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Elton John to publish AIDS book, 'Love is the Cure'

Elton John is set to publish a book focused on AIDS: "Love is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic"
Elton John, the flamboyant pop star, is set to publish a book focused on AIDS and his knowledge of the disease. "Love is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic" is scheduled to be published in July; it is Sir Elton's first book.

During the early part of John's career, he was known as a singer with outrageous fashion sense, crazy glasses, a rocking piano and a string of No. 1 records. He hit big with lively songs such as "Bennie and the Jets," "Crocodile Rock," and "Honky Cat" and appeared as the pinball wizard's nemesis in "Tommy." He also went to the top of the charts with the more subdued "Rocket Man" and the ballads "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and "Daniel." Since the '80s, John has had hits on the mellow side, with "Tiny Dancer," "Candle in the Wind" (two hit versions, one for Marilyn Monroe, later for Princess Diana) and film and theater successes.

The singer was an early supporter of efforts to fight AIDS, founding the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992. He has held annual fundraising concerts, and the foundation has donated nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to fight AIDS worldwide.

That said, the book promises to be more personal than polemic. Publisher Little, Brown writes in a release:

"Love is the Cure" will be the very personal story of Sir Elton's life during the AIDS epidemic, including his agony at seeing friend after friend perish needlessly. Through his stories of close encounters with people like Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, and many others, he will convey the personal toll AIDS has taken on his life -- and his infinite determination to stop its spread.

Sir Elton writes, "This is a disease that must be cured not by a miraculous vaccine, but by changing hearts and minds, and through a collective effort to break down social barriers and to build bridges of compassion. Why are we not doing more? This is a question I have thought deeply about, and wish to answer -- and to help change -- by writing this book.

The audiobook edition will be read by John.

The release of "Love is the Cure" will coincide with the 2012 XIX International AIDS Conference, being held in Washington. Little, Brown said it will donate 10% of its profits from the book to help fight AIDS.

Since its discovery in 1991, AIDS has claimed 60 million lives, and 34 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Elton John with Elizabeth Taylor at his AIDS benefit concert in 2001. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Tom Sizemore to write memoir of drug addiction and recovery

  Actor Tom Sizemore is writing a memoir of his drug use and recovery for Atria Books
Actor Tom Sizemore is writing a memoir of his drug use and recovery for Atria Books. Sizemore, whose acting chops landed him roles in the Academy Award-winning "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down," has had very public struggles with cocaine and heroin. There were arrests, and then recovery on reality TV.

Deadline Hollywood wrote:

Sizemore, who once romanced Elizabeth Hurley and Sharon Stone and whose performances in films from True Romance to Black Hawk Down elevated him from character actor to the star of his own TV series in Robbery Homicide Division, lost it all due to his substance abuse struggles. At his lowest point, Sizemore was accused of domestic violence by Heidi Fleiss and traded a Beverly Hills mansion for a solitary confinement cell at Chino State Prison.

A possibly lower point was when Sizemore, trying to pass a drug test, was busted for using a device called "The Whizzinator." That was in 2005, when the actor, who was on probation, was required to take a urinalysis before leaving to shoot a film in Cambodia. The Whizzinator included a pair of men's underwear, a repository for drug-free pee, heat packs and a prosthetic, um, male pee-delivery device.

Another unusual moment in Sizemore's struggles and recovery was when Charlie Sheen appeared on his behalf at a sentencing hearing in 2007.

But that's behind him now. "The fact that I'm now sober over two years -- and that I'm acting as much as I did before -- proves that people can overcome obstacles even when they’re sure they can't," Sizemore told Deadline Hollywood. "I hope that this book can inspire other people to never give up."

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Tom Sizemore in 2006. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Microsoft's Bill Gates turns to book reviewing

Bill Gates has put his talents to book reviewing
Billionaire Bill Gates, who remains chairman and chief software architect of his company, Microsoft, has put his talents to book reviewing. On Wednesday, he posted his review of "Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines" by Vaclac Smil (MIT University Press) on his personal website, Gates Notes:

As a history buff, I appreciate books that give you a sense of the people behind important inventions and the sweeping impact they have had on society. Often -– as in the case of the diesel engine and the gas turbine -– incremental advances obscure the profound impact of technology. In Prime Movers, Smil focuses in on a slice of 20th century technological innovation and shows the phenomenal impact it has had on international trade and travel.

To put the significance of the diesel engine and the gas turbine in perspective, Smil points out that until coal-powered steam engines came along a few hundred years ago, animals and human muscle were the “prime movers” of manufacturing, and wind and sails the prime movers of international travel and trade. The steam engine was an important underpinning of the industrial revolution. But its impact pales in comparison to the diesel engine and the gas turbine. ...

There are a lot of fascinating historical points and statistics in Smil’s book that make it an interesting read, but what most fascinated me was learning about the incredible impact these two innovations have had on so many aspects of our lives.

It turns out that Gates has been reviewing books on the site every few weeks since March. His recent reads include "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools" by Steven Brill, "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding" by Charles Kenny, and "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation" by Steven Johnson.

His first posted book review was back in February 2010, of Steven Levitt's and Stephen Dubner's "SuperFreakonomics"; frankly, it wasn't much. "I had a chance to read a prepublication copy of SuperFreakonomics before it was officially released," it began. "I really liked Freakonomics and I think SuperFreakonomics is even better." If one of my freshman writing students had turned that in, it wouldn't have gotten a B-minus.

Since then, Gates has much improved as a book reviewer. He often uses a personal take, explaining why he's interested in this topic, and sometimes comes with a critical eye. He picked up Johnson's book "with a little bit of skepticism," he wrote. "Lots of books have been written about innovation -– what it is, the most innovative companies, how you measure it. The subject can seem a little faddish," he said, but he found Johnson's book to be a cut above.

Most of the books Gates writes about fall into the line with his philanthropic pursuits with the Gates Foundation: education, healthcare, technology and the underlying processes affecting those systems. It makes sense that he's reading about them -- but few billionaires take the time to write up their thoughts and share them as a book reviews.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Bill Gates, left, with Warren Buffett in 2007. Credit: Nati Harnik / Associated Press

Jennifer Hudson to spill weight-loss secrets in new book

Jenniferhudson_may2011 Jennifer Hudson, the Oscar-winning actress and Grammy-winning singer who got her start as a finalist on "American Idol," will publish a book revealing her weight-loss secrets.

USA Today reports that the book, which will be published in 2012 by Dutton, will outline Hudson's youth in an environment that didn't encourage healthy eating, and how that changed as she embarked on her career and became a parent.

From the publisher's news release:

The book ... will chronicle Hudson's experience growing up in an environment where healthy living was not a priority, to dealing with talk of her weight as she competed on American Idol and won her first Oscar, to her eventual decision to get healthy after the birth of her son, and her success losing weight with the help of Weight Watchers. Now, 80 pounds lighter, Hudson wants to inspire anyone coping with weight issues, share some of her own best tips for losing and maintaining weight loss, fitting in exercise and keeping it fun and much more.

The book will be a memoir focused on going from size 16 to size six, not her family history. In May, Hudson took aim at a gossip website that claimed publishers were not interested in her weight-loss story but might be if she added details of her family's tragedy -- which she did not, in fact, have to include. Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were killed in 2009; earlier this year she told Oprah Winfrey that she had a hard time syncing that with her reality. She added, "I try to do everything to say, 'Will my mother like this? Will she be pleased? Will she be proud of that?' ... I don't think I could ever come close to be the kind of mother that my mother was to me, but I try to use that as an example and be there for [my son] the way she was there for me."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A svelte Jennifer Hudson at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit on May 2. Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters

Jillian Michaels doles out 'Unlimited' fitness advice

Jillianmichaels_festivalofb
As Jillian Michaels hopped onto the stage at the Festival of Books on Saturday afternoon, a woman in the crowd gasped to her friend about Michaels’ shockingly petite and lean figure.

“Hey I heard that small comment,” Michaels shot back playfully. “I’ll have you know I have a towering personality.”

It is that personality that has propelled Michaels to fame as one of the personal trainers whipping contestants into shape on “The Biggest Loser.” She has spent seven years (11 seasons) on the weight- loss TV show and announced last year that the current season would be her last.

Michaels recalled her experience on "Loser" frequently during her talk with L.A. TImes staff writer Rene Lynch, saying that leaving fellow trainer Bob Harper was difficult. But she's ready to start a family and maybe do something more (possibly a daytime talk show), she said.

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Festival of Books: Personal beliefs + science = what? Authors examine why we believe what we believe

Ferris

You have to appreciate irony at a book festival. The panel on "Inconvenient Truths" wound up short one panelist, author Erik  M. Conway, who encountered an inconvenient truth about Los Angeles: Traffic. Conway never made it in time from his Pasadena home for the 11 a.m. start for a panel that aired live on Book TV. But his writing partner, Naomi Oreskes, made it, joining fellow authors Timothy Ferris 
and Seth Mnookin to talk about the persistence of ignorance in national debates on issues of science.

With one hour, you can’t reach a consensus, but the  general idea they all agreed upon is that people look at science through their own prisms, weighted by religious faith, political views and personal experience, even when it is debunked by scientific inquiry.

Thus, explained Mnookin, author of "The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear," parents of autistic children cling to their perceptions that vaccinations caused the condition, even though independent scientific assessments find no weight to the argument. And occasionally, he said, pre-vaccine  videotapes and doctors’ notes surface that directly refute the parents’ observations. Yet, they still believe the vaccine caused the medical condition.

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Jennifer Egan, Siddhartha Mukherjee and Kay Ryan win writing Pulitzer Prizes

Pulitzerprize_2011
Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad" has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, it was announced Monday. "A Visit From the Goon Squad" was cited by the Pulitzer committee cited for being "an inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed." The book, Egan's fifth, is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist, won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for his stunning first book, "The Emperor of All Maladies: A History of Cancer." Mukherjee book, the committee wrote, is "an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal, into the long history of an insidious disease that, despite treatment breakthroughs, still bedevils medical science."

Former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her collection "The Best of It: New and Selected Poems." Ryan's poetry collection was cited for being "witty, rebellious and yet tender, a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind."

Ron Chernow won the Pulitzer Prize in biography for "Washington: A Life," cited as "a sweeping, authoritative portrait of an iconic leader learning to master his private feelings in order to fulfill his public duties."

The Pulitzer Prize for history was won by Eric Foner for his book "The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery," described as "a well-orchestrated examination of Lincoln's changing views of slavery, bringing unforeseeable twists and a fresh sense of improbability to a familiar story."

The finalists in each category are listed after the jump.

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Notes on Rebecca Skloot's appearance at ALOUD

Rskloot Rebecca Skloot spoke to a full house at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday night as part of its ALOUD series. I understand that close to 50 people waited in a standby line, but none was able to get in -- every seat was full.

I was lucky. My seat was on the stage.

My job was to interview Skloot about her book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American whose cells -- the HeLa cells -- were the first human cells to reproduce in a laboratory. They became the building block of countless significant medical advancements in the 20th century, including the polio vaccine, cancer research, virology and much more. Skloot told the audience that typing "HeLa" into databases of scientific papers produces an impossible deluge of results -- like typing the word "and" into Google.

Skloot dug into the past to learn about the woman Henrietta Lacks, who died in 1951. She read the opening passage of her book, in which Lacks and her husband, David, pull up in front of Johns Hopkins Hospital and she goes in to see a doctor. Afterward, Skloot explained how she was able to make the passage so vivid: not just getting stories from people who'd been there, but checking and cross-checking them, finding archival photos and asking questions like, what kind of tree is this? and this car, is it a Buick?

While the HeLa cells were manufactured by the millions and distributed worldwide, Lacks as a person was nearly completely forgotten. Skloot served as a detective, and her search is part of the story in the book. 

She wasn't just looking for herself, or by herself. Lacks left five children in Baltimore, and Skloot became friends with her daughter Deborah.

Earning her trust wasn't easy. Lacks' children grew up in poverty, sometimes in abusive households, and their education was limited. They had no idea their mother's cells had been taken -- there was no concept of informed consent at the time, Skloot explained -- until they were contacted by a researcher in the 1970s. The miscommunication, misunderstandings and a con man or two that followed left the family feeling betrayed by anyone who was interested in the HeLa cells.

HeLa cells were bought and sold by large and profitable medical companies; the Lacks family could not, and still cannot, afford health insurance. Skloot explained that while many parts of the story are about race, Deborah made it clear that to her it was about class.

The family continues to struggle with poverty. Some of the proceeds from the book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" go to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation; Skloot spoke about the grants it has made for books for Lacks' grandchildren and for the descendents of others who were medical subjects without their knowledge, such as those in the Tuskegee experiment that deliberately withheld treatment for syphilis patients.

Skloot was a science writer who spent a decade working on this book. In it she combines history, the story of the cells, their reproduction and impact, and the story of the Lacks family. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is headed to the screen at the hands of Oprah Winfrey, HBO and Alan Ball.

A video of Skloot's appearance at ALOUD will be posted online -- not sure when, exactly, but those who didn't get in will be able to see her tell the story of her book.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rebecca Skloot, author of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." Credit: Crown Publishers / Random House

Wellcome Trust Book Prize goes to Rebecca Skloot

Skloot_lacks_uk
Rebecca Skloot's book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" has won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, it was announced Tuesday. It is the second year of the award, which is open to works of fiction and nonfiction published in the U.K. that celebrate medicine.

Skloot's book is, in part, the history of Henrietta Lacks, a woman who died of cervical cancer; her cancer cells, which were taken without her knowledge, became an essential part of medical research in the 20th century. Those cells -- HeLa cells -- were the first human cells to be able to reproduce on their own in a laboratory; they enabled countless scientific advances, including the development of the polio vaccine and the discovery of chromosomes. They're still reproducing: That's what makes them immortal.

The book also raises interesting questions about medical research. What ownership should we -- or researchers or corporations -- have over samples taken from our bodies? As medicine made leaps forward because of Lacks' cells, surviving members of her family struggled, often without being able to afford healthcare themselves.

Skloot's efforts to track down the family and earn their trust are part of the book, which took 10 years to write. In an interview earlier this year, she said that as she was writing, "history was kind of vanishing."

I felt like I was scrambling along behind it. I was sort of trying my best to keep up as everything was going away. There were two different cases where people who knew Henrietta or knew George Gey, the scientist [whose lab grew her cells], died right before I was supposed to interview them, which was just devastating. There were a few other cases, like her cousins, who died immediately after I interviewed them, and I thought I got this incredible piece of history, right before it went away. And the burden of that as a writer was pretty intense for me. I felt such a duty to tell the story and tell it well and do justice to all sides of the story.

Skloot, whose book was selected from a short list of six -- three other works of nonfiction and two novels -- will receive about $40,000 for the award.

 -- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rebecca Skloot. Credit: Crown Publishers / Random House

 

The sisters' pact that became the race for the cure

Komenrace

The name Susan G. Komen is known because it has remained attached to the fundraising runs and public fight against breast cancer -- and because of her little sister, Nancy G. Brinker. The way Brinker tells it in her new memoir, "Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement," by the time her sister Susan Goodman Komen died of breast cancer in 1980, at age 36, she had promised to end the silence, to raise money for scientific research and to end breast cancer for good. We review the book in Thursday's paper:

In Brinker's telling, the seeds of her future were sown early by her determined, capable and endlessly generous mother, a lifelong volunteer who was "unfashionably fearless about questioning the judgments of God and doctors who think they're God's golf buddies." Growing up solidly middle class and Jewish in Peoria, Ill., the Goodman girls were baking cupcakes for polio charities in elementary school.

Brinker tells her story in two modes, chapters of lively family memoir alternating with vignettes on the history of the disease, the founding of her organization and the inspiration provided by survivors and researchers. She keeps her weight firmly (and wisely) on the former — what could have been a sermon on cancer, philanthropy and cause-related marketing is instead a surprisingly diverting read.

The story of the efforts to end breast cancer isn't yet over. On Sunday there are two Komen race for the cure 5K runs in California: in San Francisco and in Orange County.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Breast cancer survivors raise pink roses at the 2009 Susan G. Komen Orange County Race for the Cure. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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