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“American Epic: The Companion to the PBS Series” by Bernard McMahon and Allison McGourty with Elijah Wald (Touchstone, 277 pages, $29.99). The PBS Series “American Epic” just completed its first run on Channel 17. Consider, just to begin with, those listed as the names “presenting” the series -- T-Bone Burnett, Robert Redford and Jack White. That should tell you most of…

NONFICTION The Revolution Of Robert Kennedy               By John R. Bohrer Bloomsbury Press 384 pages, $30 This is a good time for a biography of Robert Kennedy: right after the 100th anniversary of the birth of his brother John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963), the 35th President of the United States. This well-written partial biography, “The Revolution of R…

CHILDREN'S The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts by Avi; Algonquin Young Readers, 320 pages ($16.95) Ages 8 to 12. ... This entertaining work of historical fiction, set in 1724, comes from prolific author Avi, who  won the 2003 Newbery Medal for "Crispin: The Cross of Lead" set in 14th century England. The unfortunately named Oliver Cromwell Pitts wakes up in h…

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MEMOIR If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating By Alan Alda Random House 213 pages, $28 By Kathleen Rizzo Young Buffalo’s 43North competition allows creative entrepreneurs to pitch their concepts to venture capitalists and investors. Their pitch is as important as their pr…

BIOGRAPHY The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life By Karin Roffman Farrar, Straus and Giroux 336 pages, $30 In a small market like postmodern poetry it’s not enough to be smart, well-read and determined. You need luck too. John Ashbery got lucky three times. First, the daughter of George Eastman’s lawyer plucked him out of high school in Sodu…

MEMOIR "The Mighty Franks" By Michael Frank Farrar, Straus and Giroux $26, 320 pages Memoirs often seem to do double duty as therapy for their author, a public way to sort through one’s  personal demons while trying to shoo them away. But Michael Frank, the acutely perceptive scribe behind "The Mighty Franks," doesn’t just place his dysfunctional extended…

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NONFICTION Al Franken, "Giant of the Senate" by Al Franken; Twelve, 416 pages, ($28) In the fall of 2007, the Democratic leadership of the U.S. Senate was not entirely on board with the idea that the people of Minnesota would be interested in electing Al Franken to the august body the following year. First off, he had never run for office. Second, there was some v…

FICTION "The Thirst" By Jo Nesbo, translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith Knopf; 462 pages, $26.95. As this newest blood-soaked outing from Norwegian crime master Jo Nesbo begins, legendary Oslo police detective Harry Hole is uncharacteristically happy: He has been married for three years to Rakel, he has quit police work for teaching at the Police College,…

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NONFICTION "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy," by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant; Knopf, 226 pages, ($25.95) "The Outrun: A Memoir" by Amy Liptrot;  Norton, 280 pages ($25.95) Perspective comes at a steep price in two new chronicles of profound loss – one, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s searing account of life aft…

"In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs," edited by Andrew Blauner, with a note by Paul McCartney; Blue Rider Press, 304 pp., $23. With the 50th anniversary of “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” upon us, the Beatles, are. again, on the ascendant in the sine wave of pop consciousness. No less than Paul McCartney himself has been coaxed out of his cast…

GRAPHIC NOVEL Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham; First Second, $12.99. (Ages 8 to 12) ... Shannon Hale,  author of many marvelous novels for children including "Princess Academy," tells the true story of her struggles as a kid to make friends and keep them in this bracingly honest, painfully real graphic memoir in the tradition of the autobiographical graphic…

Lifestyles

During a 2015 visit to northern California, my fiancée and I had the good fortune to visit Yosemite National Park and land a table for lunch at the back of the Ahwahnee Hotel dining room, where Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a meal in 1983. We also had the good fortune to be waited on by Rick Agnew, who served as wine steward for the queen and her royal party in the same spot …

“Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z” edited by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar; the Library of America, 601 pages, $50. If ever a book were a 600-page paradox, it’s this one. It’s both essential and woefully inadequate. That’s because the idea of a huge collection of rock writing is far from new. Two that I consider superior are Willi…

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FICTION Void Star By Zachary Mason Farrar, Straus and Giroux 385 pages, $27 By Ed Taylor Rising at the confluence of climate change and digital hacking, Zachary Mason’s second novel “Void Star” imagines Earth’s human future — and it is not a pretty picture. The novel challenges the reader in a variety of ways, mostly good ones, and showcases a distinctive…

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NONFICTION Death Need Not Be Fatal By Malachy McCourt with Brian McDonald Center Street 259 pages, $27 By Michael D/ Langan You probably know of Malachy McCourt, the Irish writer and raconteur. Likely you remember his brother, Frank McCourt, (1930 – 2009), who wrote “Angela’s Ashes” (1996), a memoir of hard times as a youth in Limerick, Ireland. It won th…