Other Press: Is It All in Your Head? by Suzanne O'Sullivan

University Book Store Issue for Tuesday, January 17, 2017

From the Shelf

Listening to Our Bodies

Suzanne O'Sullivan, M.D., is a consultant in clinical neurophysiology and neurology at London's National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. She works with patients who have psychogenic disorders as well as with those suffering from physical diseases such as epilepsy. Though Is It All in Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness (Other Press, reviewed below) is her first book, Sullivan says she "lived this book for 20 years" before she wrote it.

O'Sullivan says, "When words are not available, our bodies sometimes speak for us--and we have to listen." It may seem like our bodies are shouting these days, but, she says, psychosomatic disorders are not increasing in frequency. "They have always been very prevalent because life has always been hard for some reason or another. It's important to note that these disorders do not only arise because of stress. Sometimes they are a feature of how we worry about our bodies and how we respond to injury, and nothing at all to do with how successful or happy we are."

For her book, she chose cases that represented psychosomatic disorders across the board, "with each case making its own distinct point--one person's story to show the flitting, elusive nature of the symptoms and the next to open a discussion into cause or treatment." In doing so, she underscores the point that, even in their commonalities, everyone has a unique story. "It's rewarding to see some of the incredible recoveries patients make when they are listened to and managed properly. I have seen people who have been in wheelchairs for years learn to walk again."

"I think of this as a book for everybody," she says. "It is a book about people and the amazing strength they have to overcome life's challenges. And it's about humanity and the interplay between our psychological state and our physical state." --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

HarperOne: There Is No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

Workman Publishing: Parentspeak by Jennifer Lehr

Thomas Nelson: The Angels' Share by James Markert

In this Issue...

Reviews

In Adam Silvera's second novel, a young man blown apart by grief slowly learns to put himself back together.

Read this review >>

History of Wolves

by Emily Fridlund

Emily Fridlund's splendid first novel captures the trials of growing up in the stark isolation of northern Minnesota.

Read this review >>

A brilliant critic and activist journalist explores the democratic motives behind Egyptians' overthrow of their government in 2011.

Read this review >>

Review by Subjects:

Fiction Mystery & Thriller History Political Science Psychology & Self-Help Children's & Young Adult Performing Arts Poetry

St. Martin's Press: Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson

Book Candy

Writers' Favorite Funny Books

"I fell out of bed laughing." The Guardian showcased "writers on their favorite funny book."

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Pop Quiz: "Can you identify a writer by reading a random paragraph?" asked Buzzfeed.

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"The graphic beauty of vintage bookplates" was showcased by Hyperallergic.

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Bustle shared "11 writing prompts inspired by famous authors."

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Viktor Matic's WWW bookshelf is "an object which itself has no definite state and which is capable of interacting with the user and his environment."

DC Entertainment Logo

DC Comics: Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham (Rebirth) by Tom King and David Finch

DC Universe: Rebirth

With great fanfare, DC Entertainment's Rebirth program was born last year, featuring the company's lineup of iconic superheroes in completely new stories that combine the characters and stories beloved by fans for many decades with fresh and diverse new perspectives while addressing contemporary social and cultural issues. The Rebirth series spans DC Entertainment's superheroes--among them, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Green Lantern and Aquaman--and creates a cohesive universe, setting the stage for years of DC Entertainment superhero stories.

Now those stories are being launched in book form, first with DC Universe: Rebirth Deluxe Edition, a hardcover that features behind-the-scenes and character sketches of the DC: Rebirth universe. This month, the first stories from the relaunched titles begin appearing in paperback collected editions, each focusing on different superheroes.

Dan DiDio

The Rebirth line brings back qualities and aspects of the characters' histories that some longtime fans found missing in the New 52 stories, which was launched in 2011 and featured reworked characters and attributes different in key ways from their predecessors of yore. (Nonetheless, the New 52 series had booming sales and drew in many new readers, revitalizing the comics market.) The revived qualities in the Rebirth line include optimism, hope, idealism and selfishness. DC Entertainment publisher Dan DiDio notes that Rebirth embraces "the true generational history of the DC line and past attributes that may have been forsaken or forgotten." As a result, the DC Entertainment has integrated "all the freshness of the New 52 but kept in long-term material," which has excited both longtime and newer fans, DiDio says.

Since the launch in comic book form in May, the Rebirth stories have been wildly successful. To date, more than 18 million copies have been shipped. Eleven of the titles have shipped more than 200,000 copies each; 60 titles have shipped more than 100,000 copies; and 21 titles have gone back to press. "They've captured what fans want," says DiDio.

Observing that "the graphic novel and bookstore business has exploded for us," DiDio points to the huge amount of TV and movies over time involving DC characters as a main factor in creating and expanding reader interest. "The level of awareness has never been so good," he says. Now, with the Rebirth books, bookstore customers will be able to "find the source materials for what they're enjoying on TV and in the movies."

He emphasizes, too, that the Rebirth stories "show the expansiveness of our world. They're not just reading a story but entering an incredible world where these characters live.... The stories are tied into specific events and have a shared continuity." The best part: the Rebirth program is a long-term program, meaning that like the universe itself, the DC Universe will continue to expand.

Tom King and Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham

Tom King

For Tom King, author of Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, a key aspect of this new Rebirth tale is that "it goes back to basic Batman," which includes "Batman with James Gordon on the roof, the Bat Cave" and other well-known, original aspects of the Batman story. "It can appeal to anyone," King says. "It can appeal to a 10 year old or to a 50-year-old guy who's a fan of the old TV show."

With that connection to basic Batman established, Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham brings out deeper themes that King describes as "what makes Batman a hero and what makes him a hero at the moment." In particular, as a hero without powers, "how does he function in a world with Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman" and others?

To address this theme, Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham introduces two superheroes called Gotham and Gotham Girl who say that while Batman can save Gotham City from the Riddler and the Joker, for example, because of their powers, Gotham and Gotham Girl can save Gotham City in ways Batman can't, such as from a crashing asteroid or a plane falling from the sky, à la September 11. This is a challenge for Batman, who is suspicious of the new heroes, especially when they may be manipulated to work against him--and he wonders what he can do for Gotham City when others can do more.

King has an unusual background for a comic writer: after September 11, he joined the CIA, where he worked for seven years in counterterrorism both overseas and domestically. That experience, he says, "influences Batman thematically on every page." He explains it this way: "A CIA officer gets as close to the enemy without becoming them; they use every technique without being compromised. Similarly Batman has to embrace the insanity of villains without crossing the line. The only way to overcome darkness is to embrace darkness. But how do you find the light again?"

When he ended his CIA career, King turned to writing, which he did at night while taking care of his kids during the day. "I was being Mr. Mom," he says with a laugh. The result was the novel A Once Crowded Sky, in which superheroes have all lost their powers. "I'm very proud of that book," King says, and notes that he learned to write because of it. "I read all the books on writing," including those by Stephen King and John Gardner. That has made his current writing all the better: "I bring all the tools of the novelist to comics," he says, adding, "I wrote a novel to become comic book writer."

After A Once Crowded Sky, his work has included the Sheriff of Babylon series--based on his experiences in Iraq, each issue of which has had to be approved by the CIA--and Omega Men and Vision. He notes that Omega Men and Vision didn't do as well as comics as they did later in graphic novel form, a success he attributes to booksellers and librarians, who "paid respect to the graphic novels." (King adds a deeply appreciative "thank you" to all booksellers and librarians!)

Now King is focusing on Batman: I Am Gotham. He praised the artwork by David Finch, "one of the classic Batman artists, one of the most popular in the history of comics. He's known for putting in more lines than anyone else." The result is "gorgeous art and a Gotham you've never seen. It's like looking into a 3-D picture. You get sucked into it."

Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham collects in one paperback edition the first seven comics of Batman: I Am Gotham, which appear every other week, and includes the first three months of the series. It's the first part of a trilogy. Each of those parts will be self-contained, King notes, but one can read "the full epic story over a year."

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Book Reviews

Fiction

History of Wolves

by Emily Fridlund

Debut novelist Emily Fridlund's History of Wolves is so observant, so compassionate, so fresh that it can hold its own among the best of more established writers. Linda's life is bent and shaped by Minnesota's grand territory of isolation--its clear lakes and thick forests, small-town beer and bait shops, primitive cabins and summer lake mansions, and especially its extremes of weather. Fridlund salts the novel with snippets from Linda's earlier unchaperoned childhood and later restless years in the Twin Cities with temp jobs and deadbeat boyfriends.

When the suburban Chicago Gardner family moves into the fancy log summer home across the lake from Linda, they provide the answer to the only prayer she has cobbled from her "rinky-dink faith": "Dear God, please help... [us] to be not too bored and not too lonely." Cleopatra ("Patra") Gardner is taking time away from the city with her four-year-old son, Paul; her husband, Leo, is an astronomer temporarily living in Hawaii doing research for a book, which Patra is editing. She desperately needs childcare help when she meets Linda, who happily dumps her part-time job to babysit Paul. A precocious, softhearted kid with an active imagination, he's a handful. Linda tries to teach him simple survival skills, the habits of migrating birds and nomadic wolves, and the mysterious ways of the woods, but fate and Leo's Christian Science teachings override Linda's ingenuous guidance. It doesn't go well. Growing up is hard, but there is nothing more grown up than wondering if one could have done more for those one cares about. Fridlund gets it--and in History of Wolves, expertly tells it. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Emily Fridlund's splendid first novel captures the trials of growing up in the stark isolation of northern Minnesota.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, hardcover, 288p., 9780802125873

Idaho

by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho, the first novel by O. Henry Award winner Emily Ruskovich, is a gorgeously designed immersion into the best and worst of life. In rural Idaho, a jumbled family rearranges itself painfully, trying to live on after a great loss. In 2004, Ann Mitchell surveys the Idaho farmstead she shares with Wade, her husband of eight years. Her recollections introduce the reader to their marriage--troubled by the diminishing strength of Wade's memory and a terrible tragedy at the beginning of their relationship.

In 2008, a woman studies her new cellmate at the Sage Hill Women's Correctional Center. Tentatively, they explore friendship, but Jenny doesn't talk about her marriage to Wade, or her daughters. Then, Idaho flashes back to the 1980s and '90s, when Wade was still married to Jenny and both of their daughters were still alive.

Ruskovich's prose is exquisite. Music halts "like an animal at a gate, a child at a word it doesn't know." Her expressions of love, in its clean and messy incarnations, are singular, and she handles Wade's mental decline and a child's piano lesson with equal care and clarity. "On a sunny fall day, she lay next to him on the ground, and as he dozed she felt his old life, his memories, radiate off his skin. She felt everything leave him but her. She shed her own life, too, to match him. They lay there together like a point in time." With lovely language and piercing pathos, Idaho focuses on the power of love and the possibilities of forgiveness and memory. This debut novel deals blows as large as life. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: This tremendous novel about what can be torn apart in an instant, and rebuilt over lifetimes, displays writing as scintillating as its plot.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9780812994049

Everything You Want Me to Be

by Mindy Mejia

In Everything You Want Me to Be, the sophomore novel from Mindy Mejia (The Dragon Keeper), Sheriff Del Goodman of Pine Valley, Minn., a Vietnam vet, has seen plenty of tragedy. But little compares to the devastation of finding Hattie Hoffman murdered in a barn. Del knew her for all 17 years of her too-short life. Like everyone in Pine Valley, Del cannot imagine who would want to harm a much-loved high school senior. His investigations yield few surprises aside from the screen name "LitGeek," a friend Hattie met online and a clue that will lead Del into her darkest secrets.

In chapters alternating between points of view, Mejia reveals the story of Hattie's senior year. Hattie has an incredible gift for acting, fully inhabiting any character she plays. However, all the world is Hattie's stage. She analyzes family, friends and teachers to understand how to play the perfect daughter, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect student, living as a series of fictional constructs to hide the truth of the vacant landscape of her emotions. When handsome, literature-loving Peter Lund moves to town, Hattie feels real passion for the first time. Peter is drawn to her as well, but unfortunately, he's older than Hattie, married--and her English teacher.

The list of murder suspects is short but filled with enough motives to keep early guessers changing their minds. Still, the mystery of the killer's identity sometimes feels secondary to the fascinating layers of Hattie's identity. Readers will surely find this unsettling, character-driven descent into secret desires and hidden faces everything they wanted to see from a talented writer, and then some. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this mystery, a small-town sheriff investigates the death of a talented teen actress who had an affair with her married teacher.

Emily Bestler/Atria, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9781501123429

Mystery & Thriller

The Old Man

by Thomas Perry

Since his Edgar Award-winning debut novel, The Butcher's Boy, in 1983, Thomas Perry has put together a rewarding string of suspense novels with as much cool competence as some of his best protagonists bring to their work. The Old Man features Dan Chase, a former U.S. military covert operator in his 60s, looking over his shoulder for adversaries. Lying low in Vermont, he lives with his two prized rescue dogs and his go-bag always packed. Thirty years earlier, his black-op mission in Libya to deliver $20 million to rebels went sideways; the brass cut him loose to fight his own way home and then buried any record of the operation. Disillusioned and angry, Chase went off grid, invested the money well and set up a briefcase of aliases complete with legitimate documents and substantial bank accounts. Good thing. When U.S.-Libya relations shift, for political reasons, U.S. Intelligence sends its best teams after him. They refer to him as "the old man"--but as the most persistent of his pursuers, Julian Carson, observes: "the old man wasn't just an old man, like somebody's uncle. He was old in the way a seven-foot rattlesnake was old."

Perry's pacing is impeccable. The Old Man rips along with plenty of typical tradecraft details, wet work and disguises, but also takes a breather with interludes in Chicago for the old man to find romance, and in Jonesboro, Ark., for Carson to help out his family's vegetable farm. Then it's back to dodging and killing with enough plot twists to keep the train rolling down the track. Perry's a real pro. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Thomas Perry's smart, well-paced thriller features a former U.S. covert operative, now in his 60s and still sharp enough to outwit and outrun a variety of assassins.

Mysterious Press, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780802125866

History

Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn

by Theodore Hamm, editor

Edited by Brooklyn journalism professor Theodore Hamm, Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn is a fresh and incisive compilation that elucidates the 19th-century political dynamics underlying Douglass's history-making career.

Eight chapters include speeches Douglass delivered in Brooklyn, as well as coverage of those speeches in various New York newspapers. Hamm's thoughtful introductions to each contextualize Douglass's soaring oratory and reveal the vibrant nucleus of Brooklyn civic life in the Civil War era, a nucleus not as progressive as some might think. That Douglass's speeches routinely sparked controversy shows how the abolitionist movement was divided into different camps, including de-facto segregationists and those advocating mass migration and colonization of Africa. Hamm also discusses the virulent anti-black racism that existed, ironically, among the city's marginalized Irish population. Iconic figures like Walt Whitman, Horace Greeley, John Brown and Abraham Lincoln play important roles not only in Douglass's speeches, but also in Hamm's enlightening introductions.

The star of the collection is undoubtedly the slave-turned-writer whose essays and speeches will always be important to American political discourse. In his impassioned arguments for full racial equality--and his sharp criticisms of white supremacy and political gradualism--Douglass presciently touched upon social issues of division and assimilation still relevant in the 21st century. He is by turns scathing and poetic, and his best proverbs convey timeless moral values: "Many a man can march out on to the perilous edge of battle, but has not the moral courage to confront popular prejudice." Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn is a much-needed restatement of an indispensable American voice. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author

Discover: A timely compilation places Frederick Douglass's speeches in the crucible of 19th-century Brooklyn politics.

Akashic, $15.95, paperback, 192p., 9781617754852

War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918

by Michael Kazin

Michael Kazin is a professor at Georgetown and co-editor of the magazine Dissent. In War Against War, his history of the U.S. pacifist movement against involvement in World War I, he sympathizes with his subjects. He also expertly conveys the complex and electric prewar political landscape, and the constellation of reasons that many Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, farmers, feminists, left-wing trade unionists, segregationists and liberal immigrants had for banding together in this common cause, and then for breaking apart again.

This was an antiwar movement that Kazin says would not be rivaled until 50 years later, during the Vietnam War. And, he says, U.S. involvement may have shortened the war by a year, but it also allowed for the excessively punitive Treaty of Versailles, which in turn "touched off nearly thirty years of genocide, massacres, and armed conflict between and within nations.... The doughboys who helped win the war also made possible a peace of conquerors that stirred resentment on which demagogues and tyrants of all ideological stripes would feed." If we had not entered World War I, he asserts, there would have been no World War II.

After the war, the pacifists were in many ways validated by popular opinion and Congressional actions. Kazin touches on how the same arguments on either side continue to play out in U.S. politics today, including the struggle over whether American citizens should reject loyalties to other nations or cultural identities, or embrace "the ethnic pluralism that had the potential to turn the United States into a 'transnational' republic that could become an exemplar of tolerance to the world." --Sara Catterall

Discover: Michael Kazin details the history of the politically diverse peace movement that resisted U.S. intervention in World War I.

Simon & Schuster, $28, hardcover, 400p., 9781476705903

Political Science

The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt's Unfinished Revolution

by Jack Shenker

In The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt's Unfinished Revolution, journalist Jack Shenker delivers a raw and penetrating study of the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt, based on firsthand accounts from the battle lines and his own participation in the revolt.

Shenker was a correspondent for the Guardian during the initial uprising in Cairo. In his prologue, he makes it clear that he took sides in the struggle, working not as a passive observer but rather as an activist journalist against the oppressive Mubarak regime. His nervy, kinetic prose works descriptive wonders: "They hauled me from the ground and frogmarched me behind police lines, slapping the back of my neck with metronomic regularity." Besides coverage of the protests at Tahrir Square, The Egyptians weaves together stories of rural farmers, factory workers and emigrants. A focus on emerging art, music and literature further evinces the range and dynamism of the revolutionary zeitgeist.

At the heart of Shenker's history, though, is a stinging critique of neoliberal economic theory and Western-style incremental reforms. The Egyptian revolution has been more than a struggle between Islamism and secular forces, Shenker argues. He shows how, without social democracy and public oversight, foreign capital and business interests in Egypt have strengthened and propped up dictatorial regimes. Even though some of his passages wander into anti-elitist, neo-Marxist cliché, there's no doubting the depth of Shenker's reportage and his exposure of a deeply corrupted and repressive system. The Egyptians belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in Middle Eastern current affairs and the future of democratic movements. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author

Discover: A brilliant critic and activist journalist explores the democratic motives behind Egyptians' overthrow of their government in 2011.

New Press, $32.50, hardcover, 544p., 9781620972557

Psychology & Self-Help

Is It All in Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness

by Suzanne O'Sullivan, M.D.

"When words are not available our bodies sometimes speak for us--and we have to listen," says Dr. Suzanne O'Sullivan in Is It All in Your Head? This fascinating casebook with historical insights--compiled by a seasoned neurologist who is now a consultant at the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery in London--offers a thorough examination of the significant yet complicated role emotions play in physical illness and the stigmas attached to psychosomatic disorders.

Through a series of case studies, O'Sullivan details the many ways in which physical symptoms can mask emotional distress: "neurological disease manifests in elusive and strange ways." After more than 20 years as a physician, she has seen how the "system" has often failed these patients and the ways in which a diagnosis of psychosomatic disorder affects how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them. Sometimes, patients find themselves trapped between the worlds of physiological medicine and psychiatry. And in many instances, neither community takes responsibility.

While the stories in Is It All in Your Head? are intellectually and factually diverse, some are challenging to read--aspects of patient suffering become quite harrowing at times. Additionally, the delivery and impact of a psychosomatic diagnosis and subsequent patient response further tug emotionally at readers. O'Sullivan never trivializes the patient or what he or she is experiencing. Rather, she respects the strength of her patients and encourages them to find ways to address underlying psychological problems in order to overcome some incredible--some might even call them mind boggling--challenges in life. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A seasoned neurologist probes the often unfathomable mystery of the intimate mind-body connection.

Other Press, $26.95, hardcover, 304p., 9781590517956

Children's & Young Adult

History Is All You Left Me

by Adam Silvera

When History Is All You Left Me opens, the love of 17-year-old Griffin's life is already dead. Theo was Griffin's best friend, boyfriend and first everything. Now Griffin has to face both Theo's funeral and Jackson, the guy Theo started dating after he left New York and went to California for college. Griffin hates Jackson--they even deliver competing eulogies--but begins to realize that he's the only other person who understands what it was like to date Theo and lose him.

The novel bounces back and forth in time between the giddy start of Griffin and Theo's romance and Griffin's current devastation. Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not) is wrenchingly good at writing about grief. He captures the huge, howlingly lonely feelings of loss, but also the little things, like feeling guilty for enjoying a song or wanting to watch TV: "I just want to know when it'll be possible to laugh again," thinks Griffin. "And when it'll be okay." As Griffin tries to make sense of life without Theo, and his conflicted feelings about Jackson, he is also dealing with worsening OCD.

Much of the book consists of Griffin's internal talking to Theo, so we get a full sense of the churn of his mind and the rawness of his heart. Theo's death is going to be painful for a long time. But the novel quietly shows how dealing with loss will help Griffin see himself and his world more clearly. It's a painful coming of age, but a beautifully written and very satisfying one. --Ali Davis, freelance writer and playwright, Los Angeles, Calif.

Discover: In Adam Silvera's second novel, a young man blown apart by grief slowly learns to put himself back together.

Soho Teen, $18.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 14-up, 9781616956929

Hideout

by Watt Key

The story begins one hot June day with a boy in a skiff, equipped with a map of Jackson County, Miss., a fishing rod, a flotation vest and "every possible safety item" his chief of police father could think to give him. The only thing he didn't have? "[P]ermission to leave Bluff Creek."

Thirteen-year-old Sam Ford is trying to find the remote, uninhabited swamp called the Pascagoula River Delta--and the dead body the search-and-rescue teams couldn't locate after five days. If he discovers the body, he'll prove he can be brave like his dad, and not just the scared "new kid" who got "beat senseless" by bullies at school. On Sam's vividly described journey through the swamp, he stumbles across a filthy, mosquito-bitten, remarkably cheerful boy close to his age named Davey, fixing up an abandoned fishing camp, waiting for his family to show up. Sam heads back home to sneak supplies to Davey. He starts to think of this ramshackle camp as a dream come true... had he found that purest of pure places--a hideout--to be his best self? He imagines an adult-free life of excitement and adventure, catfish and swimming. In Davey's eyes, Sam could be a competent hero, not a bullied loser... maybe even cool.

Sam's blissful visions evaporate when Davey's menacing, thieving stepbrother, Slade, shows up with his friends in a stolen boat. Suddenly, he and Davey are in real danger and the story turns to serious, suspenseful action. With Hideout, Watt Key (Alabama Moon) creates a wonderfully atmospheric, edge-of-seat middle-grade adventure. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A 13-year-old boy heads into the Mississippi swamp in his skiff to find a missing body, but finds an entirely different kind of adventure.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 10-13, 9780374304829

Performing Arts

In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett

by Tony Fletcher

"Wicked," the nickname of the shouting, screaming soul and R&B singer Wilson Pickett, was no mere publicity handle trading on the near rhyme with his name. Pickett deserved it. Growing up the hard way as a descendant of Alabama sharecroppers, he moved north to Detroit at age 15 to live with his father after a youth of truancy, schoolboy fights and Baptist gospel singing. Longtime music journalist and rock biographer Tony Fletcher (All Hopped Up and Ready to GoMoon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend) chronicles Pickett's career arc of fame, fortune and a hard fall in his illustrated biography of this quintessential "soul man."

With his good looks, strong voice and perfectionist drive, Pickett got his break in the '60s, with Eddie Floyd's the Falcons, which showcased his ability to shout on key and pump up a crowd. When Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records signed Pickett, his career took off. He hit the jackpot with what Fletcher calls "the early trifecta" of "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances" and "Mustang Sally." The latter two illustrate his success with covers, his "riotous, raucous, damn-near Pentecostal" delivery turning them into wildly popular, get-up-and-dance funk.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, by the mid-2000s Pickett was broken from years of hard living. At his funeral in 2006, the gospel-trained eulogist sang the refrain from "Land of 1000 Dances," and the crowd of family, fellow musicians and friends joined in with a rowdy chorus of "Na, na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na"--a fitting tribute to a man who helped put soul music on the map. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Rock journalist Tony Fletcher documents the enthralling story of one of soul music's highest-flying and hardest-falling legends.

Oxford University Press, $27.95, hardcover, 320p., 9780190252946

Poetry

Falling Ill: Last Poems

by C.K. Williams

Pulitzer Prize winner C.K. Williams, who died in 2015, left a final collection of poems, one that grapples with the process of dying, slowly and with full awareness, and attempts to apply logic to it. Falling Ill: Last Poems is filled with the non sequiturs of the body, the wisdom of age combined with physical failings, the acknowledgement of a breaking down while being powerless to stop it. For example, in "How Many": "How many times do I find myself/ whispering later even as I have to grasp/ death's advent will have to bring sooner."

The poems--all of them five stanzas of three lines each--are filled with unpunctuated questions and struggle with nuances in the language of death--"next," "gone," "life." There's a candid recognition of the body here, a refusal to sugarcoat. One poem states, "Here's my face slung on its bones like a slop/ of concrete here the eyes punched into the mortar." The poems are quietly philosophical, resonant with repetition: "consumed as cicadas in myths are consumed/ by their singing and what is it in me that's/ being consumed and what would consumed mean." Falling Ill paints a melancholy portrait of a man expecting death, meditating on mortality and wondering how life happens even as it comes to a close. The verses ask what crying is for, meditate on what an embrace feels like, marvel at the increasing difficulty of walking and know that "my future tense is dissolving even as I watch." --Richael Best, bookseller, the Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: Frailty and aging are confronted head-on in this final collection from a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23, hardcover, 64p., 9780374152208

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