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This week: a satire of the publishing industry, Joan Baez’s re-released memoir, and a thriller that’s bigger and better than ever.

07.21.09 6:36 AM ET

How I Became A Famous Novelist
by Steve Hely

Writing a bestseller may indeed be as easy as it looks.

Just when you thought every industry imaginable had been parodied, along comes one of the publishing world. How I Became a Famous Novelist, by television writer Steve Hely, is a satirical journey through the world of popular books. When protagonist Pete Tarslaw learns his college girlfriend is getting married, he decides he wants to be a famous author to make her sorry for marrying someone else. After studying the bestseller lists, Pete arrives at his own solution: The Tornado Ashes Club. In The New York Times’ estimation, Hely has “deftly clobbered the popular-book business.” So what’s Hely’s bestselling routine? He tells The New Yorker: “Typically I wake with the dawn. In my first seven breaths, I decide what I’m going to write that day. Then I eat a handful of figs and nuts, and either row or rock climb for one hour, to nimble up the mind. By 5:30 I’m sitting at my typewriter…Afternoons are my own time, either to read poetry or work on my archery. At four, I open the whiskey and get hammered.”

And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir. By Joan Baez. 400 pages. Simon & Schuster. $16.

And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir
by Joan Baez

Replaying the soundtrack of a generation.

It’s been 22 years since Joan Baez’s memoir was released, and her voice is as strong as ever. And a Voice to Sing With, Baez’s 1987 memoir, will be re-released as a trade paperback this month with a new introduction by music critic Anthony DeCurtis. It chronicles her life as a folk singer-cum-American icon, describing her journey marching by the side of Martin Luther King Jr., fighting for the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina, championing Lech Walesa in Poland, and standing next to Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday in Hyde Park. She may be the soundtrack of her generation, but in her memoir, Baez describes her personal life, too, detailing her affair with Bob Dylan. In a 1987 review for The New York Times, Barbara Goldsmith wrote that Baez’s “honesty and ideals are appealing, and in her life story one can see the passage of an artistic Everyman. Joan Baez says, ‘I was less than perfect,’ but also observes, ‘I have led an extraordinary life.’ No one can disagree.’”

Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley. Edited by Geoffrey Ward. 464 pages. Simon & Schuster. $16.95.

Closest Companion
Edited by Geoffrey C. Ward

Where was Eleanor? FDR’s real confidante was a woman on the fringes.

Fourteen years ago, historian Geoffrey Ward’s book of intimate letters between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his distant cousin took the world—or at least the world of history buffs—by storm. Originally published by Houghton Mifflin in hardcover, this engaging read is now being released by Simon & Schuster in paperback. The book mixes Margaret Lynch Suckley’s diary entries with personal letters from the president confessing he wanted to leave the White House. Despite the closeness between Suckley and Roosevelt, there was apparently no sign of physical affection. In a 1995 review in The New York Times, Mary B.W. Tabor wrote that the portrait of Suckley that emerges is a “a strangely private person who lurked on the fringes of the president’s entourage, who snapped the only two photographs of Roosevelt in his wheelchair and who was at his bedside when he died.” Now that it’s in paperback, the book may make for some good beach reading.

The Last Bridge: A Novel. By Teri Coyne. 240 pages. Ballantine Books. $22.

The Last Bridge: A Novel
by Teri Coyne

A comic turned novelist debuts a dark tale.

If you’re familiar with Teri Coyne’s former life as a stand-up comedian, get ready for something very, very different. With her debut novel, Coyne takes on a much darker voice than her fans are used to. In a story about a wayward soul running from her past, Coyne weaves a compelling and twisting plot in which a woman is forced to return to her rural home, only to discover that her mother has died. Shifting between the past and present, Coyne presents a sophisticated tale of how family members cope with abuse. Writes Publishers Weekly: “Coyne’s prose effortlessly carries the reader through a thorny history into possible redemption.”

Undone: A Novel. By Karin Slaughter. 448 pages. Delacorte Press. $26.

by Karen Slaughter

The characters from three different stories meet in one book.

We’ve all had to win over the parents before getting to the person we love. Do let the last name fool you: Karin Slaughter indeed writes novels about murder—and bestselling ones, at that. In her newest novel, Undone, Slaughter ups the ante by uniting three characters from her previous two novels, Faithless and Fractured. As these well-known personalities intertwine (violently, of course) for the first time, we are jerked into a world of suspense and secrets, with two detectives seeking the aid of Sara Linton, M.D., to track down a killer who’s still at work. Sure to keep you on the edge of your seat, Undone is a must-read for fans of Slaughter’s suspense-thrillers.

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