They say the book is declining. But reading isn't. And anyone who loves reading is going to have a really good time this spring. From the Mafia to the Wright Brothers, from punk rock to Alfred Hitchcock to hawks to the cosmos, nonfiction offerings in the next six months will satisfy any hungry mind. And the season's imaginative fiction just teems, with great mysteries, Gothic novels, and new work from Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Jane Smiley.

- John Timpane, Inquirer book editor


Gotti's Rules: The Story of John Alite, Junior Gotti, and the Demise of the American Mafia, by George Anastasia (Dey Street, January). The former Inquirer reporter tells a tight, stirring tale of the downfall of an American gangster - and, quite possibly, of the American Mafia he embodied.

Alfred Hitchcock, by Peter Ackroyd (Chatto & Windus, January). This popular biographer makes his true stories a pleasure to read, and sometimes turns up new stuff. The sick, fabulous mastery of Hitch is fertile ground.

Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone, by Marky Ramone (Touchstone, January). The last surviving Ramone looks at the CBGB era of urban punk, in a book written the way Marky drummed: rapid-fire.

Dancing Through It, by Jenifer Ringer (Penguin, February). A memoir of a ballerina's life, with penetrating discussions of the great body-image debate, by a woman who knows.

To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, by Steven Weinberg (Harper, February). The eminent, eloquent, opinionated cosmologist surveys the history of science.

Mr. and Mrs. Disraeli: A Strange Romance, by Daisy Hay (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, February). It sure was one. She was 15 years older and a widow; he was in debt, wrote novels, and wanted to run Great Britain. Crazier than fiction.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (Grove, March). This beautiful book, about both a magnificent bird (the hawk) and a magnificent writer (T.H. White, he of The Once and Future King and other books), just blew right up in the United Kingdom, topping the charts. Now it wings its way over here.

Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer, by Una LaMarche (Plume, March). A very winning, kooky collection of essays on growing up, adulthood, parenting, and building Tootsie Roll cabins.

Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (Liveright, April). One of the most influential and original composers of our time, one of the most recognizable film scorers. Many people in many walks of life eagerly await this book.

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough(Simon & Schuster, May). McCullough (Truman, John Adams) is sort of the Ken Burns of American nonfiction, documenting great American lives. This will be a highflier for sure.

One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, by Paul Muldoon(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, January). Delightful, many-faceted, poet Muldoon's work promises an engaging, musical read.

Haunted House, by Pierre Reverdy, translated by John Ashbery (Lintott, April), and

Breezeway: New Poems, by John Ashbery (Ecco, May). Reverdy is an early-20th-century French poet whose reputation keeps growing and growing. Ashbery is one of the best-known of U.S. poets and a lover of French literature. Any translation or new book of his is anticipated by poetry lovers.


Perdita, by Hilary Scharper (Sourcebooks Landmark, January). This Gothic novel will beguile many a fireplace-illuminated evening. Set in Canada, it concerns a researcher intrigued by the life of a woman in a nursing home. Twisty-turny, captivating.

A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler (Knopf, February). Tyler's tales of family and time are told softly but hit hard. Here the focus falls, for better and worse, on the thoroughly American, thoroughly-us Whitshank family.

Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby (Riverhead, February). The life and times of a provincial woman who makes it in the crazy world of the 1960s BBC. Great characters, great voices, with staying power.

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf, March). His last novel was 10 years ago. This Man Booker-winning writer takes yet another new direction: to Britain after the Romans have left, a turning point for many histories, including ours.

World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow, March). Set in World War II, this novel embraces Cuba, Florida, and a man's criminal past. Another good one by the crime-mystery master.

Game of Mirrors, by Andrea Camilleri (Penguin, March). Fans revere the invention and wit of this Italian master of the genre. This, the 18th book in the Inspector Montalbano series, involves two bombs, a bullet, and a woman.

The Discreet Hero, by Mario Vargas Llosa (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, March). The Peruvian Nobelist weaves a modern-day tale of American lives fated to intersect.

Early Warning, by Jane Smiley (Knopf, April). Second installment, after Some Luck, in her sweeping Last Hundred Years trilogy, opens in 1953 with the Langdon family of Iowa.

God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison (Knopf, April). The very names of the characters are poetry: Bride, Booker, Rain, Sweetness. Nobelist Morrison again delves deep into history, race, childhood trauma, and triumph.

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow, May). This brainiac, epic, noir-techno-thriller sprawlmaster has a very devoted sci-futurist following. Judging from the mirror-image title alone, we're in for another crazy-mad ride.

215-854-4406 @jtimpane