Snowden, Murder, and Twitter: The Best Nonfiction Books to Read This Spring

Snowden, Murder, and Twitter: The Best Nonfiction Books to Read This Spring

What would you do if a friend turned out to be a fraud and a murderer? How do you start a social media empire? Is Edward Snowden a hero or a villain? Why are your parents so annoying? These questions and more are investigated in the upcoming lineup of must-read nonfiction books coming out this spring—check ’em out, and arrange your pre-orders accordingly.

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    1. Blood Will Out

    It all started with a dog. Walter Kirn heard the unlikely story from friends at his local Montana animal shelter: A rich New Yorker had come across a listing for one of the shelter’s hopelessly crippled dogs and wanted to adopt it, but couldn’t come and get it himself. Kirn spoke with the man by phone and was astounded to learn that he was a Rockefeller; intrigued, Kirn took it upon himself to get the dog (complete with a special doggy wheelchair) to its new, rarified owner. And that’s where it gets weird: Clark Rockefeller was not who he seemed, and there were deadly secrets in his past. Kirn, the author of the novels Up in the Air and Thumbsucker ( both of which were adapted into movies) takes a darker, In Cold Blood-esque turn in Blood Will Out, while retaining his wry humor and laser-like view into our twisted hearts. Don’t be surprised if this one winds up on-screen, too.

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    2. Things a Little Bird Told Me

    Biz Stone is best-known as the co-founder of the social media juggernaut Twitter; his handle is easy to remember: @Biz. However, he’s also been involved in a panoply of other buzzy web enterprises, including Xanga, Blogger, Medium, and, most recently, Jelly. In his new book, Things a Little Bird Told Me, Stone shares his thoughts on tech, creativity, entrepreneurship, and how to be a civic-minded citizen of the web.

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    3. Updike

    John Updike was a literary titan of the second half of the 20th century, whose book Rabbit, Run is high in the running for the Great American Novel, and whose forays into sex and bedroom mores—notably, in his “dirty book,” Couples—caused outrage and changed the landscape of literature. Along with Philip Roth, Updike kept fiction at the pinnacle of cultural conversation and debate. (To be fair, they didn’t have to contend with Miley Cyrus videos.) Now, critic Adam Begley has taken on Updike’s life, which turns out to be just as tumultuous and fascinating as his work.

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    4. Living with a Wild God

    Barbara Ehrenreich is nobody’s fool. In her books Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, and Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, she’s made a habit of exposing society’s false promises. Now, in her new book, Living with a Wild God, she tackles huger subjects: religion and the meaning of life. How does a rationalist and non-believer explain the inexplicable? Revisiting her teenage journal in which she recorded some near-mystical experiences, Ehrenreich takes the reader on a skeptic’s personal journey through “cosmic knowledge.”

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    5. No Place to Hide

    In June, journalist Glenn Greenwald broke one of the most talked-about stories in recent memory: Edward Snowden’s information leaks about the NSA surveillance program. Snowden, now living in exile, has been called both a national traitor and a hero of the people. Greenwald, who had exclusive access to the Snowden leaks, recently split from The Guardian to found a new online publication called The Intercept, which heralds what New Yorker writer John Cassidy calls “the new public-interest journalism.”Additionally, Greenwald has expanded his experience with Snowden and surveillance into a book: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, which is sure to spill more secrets.

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    6. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?

    In her hilarious New Yorker cartoons, Roz Chast delves into our neuroses, worries, and pecadillos with heart and insight that has her readers nodding along. She’s especially sharp about family: In one cartoon, a woman stands outside a “Mom & Pop Grocerette” with a beleaguered expression; in the store windows are signs that say “WE NEVER SEE YOU ANYMORE!” “WHAT’S THE MATTER, WE DON’T CARRY ENOUGH OF YOUR GOURMET ITEMS?” “GUESS YOU’RE ALL GROWN UP AND HAVE YOUR OWN LIFE NOW” and, finally, “DON’T WORRY ABOUT US!” In her first memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Chast taps her own rich vein of parent/child relations in a story about coping with her aging parents. Full of colorful cartoons and family photos, the book is a sensory as well as emotional delight.

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    7. Gandhi Before India

    The latest book from historian Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi Before India, is clever reversal of his earlier book, India After Gandhi. Employing heretofore overlooked sources, Guha, in this first of a two-volume biography, explores Mohandas Gandhi’s early career as a barrister in South Africa. It was during this time that he honed the sense of social justice that he would bring to his later career as a revolutionary in India.

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    8. The Noble Hustle

    “Poker, beef jerky, and death.” Taken together, you might think they come from a forgotten episode of The Sopranos. But, in the hands of Zone Oneand Sag Harbor author Colson Whitehead, these three things represent a hilarious ride through the World Series of Poker—a very strange world, indeed. James Bond-like, Whitehead was staked in this dangerous mission by a powerful organization—but unlike Bond, Whitehead’s mission is not to get the bad guys, but to record the unbelievable things one sees in Vegas, at the poker table and beyond. It’s a good bet you’ll still be laughing after the last hand is played.

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    9. Michael Jordan

    In certain sports and earthly human endeavors, it can be difficult to pick who was the greatest of all time. Louis or Ali? Mickey or Babe? Venus or Serena? But when it comes to basketball, there is no debate: It’s Michael Jordan. On the court, Jordan was poetry in motion, combining spectacular feats like his epic dunks with unmatched consistency: He retains the highest career regular season scoring average, of over 30 points a game. Yes, that’s 30 points a game on average, for his 19-year career. Yet Jordan had a darker side, as sports journalist Roland Lazenby shows in a new biography—a will to dominate that he took with him off the court.

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    10. Another Great Day at Sea

    In his difficult-to-classify books—part fiction, part travelogue, part homage, part rant— Geoff Dyer has taken on subjects as diverse as jazz, yoga, international art fairs, the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, Indian funeral pyres, and his own inability to write a book about D.H. Lawrence. What couldn’t he do next? Well, it won’t come as a surprise that his next book is a total surprise: Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, in which Dyer reports on his time spent on an American aircraft carrier. It’s a world you might not have realized you were eager to hear about, filtered through Dyer’s uniquely illuminating vision.


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