Mortality, Arson, and Open-Heart Surgery: Summer 2017 Nonfiction Preview

Mortality, Arson, and Open-Heart Surgery: Summer 2017 Nonfiction Preview

There’s something magical about good nonfiction: It can plunge you into someone else’s life and experiences, or transport you to a time or place you’ve never been before. This summer’s crop of nonfiction new releases are especially promising, and will make the perfect companion whether you’re headed to the beach or you’re just camped out in from of the air conditioner. Roxane Gay’s long-awaited memoir hits shelves this season, along with Karl Ove Knausgaard’s book for his unborn daughter. Whether you’re hankering for true crime, a meditation on mortality, or some quality time with Jane Austen, we’ve got you covered.

The Bright Hour

One day at a time

The author of this book, Nina Riggs, passed away earlier this year, which makes her words even more poignant. Riggs’ memoir takes on the incredibly difficult subject of terminal illness, and what it means to live and love well in a situation where each day is uncertain. For anyone looking for wise words on the subject of cancer—this is your book, but it also contains so much more. Riggs was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and there is a running theme throughout the book about the huge importance of art and the humanity it can impart.

On shelves: June 6


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Hunger

Body talk

Fans of Roxane Gay (Bookish editorial team included) have been waiting for this book for quite a while now, and it doesn’t disappoint. In Hunger, Gay shares brief, striking vignettes that give an intensely personal history. She recounts an unspeakable, violent assault from her youth that had a profound impact on her relationship with her body, and explains how she still carries the memory of the assault with her today. Gay also writes about her ongoing struggle with her weight, and gives readers a broader, cultural look at how society treats those whose bodies don’t conform to conventional standards of beauty. It’s hard to imagine a braver, more vulnerable book than this one.

On shelves: June 13


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You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

There are places I remember

Readers probably know Sherman Alexie as the National Book Award-winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which was partially based on his life. Here, Alexie has written a book entirely about his childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation and his relationship with his mother, who passed away several years ago. Alexie’s childhood was marked by poverty, alcoholism, and a years-long struggle with epilepsy. Poetry and prose mingle in this memoir, which, combined with Alexie’s distinctive voice, yields a book readers won’t soon forget.

On shelves: June 13


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Open Heart

Open your heart to me

For those of you who devoured Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm and are clamoring for another glimpse inside the OR, look no further than Stephen Westaby’s Open Heart. But this time, instead of brains, readers will learn about operating on hearts. We may understand hearts better than brains, but there is still a definite art to cardiac surgery, and it doesn’t come without its risks. Westaby writes openly about the patients he has lost on the table, and the intricacies of delicate and dangerous surgeries. If you are fascinated by the medical field, don’t miss this one.

On shelves: June 20


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Blind Spot

A thousand words

We all have heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, which must mean that Teju Cole’s new book Blind Spot is worth a lot of words.This work combines photos with commentary, all by Cole. Inside its pages, readers will find images from Cole’s travels around the world paired with musings and notes. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, “This ambitious study deserves a spot on the shelf next to Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida and Susan Sontag’s On Photography.” We bet this book isn’t quite like anything else you’ll pick up this summer.

On shelves: June 13


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American Fire

We didn’t start the fire

The fires were not an accident. The first one started in November, 2012, in Accomack County, Virginia. By the time the last one ended, dozens of buildings had been burned in just five months. In this compelling book from Monica Hesse, readers will join the hunt for the arsonist and learn about the history of a county in flux. You’ll also meet Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick, whose tempestuous love affair with one another underpins much of what happens in this riveting volume. If narrative nonfiction with a true crime twist is something you enjoy, don’t miss American Fire.

On shelves: July 11


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Hannibal

A feared general

Hannibal Barca of Carthage remains one of the most famous generals of all time. In this new book, Patrick N. Hunt tells his fascinating story from beginning to end. Hannibal was born in 247 BC, and first served as a general for Carthage in the Second Punic War. Wherever he went, he fought the Romans, whether it was in north Africa or the Alps (war elephants in tow). For lovers of military history, this book is not to be missed. In a starred review, Kirkus called Hannibal: “A thrilling page-turner about one of history’s most brilliant strategists and tacticians.”

On shelves: July 11


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Jane Austen at Home

Pride and prejudice

It has been 200 years since Jane Austen has passed away, and her works are still beloved by readers all around the world. To mark the occasion, author and historian Lucy Worsley has written a biography of the novelist, which will make readers feel as though they know Austen better than ever before. There is a strong sense of place in this volume, which details the different homes that Austen lived in, and the importance that they must have had to her creative and personal life. For die-hard Jane Austen fans, there is no better book to pick up this summer.

On shelves: July 11


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Dying

The final chapter

Death eventually comes for all of us, but most of us have no idea how to think about our own mortality. To many, death probably seems abstract and scary and impossible to get a handle on. In Dying: A Memoir, author Cory Taylor shares her hard-won wisdom on the subject, and invites readers into the end stages of her struggle with melanoma. Sadly, Taylor passed away last summer, but it seems certain that this book will continue to reach readers for years and years to come.

On shelves: August 1


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Autumn

Seasons of love

You probably know Karl Ove Knausgaard as the author of the mega-popular My Struggle series of autobiographical novels about his own life, but here, he’s taken on something different. This book is the first in a series of four (there will be one per season) in which he writes to his unborn daughter about the world. The writing is paired with beautiful illustrations by Vanessa Baird, which will leave readers with a sense of wonder. Autumn takes on a wide variety of subjects, but the vignettes are all united by the love with which they were written.

On shelves: August 22

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