Nonfiction can sometimes get a bad rap for being dry, but these nonfiction picks for spring prove that that’s anything but true. From online shaming to unusual medical woes, this crop of nonfiction books for spring 2015 will make you laugh, cry, and broaden your horizons. Trek the world with William deBuys in search of the last saola, spend years in the (literal, definitely not metaphorical) dark with Anna Lyndsey, and own your ringless ring finger with Kate Bolick in this round of previews. We promise, you won’t even miss the make-believe.
We tend to use light as a way to talk about bigger ideas like hope and love: “the light of day,” “the light at the end of the tunnel,” “light of my life.” But what happens when you can’t tolerate light of any kind, thanks to a rare and severe light sensitivity disorder? Anna Lyndsey has had to find the answer to this very difficult question. This harrowing read follows her darkened days, wearing light-impermeable clothing in a pitch-black room. Amazingly, Lyndsey finds hope and love of her own even in the total absence of light, and her story will both haunt and inspire readers.
On shelves: March 3
The last of its kind
You probably don’t know what a saola is. For the purposes of this conversation, you should consider it about as rare as a unicorn, and that is exactly the point William deBuys is trying to make with the title of his newest book The Last Unicorn. In this tome, deBuys goes in search of the saola, a large, horned, grazing mammal that makes its home in Southeast Asia. In telling the story of the saola, he also paints a much broader picture of the ongoing clash between animals’ natural habitats and the resources that man at large is perpetually tempted to raze them for.
On shelves: March 10
Flipping the bird
Don’t be fooled: Academica can be pretty rough. Just ask Alice Dreger, the author of this daring new book that takes its name from the preserved middle finger of the famed thinker, which Dreger visited in a museum in Florence, Italy. Academic takedowns aren’t a new phenomenon, and Dreger is interested in exploring just why the scholarly community can become so threatened by new ideas. In this cross-disciplinary book, Dreger asks big questions of science, scientists, and how they can develop and maintain a symbiotic relationship with social justice.
On shelves: March 10
Not begging or borrowing, but stealing
Tom Burgis is an established journalist, whose reporting work for the Financial Times has taken him to Africa repeatedly since 2008. With years of experience on the continent to back him up, Burgis makes some stunning points about the ways in which the rest of the world has stolen and continues to steal resources of various kinds from Africa, resulting in extreme and inexcusable poverty. Burgis is quick to dismantle the argument that a run on African commodities has created more robust economies on the continent, and he drives home the point that the West is allowing (and, in some ways, perpetuating) a sort of looting that is nothing short of disastrous.
On shelves: March 24
Has Justine landed yet?
Twitter can get really scary really fast. This is something most of us know, although hopefully not from personal experience. In his new book, Jon Ronson (whom readers might recognize from This American Life) looks at the phenomenon of social media shaming and its ramifications for the rest of us. Reputations are a nebulous thing in this day and age, Ronson seems to be telling his readers with his wrenching examples of shaming that became social media trends (#HasJustineLandedYet, anyone?). The takeaway? Tread carefully.
On shelves: March 31
No children, no problem
In this collection of essays, Meghan Daum convenes an impressive group of writers who agree about not wanting to have kids (an opinion that, even in 2015, can turn some heads). While the book focuses largely on would-be parents who are committed to having the freedom to continue their professional lives, particularly as writers, the essays are satisfyingly and refreshingly regret-free. Whether you’re grappling with the issue personally, are interested in it from a feminist standpoint, or simply want to broaden your thinking, this book is an illuminating look at an age-old dilemma.
On shelves: March 31
All the single ladies
Spinster: It’s the other “s word,” and in a room full of women over the age of 30ish, it’s sure to generate at least as much as ire. But that need not be the case! Author Kate Bolick of The Atlantic writes an assured and engaging volume on the subject of spinsterhood, and in doing so reclaims the word and makes it entirely her own. Whether you’re a woman, or you simply know some, this is an enlightening read about breaking free of conventional wisdom of love and marriage. Bolick is a feminist hero in the making.
On shelves: April 21
The spy who raised me
If you like thrillers, Pulitzer Prize finalist Bryan Denson has got the nonfiction book for you. The Spy’s Son is, at its heart, a father/son story about the Nicholson family. But instead of throwing around the old pigskin in the backyard, the Nicholsons become co-conspirators against the United States by making highly classified information available to Russia. This riveting drama spans continents, and shows just how strong the bond between father and son can be.
On shelves: May 5
A beautiful, if unusual, mind
When Head Case opens, author Cole Cohen is 26 years old, and something is very wrong. She is suffering from a range of severe symptoms that are attributable to a highly unusual medical fact: Cohen has a hole in her brain that is roughly the size of a lemon. Cohen’s memoir is undeniably a difficult read, and her pain is evident on every page. Still, the reader will finish this gripping book with a sense of Cohen’s astonishing resilience in the face of almost unfathomable difficulty.
On shelves: May 19
Human behavior is weird, and Dan Ariely knows it. Here, he culls some of the highlights of his hugely popular advice column for the Wall Street Journal and joins forces with famous The New Yorker cartoonist William Haefeli, who provides the illustrations. Ariely is a master at explicating matters of behavioral economics, and in this book he tackles subjects as diverse as the rationale behind dropping a ton of money on a Rolex, pickup lines, and the price of the human soul.
On shelves: May 19