NEW YORK - Jon Stewart is a busy man, a most important man who has no time for such pastimes as reading for pleasure.
Unless, of course, the book is his own.
“It is quite simply, with no disrespect to all of those who have come before us, the most sweeping and detailed work about humanity yet put to paper,” he says of the sweepingly titled “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race.”
“A lot of people are a little long-winded in their recounting of human history. We do it all in around 256 pages, with illustrations.”
Stewart’s worldly new work, from the same team that produced the best-selling and relatively local “America (The Book),” foresees civilization’s end and summarizes how we looked and what we did, listing our achievements in government, society and culture.
Compared to “Earth,” all else is commentary. But other releases this fall should make for worthy supplemental reading about government, society and culture, starting with a favorite subject of “The Daily Show,” the American presidency.
At least 10 books will be out on President Obama, a kind of midterm report that includes attacks from the right, attacks from the left and reviews from the middle, like Bob Woodward’s latest look inside the White House. Conservative books such as Michael Savage’s “Trickle Up Poverty” argue that Obama has a “Marxist-Socialist” agenda. Liberals might agree with “The Mendacity of Hope,” by Harper’s magazine Editor-In-Chief Roger D. Hodge, who contends that Obama is not a tool of Marx, but of “a well-entrenched corporatist machine.”
“His wife (Michelle Obama) was referred to as Marie Antoinette,” Stewart said, noting criticism over the first lady’s trip to Spain. “Perhaps she’s a socialist Marie Antoinette.”
George W. Bush will end a self-imposed silence with “Decision Points,” scheduled for release right after Election Day. More on the Bush presidency will come from his secretary of state and good friend, Condoleezza Rice, whose “Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me” takes her from childhood to the Bush administration.
Another friendship between a president and his secretary of state will be told through “Affection and Trust,” the post-presidential correspondence between Harry Truman and Dean Acheson. With an introduction by Truman biographer David McCullough, the collection includes some letters in which Acheson offers his former boss — writing his memoirs at the time — some rough and honest advice as he disputed facts, judgments and, in one section, Truman’s prose style.
“The first 13 pages do not impress the reader as Harry Truman speaking but as someone writing what Horatio Alger might have said under the circumstances,” Acheson scolded.
“Dean, I like it,” Truman responded. “There’s nothing worse for a man’s character than friends who tell him always how good he is.”
Other presidential books include Ron Chernow’s 800-page “Washington,” which narrates in detail the real tears shed by the supposedly stoic father of his country. The second president, John Adams, is featured in Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Ellis’ “First Family,” a joint biography of John and Abigail Adams. A leading Civil War era historian, Eric Foner, writes about Lincoln and slavery in “The Fiery Trial.” Edmund Morris’ “Colonel Roosevelt” completes his award-winning trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt. David Eisenhower remembers his grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, in “Going Home to Glory.”
Terry Golway’s “JFK: Day by Day,” is an illustrated chronicle of the Kennedy presidency, released on the 50th anniversary of his election. More than 100 friends, foes and acquaintances of Bill Clinton recall his life and presidency in “A Complicated Man,” by Michael Takiff. An overseas take on the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations will likely appear in “A Journey,” a memoir by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. A possible candidate for 2012, Sarah Palin, shares stories and moral lessons in “America by Heart.”
Ronald Reagan’s centennial comes next year, so publisher Simon & Schuster is reissuing his memoir, “An American Life.” The man he defeated for president in 1980, Jimmy Carter, will be featured in three books: a short biography by Julian E. Zelizer; a memoir by former Vice President Walter Mondale (Reagan’s victim in 1984); and Carter’s own White House diaries.
“Carter was very fastidious about keeping that diary every day of the campaign and the four years of his administration,” says Mondale, who adds that he remains good friends with Carter, but did not consult with him about their respective books.
“I checked with former staff members, people involved in various events, like the hostage crisis (in Iran). I wanted to make certain I had the facts right and my recollection was clear because, here you are, writing about events that occurred 35 years ago. You have to be careful your memory hasn’t played tricks on you.”
Presidential honors have already been bestowed on the fall’s top literary novel, Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” subject of a Time magazine cover story and an object of such desire that a bookstore on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts provided a vacationing Obama with an early copy. Barnes & Noble Inc. fiction buyer Sessalee Hensley calls “Freedom” the “galvanizing” novel of the fall, the most “likely to stand out.”
Fiction will also come from Nicole Krauss, Umberto Eco, Cynthia Ozick and Philip Roth. John Grisham has a new courtroom tale, “The Confession”; Stephen King some formerly unpublished stories, “Full Dark, No Stars”; and Patricia Cornwell a Kay Scarpetta mystery, “Port Mortuary.” Others arriving: Michael Connelly’s “The Reversal”; Janet Evanovich’s “Wicked Appetite”; and Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants.” In “Getting to Happy,” Terry McMillan updates the lives of the four heroines of her million-selling “Waiting to Exhale.”
Author-actor-musician Steve Martin has a pair of books coming, a children’s story based on his song “Late for School” and a novel, “Object of Beauty,” about the contemporary art world in Los Angeles.
“Someone in New York suggested I give a reading where I read from both books,” he says. “I’m not sure if I could find the right audience for that.”
The famous will tell of interior design (Barbra Streisand), inner thoughts (Neil Young) and wild rides (Keith Richards). A Streisand favorite, Stephen Sondheim, is issuing the first of two planned volumes of annotated lyrics. Memoirs are coming from Jay Z, the Kardashian sisters and Ricky Martin, while “Fragments” collects poems and letters by Marilyn Monroe. Rap officially goes Ivy league with the Yale University Press’ “Anthology of Rap.” Princeton University scholar and Dylan expert Sean Wilentz gives us “Bob Dylan in America.”
Amazon.com senior book editor Tom Nissley is looking forward to new works by Laura Hillenbrand (“Unbroken”) and Oliver Sacks (“The Mind’s Eye”), and anticipates strong sales for the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography, released in full upon the 100th anniversary of his death.
“I can’t wait to read that,” Stewart says. “I just wish I could book him on my show.”
Much will be heard this fall from Twain’s disciples, which means Martin and Stewart and virtually every other living American humorist. Nora Ephron has a new essay collection, “I Remember Nothing,” Amy Sedaris brings us “Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People” and brother David Sedaris checks in with “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.”
Humor’s essence is taken on in Marlo Thomas’ “Growing Up Laughing,” with experts including Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and from “I Found This Funny,” essays by Stewart and others compiled by “Knocked Up” director-writer Judd Apatow. In the introduction, Apatow promises “the ultimate airplane book, bathroom book, or what one reads while waiting for a friend to come out of an appointment that you have no interest in.”
“I would challenge that assertion,” Stewart said of Apatow’s bathroom boast. “Although I guess it depends on your bathroom.”
Apatow himself is entered in the latest edition of David Thomson’s popular and well regarded “Biographical Dictionary of Film.” The review is mixed, but hopeful. The filmmaker is chastised for casting “whatever celebrity Apatow met at dinner the night before shooting,” but still positioned as a potential “major comic artist.”
A bolder-faced name of the past decade, Brad Pitt, is logged in as a formerly “likable country boy” citified and internationalized by “that force of nature and publicity, Angelina Jolie.” Although lucky to have enough money to “help defray baby-sitting costs,” Pitt is pitied as overworked and bound “to look very tired.”
Jolie, meanwhile, is billed as a gusher of “public nonsense,” powered by a “mouth made in braille on the flattest of screens.” Her best work, “Girl, Interrupted,” was long ago. She is now a tabloid heavyweight champ, her next knockout possibly “going off with a voodoo tattoo artist, Tiger Woods or Jennifer Aniston.”
The prognosis for Aniston: “In the right hands, Jennifer Aniston could make a romantic comedy to live with the best.”