December 14, 2018

Politics, poetry & pop: An Autumn of literary options

This fall’s book season brings forth an unusually rich and provocative crop of new works by famous and revered authors, some for children and some for adults, some from abroad, but many from right here in Southern California.

Among the brightest literary lights in Los Angeles is the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer A. Scott Berg, whose previous books have conjured up the lives of Max Perkins, Charles Lindbergh, Samuel Goldwyn and Katharine Hepburn. His latest biography, “Wilson” (Putnam, $40), is yet another event of note, a saga that fleshes out the stern figure of President Woodrow Wilson, the professor-turned-president who played a commanding role in shaping the geopolitical world in which we live today. “Berg renders Wilson with an astute, sensitive understanding of the man and his presidency,” Booklist enthuses. “Berg’s research is deep and thorough and — important for a wide readership — comfortably couched in a graceful, smooth presentation.” 

Berg, a sparkling conversationalist, will be featured with veteran journalist Jim Newton at the ALOUD at the Central Library, at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 16. For reservations and information, visit

Long before the movie version of “Schindler’s List,” the world learned the story of Oskar Schindler from Australian author Thomas Keneally in the novel originally titled “Schindler’s Ark.” Keneally’s latest book is “The Daughters of Mars,” a novel that shows us the nightmarish landscape of the first world war through the eyes of two sisters who join up as army nurses. The action includes the tragic landing at Gallilpoli, where a Jewish unit known as the Zion Mule Corps was deployed in support of the infantry units from Australia and New Zealand.  The sacrifice of Anzac soldiers on the sands of Gallipoli and in the trenches of the Western Front is a sore point in Australia even today, and Keneally uses his remarkable gift as a storyteller to impart these meanings to his readers.  

Keneally will talk about and sign copies of “The Daughters of Mars” at 4 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.

Kim Dower is best known in these parts as “Kim From L.A.,” a book publicist of transcending charm and accomplishment. But her appreciative readers also look forward to her poetry, the latest of which is collected in “Slice of Moon” (Red Hen Press, $18.95).  “ ‘Slice of Moon’ is a dark chocolate fever dream of love, of mothers,” declares Erica Jong, one of her more famous fans. “Dower dares you into the dark. You may find yourselves lurking there.” In a poem titled “Dreams Do That,” for instance, she explains that “important dreams/sleep in the pockets of our hearts, folded/like handkerchiefs, waiting for a special occasion.” On the occasion of her new book, she allows her readers an intimate glimpse of those important dreams. 

Dower will discuss and sign copies of “Slice of Moon” at 4 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.

Aimee Bender is the best-selling master of post-modernist fairytales, including the breakout short-story collection “The Girl With the Flammable Skirt” and the unforgettable novel (and now a movie, too) “An Invisible Sign of My Own.” As Bender sees the world in which we live, a certain dark magic is always at work just beneath the surface of painfully realistic scenes and settings. By way of example, one of the stories in her latest collection, “The Color Master: Stories” (Doubleday, $25.95), focuses on the dilemma of a woman who marries an ogre and then wonders whether the marriage can be saved after he eats their children by mistake.  

Bender will read and discuss her new book at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. 

Three pop-culture icons will be appearing at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore at the Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, in the month of September. Sharon Osborne, the original “momager” and reality-show maven, conjures up Capt. Hook’s long-suffering mother in “Mama Hook Knows Best: A Pirate Parent’s Favorite Fables” (Disney Press, $17) at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18. With the publication of “My New Teacher and Me!” (HarperCollins, $17.99), Al (“Weird Al”) Yankovic steps out from behind the microphone to talk about his second outing as a best-selling children’s author at 2 p.m. on Sept. 22. And Billy Crystal, newly minted as a memoirist, presents a book for grown-ups — “Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?” (Henry Holt, $28) — at 7  p.m. on Sept. 26.  “This book is kickass funny and truly unique,” fellow comedian Robin Williams says. “A Hollywood biography with only one wife, no rehab, a loving family and loyal friends.”