power, the Washington Post columnist and bestselling author (Of Paradise and Power) argues that a policy of aggressive expansion was always the aim and has been inextricably linked with liberal democracy.

OTHER NON-FICTION TITLES

On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt. In an extended essay, the author of On Bullshit offers a sequel. "A society,” Frankfurt says, “that is recklessly and persistently remiss in [supporting and encouraging truth] is bound to decline." No bullshit.

Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives by John Edwards. Apparently the former senator had some time on his hands, so he compiled this coffee-table book about home and its comforts. Hey, ex-Prez Jimmy Carter knows something about building homes! But, for what it's worth, he decided instead to put in his two cents with Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.

Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century by Alex Steffen. Apparently there’s hope for the planet, according to this feel-good resource. But don’t wait until the last minute of Christmas Eve - there’s lots of assembly required, and probably some missing parts.

Next up in The Early Word - New Books of Note: Gift Books, perhaps. Haven't thought that far ahead.

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