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Savannah Book Festival: 2017 authors at a glance

  • Gary Belsky
  • Frank Bruni
  • Peter Cozzens
  • Alejandro Danois
  • Matt Gallagher
  • Gerald Marzorati
  • Terry McDonell
  • Megan Miranda
  • Greg Mitchell
  • Nora Zelevansky
 

Savannah Book Festival: 2017 authors at a glance

08 Feb 2017

Gary Belsky, “On the Origins of Sports”

As former editor-in-chief of ESPN the Magazine, Gary Belsky is no stranger to the inner workings of the world’s most popular games. It’s this lifelong passion that led him to co-author his most recent book, “On the Origins of Sports,” with Neil Fine. The book traces 21 favorite pastimes all the way back to their origins, from the familiar history of basketball to the more obscure beginnings of baseball, versions of which were brought to America by British colonists long before the first formal teams existed. Belsky and Fine trace the whole histories of modern soccer, rugby and American football, and discover the three sports’ common ancestor.

In addition to origins, the book is packed full of historical anecdotes about how the way we play today is the result of sometimes centuries of evolution. And did you know that cricket, obscure to most Americans, is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer?

“On the Origins of Sports” breaks up the material into bite-sized chunks with plenty of illustrations, making the book readable in one sitting or perfect to leave on the coffee table for guests to browse at their leisure.

Frank Bruni, “A Meatloaf in Every Oven”

As a contributor and op-ed columnist for the New York Times since 1995, Frank Bruni is best known for his outspoken pieces on education, politics, and LGBTQ issues. He’s written books on such diverse subjects as George W. Bush’s campaign for the White House and contemporary college education. For his latest book-length project, however, he steps away from such serious subjects and taps into his great passion for food. Specifically, Bruni and co-author Jennifer Steinhauer tackle that most distinctly American staple: meatloaf.

The heart of “A Meatloaf in Every Oven” consists of 50 recipes for the dish, some handed down from Mom’s mid-century kitchen and others from gourmet chefs. There are plenty of options for meatloaf purists, and the more adventurous eater can try out recipes inspired by Korean, Middle Eastern and other cuisines from the world over. In addition to the recipes, the authors exchange witty repartee, and the love they share for the subject is evident throughout. Even if meatloaf isn’t your thing, it’s hard not to get swept up in their enthusiasm. And who knows, with so many distinct takes on the dish, maybe you’ll find the one meatloaf that makes you love it as much as the authors.

Peter Cozzens, “The Earth Is Weeping”

History buffs, get ready. One of America’s pre-eminent historians is bringing the latest of his 16 books to the Savannah Book Festival. Peter Cozzens has dedicated his life to writing about the Civil War and the history of the American West, and every single one of his books to date has been included as a selection for the Book of the Month Club, History Book Club or the Military Book Club. Cozzens combines the meticulousness of a historian with the narrative flair of a storyteller, making him one of the rare writers who can assimilate bare facts into a readable format.

His most recent book is “The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West,” which revisits a dark passage from American history, offering a deeper look at the people and the politics behind these conflicts. While newly reconsidering the wars from the perspective of the white participants runs the risk of whitewashing history, Cozzens includes the Native American perspective throughout. It’s this balance that’s helped “The Earth is Weeping” earn accolades from the likes of Smithsonian Magazine and booklist.

CLICK HERE to read Do Savannah's author interviews for the 2017 festival.

Alejandro Danois, “The Boys of Dunbar”

It’s unusual for even an elite college basketball team to send more than a couple of players on to the NBA. Consider, then, that the 1981-82 Dunbar High School Poets produced four star players — Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Reggie Lewis — who would make it all the way to the professional ranks.

And Dunbar isn’t some prep powerhouse. These players came from one of Baltimore’s poorest, toughest neighborhoods. This is the story that sports writer Alejandro Danois tackles in his new book, “The Boys of Dunbar: A Story of Love, Hope, and Basketball.”

Through extensive interviews with the players and legendary Dunbar coach Bob Wade, Danois pieces together a tale that transcends basketball. As the Poets made their way through an unblemished season, finishing at a perfect 28-0, their exploits brought their community together. Like all the best sports stories, “The Boys of Dunbar” is as much about hope and perseverance as it is about the game itself.

Matt Gallagher, “Youngblood”

Matt Gallagher first rose to prominence as the anonymous blogger LT G, sharing experiences from his deployment in Iraq from 2007-08 on a blog called “Kaboom: A Soldier’s War Journal.” The blog, which offered an unfiltered look at life on the front lines, was eventually shut down by Gallagher’s superiors, though it found new life with his 2010 memoir, “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.”

The memoir earned Gallagher a reputation for a perspective that is both unflinching and humorous. His success continued with contributions to top publications, including the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and Playboy.

He’s coming to the Savannah Book Festival with his new book, a novel called “Youngblood.” The novel revisits Gallagher’s Iraq War experience, and he uses the setting to craft a personal soldier’s tale set in the final days of the U.S. occupation. Using the same wit and wisdom with which Gallagher earned his reputation, he creates a set of memorable characters bound by both tragedy and love.

Gerald Marzorati, “Late to the Ball”

When someone talks about the next up-and-coming tennis star, they’re usually talking about a teenager. But Gerald Marzorati, a rising figure in competitive tennis, didn’t even start playing until he was 55. Now, well into his 60s, he plays — and wins championships — on the Senior Tennis Tour. He’s turned to his other career, professional writer, to share his tennis story. Marzorati spent his whole life penning articles for publications such as Harper’s, the New Yorker and New York Times Magazine. As he looked forward to retirement, though, he decided he wanted to take things in a new direction.

His new book, “Late to the Ball: Age. Learn. Fight. Love. Play Tennis. Win.,” chronicles that journey. He covers everything from learning the sport from scratch to dealing with the many physical maladies his aging body faces. It’s more than a mere memoir, though. Marzorati uses his own experience of discovering new meaning in life after 60 to help others do the same thing. Yes, it’s a great book for tennis fans, but also for anyone looking for a little self-reinvention.

Terry McDonell, “The Accidental Life”

The world of journalism is filled with colorful characters. One character you might not know, however, is Terry McDonell. As a behind-the-scenes editor at publications ranging from Rolling Stone to Esquire to Sports Illustrated, McDonell helped deliver fine writing to the reading public for decades. Now, he reflects on that career in his new memoir, “The Accidental Life.”

The book is striking for several reasons. First, McDonell is a charming writer, whose success in the industry seems genuinely derived from his love of journalism. Second, he’s worked with a who’s who of 20th and 21st century writers. And lastly, he’s one of the first major editors to take the chance to look back on his personal experience as journalism transitioned from paper to digital.

He was there as the old media empires reorganized. It was his job to lay off more talented writers than he has room to list in his memoir. But it’s not a sad book by any means. Nor is it an expose. Don’t expect remorse for a lost past or startling revelations about famous writers. While the memoir might be light on the hard-hitting journalism McDonell championed as an editor, it’s still an insightful work. And there’s a good chance one of your favorite writers will make at least a cameo.

Greg Mitchell, “The Tunnels”

For Greg Mitchell, his dozenth book, “The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill,” embraces a familiar formula. It returns to the fertile ground of the Cold War, which provided the inspiration for some of his previous works. Also, “The Tunnels” focuses on the lingering effects of political misinformation, which Mitchell’s book “Atomic Cover-up” investigated in regards to suppressed video footage filmed in the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki immediately following the bombings.

With “The Tunnels,” he brings to light two attempts to burrow into East Berlin to rescue those stranded on the other side of the wall. The book is as thrilling as it is historical, full of Cold War intrigue, culminating with the Kennedy administration’s attempts to keep hidden the documentary footage shot by the television crews that followed the process. Also true to Mitchell’s previous works, the book analyzes the ways that media and politics overlap, and how the narrative of the Cold War was shaped as much by the information that was withheld as by what was shared with the public.

Megan Miranda, “All the Missing Girls”

Before publication of her national bestselling thriller “All the Missing Girls,” Megan Miranda had already made a name for herself as an author of young adult fiction, including acclaimed titles such as “Fracture,” “Hysteria,” “Vengeance,” “Soulprint” and “The Safest Lies.”

This experience fuels her adult debut, with much of the action taking place when the main characters are teens. Despite this, there’s no doubt that the book is intended for an adult audience. It is darker and more suspenseful than anything Miranda has written before.

The most striking aspect of the novel is its reverse chronological order. The story starts on Day 15 and works backward to Day 1, chapter by chapter. In less seasoned hands, this might turn into a cheap gimmick, but Miranda’s experience as a storyteller lets her keep the plot moving forward even as time flows in the opposite direction. “All the Missing Girls” has recently been released in paperback, just a few months ahead of her next adult novel, “The Perfect Stranger,” which will be released on April 11. All signs point to Miranda being a name to watch in the world of psychological suspense.

Nora Zelevansky, “Will You Won’t You Want Me?”

For Marjorie Plum, the protagonist of Nora Zelevansky’s new novel “Will You Won’t You Want Me?,” it’s been all downhill since high school. Once the cool kid, now Marjorie is a has-been. But a new job and a love triangle — which includes her new boss — might just shake things up enough to help her reinvent herself.

At its core, “Will You Won’t You Want Me?” is a romance novel, but it will appeal to a much broader audience: anyone who’s ever felt that they left their best days behind them. Call it a romance novel that doubles as a guide to adulthood.

In Zelevansky’s career as a journalist, she’s written about style, beauty, travel, food and almost all aspects of the high-end contemporary lifestyle, contributing to publications ranging from Vanity Fair to the Wall Street Journal. Her journalism informs her fiction, as does her keen observational skills. Can a romance be wise? If it comes from the pen of Nora Zelevansky, then the answer is yes.

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