Book Report: 3 Titles to Know This Week

The Nest Book Cover - P 2016
Courtesy of Ecco

New books for late March worth knowing about include a much-hyped novel from the wife of Conan’s head writer, a book about all that's Batman and a new memoir from ESPN’s Bill Walton about the toll his basketball career took on his body.

Here’s a quick rundown on the three:

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Ecco)

Cynthia Sweeney’s novel has all the ingredients of a buzzy best-seller: a big advance, lots of advance publicity, an A-list cover blurb (Amy Poehler), Hollywood connections (the author is married to Conan’s head writer Mike Sweeney) and a spot on Amazon’s best books of the month list.

The short pitch is straightforward but early fans have praised the smartly drawn characters, witty dialogue and eye for bringing a particular kind of New York to life: “Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs' joint trust fund, 'The Nest,' which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.”

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glenn Weldon (Simon & Schuster)

Perfectly timed to the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Weldon (Superman: The Unauthorized Biography) plumbs all things Batman from his 1939 origin to the homosexual subtext of his pairing with Robin to his dark turn in the 1980s as a big-budget movie star. Weldon, who co-hosts NPR’s awesome Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast (very much worth a listen) pairs a deep knowledge of the Caped Crusader with an accessible style that makes this good for the diehard fanboy and the casual observer alike. 

Back From the Dead by Bill Walton (Simon & Schuster) 

The UCLA legend, NBA Hall of Famer and beloved announcer’s follow-up memoir to Nothing But Net: Just Give Me the Ball and Get Out of the Way focuses on the physical cost of his career. Walton loves the game and that clearly comes through, but he’s paid a high price for that love. He had his first surgery at 14, and 42 years later he was still having them — that year because his spine collapsed. The experimental spine fusion surgery he had has left him mostly pain-free, but all those surgeries have slowed him (he’s had 37 some basketball-related operations in all). Walton has confessed in interviews promoting the book that the pain has led him to contemplate suicide at times. Americans love their pro sports but only recently have they begun to consider the price athletes pay for that success (most of the focus has been on football and brain trauma). The title, of course, is a play on Walton’s love of the Grateful Dead, and he also waxes about his love of music and other things.