A fine evocation of the NASA experience—in the sky and on Earth.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021



The sometimes-frustrated, sometimes-exalted life of an astronaut is excavated in this probing biography.

McCandless profiles his father, Bruce McCandless II, an Apollo astronaut who never made it onto a moon shot but later served on a space shuttle mission where he made history’s first untethered spacewalk using the Manned Maneuvering Unit jet pack, becoming famous for an iconic photograph that showed him flying jauntily through space. In the author’s fond but cleareyed assessment, McCandless senior was a daring pilot, a brilliant engineer who did critical work on the MMU and the Hubble Space Telescope, a passionate environmentalist, and a questing soul whose motto was “onward.” He was also an “abrupt, self-absorbed, and prickly” man who was both whip smart and oblivious. (He once surprised his wife by giving her a book entitled Open Marriage for Christmas, “just for consideration.”) The book is also a vivid depiction of a testy father-son relationship pitting senior’s culture of astronauts who “cut their hair short and at precise geometric angles to minimize drag” against junior’s feckless, 1970s counterculture of teens in “greasy hair and grimy jeans…looking for psychedelic mushrooms in the cow manure.” The author’s portrait ably conveys the complexities of an astronaut’s existence: the anxious jockeying for scarce mission slots, the death-defying extremism of rocketry—“it felt like Challenger was going to break apart, and he shut his mouth tight so his stomach wouldn’t fall out”—and the pathos of McCandless senior’s predicament when he seemed eternally stuck in ground assignments that thwarted his drive and talent. (“A man who’d wrestled a Phantom warplane capable of flying 1,200 miles per hour onto the deck of a lurching aircraft carrier in a thunderstorm, at night, was now poking along Highway 183 north of Austin in a barn-size Chevy Suburban with the speedometer pegged on double nickels.”) The author’s colorful prose is shrewdly realistic about space flight but also alive to its lyrical humanism. (“The [photograph’s] oddly serene contrast of a solitary man emerging from the immensity of the universe, small but self-directed…suggests order—a triumph, even if tenuous, against what is dark and immense and essentially incomprehensible.”) The result is an absorbing testament to perseverance in pursuit of empyrean ambition.

A fine evocation of the NASA experience—in the sky and on Earth.

Pub Date: July 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62634-865-3

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

Did you like this book?

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.


The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

Did you like this book?