What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY’s picks for book lovers include a new biography of beloved children’s TV host Fred Rogers and an in-depth book at the disastrous war in Vietnam.
“The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers” by Maxwell King; Abrams Press; 363 pp., nonfiction
It’s a beautiful day to read about everyone’s favorite neighbor.
A new biography of Fred Rogers chronicles the childhood, family, career and legacy of the man who revolutionized children’s television with messages of kindness, patience and inclusion on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
The bio blends stories you might be familiar with (perhaps you saw the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” documentary) with lesser-known facts, archival photos and new interviews.
Among the things we learn:
Rogers’ parents – his father was a successful businessman in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and his mother was the daughter of a wealthy industrial Pittsburgh family – were more than financially stable. Growing up, this often made Fred uncomfortable – as an adult, Rogers shied away from many of the luxuries he grew up with in favor of a more modest lifestyle.
But his parents were also extremely active in using their money to take care of friends, employees and neighbors. Fred’s mother, Nancy, apparently bought about 1,500 Christmas presents every year for members of the community
“Eventually the school nurse at Latrobe Elementary School would just order shoes, coats, eyeglasses, and even furniture and have the bills sent directly to Nancy Rogers,” King writes.
“Good neighbor,” indeed.
USA TODAY says ★★★ out of four. “Confirms what we already knew about Mr. Rogers: The world needs more people like him.”
“Road to Disaster: A New History of America’s Descent Into Vietnam” by Brian VanDeMark; Custom House, 542 pp.; nonfiction
A history professor at the United States Naval Academy brings invaluable perspective to this analysis of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
USA TODAY says ★★★★. “Absolutely first-rate.”
“Varina” by Charles Frazier; Ecco, 353 pp.; fiction
Frazier’s novel resurrects and reimagines a fascinating but obscure historical figure – Varina Davis, wife of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
USA TODAY says ★★★. “Lively … Frazier is a superb prose stylist who elevates the historical fiction genre.”
“Clock Dance” by Anne Tyler; Knopf, 292 pp.; fiction
Willa is living in Arizona when she hears that her son’s ex-girlfriend in Baltimore has been shot in the leg. Can Willa come and take care of the woman’s daughter? The answer should of course be “no,” and of course Willa, full of indistinct yearning, says “yes.”
USA TODAY says ★★★½. “Anne Tyler is one of this country’s great artists. A powerful, stirring work.”
“Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History” by Keith O’Brien; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 265 pp.; nonfiction
Looks at the early female aviators mostly long-hidden and forgotten – except for Amelia Earhart – who pushed in the 1920s and ’30s to join the deadly sport of air racing.
USA TODAY says ★★★½. “Exhilarating and heartbreaking … (written with) grace, sensitivity and a cinematic eye for detail.”
Contributing reviewers: Hannah Yasharoff, George Petras, Jocelyn McClurg, Charles Finch, James Endrst
Put these new books on your wish list right now.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2xgAeya