Steve Martin is best known for his comedy, but he's also a writer and a serious art collector. In his new novel, An Object of Beauty, Martin channels an ambitious woman navigating her way up — and out of — the New York City art world. Lacey Yeager, the art dealer anti-heroine of Martin's book, will do just about anything to get ahead in her field. Martin hasn't met her, exactly, but tells NPR's Tony Cox that he has met plenty of people like her. "All you can do with these type of people is observe them and wonder how they tick, what makes them work, because they really cannot be explained."
In the course of her career, singer Dionne Warwick has delivered some of music's biggest hits, including the songs "Walk On By" and "I'll Never Fall In Love Again." Warwick reflects on 50 years in entertainment in her memoir, My Life, As I See It. She remembers picking up performance tips from watching stars like Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn, but she credits much of who she is today to the examples set by the women in her family. "My mom and my aunts were, and still are ... some of the most stylish women I've ever seen in my life," she tells NPR's Neal Conan.
Music critic Alex Ross began writing for The New Yorker in 1996. In 2007, he published his first book, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, which looks at how modern musical styles developed in the context of world events. The Rest is Noise was named one of the best books of the year by dozens of publications and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Listen to This further maps the boundaries of Ross' personal taste, which has become more catholic. It also contains a number of essays on the way a particular musical theme or idea — what he calls "musical DNA" — can translate across genres.
At least three books worth of story is packed between these covers, and only a fraction of it has to do with Paul and Julia Child. It is mostly a story about the unsung work of the OSS — forerunner to today's CIA — in the Far East; about how McCarthyism crippled American foreign policy by driving experienced Southeast Asia hands out of the State Department; and about Jane Foster, the glamorous blond painter and Indonesia expert who carried a pet chipmunk in her pocket and may (or may not) have been passing secrets to the Soviets. Foster is such a compelling character that Julia and Paul Child fade into the background — she really needs her own book.
T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, is one of the most well-known figures of World War I. But in a new biography, Hero, Michael Korda argues that Lawrence was more than just a colorful character. Korda believes his struggle to create solutions in the Middle East could have made a difference in today's conflicts. "He had in mind the liberation of Arabia," Korda tells NPR's Neal Conan. Not only did Lawrence strongly advocate for it, Korda says, "but he also went through every possible training that he could inflict on himself to play that role." Newsweek editor Tina Brown praises the book for its "accessible style," and Korda for his "fabulous eye for the gossip and the detail."
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.