6 Booklist January 1 & 15, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
The Adult Books editors have selected the
following titles as representative of the year’s
outstanding books for public library collections. Our scope has been intentionally
broad, and we have attempted to find books
that combine literary, intellectual, and aesthetic excellence with popular appeal.
Arts & Literature
Children of the Stone: The Power of Music
in a Hard Land. By Sandy Tolan. Bloomsbury, $28 (9781608198139).
This is an engrossing and powerful story,
moving skillfully amid the failure of the nev-er-ending battles and “peace” talks between
Israel and Palestine and the determination
of one brave young man to change his world
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs.
By Sally Mann. illus. Little, Brown,
$32 (9780316247764); e-book, $16.99
Mann’s prose is every bit as provocative as
her famous photographs, and together word
and image create a deeply inquiring, lushly
textured, candid, witty, and affecting memoir of family, place, and how memories and
stories are preserved.
M Train. By Patti Smith. Knopf, $25
Smith shares tales from her profoundly creative life in atmospheric, imaginative, tender,
and exquisite essays, paying tribute to those
who inspired her, and recounting ardent pilgrimages around the world. (Top of the List
You Come Too: My Journey with Robert
Frost. By Lesley Lee Francis. Univ. of Virginia, $34.95 (9780813937458); e-book
Francis, a granddaughter of Robert Frost,
presents an extraordinary insider’s view of a
great family in a heady and unusual mix of
anecdote, commentary, and poetry.
An Einstein Encyclopedia. By Alice
Calaprice and others. Princeton, $39.95
In this comprehensive work, three of the
foremost scholars on Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein delve deeply into the life of the
renowned yet still enigmatic scientist.
Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal. By Jay
Parini. Doubleday, $35 (9780385537568).
This intense and personal biography offers
rich detail about Vidal’s life and work. Parini
balances the two acute sides of his subject, Vidal the “angel” and Vidal the “monster.”
How the World Moves: The Odyssey of an
American Indian Family. By Peter Nabokov.
Viking, $32.95 (9780670024889).
Nabokov opens a new window on the
American West in this fascinating biography of
Edward Proctor Hunt, a Native American born
in New Mexico’s Acoma Pueblo in 1861, who,
with his adventurous family, lived a many-faceted life, bridging Native and white worlds.
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von
Humboldt’s New World. By Andrea Wulf.
Knopf, $30 (9780385350662).
Wulf creates a richly dimensional context for
the emergence of Alexander von Humboldt
(1769–1859) as a visionary who made science
“accessible and popular” and offered prescient
warnings about how precipitous industrialization would lead to disastrous climate change.
Jonas Salk. By Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs.
Oxford, $34.95 (9780199334414).
Jacobs presents an engrossing and humane
biography of the most famous medical re-
searcher of the twentieth century, inventor of
the first successful polio vaccine, Jonas Salk
(1914–95), who went on to tackle AIDS.
Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of
Isamu Noguchi. By Hayden Herrera. Farrar,
Herrera sensitively portrays Isamu Noguchi
as an artist of “unstoppable creative energy”
whose mixed heritage caused him endless
anguish, including time in a WWII Japanese
American internment camp, reinvigorating
appreciation for Noguchi’s dramatic life and
Martín Ramírez: Framing His Life and Art.
By Victor M. Espinosa. Univ. of Texas, $40
(9781477307755); e-book (9781477307922).
Espinosa liberates the remarkably gifted
Martín Ramírez (1895–1963) from the reductive labels of “psychotic” and “outsider”
artist in this rigorous, humanizing, and affecting biography, while raising disquieting
questions about immigration, race, mental
illness, and creativity.
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented
Rock ’n’ Roll. By Peter Guralnick. Little,
Brown, $32 (9780316042741).
As Guralnick so commandingly chronicles,
Sam Phillips “discovered” Elvis, recorded
blues artists B. B. King and Howlin’ Wolf,
and launched the careers of Johnny Cash and
Jerry Lee Lewis, driven by his belief that music transcends racial divides.
Sinatra: The Chairman. By James Kaplan.
Doubleday, $35 (9780385535397).
This second installment of Kaplan’s definitive biography delivers a remarkably
insightful history of popular music and
celebrity culture in twentieth-century
America—as viewed through the lens of an
iconic singer whose tempestuous personal
life helped build his legend but often detracted from his artistic genius.
Young Elizabeth: The Making of the
Queen. By Kate Williams. Pegasus, $28.95
The years before Princess Elizabeth’s actual
accession as Queen Elizabeth II are the focus
of this briskly written, admirably probing,
and sympathetically voiced exploration of the
elements that went into the formation of the
woman who became a very successful monarch.
us our concept
of nature itself.
The irony is
become so self-
evident that we
have largely for-
gotten the man