For this year's CityBeat literary issue, we've left the world of fiction behind. We can, as they say, handle the truth, even if that truth is an incestuous, parasitic, infectious foot-binding horror.
Read on and it will all make sense. Our handy list of sure-fire, non-fiction best sellers is the perfect companion for your next trip to the bookstore.
In keeping with the larger theme of the issue, "Survival," most of the books here deal with adversity overcome, the looming threat of disaster, sports triumphs and tragedies, prolonged exposure to television and, in one case, cheating death itself — after an indeterminate stint as a human popsicle, of course.
Our original bolt of inspiration for this issue came one recent evening as we were frantically driving over to Steve and Donna Chabot's house to catch the final episode of Survivor. I had just popped the Grand Funk classic Survival out of my vintage 8-track player when "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor came on the radio. Within the next nano-second, we passed a sign that read "Stay Alive: Drive 55!"
We weren't merely inspired. We were overwhelmed by inspiration.
Out went our idea of devoting the issue to books about zoo babies. The theme of "naked & naughty" was likewise dumped. Survival. That's what this issue is all about.
Remember that this is all true-life stuff here. Even the "snot bots."
Aching For Beauty: Footbinding in China by Wang Ping — Ouch! This horrible practice was inflicted on young Chinese girls in order that they would have tiny 3-inch "lotus feet." And it goes back as far as 21 B.C.! Ping discusses the cultural and power structures that account for this regrettable tradition. (University of Minnesota, October)
The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles — We love them, yeah, yeah, yeah. And now Paul, George and Ringo tell how they survived screaming girls, mass hysteria and that Yoko bitch. (Chronicle Books, October)
Blind Obedience: A True Story of Family Loyalty and Murder in South Georgia by Bill Boyd — Murder never pays, even in the 1904 South when a black man did something unheard of: helped send a white man to the gallows. (Mercer University Press, October)
The Brothers by Art, Aaron, Charles and Cyril Neville with David Ritz — New Orleans' favorite sons, the Neville Brothers, have survived drug addiction, run-ins with women and the law and through it all have made some of the funkiest, most soulful music of all time. The name of this book should be "Tell It Like It Is" for the Brothers' biggest hit and for their candid storytelling. (Little, Brown, September)
Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You: One Man, Seven Days, Twelve Televisions by Jack Lechner — Has any one man taken so much punishment? For seven days Lechner became the ultimate couch potato. Fifteen hours of television a day is enough to destroy any man, but Lechner survives with sense of humor intact, commenting on everything from Court TV to Bob Dole's Viagra intake. (Crown, November)
Chyna by Chyna with Michael Angeli CityBeat readers are known to be avid wrestling fans. Here, the leading female in the, uh, sport tells how she overcame adversity and bad hair to be a winner. (Reganbooks, November)
Citadel On The Mountain: A Memoir Of Father And Son by Richard Wertime — Ah, if Joan Crawford had a male equal, it just might have been Wertime's father whose Pennsylvanian "citadel" served as a prison for the Wertime family. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September)
Cochrane: The Life And Exploits of a Fighting Captain by Robert Harvey — Behind every great sea captain is, uh, a sea captain as Harvey details the life of the real-life inspiration for Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey. (Carroll & Graf, September)
Cold River Spirits: The Story of an Athabascan-Irish Family in Twentieth-Century Alaska by Jan Harper-Haines — A woman leads 10 children through the Alaska bush with the help of supernatural spirits. That Casper sure is one friendly ghost. (Epicenter Press, October)
Conversations With Papa Charlie: A Memory by David Bruce Smith — When we converse with Papa, we're lucky he hears it, let alone remembers it. (Capital Books, September)
Dangerous Games: Ice Climbing, Storm Kayaking and Other Adventures from the Extreme Edge of Sports by Andrew Todhunter — The ultimate book on whoa-that-dude's-gonna-bust-his-ass-sports. Are they brave or out of their heads? (Doubleday, September)
The Debt Free Graduate: How to Survive College Without Going Broke by Murray Baker — If this book doesn't help, you can always sell pot. (Career Press, September)
Facing the Congo by Jeffrey Tayler — Another journey deep into the dark heart of the Congo, but more than just an adventure story. Tayler ponders morality and the horrible legacy of colonialism. (Consortium, September)
The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer — Well, he's not so much forgotten if there's a book on him. (Brassey's, November)
French Impressions: The Adventures of an American Family by John S. Littell — Mary Little is a GI bride trying to survive loneliness and culture shock in the South of France of the early 1950s. Inept at learning languages and a klutz at cuisine — Mary accidentally cooks a swan instead of a turkey for Thanksgiving — Mary finally learns to make France her home. (New American Library, September)
Hamlyn History of Punishment & Torture: A Journey Through The Dark Side Of Justice by Karen Farrington — A fairly comprehensive guide to disciplinary behavior, although it inexplicably never mentions spandex, lima beans nor Regis Philbin. (Hamlyn, September)
A House Divided: Suspicions of Mother-Daughter Incest by Paul R. Abramson and Steven D. Pinkerton — Along with the problem of sexual abuse comes the hysterical witch hunt of sexual abusers. This work not only investigates a rare case of mother-daughter sexual abuse but also looks at a possible miscarriage of justice. (W.W. Norton, September)
How to Grow a Backbone: 10 Strategies for Gaining Power and Influence at Work by Susan Marshall — Just add water, and take some photos of the boss in compromising positions for good measure. (Contemporary, September)
I Hope You Have a Good Life by Campbell Armstrong — A mother gives her daughter up for adoption. They're reunited 42 years later only to discover they both have cancer. It's like every single Afterschool Special rolled into one. (Crown, September)
The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey — How could Gilbert Bland have stolen $500,000 in antique maps? Now we'll never know the shortest route to Atlantis. (Random House, September)
It's Never About What It's About: What We Learned About Living While Waiting to Die by Paul Borja and Krandall Kraus — The HIV-positive AIDS activists talk about refocusing their lives while living with a death sentence. (Alyson, September)
Jew Boy by Alan Kaufman — An American poet becomes a homeless alcoholic before finding redemption. Isn't that like all American poets.? (Fromm International, September)
Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt by Jack Olsen — Losing 26 years of his life to a wrongful murder conviction, Pratt had the added hardship of being named Geronimo. Insert prison joke here. (Doubleday, September)
Living Terrors: What America Needs to Know to Survive the Coming Bioterrorist Catastrophe by Michael T. Osterholm and John Schwarz — The authors present a seven-point plan for change to help us avoid and survive a terrorist attack of infectious diseases such as anthrax or small pox. According to Osterholm and Schwarz, it's not a matter of "if" but "when." (Delacorte, September)
Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder by Beth Loffreda — The University of Wyoming faculty advisor explores the implications of Shepard's murder. Uh, let's see. A young life was cut short. Shepard became a martyr. And sadly society moved on as if nothing happened. (Columbia University Press, October)
Never Die Easy by Walter Payton with Down Yaeger — "Sweetness" didn't win his bout with liver cancer but his legacy as a football player and as a humanitarian survives him. The Chicago Bear running back's life is retold by Payton and family and friends. (Villard, September)
No One's Perfect by Hirotada Ototake — The 24-year-old Japanese man has lived life with no limbs. They say some people would give an arm and a leg to get a book published, but this is ridiculous. (Kodansha America, September)
An Ocean to Cross: Daring The Atlantic and Claiming A New Life by Liz Fordred with Susie Blackmun — There's just no way to keep a good paraplegic down as one couple proves with a flight across the Atlantic. (McGraw-Hill/International Marine, October)
Only the Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor by Jerry Butler with Earl Smith — The life and times of the rhythm and blues pioneer are recalled. No word on whether Michael Bolton will be providing the soundtrack. (Indiana University Press, October)
Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures by Carl Zimmer — Learn all about the disgusting creatures in your body like tapeworms and "snot bots." Gross? Yes, but highly educational. (Free Press, September)
Red Sox Century: One Hundred Years of Red Sox Baseball by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson — It's been 82 years since the Bo Sox have won a World Series Title. Now can they survive the fielding and base-running of ex-Red Dante Bichette? (Houghton Mifflin, September)
The Selected Letters Of Dashiell Hammett edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett — The mistress made him do it. (Counterpoint Press, November)
Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War by Deborah Copaken Kogan — Being a photojournalist sure ain't easy, especially if you have boobies. (Villard, October)
Survivor by Mark Burnett with Martin Dugard — Yep, all the dirt on the mega-monster of reality TV. We hate to give away the ending of the book, but the evil gay guy gets the dough. (TV Books, September)
Thirty Years in Deep Freeze by Ching-chih Yi-Ling Wong — And he's not referring to a cryogenic chamber, just his life in Communist China. Not that there's much difference between the two. (Fithian, September)