Black Holes, Stark Trek, and Eating Worms: Nonfiction Beach Reads for Summer 2016

Black Holes, Stark Trek, and Eating Worms: Nonfiction Beach Reads for Summer 2016

When you bring a book to the beach, you want it to grab ahold of you and not let go until the very last page. You might say the better the book, the worse your sunburn is apt to be. This season’s crop of nonfiction books includes a number of tales that should come with their own bottle of SPF. Whether your interest is in sports, travel, or memoirs, these books will keep you turning pages until the sun is low and it’s time to pack up the cooler and head home.

Terror in the City of Champions

The best of times, the worst of times

In this exciting piece of narrative nonfiction, journalist Tom Stanton takes readers to Detroit in the 1930s to learn about the group of terrorists known as the Black Legion. This period of time coincided with some of the brightest years for Detroit’s professional sports teams’ history, creating a startling backdrop for the violent and terrifying actions of the Black Legion. Professional sports, politics, and a frightening pattern of murders combine in this fast-paced tale. For readers who loved Devil in the White City for its juxtaposition of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the murderous work of H. H. Holmes, Terror in the City of Champions is sure to entertain and inform.

On shelves: June 1

The Way of the Runner

Running away

Japan is a country obsessed with running, and in this book, Adharanand Finn lets readers in on the trend. Finn trains with Japanese runners while writing about the cultural role of the sport, and lingering on his own aspirations (which are the same as those of most runners: get faster). Whether or not you periodically lace up your sneakers for a spin around the block, this book’s cultural reporting is fascinating and expertly executed. We think fans of Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running will particularly enjoy The Way of the Runner. By the end, you just might be tempted to sign up for your own ekiden (long-distance relay race).

On shelves: June 7

Being a Beast

Man or beast

What would it be like to be an animal? It’s an interesting question, and one that Charles Foster tries to answer in this new book. Over the course of the story, Foster tries out life as a badger, an otter, a deer, and then a swift. He lives where they live, he eats what they eat, and he tries to focus on sensory details that each of those animals would have had available to them. Sometimes, this job isn’t very glamorous (like when Foster eats worms and then describes it in detail), but at other points, it is clear that Foster’s task is supremely rewarding. Perhaps most interesting, however, is what Foster’s experiences have to teach us about our own humanity. For fans of nature writing, this book is sure to make a big splash.

On shelves: June 21

Eve of a Hundred Midnights

Love and war

If you have been going back and forth over whether to read a love story or a travelogue next, then we’ve solved your problem. In Eve of a Hundred Midnights, Bill Lascher combines both in telling the tale of two journalists in love: Melville (or “Mel”) and Annalee Jacoby. They married in late 1941 in Manila, and globe-hopped for years while covering World War II in the Pacific. Lascher recreates their lives using their correspondence and invites readers into the thrilling lives of these two journalists. If you want to travel the world from your beach chair this summer, then there’s no better book to pick up.

On shelves: June 21

Party of One

Hey Mr. DJ

Dave Holmes can make a killer playlist. He was a VJ for MTV, and now has turned his song-choosing prowess into a memoir organized around 21 songs. Holmes grew up knowing he was different, and in the years before he was ready to come out to his family and friends, his love of music and television served as a form of escape. He started his career in advertising, but found his true calling when he entered MTV’s Wanna Be a VJ contest. This book will delight anyone who has fond memories of watching Total Request Live, and Holmes’ prose style is engaging and witty. For fellow addicts of pop culture, there is no better book to pack in your beach bag this summer.

On shelves: June 28

The Fifty-Year Mission

Beam me up, Scotty

Trekkies, this one is for you. This book is the first installment in a series dedicated to providing the authoritative history of Star Trek. Hundreds of cast and crew who assisted in the creation of the television series and the movies were interviewed for this volume, and authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross do an unbelievable job organizing large quantities of information. What went on behind the scenes? Which casting decisions almost weren’t? If you’re just dying for juicy secrets about the famous franchise, then your search is over. We just know you’re going to love this book; resistance is futile.

On shelves: June 28

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube

Ice, ice baby

The title of Blair Braverman’s new memoir really says it all, doesn’t it? In it, Braverman escapes to Norway and Alaska to battle with the cold, the loneliness, and the patriarchy. There, she has adventures that will delight readers, particularly readers sweating on the beach who could be forgiven for thinking that the “goddamn ice cube” sounds pretty good right about now. Braverman wants nothing more than to become the kind of woman who can survive in the harsh climates of the north, and thinks deeply about her gender and her own identity as she encounters hardship. If finishing Wild left a hole in your heart, we’re willing to bet that Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube might be just the thing.

On shelves: July 5

The Unknown Universe

Black holes and revelations

Our understanding of the universe—how it works, how it began, and how it is changing—is shifting every day. Get caught up on the latest discoveries with this new book, The Unknown Universe, from Stuart Clark. Clark begins with the map of the Big Bang’s afterglow, which was made by the European Space Agency in early 2013. This map is hugely important, he says, but also puzzling, because it doesn’t look exactly how we thought it would.  Along the way, readers will learn about dark matter, Einstein, and disagreements about gravity. Readers who are new to cosmology might think this all sounds pretty intimidating, but will be rewarded for their curiosity. As the title suggests, Clark is focused on the mystery and wonder of it all, and the end result is stunning.

On shelves: July 5

You’ll Grow Out of It

Inside Jessi Klein

You probably know Jessi Klein’s name from the credits of Inside Amy Schumer. Klein is the executive producer and head writer of the show, and her humor and gift for storytelling shine through in this memoir. As is the case on Inside Amy Schumer, this book concerns itself with what it means to be a woman in this day and age, and how women are held to laughable (and maddening) double standards. Klein writes that she was a tomboy when she was young, and experienced all of the awkwardness of growing up that you would expect. American womanhood can be strange and downright confusing sometimes, and Klein’s memoir navigates it with wit and charm.

On shelves: July 12

Sixty Degrees North

Around the world

Malachy Tallack has been around the world, but in an unusual way. He stayed at a latitude of sixty degrees North the entire way around, spurred by the memory of his father’s death when he was just 16. He began in Scotland, and traveled west from there, to Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Along the way, he considers the meaning of home, describes stunningly beautiful landscapes, and does some much-needed soul-searching. As is always the case with the best books about travel, Sixty Degrees North will prompt the reader to look at the world around them differently, but also spark an internal shift.

On shelves: July 12

Trying to Float

Growing up in the Big Apple

Nicolaia Rips had a childhood many would be envious of: She grew up in New York City’s notorious Chelsea Hotel, the residence of many of the most famous artists and thinkers of our time. What was it like to grow up in such a culturally rich and unusual place? In some ways, not all that different from the trials and tribulations of growing up anywhere, but with far more interesting neighbors. Those neighbors figure prominently in this book, and became some of Nicolaia’s closest friends during her childhood and adolescence. Readers will find this book fascinating, funny, and heartwarming all at the same time. For a coming-of-age tale with a seriously artsy setting, look no further than Trying to Float.

On shelves: July 12

Angels with Dirty Faces

Footballing

First things first: Soccer is a very, very big deal in Argentina. Do the names Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano, or Lionel Messi mean anything to you? We thought so. Some of the greatest players in the history of the game have come from Argentina, and their legacy looms large over the sport today. Author Jonathan Wilson is an expert on the subject, having lived in Argentina periodically over the last 10 years and having written extensively about soccer, and he gives readers a comprehensive historical, cultural, political, and tactical overview of the sport. If you consider yourself even a casual fan of soccer, you won’t want to miss this.

On shelves: August 23

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