Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or Subscribe
The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership

Richard Branson. Penguin/Portfolio, $29.95 (378p) ISBN 978-1-59184-737-3

No new ground is broken in this latest volume of aphorisms from Branson, billionaire founder of the Virgin Group—a conglomerate of 400 companies that are apparently run with breezy executive style and a fierce devotion to ensuring customer loyalty. Branson (Losing My Virginity) deserves credit for eschewing business jargon as he advises readers to challenge entrenched businesses (“Goliaths”) by creating a new niche markets right under their imperious noses, with “hybrid product[s] that [nobody can] pigeonhole.” That’s the essence of Virgin’s successes, from an airline with a rock n’ roll attitude to the iconic chain of record stores. Virgin Megastores “became tourist destinations in their own right” in Paris and New York, while other ventures, such as Virgin Cola, were less successful. Branson comes across as a branding genius, making an impression on the customer and his own workforce, which he credits lavishly and frequently, from key executives discarded by competitors to entry-level employees who have thrived and been promoted internally (a practice he endorses). Given his obvious drive, his protestations that he’s happiest working from a hammock on his private Caribbean resort island sound disingenuous. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Six Drawing Lessons

William Kentridge. Harvard Univ, $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-674-36580-3

This collection of South African artist Kentridge’s Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, delivered at Harvard in 2012, is an enlightening, circuitous, and self-reflexive performance that delves into his greatest obsessions in the realms of art, politics, history, and image-making. Across six lectures, Kentridge discusses topics including Plato’s cave allegory (a subject that looms over much, if not all, of the book), Africa’s colonies, and the violence of the Enlightenment. He delivers sharp insights into the history and character of Johannesburg; his memories from growing up under apartheid provide some of the book’s most lucid moments. He also elaborates upon life in the art studio (a “safe space for stupidity”) and devotes much of his fifth lecture to a Rainer Maria Rilke poem. Time—including how it affects work in the studio—and memory are also major themes. The argument here is really an anti-argument; Kentridge emphasizes the need to occupy the gap between certainty and uncertainty, and stresses “being aware of the limits of seeing,” and “our own limits of understanding, the limits of our memory, but prodding the memory nonetheless.” These oblique lectures resist becoming linear, simplistic, or conclusive themselves. This is an essential book for anybody seeking a better understanding of Kentridge’s work. 120 color illus. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History

Rhonda K. Garelick. Random, $35 (608p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6952-1

Iconic fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883–1971) wanted to both hide her life story and to share it, a contradiction that confounded previous potential biographers. In this well-researched and buoyant biography, fashion writer Garelick’s stated goal is to analyze the “uncanny historical reach of Coco Chanel” and the ways in which Chanel’s constant reinvention provides a model for modern women. From Chanel’s childhood in the Loire Valley—characterized by illness, poverty and abandonment—to her infirm final years, when her closest companion was her butler, Francois Mironnet, Garelick (Rising Star) reveals the dramatic details that Chanel decided to publicly disclose and those facts she hid or embellished. While the book is even-handed in its critical, probing approach to Chanel’s life, its strongest chapter concerns its very core: the designer’s intimate relationship to fascism and fascists, such as writer, diplomat, and Vichy official Paul Morand, the German intelligence officer Hans Gunther von Dincklage, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Garelick deftly situates Chanel in political and cultural history; in addition, the book’s extensive archival sources and new interviews make it a valuable resource for scholars. Photos. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures

Maureen Corrigan. Little, Brown, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-23007-0

Mixing criticism with memoir, NPR book critic Corrigan (Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading) contends that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel is greater than we think. According to Corrigan, we were too young to appreciate The Great Gatsby when we read it in high school; we were dead to its themes of nostalgia and regret, overlooked its trenchant social critique, and mistook it for a love story. (Corrigan is adamant that we miss the point if we ask whether Daisy ever loved Gatsby.) To reintroduce and reassess a masterpiece, Corrigan visits the book’s Long Island setting, Fitzgerald’s grave, and a high school English class. Most illuminating, though, is her research into Gatsby’s reception: in the Library of Congress, she investigates how the novel, unheralded on its publication in 1925, became part of the canon by the 1960s. (Fitzgerald’s ghost can thank a few friendly critics and the paperbacks issued to GIs during WWII.) Today, Corrigan asserts, Gatsby still doesn’t get its due. When she laments that Fitzgerald is the subject of fewer college seminars than are his modernist cohorts, such as James Joyce, her partisanship may seem blinkered. She makes a good case, however, that our very familiarity with Gatsby’s Great American qualities has caused us to underrate it—and she does much to restore its stature. 13 b&w photos. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Cosby: His Life and Times

Mark Whitaker. Simon & Schuster, $29.99 (544p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9797-1

Bill Cosby has his image complicated in this absorbing biography from former Newsweek editor Whitaker (My Long Trip Home), who traces Cosby’s rise from poverty in the Philadelphia projects where he lived with a working mom and an alcoholic and largely absent father during his feckless boyhood of academic failure. Cosby achieved success in everything he lacked in youth: wealth and fame as a superstar, a legendary role in The Cosby Show as a prosperous, doting paterfamilias, and a public voice as a crusader for education, personal responsibility, and committed parenting in the African-American community (despite personal missteps that would come back to haunt him). Along the way the author illuminates, with telling detail, Cosby’s remarkable achievements as a comedic technician who avoided easy gags and carefully honed his long-form stand-up routines while approaching acting roles with naturalistic improvisation. Cosby has been controversial for being noncontroversial—for eschewing edgy racial humor and politics in favor of a warm-hearted inclusiveness that white audiences embraced—but Whitaker shows the prickliness beneath the affable exterior and the genuine if sometimes muted concern for civil rights. He makes a persuasive case for Cosby as a groundbreaking comic and a quiet but far-ranging pioneer of black advancement. Photos. (Sept. 16)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Call of the Farm: An Unexpected Year of Getting Dirty, Home Cooking, and Finding Myself

Rochelle Bilow. The Experiment, $15.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-6151-9214-4

Bilow, a classically trained cook and currently a staff writer at Bon Appétit magazine, recounts her memorable year working and falling in love on a central New York farm. Following culinary school, Bilow began work as a freelancer writing about food. After struggling for three years, Bilow landed an assignment from a local food magazine reporting on the “best and most loved foods in Syracuse.” Bilow writes, “I knew nothing about farming, other than it was necessary for the type of food I wanted to consume. Otherwise I considered it irrelevant to my interests as a cook and writer.” Bilow initially volunteered cooking meals for the farm employees and helping out with chores. She also fell deeply in love with one of the Stonehill farmers and soon moved to the farm full time. The author skillfully explores the deep satisfaction that arises from, and the physical stamina required by, the production of food and animal husbandry. Stonehill, “in addition to raising beef, pigs, and chickens for meat, keeping hens for eggs, and growing vegetables,” is a licensed raw milk dairy.” Bilow’s lively and descriptive narrative tracks one year on the farm from thinning spring seedlings and the beginnings of her romance to her departure a year later. A lively, charming coming-of-age story complete with farm-tested recipes. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
What I Know for Sure

Oprah Winfrey. Flatiron, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-05405-0

“You lead life; it doesn’t lead you” is the motivating message behind media super star Winfrey’s life, career, and latest book—a compilation from the past 14 years of her monthly column in O, the Oprah Magazine. Divided into topics including resilience, clarity, gratitude, and awe, each essay provides a brief encouraging and thought-provoking reading moment. Winfrey writes calmly and conversationally. Among many other topics, she addresses personal strength, spirituality, clutter, and debt. She encourages readers to accept and welcome change, to appreciate the gift of life, and to be true to one’s self. She digs into painful memories to share lessons she’s learned, as well as how she has moved beyond pain and regret. Those interested in her personal life will find scattered details of how she spends her days, from time with her partner or her friends to reading and exercising. Gentle and supportive, while concise and sincere, these brief observations invite readers to five minutes of quiet contemplation. Ask yourself what you know for sure, Winfrey says, and “[w]hat you’ll find along the way will be fantastic, because what you’ll find will be yourself.” (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
War of the Three Gods: Romans, Persians, and the Rise of Islam

Peter Crawford. Skyhorse, $24.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-62914-512-9

Over three decades in the seventh century (610–641 C.E.), Mediterranean power shifted away from the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly known as the Byzantine Empire, first to the Persian Sassanid state and then to the newly formed Islamic Arabia. In this dry and plodding military history, historian Crawford dutifully chronicles the various swings in the balance of power, the shadowy political intrigues in each empire, and the several major battles decisive to the eventual triumph of Islamic Arabia over the Byzantine power. Along the way, Crawford introduces readers to Heraclius, the emperor in Constantinople who gained the throne by political maneuverings but faced daunting battles with the Persian state, and to the Persian leader Khurso, who led his armies to decisive victory in Constantinople in 626 only to lose the advantage four years later. By 634, the already frayed fabric of the Eastern Roman Empire unraveled almost entirely in the face of Muslim armies, and Crawford meticulously, though tiresomely, provides a day-to-day chronicle of the battles of Yarmuk and Qadisiyyah. Crawford’s book fails to live up to its title: while he briefly discusses Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Islam, he fails to make the case that these battles were motivated by religious concerns or disagreements over religious beliefs. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

Susan Pinker. Random/Spiegel & Grau, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6957-6

Pinker (The Sexual Paradox) explores the powerful effects of face-to-face contact in our increasingly computer-mediated world. While the benefits of human contact may seem like common sense, Pinker’s witty and informative book reveals a far more complex picture of these interactions. It may not surprise readers that having a web of friends and acquaintances makes both job-hunting and surviving the death of a spouse more palatable. But the biological effects that come from the community, and daily interactions with friends, partners, and parents are much less familiar. Pinker examines the benefits (and quirks) of these interactions, from development during breast-feeding to conversion disorder, and then repositions these findings to an age mediated by computer screens. In a time of constant visual entertainment and digital communication, “screens just don’t do the trick”—they can’t compete with the emotional signaling and modeling of face-time. Educational videos have no significant effect on a toddler’s language skills, and text messages of support have none of the mood elevating benefits of a phone call. Pinker’s book ends with practical tips to make room for community and contact in life, and serves as a hopeful, warm guide to living more intimately in an disconnected era. 15 Illus. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son

Penny Junor. Grand Central, $28 (374p) ISBN 978-1-4555-4983-2

Royalty biographer Junor (The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor) profiles the “spare” prince in this well-researched, if rose-tinted account of his first 30 years. Junor sympathetically recounts the royal family’s controversies—the affairs, leaked phone conversations, and various betrayals—and speculates on 12-year-old Harry’s feelings about his mother’s death. There are Harry’s own scandals, most of which Junor glosses over or denies, like his underage drinking, his Nazi masquerade-party costume, and the leaked nude photos taken in a Las Vegas hotel room. She documents Harry’s military career from the “tough, brutal, relentless” drilling at Sandhurst to flight training at Shawbury and his establishment as an Apache copilot gunner. Harry’s philanthropic activities, covered somewhat exhaustively by Junor, find him visiting orphaned children in Lesotho—for whom he later established a charitable foundation—and organizing the inaugural U.K. Warrior games, an athletic event for wounded veterans. Fans of royalty will appreciate Junor’s details of the interior of Kensington Palace and Highgrove, the ins and outs of Eton College, and descriptions of William and Kate’s wedding and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Despite its flaws, Junor’s account is a fuller picture of the prince than can be discerned from his tabloid hijinks and a humanizing depiction of a devoted son and brother, a skilled soldier, and natural leader. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.