Fall 2012 Preview: The Last Headbangers: NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless '70s (Norton)

With training camp wrapping up, here's a little something to remind us all of the way things used to be in the NFL. Out now from W.W. Norton: Kevin Cook's pull-you-right-in-and-kick-you-around chronicle of the birth of the modern NFL - and the beginning of modern sports as we all know it today: The Last Headbangers. 

The Last Headbangers: NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless '70s
by Kevin Cook
W.W. Norton | 9780393080162 | $26.95 | Sept 2012 

My review from Goodreads, posted moments after I finished reading the manuscript back in April:

"The new book from the author of Titanic Thompson (seriously, just go read that one first, okay?), the unofficial but totally legit history of the wild and crazy 1970s in the NFL - the decade when football finally graduated from post-war doldrums and transcended its prior existence as second-runner-up to collegiate football to America's highly-paid, sensationalistic, kick-ass sport. Particularly recommended if you were a fan of the Steelers or the Raiders in that era - or hated those teams with a passion."

More from the book's page at Norton:

Between the Immaculate Reception in 1972 and The Catch in 1982, pro football grew up. In 1972, Steelers star Franco Harris hitchhiked to practice. NFL teams roomed in skanky motels. They played on guts, painkillers, legal steroids, fury, and camaraderie. A decade later, Joe Montana’s gleamingly efficient 49ers ushered in a new era: the corporate, scripted, multibillion-dollar NFL we watch today. Kevin Cook’s rollicking chronicle of this pivotal decade draws on interviews with legendary players—Harris, Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Ken “Snake” Stabler—to re-create their heroics and off-field carousing. He shows coaches John Madden and Bill Walsh outsmarting rivals as Monday Night Football redefined sports’ place in American life. Celebrating the game while lamenting the physical toll it took on football’s greatest generation, Cook diagrams the NFL’s transformation from second-tier sport into national obsession.

You can read an excerpt at ESPN's site.

The next, next Great American Novel: Bonnie Jo Campbell's Once Upon A River (Norton)

It's hard to switch gears sometimes.

After spending so many months thinking and talking about a novel that moves you as powerfully as Nina Revoyr's Wingshooters did (just out last month from Akashic/Consortium), working through two seasons to build enthusiasm for a novel like that, one bookseller at a time, that it can be a bit of a shock to realize that it's time to move on to the next novel.

But the wheel of time turns, the publishing cycle spins, and a new season of books is here.

The average bookseller probably runs a practiced eye over the bookshelf full of likely "next books I might fall in love with" a couple of times a day, mentally shuffling the deck, trying to decide where personal tastes, current moods, and the whimsy of fate will intersect.

But eventually you choose a book to try out and see if it's the next one. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it is. 

And when it is, you put down the novel you've been reading for the past couple of days or weeks in intense sessions of page-turning absorption, finally finished, with a satsified warmth in the bottom of your gut. And you know you have found a book that you can really get behind.


Once Upon a River
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
W. W. Norton & Company | 9780393079890 | $25.95 | July 2011

American Salvage
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
W. W. Norton & Company | 9780393339192 | $13.95 | Dec 2009

Bonnie Jo Campbell's previous book, a collection of stories called American Salvage, was a National Book Award finalist and an NBCC finalist in 2009. Originally published by Wayne State University Press, the reprint rights were scooped up by W.W. Norton shortly thereafter.

Two years down the road, we have this new novel: Once Upon A River, expanded from the story "Family Reunion" in American Salvage.

Set in rural Michigan, Once Upon A River follows the river-borne wanderings of sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, as she navigates a world of her own choosing – one comprised of fishing and trapping and hunting and floating upon the Stark River. In flight from a family tragedy partly of her own making, Margo is on the run. And she has decided to make the most of her sudden, premature independence.

One character in the book describes her as a throwback, and in some ways, Margo is definitely a young woman out of time with the future that is otherwise rushing at the people living in this novel. The other teens in the novel are more interested in watching television and getting drunk or stoned and trying to have sex with each other. Margo fishes and traps and shoots.

Although it's set in the early 1980s, the reader feels the closing in of the natural world, the borders pressing in upon Margo's idyll. Her journey is not a lazily drifting epic on the mighty Mississippi. Her river world is well-defined and a little confining, and frequently polluted by the industries that have spread throughout Michigan. There will be no territory for her to light out for in the end.

And like Huck in that other epic novel of escape and reinvention on the river, Margo faces both the entrapments of society and the savagery of men. A beautiful young woman, despite her frequent long stretches without adequate bathing, she seems to present a target too luscious for men who wish to possess her and have their way with her. Others see her as a wild child who needs to be tamed and civilized.

Like so many great American novels, Margo's story is as much a journey of self-discovery as it is a flight away from those who would try to control her. It's a joy and a thrill to watch Margo come to terms with the world around her and find a way to truly come home.

If you have not read Bonnie Jo Campbell's previous works, seek out American Salvage!  Booksellers should find an advance copy of Once Upon A River – it comes out in early July 2011.


Bonnie Jo Campbell: web siteblog | twitter

W.W. Norton & Co.: web site | tumblr | twitter

Wayne State University Press: web site | facebook


W.W. Norton is one of the publishers I represent. I have a (tiny) financial interest in you falling in love with Bonnie Jo Campbell's books.

New visual treasures from Fantagraphics, Princeton Architectural Press & Chronicle Books

OK, having got that little throat-clearing end-of-summer group hug out of the way, I'm free to talk about three of the cool books that recently arrived here at my3books HQ.  

I'd like to use the traditional phraseology "landed on my desk", but to be honest, so many books and catalogs and packages come and go here that nothing really lands on my desk.  Also, when you say "landed on my desk", that more or less implies the presence of mailroom staff or interns or something like that.  And I'm usually the only one who opens up the jiffy mailers and book cartons.  

Nevertheless, you must check out these three beautiful books.  I can't think of a single good phrase to refer to them in the aggregate but at least one of them is perfect for the traditional "gift book" section in your typical indie bookstore.  One of them is simply a graphic novel from one of my favorite artists.  And one of them is a book that I would say is a no-brainer for any customer or loved one who is hoping to become a visual artist one day.


Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities
by John Carrera
Chronicle Books | 9780811867184 | $35 | Sept 2009

A visual delight, a word-lover's coffee table book, a fascinating historical document - Pictorial Webster's is all of these things.  John Carrera stumbled across an ancient and battered 1898 Webster's International Dictionary at his grandmother's house in 1995.  He was struck by the quality of the illustrated section: 80 pages of engravings in a variety of styles.

He embarked on a 10-year-long quest to find more examples, track down the original engravings and restore these beautiful images to print.  He ultimately located the original engravings at Yale University, organized their holdings, and then put together a collection that spanned the different editions across the decades.


Carrera published the extremely limited letterpress edition through his own fine press company, Quercus Press. The Fine Press Book Association recently featured a video by Carerra that walks viewers through the steps that were required to create his book. Chronicle Books has finally brought out the trade edition. They're also hosting a drawing - one lucky individual is going to win a copy of the Quercus Press edition. Chronicle is also hosting another drawing with IndieBound: five winners will win beautiful framed posters of Pictorial Webster's art.


Low Moon
by Jason
Fantagraphics Books (W.W. Norton) | 9781606991558 | $24.99 | June 2009

When I started repping for W.W. Norton, one of the special treats awaiting me as a longtime fan of graphic novels was the Fantagraphics list.  I've always been a fan of their particularly lovely bookmaking and their wide-ranging participation in both the history of the field as well as the future of comics.  To be dropped in amongst their riches was like Dorothy stepping out of her ruined farmhouse into technicolor Oz.

Consider this short list: The complete Peanuts.  Daniel Clowes' Ghost WorldLove and RocketsChris Ware's Acme Novelty LibraryComplete Crumb Comics.  Bill Griffith's ZippyTony Millionaire's Maakies.  Jules Feiffer.  Krazy & Ignatz.  I could easily fill this blog with nothing but Fantagraphics books, if I wanted.

 But my most exciting discovery of all has been Jason.  The mono-named Norwegian artist has been a prolific creator and a recent star of Fantagraphics' list.  His "clear line" style is immediately appealing and understandable to readers, and gives those readers what I think of as a head start - your focus and attention can be spent in finding the emotion and the subtext that runs below the surface narrative.

Some of my favorite backlist titles by Jason include I Killed Adolf Hitler (a time-traveling assassin is sent back to 1939 to do in the Nazi dictator, though the mission does not go as planned), and Pocket Full of Rain (a collection of 25 works from Jason's first 10 years as an artist).

He was one of the contributors to the Funny Pages serials in the New York Times Magazine, creating in the title piece from my featured book, Low Moon, an Old West homage that somehow combined gunfights, thwarted romance and chess.  Fantagraphics' Web site features a short video peek at Low Moon.


Inside the Painter's Studio
by Joe Fig
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988528 | $35 | Paper | Sept 2009

Jackson Pollock 1951 (2002)This book began in 2000 when artist Joe Fig began a series of miniature sculptures of historically significant artists in their studios (see the Jackson Pollock sculpture, right).  After two years of working from memoirs and paintings and other source materials, he moved on to a related study of contemporary artists.  As he says in his preface, "my intention was to get a clearer understanding of the real, day-to-day practicalities of being an artist..."

Chuck (Chuck Close 1997) (2000)The resulting book combines all of the elements of Joe Fig's work and his behind-the-scenes research: an interview with each artist (which Fig quickly standardized as The Painter's Studio: An Artist's Questionnaire, seeming to riff on the Proust Questionnaire...), site photographs of each artist's studio space, their painting table, and works in progress, and photographs of the resulting miniature sculpture of the artist's studio by Fig.  In the end, what the curious reader holds in their hand in a guided tour through How Artists Work, told by an insider.  It's truly fascinating.

Fred Tomaselli 2003 (2003)Among the 24 artists involved in this project are Chuck Close, Ross Bleckner, Jane Hammond, Julie Mehretu and Fred Tomaselli.



Twitter coordinates:
Chronicle Books
Fantagraphics Books
Princeton Architectural Press 

guest post: Melinda Blau, co-author of Consequential Strangers

I met journalist and author Melinda Blau online a few weeks ago. She commented on a post on Follow The Reader, Kat Meyer and Charlotte Abbott's blog. After I read the post and started down the list of comments, I recognized Melinda's name in the comments as one of two authors of a book I'm selling this summer from W.W. Norton, Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem To Matter. I found her on Twitter and started following her. Soon enough, we were having an actual phone call to talk about our mutual interests in social networking, the world of bookstores and publishing, and how the world of publicising books has changed.

In addition to the dozen other books she's written, Melinda is also blogging for Psychology Today and on the Web site for Consequential Strangers.

I ended the call by asking if she would put together a blog post for my3books about three books that she found useful and/or inspirational when she was working on Consequential Strangers, which (by the way) is coming out in August 2009.


My three books are naturally non-fiction - it’s mostly what I read and it’s what I write. This sometimes upsets my friends, especially when I write about a topic that doesn’t interest them. Inevitably, they suggest, “Hey, why don’t you write a juicy novel next?” While I have tremendous respect for authors who can create whole worlds out of their heads, my answer is this: “Nothing I could make up is more spectacular than the stories I hear from real people.”

I digress, but only slightly – I’ll get to that point again. John asked me to think of three books that inspired me, or propelled me, as I was writing my latest book, Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don’t Seem to Matter, which is an exploration of how people outside our family and close friends affect our success and well being. I read widely in service of this project, but here are three very different kinds of books that stand out.


Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Places
edited by Calvin Morrill, David A. Snow, and Cindy White
University of California Press | 9780520245235 | $21.95 | Aug 2005

Together Alone showed me that was I was onto something. It is a highly readable collection of ethnographic studies, focusing on social interactions that occur in strip bars and gyms, softball fields and university student centers. The book makes the paradigm-changing point that casual relationships can also have moments of intimacy and emotional dependence. Not surprisingly, it was cited in the 2005 New York Times Magazine “Year in Ideas” issue. I can’t help but think that collective consciousness was at work here, too because Together Alone was being compiled around the time that my academic collaborator, Karen Fingerman, coined the term consequential strangers to describe what sociologists call “weak ties.”


Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
by John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick
W. W. Norton & Company | 9780393335286 | $17.95 | Aug 2009

Loneliness is, in a way, the flip side of Consequential Strangers. Fortunately, the authors were a year ahead of me, so I was able to include ideas from the book and from my several interviews with Cacioppo, who has been researching the effects of social isolation for the last twenty years. (In a wonderful "small world" story his coauthor, William Patrick, was one of my consequential strangers. He had edited my first book years earlier when he was at Addison-Wesley.)

Pulling together Cacioppo’s research, as well as numerous other fascinating studies, the book documents the science of loneliness. What I love most is the weight given to connection, posited here as a basic human need, right up there with hunger or thirst. When we lack social ties, we experience the dangerous physical and emotional effects of loneliness. Fortunately, as both our books stress, we are not doomed to stay there.


Both Sides Now: One Man’s Journey Through Womanhood
by Dhillon Khosla
Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin | 9781585424726 | $26.95 | Mar 2006 (Out of Print)

Both Sides Now is a touching and painful memoir published in 2006, as I was casting about for real-life examples to illustrate the fact that consequential strangers allow us to try on new personas. I suspected that anyone who transitioned from sexy blond women to handsome, well-built guy would be a good – albeit extreme – example.

As it turned out, people in Khosla’s outer circles – co-workers, a bartender – accepted his new male identity before his loved ones did. I didn’t end up using Khosla’s story but his book is well-written and riveting and it certainly fits my you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up theory!


Better than dancing about architecture? Well, it's writing about music, anyway.

If you follow music bloggers, you've probably seen this quote many times:

"Talking about music is like dancing about architecture."

Whoever said it - my money's on Elvis Costello - the idea seems to be that the magic of music is just not capturable by words in print. Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped journalists, critics, novelists, and about a bajillion music bloggers from giving it the old college try.

Among the many books I'm selling this summer that will be published this fall, there are some really interesting looking music books from three different publishers: The University of North Carolina Press, W.W. Norton, and the Speck Press imprint of Fulcrum Publishing.

Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues
by William Ferris
UNC Press | 9780807833254 | $35 | Nov 2009

Folklorist and blues fan Bill Ferris spent years traveling around Mississippi during the 1960s and 1970s, capturing the voices and performances of the blues musicians he saw on film and on audio. Some of his recordings were released in a short documentary in 1975 that shared a title with this new book. Now, Ferris has put together a definitive record of his research, with transcribed interviews, photographs of the musicians and the people around them, and a dualdisc CD/DVD with excerpts from his original recordings. From blues superstars like B.B. King and Willie Dixon to inmates at Parchman Prison, this book brings a crucial chapter of the blues back to life on the page.


All Hopped Up and Ready to Go: Music From the Streets of New York, 1927-77
by Tony Fletcher
W. W. Norton | 9780393334838 | $18.95 | Oct 2009

This book covers a lot of ground - looking specifically at the music scenes that were born and thrived on the streets of New York City: bebop, Latin music, the folk revival, glitter, disco, punk and hip hop. Fletcher also covers some of the crucial historical developments that led these neighborhoods and their residents to become so influential. A fun read, an incisive look back, written by a huge fan of the music world.

Fletcher can be found on Twitter and at his online music magazine, iJamming!


The Birth (and Death) of the Cool
by Ted Gioia
Speck Press / Fulcrum (Consortium) | 9781933108315 | $25 | Nov 2009

Ted Gioia has published so many other books that are specifically about genres of music (The History of Jazz, Delta Blues, West Coast Jazz, etc.) that I'm hoping you'll cut me a little slack. This book is actually a bit of a pop culture rant masquerading as a history of The Cool (cue the Miles on the turntable). A highly entertaining & readable rant, but still. Here's a choice summary from the publisher:

"...Gioia shows why cool is not a timeless concept and how it has begun to lose meaning and fade into history. Gioia deftly argues that what became iconic in the 1950s with Miles Davis, James Dean, and others has been manipulated, stretched, and pushed to a breaking point—not just in our media, entertainment, and fashion industries, but also by corporations, political leaders, and social institutions."


Twitterific links:

>> UNC Press

>> W.W. Norton & Co. (mostly tweeting about their fiction)

>> Speck Press / Fulcrum Publishing (Consortium)

DISCLAIMER: This post features books from publisher(s) that I represent BUT the point of this blog is to talk about books that I think you should know about, so just take it as a given that in the back of my mind, it has been my secret plan all along to make you want to buy them.