Stories, memoirs and biographies to give
“The old king in his exile” by Arno Geiger, translated by Stefan Tobler. (And other stories, $ 16.95.)
Austrian writer Arno Geiger writes with a keen eye for observation, empathy and a sense of the absurd about the dementia that befalls his aging father. Over time, Geiger learns to meet his father where he is. The result is this rich, enriching and magnificent memory of a man who forgets most things but not where he came from or that he is deeply loved. Dotted with excerpts from dialogues between father and son both funny and strangely wise.
‘Crying in H Mart’ by Michelle Zauner. (Alfred A. Knopf, $ 26.95.)
Michelle Zauner grew up outside of Eugene, Oregon, the only child of an American father and Korean mother. Stubborn, tough, an extraordinary cook and a deeply unfriendly nurse, his mother runs the house until Zauner rebels and leaves. When her mother is diagnosed with cancer, Zauner returns to tempt her with the amazing foods she grew up on. All the food in the world cannot stop the inevitable, but Zauner knows that his creation and offering is an act of love and an acknowledgment of love.
‘All In’ by Billie Jean King, with Johnette Howard and Maryanne Vollers. (Alfred A. Knopf, $ 30.)
In this formidable memoir, Billie Jean King focuses on the 1960s and 1970s when she became the greatest tennis player in the world and, at the same time, fought for fairness for female athletes. She writes honestly about being exposed by a former lover and her eating disorder. This book is engaging, funny, spirited and fierce, with information on everyone from Margaret Court (whom she respected but didn’t like) to Elton John (whom she adores).
“Facing the Mountain” by Daniel James Brown. (Viking, $ 30.)
Sad but compelling, this narrative story follows four young Japanese-American men who enlisted to serve their country during World War II even as their families were taken to concentration camps in the American West. It opens with a mind-boggling description of the Pearl Harbor bombing and delves into the anti-Asian sentiment that quickly subsumed the country. But it is Daniel James Brown’s account of the dignity and courage of the four Nisei (second generation Japanese) that is most moving. A worthy companion of his blockbuster “The Boys in the Boat”.
‘The genius under the table’ by Eugene Yelchin. (Candlewick Press, $ 16.99.)
Eugene Yelchin’s memoirs of her childhood in the Soviet Union are steeped in ironic observations and dark humor. Due to their religion, his Jewish parents – a frustrated dancer and poet – were not allowed to pursue their passions. His brother considers ice skating his ticket out. And Eugene? At night, he draws under the table under which he sleeps and dreams of becoming an artist. A beautiful, layered memoir of how people thrive when their country does its best to stifle their dreams.
“Oscar Wilde: A Life” by Matthew Sturgis. (Alfred A. Knopf, $ 40.)
This utterly captivating biography of the flamboyant and fascinating Irish writer has nearly 800 pages that simply scroll. Here is Wilde, on his endless lecture tour of the United States, clad in corduroy pants and knee pads, charming thousands of people with his wit; here he celebrates with a number of handsome young men; and here he is in prison, near death, deprived of food, books, and company – the very things he lives for. Matthew Sturgis brilliantly captures it in this well-researched and well-written biography.
“Renegades: Born in the United States” by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. (Crown, $ 50.)
Former President Barack Obama and rocker Bruce Springsteen’s podcast companion book is packed with ephemera – photos, hand-scribbled song lyrics, annotated speeches. But it’s the words, the transcripts of their talks – which touch on fame, wealth, love, ambition, masculinity, and a host of other topics – that are most fascinating. When Springsteen writes that he trashed his car in a toll lane only to find a dime more, and when Obama writes that he misses his father deeply, you can almost hear them talking.
‘Empire of Pain’ by Patrick Radden Keefe. (Double day, $ 32.50.)
Patrick Radden Keefe, author of “Say Nothing,” the brilliant non-fiction tale of Irish unrest, gives us three generations in the deeply secret Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, who created OxyContin, the drug that launched hundreds of thousands of deadly addictions. Part biography and story, Keefe brings the family to life – their genius, their unwavering ambition, their incredible and unwavering greed. It is a damning and damning tale (the footnotes alone span 50 pages), a true saga that reads like a novel.
“Everything She Wore” by Tiya Miles. (Random house, $ 28.)
The book centers on a humble sack, an artifact that a black family has preserved for generations. It was given by Rose, a slave woman, to her daughter Ashley, which was auctioned off in 1852. Information about Rose and Ashley is scarce, but Tiya Miles is a diligent scholar and she digs deep to fill in the gaps with the eyes -opening background. His measured tone and his steady, repetitive drumbeat of the prices people paid are a devastating combination.
‘Chant Pastoral’ by James Rebanks. (Customs House, $ 28.99.)
In his second memoir, Twitter’s favorite English Shepherd James Rebanks recounts his journey from a young farm boy to a seasoned farmer, and how, along the way, he adopted modern methods of learning to kill insects, the soil, the birds and the future. A complete return to the old ways is impractical, but Rebanks argues strongly for a wise mix between the old and the new – what he calls “a nice compromise”. A charming and enlightening book.
‘Windswept’ by Annabel Abbs. (Pewter house, $ 26.95.)
Annabel Abbs is literally following in the footsteps of eight walkers, all women, mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Part memory and biography, the book explores what made them walk, the obstacles they faced, the wisdom they acquired. The women were nothing short of remarkable, going up to 30 miles a day in long skirts and, in one case, sneakers. “They walked for emotional restitution,” she writes. “They walked to understand the capabilities of their own bodies. They walked to assert their independence.”
‘Graceland, finally’ by Margaret Renkl. (Milkweed editions, $ 26.)
Margaret Renkl’s powerful and charming essays are interwoven with observations of the natural world and supported by fierce views on family, the environment, religion, social justice, and politics. They often start with the personal and quickly move on to the universal. Set mostly in the South, its trials take place outdoors, in hospital hallways, in waffle houses, on dog walks and in parks, and cover topics as diverse as mosquito spraying, OxyContin addiction, the monarch population and the late singer John Prine. .