Role Models (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
This sharp and witty memoir's most "shocking" statement occurs at the outset, when Waters declares: "I wish I were Johnny Mathis." Waters explains this is because Mathis—the family-friendly balladeer—is "beyond fame itself," then spends the rest of the first chapter visiting the singer's West Hollywood home and attending his concert at the Lyric, all the while reflecting on his own peculiar stardom and sensibilities. He takes a similar approach in nine additional chapters about various influences that, when taken together, comprise a merrily digressive self-portrait. The book's anecdotes reveal an urbane flip side to Waters's famous "Prince of Puke" persona, which allows him entrance into underground and mainstream cultures. He basically lives in Oz and Kansas simultaneously, and who wouldn't want to read about that? "I've jitterbugged with Richard Serra," writes Waters, "eaten Thanksgiving dinner with Lana Turner, had tea with Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, gone out drinking with Clint Eastwood, and spent several New Year's Eve parties in Valentino's chalet in Gstaad, but what I like best is staying home and reading." Now, there's a role model.
Roots of Steel (Pantheon)
Rudacille tells the history of the steel industry from its epicenter, Sparrows Point. As a native whose family experienced, first hand, the ascent and decline of Bethlehem Steel, she gets beyond the boardroom and takes us into the roaring plant and the proud neighborhoods (both black and white) surrounding it. And Rudacille frames it all with a fascinating examination of the economic, social, and political events that turned the Point into a workingman's heaven (albeit one with sometimes hellish working conditions) and then into a blue-collar scrap heap. As a result, her book is about much more than American labor; it's about the elusive American Dream, once achieved and now deferred.