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by Sam Wasson (Eamon Dolan, $32)
Sam Wasson’s biography “has a jazzy, discursive, and relentless energy well aligned with its subject,” said Gene Seymour in USA Today. Bob Fosse always thought of himself as a burlesque hoofer who got lucky, but he left an indelible mark on dance and, in 1973, achieved an unprecedented Oscar-Tony-Emmy trifecta. Fosse’s battles with depression, alcohol, and pills were never a secret; in Wasson’s “page-turning” account, Fosse’s mood swings are also integral to his creativity.
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by Ben Bradlee Jr. (Little, Brown, $35)
“This is surely the definitive Ted Williams book,” said Jerry Harkavy in the Associated Press. Former Boston Globe editor Ben Bradlee Jr. admits that his subject, who’s widely considered the greatest hitter in baseball history, was a childhood hero. But Williams hardly gets off easy. “The Splendid Splinter” was famously volatile and insecure, and Bradlee details the deleterious effects this had on his family life. The final chapters “read like a Shakespearean tragedy.”
The Leonard Bernstein Letters
edited by Nigel Simeone (Yale, $38)
Reading Leonard Bernstein’s letters is a “discomfiting” experience, said Joseph Horowitz in The Wall Street Journal. Because they’re so personal, you might “feel like a voyeur” for peeking in on the composer--conductor’s struggles. But he’s a fascinating man: Whether he’s decrying the film version of West Side Story or openly discussing his homosexuality with his wife, his quest to pour personal experience into the creation of an American music “continues to fascinate and to matter.”
by Robert Hilburn (Little, Brown, $32)
“Do we really need another Johnny Cash book?” asked David Cantwell in Slate.com. “Yes, we really do,” because Robert Hilburn’s biography easily surpasses the dozens of others. Drawing from letters and a 35-year friendship with Cash, the veteran music journalist fleshes out the country icon’s rags-to-riches-to--dysfunction story, “helping us see the Man in Black in something nearer to living color.” Hilburn says too little about Cash’s sound, but he seems to know the story behind every lyric.