The fall publishing calendar is always packed with great new books, just in time for the weather to turn colder, so grab a sweater and a mug of cider, and curl up with a selection from Octoberâ€™s biography and memoir releases.
Music lovers are particularly well served this month, with the release of two major new memoirs by 1960s rock legends, and a collection of John Lennonâ€™s previously unpublished personal writings. "Rod: The Autobiography," by Rod StewartÂ is the first time the well-traveled rocker has put his wild-haired head down to tell his own version of a half century in the music business. From his childhood in England and his early days as the frontman of the Small Faces and the Jeff Beck Group, to his illustrious solo career -- by way of three marriages and eight children -- Rodâ€™s is the archetypal salacious rockâ€™nâ€™roll story. As the author promises: â€śForget skeletons in the closet; this oneâ€™s going to be socks and knickers under the bed.â€ť
If Rodâ€™s hair-raising history doesnâ€™t satisfy your need to vicariously live the life of a sixties British music legend, "Who I Am," by Pete Townshend offers just as many tales of hedonistic excess and dizzying falls -- including a literal one off a hotel balcony after Keith Moon, which almost killed him. A pioneering musician who had early ambitions to be a writer, sculptor, and dancer, Townshendâ€™s life in The Who, and since then as a solo artist, composer, and fiction writer, is no less of a wild ride.
The third music-junkie treat on offer this month is "The John Lennon Letters," a beautifully designed and carefully curated collection, which brings to light previously unpublished correspondence between Lennon and a wide range of friends, family, and lovers. Organized and annotated by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, more than 300 letters and postcards add up to an intimate and often brutally honest portrait of Lennon as an artist and a man, displaying his witty, sardonic, and poetic literary gifts to the full.
A similarly revealing trove of letters, written over the course of the novelistâ€™s sixty-year career, is collected in "Kurt Vonnegut Letters," edited by Dan Wakefield.Â The book includes the young Vonnegutâ€™s letters home from World War II, just after he was released from a German POW camp and confronted the firebombed ruins of Dresden: searing experiences that formed the basis of his masterpiece "Slaughterhouse-Five."Â The letters contain heartfelt advice, crackpot inventiveness, anger, protest, encouragement, and wit; he cannily warns his daughter Nanny that â€śMost letters from a parent contain a parentâ€™s own lost dreams disguised as good advice,â€ť and elsewhere declares bluntly to Norman Mailer: â€śI am cuter than you are.â€ť
The novelist Richard Russo, author of the Pulitzer-winning "Empire Falls," returns to his 1950s childhood in the struggling upstate New York town of Gloversville for his first memoir, the warm and elegiac "Elsewhere." Russo grew up as the only son of a charming, feckless father and an ambitious mother, who encouraged him to dream of a life beyond the townâ€™s limits. The book movingly charts the expansion of the novelistâ€™s world against the shrinkage of the town, impoverished by the disappearance of the once-thriving glovemaking industry.
Chinua Achebe, author of five novels, including the classic "Things Fall Apart" as well as a libraryâ€™s worth of short stories, poetry, and criticism, has never written directly about his formative experiences during the horrific Nigerian Civil War, known as the Biafran War, of 1967-70. In "There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra,"Â Achebe breaks this forty-year silence to reflect on the violent coming-of-age of the newly independent Nigerian nation, from his unique and precarious vantage point as an acclaimed novelist and cultural ambassador. The story is a powerful evocation of a writerâ€™s struggle to balance his obligation to tell the truth with the need to protect his young family.
Destined to be one of the most newsworthy books of the year, "Silent No More" is the memoir of the young man known as Victim One, a key witness in the Jerry Sandusky trial. The authorâ€™s identity will be revealed when the book is released; for now, he is known only for his bravery in coming forward, at the age of fourteen, to corroborate the accusations against Sandusky and to tell his story, which is intended to help break through the shame and isolation suffered by the young victims of sexual abuse.
â€śHer hats are lost, but her book is her legacy, discovered once again.â€ť A chance discovery in a second-hand bookstore led to the rediscovery and reissue of a memoir by a vivacious and beautiful Jewish milliner Trudi Kanter, which recounts her glamorous life in Vienna, crushed in the Nazi invasion of Austria in 1938. Â "Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered" is at heart the story of the passionate romance of the author and her husband, a charming Jewish businessman, and of their extraordinary, daring escape from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to the fragile safety of London.