Eugenics, Eggshells, and Elizabeth I: Spring 2016 Nonfiction Preview

Eugenics, Eggshells, and Elizabeth I: Spring 2016 Nonfiction Preview

Spring is arguably the perfect season for reading: After you’ve been cooped up all winter, there’s nothing like camping out on a park bench in the sun with a good book. The air smells fresher, the sunshine feels amazing, and the days are longer, which means you can stay out a little later with your book before heading home to eat dinner. This season’s fresh crop of nonfiction books is especially exciting. Whether you prefer portraits of important women in history like Elizabeth I and Louisa Adams, or you want to dive into a political campaign tell-all, we’ve got just the thing. Spring is here, dear reader, and everything’s coming up roses.

Dark Territory

Hacking it

Cyber war: What do we really know about it? Most of us probably have a vague image in our heads of hackers leaning over computer keyboards in dark rooms, lit only by the light of various monitors, but how accurate is that really? Well, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Fred Kaplan is here to pull back the curtain. Cyber war, according to Kaplan, dates back to 1995, and has continued to change warfare ever since. Kaplan gives a history of this new kind of warfare, and then makes a big, far-reaching claim: Right now, defense against this kind of attack is woefully insufficient.

On shelves: March 1

Imbeciles

A dark chapter

Eugenics is one of the darkest, most troubling chapters in American history, and it’s also the subject of Adam Cohen’s new book, Imbeciles. Back in the 1920s, there was a movement in America that favored sterilization to keep supposedly defective people from reproducing. As horrifying and obviously disgusting as this mindset obviously is, there were many who supported it. This book gives a detailed history of the eugenics movement, and follows the case of Carrie Buck, who became a lightning rod for this issue. Readers: This is not a light book, but it is an important one.

On shelves: March 1

Lust & Wonder

Looking for love

You know him as the author of Running With Scissors, but Augusten Burroughs is back with an autobiographical tale about looking for love in New York City. As any New Yorker knows, this is a tall order, and it was especially trying for Burroughs who had just recently battled addiction. Burroughs falls in and out of love in this book, with a range of men—his agent, a favorite writer of his, and a man named Dennis who makes him appreciate his sobriety anew. Burroughs is a masterful narrator: If you can’t get enough memoirs, you definitely will not want to miss this one.

On shelves: March 29

Louisa

First lady

Yeah, yeah, her husband was president. But that’s hardly the most interesting thing about Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, who was married to President John Quincy Adams. History hasn’t always been kind to Louisa Adams—in some accounts, she is remembered as fragile and rather passive. But Louisa Thomas (yes, the author and subject share a first name) paints a far more vibrant and energetic portrait of this first lady. Louisa was a devoted wife, but also an ambitious partner and a warm presence in the White House. She was strong for her husband and her country, even when dealing with the deaths of three of her children. We suggest you check out this first-rate first lady story.

On shelves: April 5

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts

Behind bars

Three young children were brutally murdered in Texas in 2003—they were stabbed and beheaded. This is the troubling premise of Laura Tillman’s debut book, and the tragedy driving the narrative within its pages. John Allen Rubio, who was sentenced to death for killing the three children, plays a large role in this book. Tillman interviews him, and gets inside his head in a way that will unnerve the reader. Ultimately, this is a sobering look at the death penalty, mental illness, and violence. Kirkus calls this book “A Helter Skelter for our time, though without a hint of sensationalism…” and we think you’ll agree.

On shelves: April 5

Sex in the Museum

Sex and the city

If you live in New York City, maybe you’ve walked by the Museum of Sex on Fifth Avenue. If so, odds are you were curious about what might be inside that kind of museum. Well, Museum of Sex curator Sarah Forbes is here with some answers, and the story of how she began working there as a relatively innocent 22-year-old. Forbes is an inviting narrator, and will win over readers who might otherwise feel intimidated by the material. From fetishes to pornography, and sex toys to BDSM, this book has it all. After hearing Forbes’s tale, who knows—next time you walk past the Museum of Sex, you just might end up going inside.

On shelves: April 5

The Most Perfect Thing

On eggshells

If you’ve been obsessed with birds ever since finishing H is for Hawk, then listen up. This book by Tim Birkhead is all about eggs, those magical, delicate objects that hatch into baby birds. Whether you’re a bird (and egg) enthusiast, or just a casual omelette eater, this book will take you on a journey inside the egg, and teach you about their beauty and intricacy. Birkhead peppers this volume with historical digressions and well-chosen anecdotes that will enthrall and educate readers. We don’t know whether the chicken or the egg came first, but we do know you should check out this book.

On shelves: April 12

Jungle of Stone

Lost civilization

If you’re hankering for a good adventure, there is no better book this spring than Jungle of Stone by Pulitzer finalist William Carlsen. Carlsen narrates a story full of drama and wonder: the quest of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood to find evidence of the Mayan civilization in Central America. What they find in the jungle is nothing short of spectacular, and points to the incredible complexity and sophistication of this fascinating culture. This account reads like an adventure novel, but it has the added benefit of being completely true. Armchair explorers, history buffs, and anyone who loves a good journey: Don’t miss this book.

On shelves: April 26

Off Script

Lights, camera, election

Josh King knows a thing or two about presidential campaigns—after all, he did work in the business, including time as a director of production at the White House. This is obviously a timely book, as we’re in the middle of a contentious election cycle right now. In this volume, King gets real about the spectacle of political campaigns and the similarities that they bear to Hollywood productions. If you’ve always wanted a behind-the-scenes look at how politicians get their messages out, then April 26 is your lucky day: Off Script takes you inside the image-centric and camera-ready world of politics. Plus, let’s be honest: A bunch of you are probably experiencing withdrawal symptoms after binge-watching the new season of House of Cards, and this book might help to ease the pain.

On shelves: April 26

Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years

Leading lady

There have been about a zillion biographies written of Queen Elizabeth, who ruled England for much of the 16th century. So it means something when Kirkus writes that this volume is “One of the best biographies of Elizabeth ever.” Author John Guy brings his A-game in this comprehensive and compelling narrative. Elizabeth is a complex figure in these pages, and her undesirable traits (like paranoia) coexist here with her more laudable characteristics (like her undeniable intelligence). Whether you’re obsessed with Tudor England, you love faithful portraits of complicated women, or you’re just a general history buff, this book delivers.

On shelves: May 3

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