Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Flatiron Books Launch

One of my first loves in reading is literary nonfiction. Rocket Boys, Band of Brothers, The Boys in the Boat, Friday Night Lights, just to name a few. So it is with a keen interest that I saw Macmillan, one of the big five publishers, launch a new imprint. Dubbed Flatiron Books after the famous Flatiron Building in New York, where Macmillan's headquarters happen to be based, the imprint is set to debut in the winter.

Macmillan explains the imprint as "committed to publishing intelligent fiction and nonfiction with commercial appeal by authors with distinctive voices." Based on that description, it seems like the imprint can be along the lines of Sarah Crichton's label at Farrar, Straus and Giroux or a much more selective Riverhead. Flatiron will be off to a good start with former New York Times and current Yahoo writer David Pogue debuting his book Pogue's Basics in December.

I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite recently and received a preview of the Flatiron sampler for Winter 2015 via NetGalley. Five nonfiction titles were previewed, but here were the three that stuck with me.

1) Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland (Feb. 24)
Journalistic nonfiction is right in my wheelhouse and this book is no different. We as a society tend to think of PTSD as the result of being in a war, but McClelland suffers the disorder after a 2010 trip to Haiti to report on the devastation post-earthquake. She delves into the history of the disorder and how it impacts her as well those she meets. At times it reads like a suspense tale, but I was impressed by the level of detail and openness she expresses. It was a gripping, albeit difficult read at times given the subject matter, but of the five samples Flatiron provided this was the best of the bunch and the one that immediately made it onto my to-read list. 

2) A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer (Feb. 3)
Part thriller and part world and cinema history, Paul Fischer's debut book chronicles the crazy but true story of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il's kidnapping of a South Korean director and actress in order to make better quality propaganda films. Fischer, a film producer who produced the documentary Radioman, Fischer explains Jong-Il as a petulant ruler who seeks worldwide acclaim for his films. Based on what we know of North Korea during his rule, his ambitions seem darkly comical but the means at which he aspired to achieve those ambitions were anything but. I have been going back-and-forth on adding this to my TBR, but would readily recommend it, especially to folks like a relative of mine who is both in film school and is interested in world history.

3) The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by Robin Givhan (March 17)
I'm not a fashion maven by any means. I don't like shopping for clothes and I don't get the hubbub over fashion shows. Having said that, I know the names of fashion icons like Oscar de la Renta, who passed away this week, Givenchy and Christian Dior. Part of that is the result of watching the Oscars for years and hearing the inevitable "Who are you wearing?" questions on the red carpet. Givhan's debut book, based on the preview, was well-researched and almost felt like the fashion equivalent of an underdog sports story. The book focuses on a 1973 fundraiser for Versailles when American fashion designers managed to tilt the focus of the fashion world from Europe to the U.S. Occasionally, I like to read things outside of my usual interest areas and based on the preview, I would consider this one. I'd also recommend this to a few friends of mine who are more in tune with the fashion world.

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