Must-Read Nonfiction for Fall 2013: Malcolm Gladwell, Dick Cheney and More
History junkies, memoir fans, politicos and true story lovers of all stripes should make room on their bookshelves for a slew of major titles this season: From Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai's much-anticipated memoir and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's post-mortem on the 2012 presidential election to new offerings by nonfiction luminaries including Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bill Bryson, we've got your guide to some of the most exciting titles hitting bookstores this fall.
Frenemies in the White House
No one writes a presidential biography quite like Doris Kearns Goodwin: She won a Pulitzer for her biography of FDR, “No Ordinary Time,” and her biography on president Abraham Lincoln, "Team of Rivals," became an Oscar-winning film last year. This time she’s tackling former presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, whose broken friendship at the turn of the last century ultimately undid their political careers. T.R., who famously coined his presidency the “bully pulpit,” fought hard against political corruption. But when Taft, his pal and successor, fell to the forces Roosevelt had tried to subdue, Roosevelt was enraged, running against Taft in the next election and paving the way for Woodrow Wilson to win. An illuminating read from one of America's most renowned historians.
A tell-tale heart
Former vice president Dick Cheney knows a thing or two about coronary disease: Before undergoing a life-saving transplant last year, the veteran GOP politician suffered five heart attacks. In the aptly titled "Heart," co-written with his Senate-candidate daughter, Liz, and his cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Cheney details his journey with the disease and examines how standards in coronary care have changed since he suffered his first heart attack in 1978. Better known for his hawkish politics (which he reiterated in his 2011 memoir, "In My Time,") Cheney offers a rare glimpse into his personal life this time. Will the book weigh in on Obamacare? One would think. Dive in to find out, but know that, one way or the other, it'll stir conversation.
In the highly anticipated sequel to their 2010 bestseller "Game Change," veteran journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann deliver their post-mortem on the 2012 election. Whereas "Game Change" revealed the inner workings (and failures) of the McCain-Palin campaign, the follow-up sees Halperin and Heilemann digging into the presidential run of Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, drawing upon hundreds of interviews to reveal how Romney rose to the top of the GOP pool, how Ryan came onboard and how Obama prevailed again despite shaky approval ratings during one of the worst economic periods in the country’s history. It’s due in November--naturally--and if it’s anything like "Game Change," which became an Emmy-winning HBO film (and for the record, HBO has already optioned "Double Down"), we’re in for a great read.
Playing it by ear
He captivated the boxing world with his speed, athleticism—and his teeth. But before the bite that launched a thousand puns, Mike Tyson was one of the best fighters in the world. In "Undisputed Truth," co-written by Howard Stern's "Miss America" collaborator Larry Sloman, the notoriously outspoken and unpredictable former champion tells his dramatic story, beginning with his hardscrabble youth in Brooklyn, spanning his storied career and covering the ups and downs of his tumultuous personal life, from his jail time for rape to the squandering of his $300 million fortune. These days, happily, Tyson is back on track thanks to star turns in “The Hangover” movies and a one-man show on Broadway (also called “Undisputed Truth”). We can’t wait to read his whole story.
Wall Street's softer side
Few economists have borne as much blame for the recession as former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, and rightly so: On Greenspan’s watch, housing prices soared and subprime mortgages proliferated until the situation spun wildly out of control. So, it’s interesting that Greenspan—who retired from the Fed in 2006, right before the recession hit—is tackling risk forecasting in his new book, which draws on traditional methodology and new work in behavioral economics to suggest new prediction strategies. In February, Greenspan told the Wall Street Journal that he hoped the book would help readers “understand and sympathize with those making key economic decisions in the public arena,” adding, “it’s a tough job.” If that’s his bid for forgiveness, his new book may be a tough sell, but many readers are sure to want to hear his side.
Paragon of peace
From the time she was a little girl, Malala Yousafzai impressed teachers with her precocious intelligence and her passion for learning. But, few knew the depths of the doe-eyed, defiant Pakistani schoolgirl’s courage until last October, when Malala, now 16, was shot in the head at close range by a Taliban gunman and left for dead. Miraculously, she survived--and became a global hero, defiantly facing cameras from her hospital bed within days of the shooting and then, on her birthday this past July, making a speech at the U.N. reiterating her commitment to fighting for children’s rights to education. In her memoir, "I Am Malala," co-written by London Sunday Times foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, the youngest-ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize tells her inspiring story.
The science of the underdog
Since the publication of "The Tipping Point" in 2000, Malcolm Gladwell has been wowing readers every few years with his deeply researched and counterntuitive takes on everything from the nature of decision-making ("Blink") to the psychology of success ("Outliers"). In his latest, he looks to the ancient tale of David and Goliath—the boy shepherd who bested a powerful giant using only a sling and a pebble—to launch an inquiry into how people are shaped by adversity and disadvantages. Delving into a range of characteristically diverse examples—Irish politics, cancer research, classroom ergonomics and murder, to name just a few—Gladwell aims to reconfigure how we think about the obstacles that stand between us and success.
A fresh look at a fatal day
"O'Reilly Factor" host Bill O'Reilly is known for his brash take on contemporary politics but, lately (at least when he's wearing his author hat), he's had his eye on history--and particularly the untimely deaths of legendary historical male figures. On the heels of 2011's "Killing Lincoln" and 2012's "Killing Kennedy" (which he co-authored with the historian Martin Dugard), O'Reilly and Dugar give us an account of the crucifixion of Christ in "Killing Jesus." The book couldn't be better timed: Reza Aslan's "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," which drew a flurry of critical attention--including a controversial interview and scathing op-ed from Fox News--has paved the way for heated debates about the life and posterity of Christianity's father.
Age-old evil, back with a vengeance
We'd like to think that anti-Semitism is on the wane, but in "The Devil That Never Dies," Daniel Jonah Goldhagen sheds chilling light on its global resurgence in the 21st century. In addition to its spread among intellectuals, religious leaders and political leaders, Goldhagen argues that social media has also helped foster a revival of prejudice against Jews. When it comes to stirring controversy in the arenas of Jewish history and politics, Goldhagen is no rookie: "Hitler's Willing Executioners," which argued that ordinary Germans were frequent accomplices in Nazi campaigns, and "A Moral Reckoning," which examines the Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust, both became international bestsellers upon publication and sparked widespread debates among scholars and readers alike. With "The Devil That Never Dies," Goldhagen seems primed to enter that fray once again.
In "Reign of Error," historian and education policy analyst scholar Diane Ravitch launches a salvo at the privatization movement pervading American education, arguing that it drains the public school system of funding and resources. She criticizes government programs such as Obama's "Race to the Top" and Bush's "No Child Left Behind" act for setting unreasonable performance standards, and business leaders and investors for promoting privatization for their own gain. Adopting the fiery, no-holds-barred tone that made her previous book on the subject, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," a bestseller, Ravitch's polemic is sure to raise big questions about America's education system just as the school year gets underway.
On the origins of a scientist
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins may be best known for his less-than-romantic view of human nature (he coined the term "selfish gene") and the criticisms of religion he advances in "The Blind Watchmaker" and "The God Delusion." But, in recent years, he's been showing a softer side: In 2012 he published "The Magic of Reality," an illustrated book aimed at children and young adults that explored the beauty of nature. This fall, he's giving readers an intimate look at his life and formation as a scientist with his memoir, "An Appetite for Wonder." The story starts in Africa, where Dawkins was raised in a family of naturalists and scientists amid exotic surroundings, and follows him to Oxford, where his studies under the Nobel Prize-winning ethnologist Nikolaas Tinbergen helped him to realize his calling.
Hawking's personal universe
Perhaps not to be outdone by Dawkins, the English physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking is also giving readers his life story with "My Brief History," whose title plays on that of the book that made him a household name back in 1988, "A Brief History of Time." In this comprehensive memoir, Hawking takes readers through his early school years (during which he earned the nickname "Einstein"), his advanced education at Oxford and Cambridge and his wave-making insights into relativity, quantum mechanics and black holes. Perhaps most significantly, Hawking shares details about his life-altering diagnosis of ALS, a motor neuron disease, at the age of 21, and his Herculean effort—with the help of his wife and children—to continue his work despite increasingly debilitating health setbacks. Science junkies and memoir fans alike will dig this rare insight into the exciting, difficult and inspiring life of one of sciene's first-rate minds.
A summer that changed America
In "One Summer," itinerant travel writer Bill Bryson homes in on a single season in 1927 that delivered more than its fair share of American history: Between Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic in late May and Babe Ruth's record-shattering home run on September 30, roaring-Twenties-hyped Americans were treated to a slew of spectacles both inspiring and horrific. From the Ruth Snyder murder in Queens and Al Capone's "reign of terror" in Chicago to Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly's flagpole stunt and unprecedented flooding in the South, Bryson takes readers on a whirlwind, month-by-month tour of this unforgettable year and season. "People really did gather in enormous numbers for almost any event in the 1920s," writes Bryson. With "One Summer," he invites us to do the same.
"Five Days in November," by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin
"Wilson," by A. Scott Berg
"Rose Kennedy's Family Album," by Caroline Kennedy
"Dr. J: My Life Above the Rim and Behind Closed Doors," by Julius W. Erving
"Grain Brain," by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg