Iridium, Identity, and Patty Hearst: Summer 2016 Nonfiction Preview

Iridium, Identity, and Patty Hearst: Summer 2016 Nonfiction Preview

There’s something special about great nonfiction writing. These books have the ability to completely transport you to a new place, a new mindset, or a different era. Here at Bookish, we think summer is the perfect time of year to get away, even if it is only to your favorite armchair. So to help you escape, here are the season’s best nonfiction releases that will open your mind, broaden your horizons, and touch your heart. Travel to Libya, a nuclear submarine, or an English insane asylum with these fresh new books. What are you waiting for?

Grunt

Weird science

No one makes science writing as much fun as Mary Roach does. After wowing us (and making us giggle) with Gulp and Bonk, she is now back with Grunt, an exploration of the science behind human experience on and near the battlefield. Roach takes on subjects readers won’t have even known they were curious about, like how soldiers deal with changes in temperature, the stress of battle, and insufficient rest. She will travel on a submarine carrying nuclear missiles, explain what happens when sex organs are injured in battle, and help readers understand why diarrhea (sorry) is so dangerous in wartime. If you like to laugh and learn at the same time (and who doesn’t?) this book is for you.

On shelves: June 7

But What If We’re Wrong?

So right it’s wrong

Chuck Klosterman is about to blow your mind. In his new book, But What If We’re Wrong?, he writes about how we are probably wrong about a lot of things, but we just don’t know it yet. It’s easy to write off historical misconceptions—like the earth being flat—because we know we didn’t understand the issues as well back then. One day, we’ll have the same benefit of hindsight when we look at what we think today. Klosterman takes on a variety of subjects from gravity to politics to television, and readers will examine everything they know—or think they know—in a new light. Along the way, he interviews some fascinating and creative people, including Brian Greene, David Byrne, and Junot Díaz. For fans of Malcolm Gladwell and Nate Silver, it’s hard to beat this book.

On shelves: June 7

Eccentric Orbits

Can you hear me now?

Have you heard of Iridium? We sure hadn’t, at least not until we saw this new book from John Bloom. Iridium is a service that allows phone calls to be made from the literal ends of the earth, in places where cell phone reception is but a dream. The technology has been around since the late 1990s, and still functions today. Still, the company itself filed for bankruptcy just a year after its founding. What happened to Iridium, and why is the service not better-known and more widely utilized today? Bloom answers these questions and more in this fascinating nonfiction story about business foibles, technology, and a one-of-a-kind company.

On shelves: June 7

Falling

In remission

When children’s author and illustrator Elisha Cooper found a bump on his daughter’s body one day, he didn’t realize what a profound impact that single moment of discovery would have on the next several years of his life. His daughter was diagnosed with cancer shortly thereafter, and this memoir chronicles a father’s grief after his child receives devastating news. Readers who have experienced serious illness in their families will nod knowingly at Cooper’s narration of angry, charged moments over the course of his daughter’s illness. Constant worry and anger seemingly rewire parts of Cooper’s brain, leaving him permanently changed even as life moves forward.

On shelves: June 14

In the Darkroom

Changing identity

Susan Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, received an unexpected email from her father one day: Her name was now Stefanie. In 2016, only a year after Caitlin Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, stories about the experiences of transgender men and women are as important as ever. Each person’s individual struggle for identity is unique, and Susan Faludi gives the reader incredible insight into Stefanie’s story in this remarkable book. Faludi tells the tale of Stefanie’s childhood in Hungary, of her experience during World War II, and her subsequent life in the United States as a father. Readers who want to know more about the transgender community or gender in general will find this book fascinating and illuminating.

On shelves: June 14

The Return

Homeward bound

Imagine moving away from home, and not returning for 30 years. How much would have changed in that time? How much would have stayed the same? These are nearly impossible questions to answer, but author Hisham Matar finds himself in a position to examine them when he returns to Libya. Matar’s father went missing in 1990, and the search for answers is part of what brings Matar back decades later. At the same time, this book contains the story of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, and the political history of the country. But at the core of this tale is a father-son story about the pain and terrible uncertainty of losing a parent.

On shelves: July 5

The Wicked Boy

True crime

In 1895, in England, a 13-year-old boy named Robert killed his mother. This is the crime at the center of this new book by Kate Summerscale, but her project is concerned with far more than just the gorey and troubling details of the crime. Instead, Summerscale helps the reader to understand the murder within the context of British society around the turn of the century. She also delves into Robert’s family life and what was likely going on inside his head before, during, and after the murder. The Wicked Boy follows Robert’s subsequent stay at Broadmoor (an insane asylum) and then, later on, his relocation to Australia. This is an excellent historical narrative, and readers interested in British culture around 1900 won’t want to miss it.

On shelves: July 12

Idiot Brain

Brains on the brain

Here at Bookish, we love a good brain book, and Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett might just be our new favorite. Burnett gives readers a veritable tour of the brain and all of its essential functions, from sleep to what it means to feel like you’re in love. The information in this volume will be interesting on its own, but even more so because of its influence on who we are as people. You might never think about personality the same way, but we don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Neuroscience is an ever-changing, totally weird branch of science, and Burnett captures that here. Whether this is your first brain book or your fiftieth (ahem…), Idiot Brain will both entertain and inform you.

On shelves: July 26

American Heiress

Patty Hearst

You already know who Jeffrey Toobin is. You’ve probably seen his articles in The New Yorker, or watched The People vs. O.J. Simpson, which was based on his book, The Run of His Life. Now, he’s back and ready to tell readers another fascinating story from America’s past. Patty Hearst, as you may remember from news coverage, was kidnapped in 1973. Hearst is a member of the prominent and wealthy Hearst family (known primarily for their newspapers), and was just a sophomore in college when she was abducted. The group who took her was called the Symbionese Liberation Army, and things got even stranger when weeks later, Hearst announced that she was one of them now. Read more about this bizarre and captivating story in Toobin’s latest.

On shelves: August 2

Landmarks

What we talk about when we talk about nature

If you love nature writing, we’ve got you covered. Robert MacFarlane lives to write about and discuss the natural world, but in this day and age, his job is getting harder. Words that describe parts of nature are being left out of dictionaries every year because they are used less often, and they are being replaced with new words that have nothing to do with the outdoors. MacFarlane wants to change that, and here incorporates many of the words he is worried about losing in his own writings. For anyone interested in nature and linguistics, this book is the perfect way to meditate on our changing world and the ways we describe it.

On shelves: August 2

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Ruined

Keeping faith

It happened one night in November, in the home she shared with her female roommates. Ruth Everhart was sexually assaulted, and the incident would influence her life for years to come. Here, she writes a thought-provoking and moving memoir about the assault’s impact on her identity and faith. Everhart is a Presbyterian pastor, and so her perspective on issues of faith comes from an authoritative and deeply considered place. Initially after the attack, Everhart writes that she felt “ruined,” but readers will watch that understanding shift over the course of this book. We think you’ll admire Everhart’s strength, honesty, and resilience.

On shelves: August 2

Known and Strange Things

A new perspective

You may already known Teju Cole from his works of fiction, Open City and Every Day Is for the Thief, but now, you’ll get the chance to read his nonfiction. The essays in this book are divided into four distinct sections: “Reading Things,” “Seeing Things,” “Being Here,” and “Epilogue,”  each of which takes a different approach to the issues of the day. There are more than fifty separate essays in this book, giving the reader a wide-angle look at the world through Cole’s eyes, including pieces on Instagram and Virginia Woolf, among others. Each of these pieces is thoughtfully and beautifully written, and can be read quickly only to stay with the reader for much longer. Kirkus sums it up, “A bold, honest, and controversially necessary read.”

On shelves: August 9

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