What's that coming at us from the Mysterious East? The East Coast, that is, central headquarters...

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“Stretching My Mind: The Collected Essays of Edward Albee, 1960-2005” (Carroll & Graf). The prize-winning playwright (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) talks about literature, theater, culture and politics in this career-spanning collection of essays.

“The City of Falling Angels” by John Berendt (Penguin Press). Berendt, author of the best-selling Savannah-based “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” visits Venice and attempts to ferret out its eccentrics and its mysteries, from murderous disputes among the rich and powerful to tales of hustlers, sleepwalkers a believer in Martians, the Plant Man, the Rat Man of Treviso, and Henry James.”

“Theatre of Fish: Travels Through Newfoundland and Labrador” by John Gimlette (Knopf). The hilarious British travel writer who put Paraguay on the map with “At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig” takes a trek north to Newfoundland and Labrador, where his great-grandfather traveled in 1893.

Theatre of Fish: Travels Through Newfoundland and Labrador

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel

“Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground” by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House). One of America’s most prescient writers on current affairs (“Balkan Ghosts”) writes about America’s Marines and Special Forces troops in the Philippines, Afghanistan, Iraq and other hot spots. The first of two planned volumes.

“My Detachment: A Memoir” by Tracy Kidder (Random House). A memoir by the author of “House” and “The Soul of a New Machine” about his attempts in Vietnam to command “a ragtag band of eight more or less ungovernable enlisted men.”

“Burning Fence: A Western Memoir of Fatherhood” by Craig Lesley (St. Martin’s Press). The Portland author of “Winterkill” and “Storm Riders” looks at the experience of fatherhood through a memoir of his father, stepfather and an Indian foster child that Lesley tries to raise.

“The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family” by Dan Savage (Dutton). The Stranger editor and sex columnist takes on the topic of “coming to terms with the very public act of marriage” — the gay version.

“Michelangelo’s Mountain: The Quest for Perfection in the Marble Quarries of Carrara” by Eric Scigliano (Free Press). Seattle author Scigliano looks at Michelangelo’s passion for the marble of Carrara, Italy, and his creation of three sculptures from it as a way to re-examine the social, political and personal forces that shaped Michelangelo’s work.

“Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel” by Jane Smiley (Knopf). After 9/11, one of America’s liveliest novelists suffered writer’s block, so she read 100 novels. This book is the result — a meditation on why a novel succeeds, or doesn’t, as well as which novels have affected her own life.

“And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey” by Studs Terkel (New Press). The oral historian (“Working,” “Hard Times”) takes a musical turn with this collection of interviews conducted over the past 50 years. Marian Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Aaron Copland, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Ravi Shankar are among the many musicians featured.

“A Man Without a Country” by Kurt Vonnegut (Seven Stories). A collection of essays by the popular novelist (“Slaughterhouse Five”) in which he holds forth on life, art, politics and “the condition of the soul of America today.”

“River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War” by Andrew Ward (Viking). The Seattle author’s account of “one of the most controversial battles in American history.”

“For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire” by James Yee with Aimee Molloy (Public Affairs). The story of Army Capt. James “Yusuf” Yee, who was accused of spying and aiding the Taliban at the Guantánamo Bay prison and threatened with the death penalty, only to have all criminal charges against him dropped.

River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War

“Patrick O’Brian: The Making of the Novelist 1914-1949” by Nikolai Tolstoy (Norton). The story of novelist O’Brian’s life, up to his move to the south of France. Tolstoy was the stepson of O’Brian, author of the “Master and Commander” series. Norton is also reissuing “The Catalans,” an early novel by O’Brian set in his adopted home.


“Shakespeare: The Biography” by Peter Ackroyd (Doubleday). The author of the magisterial “London: The Biography” turns his formidable intellect and knowledge of English history toward a look at the most influential English writer of all.

“The Orphan Tsunami of 1700: Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America” by Brian F. Atwater and others (University of Washington Press/U.S. Geological Survey). A UW affiliate professor of earth sciences and geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey collaborates with five colleagues on a “trans-Pacific detective story” in which studies of Japanese documents and Pacific Northwest sediments and tree rings led to the linking of a massive Pacific Northwest earthquake with a tsunami that hit Japan in 1700.

“Andrew Jackson: A Life and Times” by W.H. Brands (Doubleday). The story of the president who fought in the Revolutionary War and routed the British from New Orleans during the war of 1812, then as president tried to ensure that the U.S. would remain a participatory democracy. Brands is author of “Lone Star Nation” and “The Age of Gold.”

“Mao: The Unknown Story” by Jung Chang and John Halliday (Knopf). An esteemed Chinese writer and an Asian scholar combine their talents to produce an authoritative biography of Mao Tse-tung.

“Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs Are Transforming American Lives, Minds and Bodies” by Greg Critser (Houghton Mifflin). The author looks at the big pharmaceutical companies’ growing influence over our lives, and asks the question, “How did we come to hate drug companies but love their pills?”

“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion (Knopf). Didion recounts the year in which her daughter went into a coma, her beloved husband, John Gregory Dunne, died of a massive coronary, and other life-altering events that changed her ideas of illness and death, children and marriage.

Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster). The prize-winning historian (also dogged by charges of plagiarism) shows how Lincoln prevailed over three rivals to become perhaps the most important one-term president in the nation’s history.

“First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by James R. Hansen (Simon & Schuster). The story of the first man to walk on the moon.

“The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis” by Alan Jacobs (HarperSanFrancisco). Expect a deluge of books related to this fall’s film version of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” — this one, by a professor of literature at Wheaton College, looks at how the imaginary world of Narnia relates to the life and mind of Christian philosopher Lewis.

“In the Company of Crows and Ravens” by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell (Yale University Press). Marzluff, a “crow expert” and professor in the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington, and Angell, a respected local wildlife artist, look at the birds in the corvid family and find that they’re intelligent, social — and engaged in a process of “cultural coevolution” with human beings.

“Adventure Divas: The Global Search for a New Kind of Heroine” by Holly Morris (Random House). The Seattle author-adventurer writes a tie-in book with the PBS documentary series she directs (also called “Adventure Divas”), in which she goes “up the Matterhorn, across the Sahara, through the jungles of Borneo” and a bunch of other places.

“Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl” by Mary Mycio (Joseph Henry Press). A look at how the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant has become Europe’s largest wildlife sanctuary, even as both the people and wildlife living there accumulate radioactive elements in their muscles and bones.

The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Two Lives

“The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq” by George Packer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Packer, author of “Blood of the Liberals” and a New Yorker writer with several tours of assignment in Iraq, examines how the U.S. attempted to alter the history of the Middle East and instead became ensnared in a guerrilla war in Iraq, with major consequences for both Iraqis and Americans.

“Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife” by Mary Roach (Norton). The author of the engaging “Stiff” (about cadavers) attempts to sift through the evidence, or the lack thereof, available to support the existence of the afterlife.

“Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam” by Florian Schulz (Mountaineers). This book, a collaboration of several authors and photographers, promotes the idea of protecting the still “surprisingly intact” wilderness that stretches along the spine of the Rockies by both directing the path of encroaching development and linking the U.S. and Canadian national and provincial parks that already exist.

“Two Lives” by Vikram Seth (HarperCollins). The well-known novelist (“A Suitable Boy,” “The Golden Gate”) blends memoir, biography and history in this account of the marriage of his Great-Uncle Shanti, an Indian sent to study in Berlin, and Great-Aunt Henny, a German Jew who escaped Hitler’s Germany.

“The Planets” by Dava Sobel (Viking). The author of the sleeper hit “Longitude” tells the story of our solar system, incorporating science, mythology, science fiction and artistic inspiration.

“Between You and Me: A Memoir” by Mike Wallace (Hyperion). The “60 Minutes” master interrogator . . . er, interviewer, tells how he got all those people — from Frank Lloyd Wright to Johnny Carson to Malcom X — to say all those newsworthy things.

“Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America” by Christine Wicker (HarperSanFrancisco). Wicker, author of the engaging “Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead,” looks at America’s “burgeoning and bizarre magical community,” from voodoo priestesses to vampires and elves.

“A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906” by Simon Winchester (HarperCollins). Winchester, the author of “The Professor and the Madman,” brings his lively, elegant writing style to the story of the San Francisco earthquake, and what the forces that caused it are capable of today.


“The Way of Ignorance and Other Essays” by Wendell Berry (Shoemaker & Hoard). The fiction writer (“Hannah Coulter”) addresses the issues of “security, freedom and community” in this collection of essays.

“The Trouble With Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine” by Paul Collins (Bloomsbury). Portland writer Collins tells the story of the remains of Tom Paine, which were banned from burial in American church cemeteries because of Paine’s status as an “infidel.”“Ice: The Nature, the History, and the Uses of This Astonishing Substance” by Mariana Gosnell (Knopf). Ice covers 10 percent of Earth’s land and 7 percent of its oceans. This book examines its many forms: “ice in plants, icebergs, ice on Mars and in the rings of Saturn; ice boating, ice castles, ice cubes and the multitude of other uses humans make of ice.”

“The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer” by David Leavitt (Norton). The gay novelist (“The Body of Jonah Boyd”) takes on the story of the English mathematician who helped crack the Nazis’ Enigma code during World War II, but was driven to suicide by his own countrymen after the war for what was then the “crime” of homosexuality.

“Teacher Man: A Memoir” by Frank McCourt (Scribner). McCourt, author of “Angela’s Ashes,” was a teacher before he became a famous author. Here he writes about teaching, interweaving observations on the profession with a memoir of his own quest to enliven the minds of his students.

“A Hungry Heart” by Gordon Parks (Atria). A new memoir by the writer-photographer, recalling his impoverished Kansas boyhood and his years in Depression-era Harlem. Parks, born in 1912, also has a volume of 58 new photographs and more than 40 new poems being published, “Come Sing with Me: Poems and Photographs” (Atria).

“My Holy War: Dispatches from the Home Front” by Jonathan Raban (New York Review Books). The prize-winning Seattle-based British writer (“Bad Land”) reflects on “the issues facing post-September 11 America.”

“The Pacific Northwest Ballet Presents: Nutcracker” by Angela Sterling (Sasquatch). A history in photographs of Kent Stowell’s and Maurice Sendak’s beloved “Nutcracker” production. Photographer Sterling is a part-time Seattleite and a former student/dancer at PNB.

“Life As We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life” by Peter Ward (Viking). The University of Washington professor of earth and space sciences contemplates the chance that life exists on other planets, as well as the possibility of creating non-DNA life in the laboratory.

“Seven Summits: The High Peaks of the Pacific Northwest” by Art Wolfe (Sasquatch). The Seattle photographer captures the summits of Hood, Adams, St. Helens, Rainier, Glacier, Shuksan and Baker on film (with text by Michael Lanza). Wolfe has a second book, “Vanishing Act,” coming out from Bulfinch, in which he highlights “animals and insects relying on deception, disguises, lures and decoys to disappear into their surroundings” (with text by Barbara Sleeper).


“Golden Boy: A Gweilo‘s Childhood in British Hong Kong” by Martin Booth (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s). A memoir of growing up in 1950s Hong Kong, by the respected novelist (“Hiroshima Joe”) and cultural historian (“Opium: A History”) who died late last year.

“Time Bites: Views and Reviews” by Doris Lessing (HarperCollins). A collection of literary essays by the author of “The Golden Notebook” and “The Fifth Child.”

“There and Then: Travel Writings of James Salter” (Shoemaker & Hoard). The author of “A Sport and a Pastime” gathers two dozen essays about his 20 years of hiking, skiing and climbing in Europe, Japan and the U.S.

“Consider the Lobster and Other Essays” by David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown). The author of “Infinite Jest” weighs in on whether lobsters feel pain and other mysteries.

“Around the World Underwater” by Richard Ellis (Lyons Press). The celebrated marine artist and writer (“The Empty Ocean”) takes the reader on an imaginary journey through the ocean’s depths to view “the vast miscellany of marine wildlife that no one has ever seen before.”


“The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan ( Houghton Mifflin). The locally-based New York Times correspondent travels to the Midwest to write the story of those who survived a dark chapter in American history.

Mary Ann Gwinn is The Seattle Times book editor. Michael Upchurch is The Times book critic.