NPR

New In Paperback: Nov. 21 - 27

Nonfiction releases from Roy Williams, Jane Leavy, Sam Irvin and C.J. Chivers.

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Hard Work

Men's basketball coach Roy Williams delivers an earnest account of his professional and personal life. Raised by his saintly single mother after the family was abandoned by his alcoholic father, he established himself as a UNC junior varsity player before coaching high school and then college basketball at the University of Kansas (1988-2003) and at the University of North Carolina (2003-present). The on-court intensity that characterizes his coaching runs through these pages, along with plenty of stories — like the recruitment of Michael Jordan — that will please his fans.

The Last Boy

Some who have read Jane Leavy's meticulous new biography of Mickey Mantle wonder how much we really want to know about our heroes. Her answer: the truth. The demigod who galloped across the sunlit ballparks of our youth was also a drunk. The generous teammate who played in pain and never complained missed parts of a World Series after treatment for a venereal disease. The tireless carouser ended his life in a state of grace and helped others with the lessons of his own bad example. In her vivid portrayal of the life of Mickey Mantle, Leavy describes a period when many of our illusions fell away, and we saw more clearly, whether we wanted to or not.

Kay Thompson

Kay Thompson was, most famously, the creator of the Eloise book series. But she was also the woman who gave voice to MGM's musicals; a legendary vocal coach for Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Marlene Dietrich and Lucille Ball; a fabled friend and mentor to Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli; the actress who stole a film from Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn; and the most popular and highest-paid cabaret performer of all time. And if that wasn't enough, she made women's slacks into a high-fashion item. Biographer and filmmaker Sam Irvin says that, above all, Thompson's rebelliousness lives on in Eloise: "Back in the '50s, she very purposefully gave this young girl an independent mind."

The Gun

The AK-47 — or versions of it — can be found in every major conflict of the past 50 years. In his new book, The Gun, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter C.J. Chivers traces the history of the lethal firearm. He says the weapon has changed the nature of warfare because of its availability and ease of use. "AK-47s don't have a lot of recoil, don't jam and are easy to assemble and disassemble. The gun was produced by the tens of millions, Chivers says, "often by countries that eventually lost custody of them." And for the first time in history, it allowed insurgents to fight the most powerful nations on Earth effectively — and even to a standstill.

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