New Release Books by Joan Didion

Joan Didion is the author of Joan Didion: The 1980s & 90s (LOA #341) (2021), Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021), Of Women and the Essay (2018), Collected Essays (2018) and other 118 books.

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Joan Didion: The 1980s & 90s (LOA #341)

release date: Apr 20, 2021
Joan Didion: The 1980s & 90s (LOA #341)
Library of America continues its definitive edition of one of the most electric writers of our time with a volume gathering her iconic reporting and novels from mid-career This second volume in Library of America's definitive Didion edition includes two novels and three remarkable essay collections with which she extended the compass of the extraordinary journalistic eye first developed in the celebrated books Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album. Gather here are Salvador, a searing look at terror and Cold War politics in the Central American civil war of the early 1980s; Miami, a portrait not just of a city but of immigration, exile, the cocaine trade, and political violence; and After Henry, in which she reports on Patty Hearst, Nancy Reagan, the case of the Central Park Five, and the Los Angeles she once called home. The novels Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted, the latter recently adapted for film by Netflix, are fast-paced, deftly observed narratives of power, conspiracy, and corruption in American political life. Taken together, these five books mark the remarkable mid-career evolution of one of the most dynamic writers of our time.

Let Me Tell You What I Mean

release date: Jan 26, 2021
Let Me Tell You What I Mean
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From one of our most iconic and influential writers, the award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking: a timeless collection of mostly early pieces that reveal what would become Joan Didion's subjects, including the press, politics, California robber barons, women, and her own self-doubt. With a forward by Hilton Als, these twelve pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary figure. They showcase Joan Didion's incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as "an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time" (The New York Times Book Review). Here, Didion touches on topics ranging from newspapers ("the problem is not so much whether one trusts the news as to whether one finds it"), to the fantasy of San Simeon, to not getting into Stanford. In "Why I Write," Didion ponders the act of writing: "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means." From her admiration for Hemingway's sentences to her acknowledgment that Martha Stewart's story is one "that has historically encouraged women in this country, even as it has threatened men," these essays are acutely and brilliantly observed. Each piece is classic Didion: incisive, bemused, and stunningly prescient.

Of Women and the Essay

release date: Nov 15, 2018
Of Women and the Essay
Of Women and the Essay brings together forty-six American and British women essayists whose work spans nearly four centuries. The contributions of these essayists prove that women have been significant participants in the essay tradition since the genre’s modern beginnings in the sixteenth century. Many of these essayists, such as Eliza Haywood, Fanny Fern, Gertrude Bustill Mossell, Agnes Repplier, and Alice Meynell, achieved significant success as writers within whatever essay form ruled the day; others bent the rules, though often imperceptibly, to make room for themselves. Collectively they represent a missing piece in the larger history of the essay. In Of Women and the Essay Jenny Spinner contextualizes the broad range of literary essays included within the chronological development of the genre. She makes a compelling argument that women have constructed their own tradition in the essay genre, often utilizing periodic traits of the essay to their own advantage. At the same time, she suggests that the personal essay’s demands on the essayist required both a public and personal authorization that proved challenging for women essayists in general and for women of color in particular. The appendix catalogs the works of nearly 200 female essayists and should inspire further reading. As a whole, the volume lifts women writers from the cutting-room floor of essay scholarship and returns them to their rightful place in the essay canon.

Collected Essays

release date: Mar 06, 2018
Collected Essays
Three essential works that redefined the art of journalism by “one of our sharpest and most trustworthy cultural observers” (The New York Times). In these masterpieces of razor-sharp reportage, the National Book Award–winning and New York Times–bestselling author proves herself one of the premier essayists of the twentieth century, “an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review). Slouching Towards Bethlehem: America in the 1960s—a pivotal era of social change and generational divide. Here is Joan Didion on the “misplaced children” of Haight-Ashbury as well as John Wayne in Hollywood; folk singer Joan Baez and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes; the extremes of both Death Valley and Las Vegas. Named to Time magazine’s list of the one hundred best and most influential nonfiction books, this is “a rare display of some of the best prose written today in this country” (The New York Times Book Review). The White Album: A New York Times bestseller, this landmark essay collection confronts the dark aftermath of the 1960s. From a jailhouse visit to Huey Newton, cofounder of the Black Panther Party, to a recording session with The Doors, from the culture of shopping malls to the contradictions of the women’s movement, Joan Didion captures the paranoia and absurdity of the era with irony and insight. And in the iconic title essay, she documents her uneasy state of mind during the years leading up to and following the Manson murders—a terrifying crime that, in her memory, surprised no one. After Henry: Whether reporting on a Hollywood murder or the “sideshows” of foreign wars, Joan Didion crystalizes her reputation as a brilliant essayist. Highlights include a portrait of the White House under the Reagans, two “actors on location”; an unexpected meditation on the Patty Hearst case; and an exposé on the racial divisions and class fault lines of New York City following the rape of the Central Park jogger. An indispensable collection from a writer on whom we can rely “to get the story straight” (Los Angeles Times).

The White Album

release date: May 09, 2017
The White Album
New York Times Bestseller: An “elegant” mosaic of trenchant observations on the late sixties and seventies from the author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem (The New Yorker). In this landmark essay collection, Joan Didion brilliantly interweaves her own “bad dreams” with those of a nation confronting the dark underside of 1960s counterculture. From a jailhouse visit to Black Panther Party cofounder Huey Newton to witnessing First Lady of California Nancy Reagan pretend to pick flowers for the benefit of news cameras, Didion captures the paranoia and absurdity of the era with her signature blend of irony and insight. She takes readers to the “giddily splendid” Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the cool mountains of Bogotá, and the Jordanian Desert, where Bishop James Pike went to walk in Jesus’s footsteps—and died not far from his rented Ford Cortina. She anatomizes the culture of shopping malls—“toy garden cities in which no one lives but everyone consumes”—and exposes the contradictions and compromises of the women’s movement. In the iconic title essay, she documents her uneasy state of mind during the years leading up to and following the Manson murders—a terrifying crime that, in her memory, surprised no one. Written in “a voice like no other in contemporary journalism,” The White Album is a masterpiece of literary reportage and a fearless work of autobiography by the National Book Award–winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking (The New York Times Book Review). Its power to electrify and inform remains undiminished nearly forty years after it was first published.

Joan Didion: The 1960s & 70s (LOA #325)

release date: Nov 12, 2019
Joan Didion: The 1960s & 70s (LOA #325)
Library of America launches a definitive collected edition of one of the most original and electric writers of our time with a volume gathering her five iconic books of the 1960s & 70s Joan Didion's influence on postwar American letters is undeniable. Whether writing fiction, memoir, or trailblazing journalism, her gifts for narrative and dialogue, and her intimate but detached authorial persona, have won her legions of readers and admirers. Now Library of America launches its multi-volume edition of Didion's collected writings, prepared in consultation with the author, that brings together her fiction and nonfiction for the first time. Collected in this first volume are Didion's five iconic books from the 1960s and 1970s: Run River, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Play It As It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, and The White Album. Whether writing about countercultural San Francisco, the Las Vegas wedding industry, Lucille Miller, Charles Manson, or the shopping mall, Didion achieves a wonderful negative sublimity without condemning her subjects or condescending to her readers. Chiefly about California, these books display Didion's genius for finding exactly the right language and tone to capture America's broken twilight landscape at a moment of headlong conflict and change.

After Henry

release date: May 09, 2017
After Henry
Incisive essays on Patty Hearst and Reagan, the Central Park jogger and the Santa Ana winds, from the New York Times–bestselling author of South and West. In these eleven essays covering the national scene from Washington, DC; California; and New York, the acclaimed author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album “capture[s] the mood of America” and confirms her reputation as one of our sharpest and most trustworthy cultural observers (The New York Times). Whether dissecting the 1988 presidential campaign, exploring the commercialization of a Hollywood murder, or reporting on the “sideshows” of foreign wars, Joan Didion proves that she is one of the premier essayists of the twentieth century, “an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review). Highlights include “In the Realm of the Fisher King,” a portrait of the White House under the stewardship of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, two “actors on location;” and “Girl of the Golden West,” a meditation on the Patty Hearst case that draws an unexpected and insightful parallel between the kidnapped heiress and the emigrants who settled California. “Sentimental Journeys” is a deeply felt study of New York media coverage of the brutal rape of a white investment banker in Central Park, a notorious crime that exposed the city’s racial and class fault lines. Dedicated to Henry Robbins, Didion’s friend and editor from 1966 until his death in 1979, After Henry is an indispensable collection of “superior reporting and criticism” from a writer on whom we have relied for more than fifty years “to get the story straight” (Los Angeles Times).

Miami

release date: May 09, 2017
Miami
An astonishing account of Cuban exiles, CIA informants, and cocaine traffickers in Florida by the New York Times–bestselling author of South and West. In Miami, the National Book Award–winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking looks beyond postcard images of fluorescent waters, backlit islands, and pastel architecture to explore the murkier waters of a city on the edge. From Fidel Castro and the Bay of Pigs invasion to Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination to Oliver North and the Iran–Contra affair, Joan Didion uncovers political intrigues and shadowy underworld connections, and documents the US government’s “seduction and betrayal” of the Cuban exile community in Dade County. She writes of hotels that offer “guerrilla discounts,” gun shops that advertise Father’s Day deals, and a real-estate market where “Unusual Security and Ready Access to the Ocean” are perks for wealthy homeowners looking to make a quick escape. With a booming drug trade, staggering racial and class inequities, and skyrocketing murder rates, Miami in the 1980s felt more like a Third World capital than a modern American city. Didion describes the violence, passion, and paranoia of these troubled times in arresting detail and “beautifully evocative prose” (The New York Times Book Review). A vital report on an immigrant community traumatized by broken dreams and the cynicism of US foreign policy, Miami is a masterwork of literary journalism whose insights are timelier and more important than ever.

Play It as It Lays

release date: May 09, 2017
Play It as It Lays
A “scathing novel” of one woman’s path of self-destruction in 1960s Hollywood—by the New York Times–bestselling author of The White Album (The Washington Post Book World). Spare, elegant, and terrifying, Play It as It Lays is the unforgettable story of a woman and a society come undone. Raised in the ghost town of Silver Wells, Nevada, Maria Wyeth is an ex-model and the star of two films directed by her estranged husband, Carter Lang. But in the spiritual desert of 1960s Los Angeles, Maria has lost the plot of her own life. Her daughter, Kate, was born with an “aberrant chemical in her brain.” Her long-troubled marriage has slipped beyond repair, and her disastrous love affairs and strained friendships provide little comfort. Her only escape is to get in her car and drive the freeway—in the fast lane with the radio turned up high—until it runs out “somewhere no place at all where the flawless burning concrete just stopped.” But every ride to nowhere, every sleepless night numbed by pills and booze and sex, makes it harder for Maria to find the meaning in another day. Told with profound economy of style and a “vision as bleak and precise as Eliot’s in ‘The Wasteland’,” Play It as It Lays ruthlessly dissects the dark heart of the American dream (The New York Times). It is a searing masterpiece “from one of the very few writers of our time who approaches her terrible subject with absolute seriousness, with fear and humility and awe” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review).

South and West

release date: Mar 07, 2017
South and West
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • “One of contemporary literature’s most revered essayists revives her raw records from a 1970s road trip across the American southwest ... her acute observations of the country’s culture and history feel particularly resonant today.” —Harper’s Bazaar Joan Didion, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean, has always kept notebooks—of overheard dialogue, interviews, drafts of essays, copies of articles. Here are two extended excerpts from notebooks she kept in the 1970s; read together, they form a piercing view of the American political and cultural landscape. “Notes on the South” traces a road trip that she and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, took through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Her acute observations about the small towns they pass through, her interviews with local figures, and their preoccupation with race, class, and heritage suggest a South largely unchanged today. “California Notes” began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial. Though Didion never wrote the piece, the time she spent watching the trial in San Francisco triggered thoughts about the West and her own upbringing in Sacramento. Here we not only see Didion’s signature irony and imagination in play, we’re also granted an illuminating glimpse into her mind and process.

Insider Baseball

release date: Oct 04, 2016
Insider Baseball
A Vintage Shorts Selection • Almost three decades ago, iconic and incomparable American essayist Joan Didion’s now-classic report from the Dukakis campaign trail exposed, in no uncertain terms, the complete sham that is the modern American presidential run. Writing with bite and some humor too, Didion betrays “the process”—the way in which power is exchanged and the status quo is maintained. All insiders—politicians, journalists, spin doctors—participate in a political narrative that is “designed as it is to maintain the illusion of consensus by obscuring rather than addressing actual issues.” The optics of presidential campaigns have grown ever more farcical and remote from the needs and issues most relevant to Americans’ lives, and Didion’s elegant, shrewd, and prescient commentary has never been more urgent than it is right now. An ebook short.

Where I Was From

release date: Jan 27, 2012
Where I Was From
In this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours. Where I Was From, in Didion’s words, “represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became that I can still to this day confront them only obliquely.” The book is a haunting narrative of how her own family moved west with the frontier from the birth of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother in Virginia in 1766 to the death of her mother on the edge of the Pacific in 2001; of how the wagon-train stories of hardship and abandonment and endurance created a culture in which survival would seem the sole virtue. In Where I Was From, Didion turns what John Leonard has called “her sonar ear, her radar eye” onto her own work, as well as that of such California writers as Frank Norris and Jack London and Henry George, to examine how the folly and recklessness in the very grain of the California settlement led to the California we know today–a state mortgaged first to the railroad, then to the aerospace industry, and overwhelmingly to the federal government, a dependent colony of those political and corporate owners who fly in for the annual encampment of the Bohemian Club. Here is the one writer we always want to read on California showing us the startling contradictions in its–and in America’s–core values. Joan Didion’s unerring sense of America and its spirit, her acute interpretation of its institutions and literature, and her incisive questioning of the stories it tells itself make this fiercely intelligent book a provocative and important tour de force from one of our greatest writers. From the Hardcover edition.

Blue Nights (Enhanced Edition)

release date: Jan 17, 2012
Blue Nights (Enhanced Edition)
This enhanced eBook edition of Blue Nights includes three short films directed by Griffin Dunne and starring Joan Didion. Each film blends Didion's incisive prose with images and mementos from her daughter's life. From one of our most powerful writers, Blue Nights is a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old. Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. Today would be her wedding anniversary. This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana’s childhood—in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. “How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?” Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept. Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, “the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving.

A Book of Common Prayer

release date: Feb 23, 2011
A Book of Common Prayer
A shimmering novel of innocence and evil: the gripping story of two American women in a failing Central American nation, from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean "[Didion's] most ambitious project in fiction, and her most successful ... glows with a golden aura of well-wrought classical tragedy.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review Grace Strasser-Mendana controls much of Boca Grande's wealth and knows virtually all of its secrets; Charlotte Douglas knows far too little. "Immaculate of history, innocent of politics," Charlotte has come to Boca Grande vaguely and vainly hoping to be reunited with her fugitive daughter. As imagined by Didion, her fate is at once utterly particular and fearfully emblematic of an age of conscienceless authority and unfathomable violence. A Book of Common Prayer is written with the telegraphic swiftness and microscopic sensitivity that have made Didion one of our most distinguished journalists.

Run River

release date: Feb 23, 2011
Run River
The iconic writer's electrifying first novel is a story of marriage, murder and betrayal that only she could tell with such nuance, sympathy, and suspense—from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean. Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, are the great-grandchildren of pioneers, and what happens to them is a tragic epilogue to the pioneer experience—a haunting portrait of a marriage whose wrong turns and betrayals are at once absolutely idiosyncratic and a razor-sharp commentary on the history of California.

South and West: From A Notebook

release date: Apr 01, 2017
South and West: From A Notebook
From one of the most important chroniclers of our time, come two extended excerpts from her never-before-seen notebooks–writings that offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary writer.

Democracy

release date: Feb 16, 2011
Democracy
From the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean—a gorgeously written, bitterly funny look at the relationship between politics and personal life. Moving deftly between romance, farce, and tragedy, from 1970s America to Vietnam to Jakarta, Democracy is a tour de force from a writer who can dissect an entire society with a single phrase. Inez Victor knows that the major casualty of the political life is memory. But the people around Inez have made careers out of losing track. Her senator husband wants to forget the failure of his last bid for the presidency. Her husband's handler would like the press to forget that Inez's father is a murderer. And, in 1975, America is doing its best to lose track of its one-time client, the lethally hemorrhaging republic of South Vietnam. As conceived by Joan Didion, these personages and events constitute the terminal fallout of democracy, a fallout that also includes fact-finding junkets, senatorial groupies, the international arms market, and the Orwellian newspeak of the political class.

The Last Thing He Wanted

release date: Feb 16, 2011
The Last Thing He Wanted
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • "Didion at her finest" —USA Today • An intricate, fast-paced novel about trying to create a context for democracy and getting hands a little dirty in the process, complete with conspiracies, arms dealing, and assassinations. From the author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean The narrator introduces Elena McMahon, estranged from a life of celebrity fundraisers and from her powerful West Coast husband, Wynn Janklow, whom she has left, taking Catherine, her daughter, to become a reporter for The Washington Post. She finds herself boarding a plane for Florida to see her father. She becomes embroiled in her his business even though "she had trained herself since childhood not to have any interest in what he was doing." It is from this moment that she is caught up in something much larger than she could have imagined. Didion makes connections among Dallas, Iran-Contra, and Castro, and points out how "spectral companies with high-concept names tended to interlock." As this book builds to its terrifying finish, we see the underpinnings of a dark historical underbelly.

The Year of Magical Thinking

release date: May 07, 2013
The Year of Magical Thinking
No description available for this book

Vintage Didion

release date: Feb 24, 2010
Vintage Didion
The perfect introduction to one of our greatest modern writers: Joan Didion "has the instincts of an exceptional reporter and the focus of a historian, [with] a novelist’s appreciation of the surreal" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Whether she’s writing about civil war in Central America, political scurrility in Washington, or the tightly-braided myths and realities of her native California, Joan Didion expresses an unblinking vision of the truth. Vintage Didion includes three chapters from Miami; an excerpt from Salvador; and three separate essays from After Henry that cover topics from Ronald Reagan to the Central Park jogger case. Also included is “Clinton Agonistes” from Political Fictions, and “Fixed Opinions, or the Hinge of History,” a scathing analysis of the ongoing war on terror.

The Year of Magical Thinking: The Play

release date: Apr 02, 2009
The Year of Magical Thinking: The Play
In this dramatic adaptation of her award-winning, bestselling memoir, Joan Didion transforms the story of the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband and their only daughter into a stunning and powerful one-woman play. “This happened on December 30, 2003. That may seem a while ago but it won’t when it happens to you . . .” Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times called the memoir that was the basis for the play, “an indelible portrait of loss and grief . . . a haunting portrait of a four-decade-long marriage." The first theatrical production of The Year of Magical Thinking opened at the Booth Theatre on March 29, 2007, starring Vanessa Redgrave and directed by David Hare.

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live

release date: Jan 01, 2006
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live
A definitive compilation of essays and nonfiction writings spanning more than forty years includes the author's reflections on politics, lifestyle, place, and cultural figures, including her studies of Haight-Ashbury, the Manson family, the Black Panthers, California earthquakes, Bill Clinton and Kenneth Starr, and much more.
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