Friday, December 26, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: 'Johnny Cash: The Life,' 'Unapologetic'

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John Williams of The New York Times writes about newly released book titles and the world of publishing in The Book Reader.

Robert Hilburn's new book, "Johnny Cash: The Life," aspires to do for the Man in Black what Peter Guralnick did for The King in his two-volume biography of Elvis Presley. Hilburn, a former longtime music critic for the Los Angeles Times, shows the many highs and lows of Cash's life and career.

The book starts with Cash as a young boy in rural Arkansas, walking along a gravel road at night and singing to himself. The more than 600 pages that follow cover everything, from the great 1968 concert in Folsom Prison (Hilburn was there that day) to the celebrated records that Cash made with the producer Rick Rubin starting in 1994, and from the tragic death of Cash's teenage brother to the singer's recurring drug problems and his strained but sustaining marriage to June Carter. Few singers have had careers as long or as interesting as Cash had, and Hilburn's book is a comprehensive account of it.

The British writer Francis Spufford couldn't seem more different than the laconic Cash, but the two share a committed Christian faith. In his new book, "Unapologetic," Spufford explains why he believes Christianity still makes "surprising emotional sense."

Spufford told me in a recent interview that the book "tries to make the imaginative case for Christian faith absolutely from scratch." He clearly disagrees with the confident atheism of best-selling writers like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. But the pleasures of his book are not only the pleasures of a heated argument. Spufford is a clear, stylish writer who conveys his ideas, whether you agree with them or not, in galloping prose. As he has proven in previous books about diverse subjects, few writers are better company than Spufford.

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