Blogs at Amazon

Nonfiction

The Top Five Humans of New York

HONY-OMNIBrandon Stanton's thousands of not-quite-candid street portraits of New Yorkers (and accompanying captions, usually from the subjects themselves) have made his Humans of New York blog both poignant and extremely popular--as well as garnering him recognition as one of Time magazine's 30 People Under 30 Changing the World. His book of the same title collects 400 of his best portraits, telling small stories that are outsized in their humor, candor, and humanity. It was also our number one pick for the best books of the year in Photography.

Here are Stanton's own top five favorite images, accompanied by his own words. Click on the images to see larger versions, and learn more about Humans of New York. It also makes a wonderful gift for any of the humans in your life.

 

 

 


1) Ironically, some of the best quotes come from the people who have the least amount of time to talk to me.  She told me: "I can't talk, because these shadows are changing every second."  Normally I'm a bit downtrodden if I'm unable to interview a subject, but I thought her 'brush-off' was the perfect complement to the photo.  Centralpark-4847

 


2) I always cite this photo as representing the most emotional interaction that I've ever had on the street.  I came across this 100 year old woman just south of Central Park.  She was walking in a rainstorm with a very bright umbrella.  After I took her photo, I got under the umbrella with her, and asked her for one piece of advice.  She said: "I'll tell you what my husband told me when he was dying.  I asked him: 'Mo, how am I supposed to live without you?'  And he told me: 'Take the love you have for me and spread it around.'"

Midtown-3881 


3) I was walking through Chelsea one morning when I noticed someone rolling around in the middle of the street.  Of course I started running toward the scene, and when I arrived, I found this drag queen.  Apparently she had been performing a song at a nearby bar, and at the climax of her performance, ran into the street and threw her tips into the air.  I joke that this photo captures more elements of New York than any other I've taken.Edit-8986 

 


4) I love this photo because of the variety of expressions that I managed to capture.  I found these kids in the Lower East Side, making the most of a hot summer day.  Right before I took the photo, one of the kids leaned a little too far forwards and started spilling water from the pool.  This created a variety of different responses from his fellow swimmers.Les-4598 

 


5) The young boy seemed so unwilling to participate in the portrait, that at first it seemed like a photo would be impossible.  But his shyness ended up coming through beautifully, creating a portrait of the relationship between mother and son.IMG_1560

 

 Learn more about Humans of New York.

 

 

Best of the Year in Nonfiction

Top three questions that customers asked me during the incalculable hours I spent standing behind the registers in bookstores:

Q. I was in here about a month ago and you had a book on the corner of this table. Do you still have it? I think the jacket was blue.

A. [No answer. Suggest the latest John Grisham/Sue Grafton/James Patterson book, whichever was closest to blue.]

Q. Do you have that book that was on TV?

A. Yes.

Q. Where do you keep the nonfiction?

A. Everywhere, man.

Nonfiction, man. It is defined by what it is not. It's both meaningless and whatever you want it to be (except fiction). Somehow, it is also my favorite category. Here is a closer look at three of our picks for the best books of the year in Nonfiction.

Thank You for Your Service Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel

How do you make war personal? It’s not easy, especially when writing about a war that the public has basically given up on (or was never that interested in to begin with). Descriptions of violence that most of us will never see can lose their potency and trail off toward the abstract; it happens in even the best novels and nonfiction. But what David Finkel has done is to follow the troops home from Iraq to cover their “after-war.” Their struggles and suffering back in the States are easier for us to relate to, and Thank You For Your Service is an absolutely mesmerizing account of the pain and hope that they carry from day-to-day. Learn More
Pilgrim's Wilderness

Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia

When Robert "Papa Pilgrim" Hale, his wife Country Rose, and their 15 children moved into the old mining outpost of McCarthy, Alaska, they were welcomed as kindred--if eccentric--souls by the ghost town's few residents. But after purchasing an old mining claim in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Hale chafed against the regulations that came with being a inholder, and the humble hermit became a lightning rod for property-rights activists in Alaska and beyond. Expanding on his original reporting for the Anchorage Daily News, Kizzia has written a nearly unbelievable tale of narcissism and religious mania, building toward a denouement reminiscent of Night of the Hunter and Robert Mitchum’s own creepy and deranged preacher. This book somehow flew under the radar this year, but everyone who's taken my recommendation on it has had their mind blown. Learn More

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm by Monte Reel

In 1856, the gorilla was still the quasi-mythical njena of the Western imagination: a savage, bloodthirsty beast dwelling deep in the forests of equatorial Africa. Paul Du Chaillu set out to bag one in the name of science--and as a shortcut to academic credibility--but he could not have foreseen that he and his stuffed specimens would become unlikely pawns at the center of the burgeoning debate over Darwin's theory of evolution. In the meantime, Du Chaillu's reputation as a death-defying killer of monsters granted him celebrity status and lifted the often bewildered hero to rarified levels of London society. With the unlikeliest of heroes at its center, Between Man and Beast is a fast-paced and fun blend of adventure and history. Learn More

NB: Though Between Man and Beast is now available in paperback (and I've linked to it here), I've used the hardcover image for its awesome depiction of an angry gorilla bending a rifle barrel in half.

Read more in our free Best Books of 2013: Reader's Guide, which you can download now for your Kindle. It features interviews, essays, excerpts, and other fun extras about the year’s top 20 titles: Donna Tartt talks about her eating habits while writing The Goldfinch; David Finkel discusses the emotional impact following the 2-16 infantry battalion in Thank You for Your Service; and much more.

Future Imperfect: The Warning Signs from Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns the Future?"

Lanier

Months before the words "NSA," "PRISM," and "Edward Snowden" dominated newspaper headlines, Jaron Lanier's Who Owns the Future? warned us about the amount of personal information we have floating around the web. The truth is that while companies and the government are interested in our data at a macro level, the real danger is not being more vigilant about our personal information. The opening words of the book outline the problem well: "We're used to treating information as 'free,' but the price we pay for the illusion of 'free' is only workable so long as most of the overall economy isn't about information."

Lanier is no curmudgeon though. In fact, he is a total technologist (often referred to "the father of virtual reality") who has seen the internet develop from its earliest days, knowledgeable enough to approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism.

In a lot of ways, Lanier is a bit of an oracle. For example, there's a chapter toward the end about the "creepiness" of how the government and internet companies can easily violate our personal privacy—more or less predicting the potential of a surveillance program like PRISM. On one hand, I'm fascinated to see what a Jaron Lanier book tackling the NSA controversy would look like, but on the other hand, the fact that Who Owns the Future? retains its relevancy after the fact speaks to its strengths.

And yet for all of Lanier's criticisms, he is an optimist at heart. After all, he is a technologist, just a surprisingly rare one who believes in the good technology can bring but remains cautious enough to know that it can do just as much harm if we are not thoughtful and patient. He rails against the mindset that all technology is inherently good (he calls this "technological determinism")—a narrative that dominates most tech writing. "My view," Lanier says," is that people are still the actors."

Toward the end, Who Owns the Future? delves into philosophical territory. Lanier proposes solutions to digital economies, attribution models, and net neutrality—all parts of what he deems a "humanistic alternative" to the current picture of technology. This section of the book feels less vital than the first half, but it's fascinating to see the ideal future from a man who spends so much time thinking about tomorrow. Even Lanier admits it's pie-in-the-sky thinking ("I don't pretend for a moment that all the problems implicit in it are already known, much less solved," he concedes), but almost as impressive as his ideas is his ability to communicate these abstract concepts in layman's terms. In this way, it illustrates Lanier's best quality: he never forgets that the future must make sense for everyone, not just the technocrats.


Boty_rg_cover_thumb This piece comes from our free Best Books of 2013: Reader's Guide, which you can download now for your Kindle. It features interviews, essays, excerpts, and other fun extras about the year’s top 20 titles: Donna Tartt talks about her eating habits while writing The Goldfinch; David Finkel discusses the emotional impact following the 2-16 infantry battalion in Thank You for Your Service; and much more.

The Best of the Year in Biographies and Memoirs

The best part about picking the year's best biographies and memoirs is the variation--the list spans almost every genre and category, literally offering something for anyone who reads. 2013's best are no less diverse, including: harrowing survival stories both physical1 and psychological2; a gigantic book befitting a literary giant3; a visit from a long-gone childhood friend4; the strange tale of an eccentric recluse and her Gilded Age riches5; and the life and times of one of America's most obsessive weirdoes, penned by Amazon's own Neal Thompson6. And much more.

  1. A House in the Sky: A Memoir
  2. Coming Clean: A Memoir
  3. Norman Mailer: A Double Life
  4. Jim Henson: The Biography
  5. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
  6. A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley

Here are closer looks at three highlights from the twenty books on our Best of the Year list in Biographies and Memoirs. See all of our selections here.

A House in the Sky

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

To freelance journalist Amand Lindhout, who made her living reporting from the most volatile places on earth, danger had become a hazy abstraction. After she and photojournalist Nigel Brennan (her former lover) are abducted in Somalia by armed extremists, their lives become a nightmare of torture (and worse), and survival means drawing on every reserve. Written with uncommon sensitivity, A House in the Sky is a moving testament to resilience and a kind of spiritual transcendence, even in profound darkness.

Learn More

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David Henry and Joe Henry

Brothers David and Joe Henry have written the definitive tribute to Pryor's momentous cultural legacy. This is no straightforward biography: structured as a long series of roughly chronological vignettes, the resulting impressionistic portrait mirrors the flights of fancy that marked Pryor's most memorable stand-up comedy performances. Furious Cool resists the fan's impetus toward hagiography in favor of an artistic performance of the written word that does lovely justice to a brilliant, tortured man.

Learn More

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer

No one would ever accuse Jenna Miscavige Hill of being an "objective reporter" about Scientology, the religion in which she was raised and from which she escaped in 2005. But unlike other books about the controversial sect, this one offers up personal daily details--sometimes maybe a few more than we want to know--about what it was like to be a seven-, eight-, nine-year-old separated from family (even though her uncle, David Miscavige, is the church's leader, and her parents were, for a time, high up in the organization) and forced to spend days scrubbing bathrooms and pondering "misunderstood words."

Learn More

 

See all 20 books on the Biographies & Memoirs Best of the Year list

Rich Cohen, Author of "Monsters," on Books, Writing and Other Obsessions

Monsters_omni

I love football. I spend every Sunday (and most Monday and Thursday nights) on my couch yelling at my television, drinking beer, and fist-pumping every time the Seahawks score a touchdown. But there are moments when I'm reminded of the brutality that I'm witnessing. In the week 4 game against the Texans, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was carted off the field in a stretcher. Thankfully, it turned out just to be a minor strain in his neck muscle, but for a few scary moments, it looked far worse. The camera cut to Bennett's father, wearing his son's jersey and helplessly screaming, "Michael!" from the sideline.

This summarizes our conflicted relationship with football. The violence of the sport is both what makes it exciting and also horrifying. One realizes the danger these players are putting themselves in for the amusement of millions of Americans.

We picked Rich Cohen's new book, Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, as our spotlight pick for the Best Books of November not just because it's a beautifully written narrative about one of the NFL's greatest football teams (though it is very much that). It's a football history from a modern perspective, one that acknowledges the sport as we know it and as it was.

Cohen was gracious enough to share a Q&A with us about his book, his favorite books, and his other obsessions.


What's the elevator pitch for your book?

This is a story of one of the greatest teams in the history of the American sports -- a team great precisely because they transcended their game. Ditka. McMahon. Fridge. They became household names and pop stars, and I've done my best to recapture the wild, violent, hyper-real vividness of their championship season. But to me, most interesting were those questions that kept popping into my head as I interviewed these guys nearly three decades after Super Bowl XX: What happens when your dream comes true? How do you go on from there? How do you cope with winning? How about failing, getting old, being forced from the game? To me, the best of these players teach not only how to compete but how to age and even how to die. Because a pro football player dies twice. Once, when he is old, like the rest of us, and once when he is still young and everything he was, everything he wanted, trained and hoped for comes to an end. It's like my father used to say about the Sinatra tune about the ball park that we all knew was Ebbet's Field. "It's not about a stadium, you schmuck. It's about life!"

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

The Illiad as translated by Stephen Mitchell, Absolutely American by David Lipsky, The Big Crowd by Kevin Baker, and a 32 pack of Sucrets.

Continue reading "Rich Cohen, Author of "Monsters," on Books, Writing and Other Obsessions" »

Twelve Literary Hoaxes and Put-ons from "A Reader's Book of Days"

RBD-OmniLongtime readers of Omnivoracious may remember Tom Nissley as the founder of this blog and often its primary contributor, having authored hundreds of pieces over his 10-year run as an editor on the Amazon books team. From his interviews with celebrated and best-selling authors such as China Mieville, Rebecca Skloot, and David Rakoff, to curated round-ups of the week's best reviews in the weekly "Old Media Monday" feature, Tom's smart and engaging words single-handedly kept this occasionally leaky boat afloat (before, that is, it became the literary Larry Ellison carbon catamaran that it is now). Then something wonderful happened: Tom ran off eight consecutive victories on Jeopardy!, becoming the second-winningest Seattle-area resident ever (and the show's third best ever, in regular games), returning later that year to tread the glowing blue boards of the Tournament of Champions, where he finished second only to an unbeatable trivia shark in a Tom Wolfe suit.

Though it's been well over two years since he left Amazon, he hasn't been content to rest upon his piles of cash, or even upon his laurels*. This week marks the publication of A Reader's Book of Days, a collection of almost 2,000 bits of literary minutiae and anecdotes spread across each of the 366 days of the year (accounting for February 29, natch), including author births and deaths, tales from the lives of writers and their works, reading recommendations for every month, and much more--punctuated with 100 cosmopolitan illustrations by Joanna Neborsky. To give readers a taste of the new book (and as a favor to his old pals here at Omni, maybe) Tom has selected a dozen stories of literary scams and authorial deception, all lifted from the pages of ABD. The Prodigal Son has returned, and he brought a lot of fun. Book nerd fun.

 * I'm giving him a hard time. Congratulations, Jet. We miss you.

Twelve Literary Hoaxes and Put-ons from A Reader's Book of Days

February 6, 1853 According to his first biographer, February 1853 was a momentous time for Horatio Alger Jr. Living in Paris, the timid Harvard grad was introduced to the sinful pleasures of the body by a plump café chanteuse named Elise. "I was a fool to have waited so long," he told his diary on the 4th, and on this day he added, "She says she knows I wanted to." But in truth there was no diary, no Elise, and no trip to Paris: his French initiation, like nearly everything else in Alger: A Biography Without a Hero, was concocted by its author, Herbert R. Mayes, in 1927. Mayes planned the book as a spoof, but he kept quiet as it was taken seriously by reviewers and became the authoritative source on the life of the once-popular master of juvenile uplift stories. Only fifty years later did he confess, as Gary Scharnhorst and Jack Bales detailed in their own Alger biography, that he had invented almost everything in what he called a "miserable, maudlin piece of claptrap."

February 14, 1971 In Oaxaca, Mexico, Clifford Irving got the call he had flown there to receive, from a “friend of Octavio’s,” the code name for Howard Hughes, the pathologically reclusive billionaire who soon agreed, without shaking hands of course, to collaborate with Irving on an authorized biography. Or at least that’s the story Irving told his editors at McGraw-Hill a few days later, leading them to eagerly advance $500,000 for “the most fantastic project of the decade.” In reality, as would be scandalously revealed a year later, his Oaxaca trip was just one element in an elaborate hoax: rather than meeting with Hughes, he spent Valentine’s Day there trysting with his mistress, the Danish pop star Nina van Pallandt.

March 15, 1958 Best known in later years as an uncompromising historian of the horrors of Soviet Communism, Robert Conquest in the ’50s was a poet and, with his friends Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, a tireless prankster. Conquest took the fun furthest of all, most memorably with Larkin, to whom, knowing the shy poet’s extracurricular reading interests, he sent a warning, claiming to be from the Scotland Yard Vice Squad, that Larkin might be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. After a nervous day at his solicitor’s, Larkin angrily sent the £10 legal bill to Conquest on this day, with the suggestion “Why can’t you play your japes on David Wright or Christopher Logue or some bastard who wd benefit from a cold sweat or two? Instead of plaguing your old pals.” Even the louche Amis recalled the episode with a slight horror.

RBD-Shakespeare-300April 2, 1796 Of the “authentic” documents from the life of William Shakespeare—original manuscripts of Lear and Hamlet, a love letter and poem to Anne Hathaway, an awkwardly scrawled note from Queen Elizabeth—that poured forth from a mysterious old chest William Henry Ireland claimed to have found, the most audacious forgery was Vortigern, an unknown play said to be in the Bard’s hand whose sole performance at Drury Lane on this evening quickly turned into farce. Even the play’s performers smelled a fraud by then, and when the star, John Kemble, repeated the line “And when this solemn mockery is ended,” with a leer at the audience, a bedlam of derision ensured the humiliation of Ireland, the play’s discoverer and its true author.

Continue reading "Twelve Literary Hoaxes and Put-ons from "A Reader's Book of Days"" »

Brave Horse Sessions: Bob Shacochis, "The Woman Who Lost Her Soul"

ShacochisOver drinks at Seattle's Brave Horse Tavern, Shacochis described his encounter in Haiti years ago with the "haunting" and "unpleasant" woman who became the inspiration for the main character in his new novel, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, which was an Amazon Best Book of the Month pick in September.

The National Book Award-winning author met the woman--"blonde, young, infuriating," as he calls her in the opening line of the book--while covering the US occupation of Haiti for Harper's Magazine. She claimed to be a photojournalist and asked Shacochis to give her a tour of a voodoo temple; during the drive there, she said she'd lost her soul. "I knew her for less than 36 hours, and I forgot her name within days," he said. "But what happened in that temple disturbed me so much it haunted me for five years.

"I just never forgot her."

It turns out that opening scene, and the character of Jackie Scott (aka Renee Gardner aka Dottie Chambers), are clues that The Woman Who Lost Her Soul is filled with autobiographical scenes. It's also a big, meaty, sweeping beast of a book--a "doorstop," as Shacochis put it.

We also discussed, over screwdrivers and beers, the "mourning period" that occurs after spending ten years writing a book.

(Our thanks to Tom Douglas and the staff at the Brave Horse.)

 

~

See all of Bob Shacochis's books; read our previous "How I Wrote It" interview with Shacochis.

BobShacochis-1

JFK: 50 Years Later

On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was felled by an assassin’s bullet as his motorcade rolled through Dallas’s Dealey Plaza, violently ending the era of American self-assurance. It is the quintessential Where were you? moment, maybe the most written about event ever, but the moment and circumstance were pivotal, so let’s revisit: America’s post-WWII supremacy was being challenged on multiple fronts as communism crept into her backyard, and the embarrassing failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion indicated that while America might be the planet’s most powerful and influential nation, it couldn’t control events just 90 miles south of Key West. Not long after, the Soviets were installing missiles in Cuba, and while that crisis was “won,” Americans became fully aware of the stakes of an escalating Cold War. Ich bin ein Berliner. At home, the country edged toward the cultural seachange of the ‘60s and Vietnam War backlash. Everything won seemed to be crumbling into chaos.

CamelotsCourtJFKConservativeAt the top of it all sat one of the most charismatic (or at least photogenic; ask Nixon) president the country had seen, at a time when media, especially television, was coming into its own as tool to spread (and homogenize) information on a mass scale. He was the first president who wasn’t dad (or at least an inscrutable uncle), the first president to bring an aura of glamour to the White House, with his attractive family and rumored dalliances with famous blondes. Oswald’s ringing shot heralded a new world, one in which all rules seemed destined to be broken and America’s future hung in the balance.

  So there’s no mystery why Kennedy, his brief administration, his personal life (both secret and otherwise), and—of course—the assassination have inspired tens of thousands of books, including several new novels and children's books. The 50th anniversary of his death has spawned dozens more, several taking fresh looks at the inner workings of Kennedy’s White House. Robert Dallek—author of what many consider the definitive JFK biography, An Unfinished Life—penned the best of that bunch: Camelot’s Court shifts focus to Kennedy’s trusted advisors and their influence on the administration’s successes and failures, revealing the often sharp fractures sustained in the arena of clashing ambitions and ideologies. It's an ambitious Team of Rivals approach, but Dallek provides a fascinating, one-of-a-kind look inside the messy mechanics of policy.

LettersOfJFK KennedyYearsNYTFor a lively, challenging reconsideration of that policy, Ira Stoll’s JFK, Conservative examines Kennedy’s legacy through a red lens, concluding that the liberal lion had more in common with Ronald Reagan than many liberals would prefer—or remember. While Democrats point to his progressive stances on health care and education, Stoll notes that his positions on tax cuts (for) and communism (staunchly against) would have rung like church bells in conservative ears.  It’s a clever and audacious spin.

Beyond governmental nuts and bolts, The Letters of John F. Kennedy collects correspondence from the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, spanning notes to and from cultural and world leaders (including Martin Luther King, Jr., Harry Truman, and Nikita Krushchev) as well as children and private citizens that demonstrate a warmth not often associated with Commanders in Chief. Those looking for salacious details of his private life best look elsewhere, but editor Martin W. Sandler’s selections track Kennedy’s development as a leader in an insightful, personal, and unprecedented way.

LIFEJFKFKennedyYearsMemoiror some, it’s the image of Camelot that endures. Like so many rock stars, JFK died before he got old, before his legacy was tarnished or torn down, and well before the shriek-cycle of modern “journalism,” which builds and destroys political careers sometimes within weeks. Several new volumes revisit the Camelot years in pictures. The Kennedy Years: From the Pages of The New York Times reprints many of the newspaper’s articles and photographs from its coverage of the administration and the events that surrounded it—fascinating for real-time assessments of historically significant events. For a glimpse behind Camelot’s curtain, The Kennedy Years: A Memoir captures unguarded “off-camera” moments through the snapshots of JFK’s personal photographer, Jacques Lowe, accompanied by his personal account to provide a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective, independent of political spin. JFK: A Photographic Memoir by influential photographer (and selfie pioneer) Lee Friedlander poignantly captures public reactions to JFK, from impromptu celebrations of his election to despairing memorials following November 22. For a dramatic record of November 22, 1963, LIFE: The Day Kennedy Died presents its coverage of that fateful day in Dallas, including the recollections of many celebrities, as well as reproductions of every frame of the infamous Zapruder film that launched countless conspiracy theories about the assassination.

Dallas EndOfDaysSpeaking of which: the grassy knoll. Magic bullets. Castro. LBJ. Jack Ruby. CIA. JFK assassination theories are a roiling alphabet soup of plots and motives, and rather than diminish the hysteria, the fifty years since the assassination have given them room to multiply, becoming ever more convoluted.  Those books are well represented in 2013’s new crop, including wrestler/governor/actor/special-ops bad-ass Jesse Ventura’s  They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK and the Little Book of JFK Conspiracies, available in a deluxe edition for the discerning conspiracy theorist. Then again, maybe it was LBJ, after all.

But the most interesting new angle isn’t a conspiracy theory at all. Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis casts the city as a character in the plot, a place made inherently dangerous to JFK by so many enemies of the administration—political, religious, criminal, and in the media—that the environment itself was hospitable to tragedy, and perhaps invited it. It’s a dramatic cautionary tale about how extreme ideologies can combine to create a toxic brew. While Dallas 1963 takes in the view from on high, James Swanson hits the streets for a blow-by-blow account of events. End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy begins three days before Dealey Plaza through Oswald's shocking, audacious murder at the hands of Jack Ruby on November 24. Like his previous book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, End of Days reads like a thriller while providing meticulous detail--the true-crime counterpart to Don DeLillo's masterful, speculative novelization, Libra.

JesseVentura LittleBookJFKKennedy warned that “those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” As it turns out, this is not true for Kennedy himself. There are still lessons to be learned within JFK’s story, lessons about tragedy and resilience, dogma and pragmatism, and what can be achieved when politics of inclusion are chosen over exclusionism. The books will keep coming as long as interest in Kennedy’s ideals and achievements—real or perceived—persists, and as long as we ask What might have been?

 

See more new JFK titles in:

Malcolm Gladwell, Tipping Some More Sacred Cows

DavidAndGoliathMalcolm Gladwell has made a career out of seeing the world in unexpected, often unprecedented ways. Starting with 2000's The Tipping Point, which explored the often unseen ways cultural tides ebb and flow at the influence of seemingly minor events, he has published a series of best-sellers forming a distinctive Gladwellian world view of counterintuitive and insightful analysis--the kind that often leads to forehead slapping and exclamations of "Of course!"

His latest--David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants--turns the idea of the "underdog" on its head, exposing the ways we often misinterpret perceived advantages (and disadvantages) that produce surprising results which, upon Gladwellian inspection, aren't surprising at all. Gladwell spared a few minutes from a busy media schedule at Book Expo America to talk about his new book.

 

 

See more titles by Malcolm Gladwell.

Go Big or Go Home: An Interview with Anita Elberse, Author of "Blockbusters"

Blockbusters

In Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment, Anita Elberse explores all the elements behind making the biggest hits in movies, TV, music, books, and sports. The entertainment industry has seen a rapid shift around the way it consumes pop culture. And perhaps counterintuitive to the democratizing influence of the internet, entertainment businesses are successfully making bigger bets on even bigger titles. As Blockbusters reveals, pursuing projects with high risk and high reward is actually the best long-term business model.

I spoke to Elberse about the book, the effect of the internet, and how the entertainment industry may change in the future.


In the book, you introduce the "tent-pole strategy," which is basically the opposite of the age-old advice of diversifying one's portfolio. Why does the tent-pole strategy work?

A “tent-pole strategy” or, as I call it, “blockbuster strategy” is one in which a content producer makes huge investments to acquire, develop, and market concepts with strong hit potential, and then banks on the sales of those titles to make up for the middling performance of their other content. It’s a popular strategy: many of today’s leading film studios, television networks, book publishers, music labels, and video game publishers live by this approach.

Why does it work? For one, strong brands and high production values matter. Higher production budgets allow studios and other producers to afford the best creative talent, the most sought-after properties, and make the highest-quality products. Scale also brings marketing advantages: it is relatively cost-efficient to advertise those tent-pole bets. And trying to create blockbusters fits the way in which consumers make choices: we like to talk about the latest films we’ve seen, or the latest books we’ve read, which makes us converge on the same choices.

That doesn’t mean that producers should bet only on blockbusters, though. In my book, I also explain why smaller bets are important, even if they might have lower odds of success. It’s about having the right balance in one’s portfolio.

Blockbusters is focused on media from mostly the past decade. What has changed in the past ten years that makes the tent-pole strategy so effective? Is it a new strategy or is it a response to a changing environment/audience?

My book indeed is based on a decade’s worth of research on the entertainment industry, so it discusses many of the biggest successes in recent years. I would not say that the audience has fundamentally changed in recent years—in fact, the laws of consumer behavior I describe are surprisingly constant. But the changing environment certainly plays a key role in the popularity of the blockbuster strategy.

Continue reading "Go Big or Go Home: An Interview with Anita Elberse, Author of "Blockbusters"" »

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

April 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30