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Star memoirs among new releases

Britney, Barbra tell all but political books are fewer

By HILLEL ITALIE, Associated Press
Published: September 2, 2023, 6:04am

NEW YORK — One year ahead of the 2024 election, don’t expect many new books about the presumed front-runners, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

The wave of Trump releases that began six years ago with his presidency has subsided, with Jonathan Karl’s “Tired of Winning” and former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s “Enough” among the handful of Trump-centered works due out this fall. Biden, meanwhile, continues to inspire far fewer publications than his immediate predecessors, whether by opponents or defenders.

For now, says Shannon DeVito, Barnes & Noble’s senior director for books, there’s “an exhaustion of interest in political titles.”

By this point in Trump’s administration, he had been the subject of unflattering bestsellers from journalists, takedowns by former government officials and books of praise from supporters. With the Biden administration in its third year, detractors have been as interested in attacking his son Hunter Biden or the immunologist Anthony Fauci, the subject of Sen. Rand Paul’s forthcoming “Deception,” as going after the president himself. Insider memoirs have been relatively rare because Biden’s administration has had far less turnover than Trump’s.

Franklin Foer’s upcoming “The Last Politician,” which draws upon interviews with more than 100 administration officials, is one of the few in-depth accounts of the Biden presidency.

“You just don’t have the kind of drama in the Biden administration that you do with others,” said Foer, a staff writer for The Atlantic whose book will offer a mostly positive take on Biden. “His public image has been a bit boring by design. But Joe Biden is a fascinating political figure and his presidency has the chance to be more consequential than Trump’s in the long run.”

Many political titles this fall will explore broader trends, like Rachel Maddow’s “Prequel” on a World War II-era far-right plot, or Tim Alberta’s “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals.” Other topical books will include firsthand takes on two of the business world’s most contentious figures: Walter Isaacson’s “Elon Musk” and Michael Lewis’ “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon,” about disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

Celebrity memoirs, from Britney to Werner Herzog

Even before her divorce was announced, Britney Spears’ “The Woman In Me” was expected to be the most talked about memoir of the fall, while the weightiest celebrity book — literally — is Barbra Streisand’s “My Name is Barbra,” decades in the making and listed at more than 1,000 pages.

Others with memoirs this fall include Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington, John Stamos, Henry Winkler, Julia Fox, Elton John’s longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin, filmmaker Werner Herzog, writer-comedian Sarah Cooper and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Sly Stone will finally open up about his life and work in “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” Staci Robinson’s “Tupac Shakur” is the first authorized account of the late rapper and actor, whose long-unsolved killing has recently been back in the spotlight.

  • In fiction, franchises are revisited …

Like the movie industry, book publishing has its share of popular franchises: Expected bestsellers include Christopher Paolini’s latest “Inheritance” book, “Murtagh: The World of Eragon”; Rick Riordan’s next Percy Jackson novel, “The Chalice of the Gods”; Rebecca Yarros’ “Iron Flame,” the second volume of her “Empyrean” fantasy series; and Ken Follett’s fifth Kingsbridge historical novel, “The Armor of Light.”

John Grisham’s “The Exchange” is the sequel to his breakthrough book from 30 years ago, “The Firm,” while Karin Smirnoff’s “The Girl in the Eagle’s Talons” continues the Lisbeth Salander series made famous by the late Stieg Larsson. Crime stories also will come from Stephen King, Anne Perry, James Ellroy, Lou Berney and Tod Goldberg. A famed Agatha Christie sleuth returns in Sophie Hannah’s “Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night,” authorized by the Christie estate.

  • … and literary icons make long-awaited returns

Ben Fountain’s “Devil Makes Three” is his first novel since his 2012 debut “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” and Ayana Mathis’ “The Unsettled” arrives more than a decade after “Twelves Tribes of Hattie,” an Oprah Winfrey book club pick. Tim O’Brien’s “America Fantastica” is his first fiction in more than 20 years and Teju Cole’s “Tremor” is his first new novel since his lauded “Open City” came out in 2011.

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Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham, Booker Prize winner Anne Enright each have fiction coming this fall, along with Zadie Smith, Jonathan Lethem, Alice McDermott, Tan Twan Eng, Sigrid Nunez, Kacen Callender and Lore Segal, who at 95 is releasing the story collection “Ladies’ Lunch.” In “Roman Stories,” Jhumpa Lahiri and Todd Portnowitz translate back into English fiction that Lahiri first wrote in Italian. Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize winner whose first language is English, sees her decadelong journey between languages as a kind of self-discovery.

“It’s part of the realization that whatever drove me to learn Italian — and not only to learn Italian, but learn how to write in Italian — (showed) there were things I needed to write about and that somehow I wasn’t able to access parts of myself in English,” said Lahiri, who has lived off and on in Italy since 2012.

  • Explore poetry …

Classical scholar Emily Wilson, whose translation of “The Odyssey” was a bestseller in 2017, returns with her edition of “The Iliad.” Modern poetry this fall includes collections from Jane Hirshfield, Major Jackson, Maurice Manning, Saskia Hamilton and an anthology of the late James Tate, with a foreword by National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes. JJJJJerome Ellis, a self-defined artist and “proud stutterer,” continues his “Multiverse” poetry series with “Aster of Ceremonies.”

  • … and virtual life

Some books will touch upon the perils of identity and the internet. Naomi Klein’s “Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World” is the author and activist’s story of being confused for “The Beauty Myth” author and anti-vaxxer Naomi Wolf. The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz offers a wider take on virtual life with “Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet.”

Journey to the darkness of the future and past

Two prominent fiction writers have apocalyptic takes on the years ahead, with the internet among the culprits. Naomi Alderman’s “The Future” forecasts a world nearing destruction as tech billionaires plot their escape. In “Touched,” Walter Mosley also imagines civilization collapsing, and points to the inherent fragility of human existence.

“You realize that in the history of the planet, there have been all these life forms that existed before us. It’s frightening, what can happen,” Mosley said.

Two others look to the grimmest chapters of the country’s past.

Lauren Groff’s “The Vaster Wilds” is a colonial-era tale of an escaped servant that questions whether the world would have been better off had the Europeans never crossed the Atlantic. Jesmyn Ward’s “Let Us Descend,” her first novel since the National Book Award-winning “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” is narrated by an enslaved girl who endures in part by dreaming of her ancestors. It’s a story shaped by contemporary tragedy — Ward’s husband, Brandon Miller, died in 2020 — and by, the author has said, her exploration into how the enslaved could retain their spirit “even through the deepest darkness.”

History, lesser told

In nonfiction, too, authors explore the lesser told stories of American history. Gregg Hecimovich’s “The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts” is a biography of the country’s first known Black female novelist, an escaped slave whose unpublished manuscript was finally released in 2002.

“Black Writers of the Founding Era: A Library of America Anthology” collects poetry, fiction, memoirs, petitions and other documents from around the time of the American Revolution and forms a “record of human perseverance and endurance” that helps complete “the picture of country’s past,” historian Annette Gordon-Reed writes in the foreword.

In her memoir-manifesto “To Free the Captives,” the Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith remembers her family’s passion for Otis Redding and other soul musicians as a testament to Black pride and resilience.

“Black people were the first folk I knew who invoked the soul constantly. Not with fear, not with threats of condemnation, but in outright joy — mirth even — as though what bolstered this facet of us was, in part, our laughter,” she writes. “Black people falling out in glee, and Black people falling out in religious ecstasy, were two versions of the same thing. Proof of the undying and holy in us.”

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