Lyme Disease, Ornithology, and Somali Pirates: Summer 2018’s Must-Read Nonfiction

Lyme Disease, Ornithology, and Somali Pirates: Summer 2018’s Must-Read Nonfiction

Sure, bringing a novel to the beach is a classic pastime. But with so many exciting nonfiction books coming out this summer, we think this might be the perfect season to mix it up. Whether you’re interested in a heart-wrenching illness memoir, a thriller-like trip to Shanghai, a trip along the U.S.-Canadian border, or a biography of the first ornithologist, this season has a nonfiction new release for every kind of reader. So grab your beach bag and sunscreen, and pick up one of summer 2018’s must-read nonfiction books.

Sick by Porochista Khakpour

Porochista Khakpour’s story about late-stage Lyme disease, addiction, and PTSD is eye-opening and heartbreaking. In her memoir Sick, Khakpour writes that she can scarcely remember a time that she felt comfortable or right in her body, and she takes readers through her experiences as a patient, a woman, and an Iranian American as she sets out to discover what is wrong. This work raises important questions about healthcare, bias, and how society treats those who are chronically ill. Readers will be inspired by Khakpour’s determination, grace, and candor. For even more from Khakpour, check out our interview with her.

On shelves: June 5

The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward

Yrsa Daley-Ward’s memoir The Terrible isn’t quite like any other memoir you’ve ever read. It combines elements of poetry and prose into a tale about Daley-Ward growing up in England and grappling with race, religion, socioeconomic class, family, and sexuality. Readers will meet Daley-Ward’s mother and the series of men she dated, as well as Daley-Ward’s little brother Roo. In a starred review, Kirkus called The Terrible, “A powerful, unconventionally structured memoir recounting harrowing coming-of-age ordeals.”

On shelves: June 5

Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin

Author Abdi Nor Iftin was born in Somalia, but he loved America and all things American from a very young age. He knew he wanted to live in the United States, and this is the story of how he achieved that despite numerous challenges and hurdles. He was brought up in a nomadic tribe in Somalia and dealt with a civil war raging around him. Amidst all of this, he managed to teach himself English and experience American culture by watching pieces of American movies in a video store. In Mogadishu, his peers began calling him “Abdi American.” This is a fascinating story of survival and determination.

On shelves: June 19

City of Devils by Paul French

For readers who can’t get enough fast-paced true crime books, City of Devils by Paul French is unquestionably the right book to pick up this summer. Readers will find themselves in Shanghai in the company of Jack Riley, AKA the Slots King, and his friend Joe Farren. Riley was an escaped prisoner who smuggled drugs and hung out at the slot machines. Farren owned casinos and helped put on dance shows. Together, their stories intertwine to paint a rich and riveting portrait of Shanghai in the 1930s, seedy underbelly and all.

On shelves: July 3

Empress by Ruby Lal

In 1611, Nur Jahan married Emperor Jahangir of the Mughal Empire, becoming one of his 20 wives. Even though she was one of many, Nur filled a more public role than the other wives, and gradually accumulated power and responsibilities until she was ruling alongside her husband. Historian Ruby Lal tells the fascinating story of Nur Jahan—her ascent, her marriage, and her many accomplishments. This is a chapter of history that hasn’t gotten much attention, and we predict that readers who are interested in the Mughal Empire or powerful women in history won’t be able to put this down.

On shelves: July 3

Northland by Porter Fox

When most of us think of the U.S. border, we probably think about the border between the United States and Mexico to the south. That’s only half of the story, though—there’s also the border we share with Canada to the north. The northern border is the subject of Porter Fox’s new book, Northland. Fox spent several years exploring the border and tells the tale of his trip and the people he met, as well as the history of the places he traveled through along the way. This is an unusual piece of travel writing, and the perfect armchair adventure to go on this summer.

On shelves: July 3

The Wonderful Mr Willughby by Tim Birkhead

Tim Birkhead drummed up interest in eggs in 2016 with his critically acclaimed book The Most Perfect Thing, and now he’s back with another book that’s for the birds (see what we did there?). This time, Birkhead’s subject is Francis Willughby, who is considered by many to be the first ornithologist. Willughby lived between 1635 and 1672, and worked with his colleague John Ray. They collaborated until Willughby’s untimely death at the age of 36. Birkhead gives readers a full picture of the man who invented modern ornithology, and we bet the tale will inspire the scientifically inclined.

On shelves: July 10

Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic

Maybe don’t take this book with you if you’re going on a cruise. In Indianapolis, co-authors Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic chronicle the worst sea disaster in the history of the United States Navy. On July 30 of 1945, a Japanese submarine fired torpedoes on the USS Indianapolis, and the ship sank in the Philippine Sea. Of the nearly 1,200 people aboard the ship, roughly three-quarters died. The captain of the ship, Charles McVay III, was court-martialed for the disaster, and it would be decades before his name was cleared. This work of narrative nonfiction is just about impossible to put down.

On shelves: July 10

The Desert and the Sea by Michael Scott Moore

Journalist Michael Scott Moore’s The Desert and the Sea tells the riveting story of the time Moore was held captive for 977 days by Somali pirates. He had been in the Horn of Africa on a reporting mission, hoping to learn more about pirates, when he was captured by them himself. Moore was treated brutally for nearly three years until family and friends successfully paid his ransom. This book is more than just a memoir—in addition to recounting his own experiences, Moore writes about the conditions that encourage Somalis to consider piracy. This is a fascinating and important piece of reporting.

On shelves: July 24

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper

In the Mojave Desert, there is a huge stretch of land known as the China Lake missile range. This is the area where Karen Piper grew up. Piper’s parents and sister worked on the missile range, and Piper herself took jobs there from time to time. It was a turbulent and unusual time to be a child: the Vietnam War was raging, the Manson family was at large (and not too far away), and there were weapons being developed and tested at China Lake. Amidst all of this, Piper matured and learned to make sense of the world around her. This memoir blends history with personal experience in an appealing and very readable way.

On shelves: August 14


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