Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers, by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green

This memoir by the late daughter of the composer Richard Rodgers (who, as Noël Coward put it, “positively peed melody”), and mother of the Tony-winning composer Adam Guettel, offers a window onto the life of a showbiz family—Mary Rodgers herself wrote the tunes for the 1959 hit musical Once upon a Mattress, among other shows, and then, in a career pivot, the 1972 children’s novel Freaky Friday, as well as its screen adaptation. Bill Cosby, Barbara Barrie, and Leonard Bernstein all make appearances in Shy, assembled by Jesse Green, chief theater critic for The New York Times, and reviewed by Joanne Kaufman here.


Power Failure: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon, by William D. Cohan

This exhaustively researched and insightful history of General Electric from AIR MAIL Writer at Large William D. Cohan puts into enlightening context the company’s groundbreaking rise, its cult of financial leadership and success—once the envy of the world—and its unimaginable fall. You can read Cohan’s inside story on the making of Power Failure here.


Becoming FDR: The Personal Crisis That Made a President, by Jonathan Darman

It’s hard to imagine saying anything new or interesting about one of the 20th century’s most influential men, but this new biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt does just that. Specifically, the book explores how polio prepared Roosevelt for the presidency and saved his marriage. You can read an interview with Jonathan Darman about Becoming FDR here.


Imagine a City: A Pilot’s Journey Across the Urban World, by Mark Vanhoenacker

Mark Vanhoenacker flies long-haul British Airways Dreamliner 787s out of London to every corner of the planet. His memoir, both an insider’s guide to travel and a delightful entry point into the world of commercial flight through factoids and anecdotes about pilots’ perks and the like, is reviewed by Pico Iyer here.


I’ll Be There: My Life with the Four Tops, by Duke Fakir

This memoir from the last surviving member of the Four Tops tells how the vocal quartet that helped to define the city’s Motown sound of the 60s came to be, from the origin of songs such as “Baby I Need Your Loving” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” to the encouragement of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. Duke Fakir also reveals that he was present during the creation of the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On,” as well as for Michael Jackson’s moonwalk at the Motown 25th-anniversary special in 1983, writes Max Carter in his review of I’ll Be There, which you can read here.


The Passenger, by Cormac McCarthy

Part of a two-volume collection, Cormac McCarthy’s first novel since The Road delivers the author’s signature stark, piercing prose in the form of interweaving stories—of Bobbie and Alicia Western, siblings whose father helped build the atomic bomb; of history and American mysticism; science and morality; and, of course, tortured souls. You can read Nathan King’s review of The Passenger and its sequel, Stella Maris, here.


The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, by Stacy Schiff

This biography of Sam Adams sheds fresh light on the least known of the Founding Fathers—a cousin of John Adams’s who helped engineer the Boston Tea Party, a wanted man when Paul Revere rode to Lexington in 1775—and reveals why he faded from history following the U.S.’s independence. You can read an interview with Stacy Schiff about The Revolutionary here.


Scenes from My Life, by Michael K. Williams

“Way before I was anything or anyone, I was an addict,” writes Michael K. Williams in his intimate, posthumously published memoir. Scenes from My Life tells the twin tales of a lifelong drug addiction, which ultimately led to his death last year at 54, and a brilliant career that started early (in music-video performances for Madonna, George Michael, and Missy Elliot), fizzled, and then came back stronger than before with The Wire. You can read Joanne Kaufman’s review of the book here.


In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing, by Elena Ferrante

She’s gone to great lengths to keep her personal life a secret, but the Italian author of the Neapolitan quartet is not as cagey when it comes to her writing process. Elena Ferrante partnered with her longtime translator, Ann Goldstein, for In the Margins, a delightful essay collection reviewed by Jenny McPhee here.


Lucy by the Sea, by Elizabeth Strout

If you read one pandemic novel this year, let this one be it. The latest from Elizabeth Strout sees her titular character, Lucy Barton, whisked out of New York City at the first sign of the coronavirus and deposited in a house in Maine. What follows will be a familiar-sounding story to many of us, but it’s told in such a compelling, artful way that you’ll feel only this Pulitzer Prize winner could have pulled it off, writes Pico Iyer in his review, which you can read here.


Don’t miss our best books stories of 2022 …

  • Johanna Berkman’s interview with Jumi Bello, the promising young novelist whose plagiarism scandal rocked the publishing world (here)
  • James Kirchick’s deep dive into Skyhorse, the rogue publishing house that will seemingly publish anything, from the conspiracist screeds of Roger Stone and Robert F. Kennedy to the canceled essays of Norman Mailer (here)
  • Philippe Sands’s review of The Betrayal of Anne Frank, a book that claimed to reveal who outed the Holocaust’s most famous victim before its publishers put the kibosh on the whole thing (here)
  • Mark Rozzo’s inside look at how his book, Everybody Thought We Were Crazy, on Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward, came to be (here)
  • Jensen Davis’s interview with Rachel Aviv, whose debut book picks up where her mind-bending New Yorker pieces leave off (here)
  • James Wolcott’s account of the $75 gold-accented gaudiness that is Donald Trump’s coffee-table book (here)
  • Three exclusive excerpts from Sam Wasson and Jeanine Basinger’s oral history of Hollywood, on the talkie revolution, the making of Easy Rider, and the birth of C.A.A. (here)
  • Three exclusive excerpts from Dana Brown’s Vanity Fair memoir, on the time Trump crashed a V.F. dinner, the Oscar parties of yore, and the origins of the Caitlyn Jenner cover story (here)
  • Jim Kelly’s interview with Anthony Horowitz, the man behind Foyle’s War and Agatha Christie’s Poirot, a series of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond novels, and his own excellent TV show (here)

Julia Vitale is a Deputy Editor for AIR MAIL