A Hammer, a Diary, and a Trip to the South: Spring 2017 Nonfiction Preview

A Hammer, a Diary, and a Trip to the South: Spring 2017 Nonfiction Preview

Spring has sprung, and what better way to celebrate than picking up a new book? That’s what we thought. This season has a nonfiction book for every reader, whether you want to learn more about the lives of David Sedaris and Mary Gaitskill, or you’d rather dive into a new topic like bioengineering or the Jonestown Massacre. There are even some exciting new graphic memoirs here for your consideration. So what are you waiting for? Get reading!

South and West

Take me away

As one of the most beloved essayists of our time, Joan Didion’s precise, deliberate prose and keen insight make her writing instantly recognizable. South and West is a collection of Didion’s writing from notebooks she kept while traveling through the American South in 1970. Also included are some of her notes about her early life in California. Publishers Weekly writes, “Students of social history, fans of Didion, and those seeking a quick, engaging read will appreciate this work: the raw immediacy of unedited prose by a master has an urgency that more polished works often lack.”

On shelves: March 7


BUY

The Body Builders

The bionic man

Have you ever wondered about the thin line between medical advances and science fiction? If so, then this will be right up your alley. Dive into the thrilling world of bioengineering in this new book from Adam Piore. Piore will show readers how doctors are learning to use scientific advances to tinker with the human body in ways that are nothing short of amazing. Take, for example, the case of a blind person learning to “see” again with his or her ears. Or bionic limbs. Or deep brain stimulation. It may sound like the stuff of fiction, but Piore has the whole scoop, and it doesn’t disappoint.

On shelves: March 14


BUY

In-Between Days

In sickness and in health

As you probably know, here at Bookish, we love graphic memoirs. A lot. So we were very excited to hear about the publication of Teva Harrison’s In-Between Days. In it, Harrison documents an incredibly challenging chapter of her life: a cancer diagnosis at age 37, and the physical and emotional distress associated with her decision to undergo experimental treatments. Harrison writes about the terrifying uncertainty associated with her disease (hence the title), and also the joy and comfort of being in love at this extraordinarily difficult time.

On shelves: March 14


BUY

The Novel of the Century

Those who do not read, do not see

If you’re a Les Misérables superfan (yes, we’re looking at you) then we have three words for you: Read. This. Book. Author David Bellos, who is famous for his translation work, takes readers behind the scenes into the history and nuances of this much-beloved story that has moved generations of readers since its initial publication in 1862. In a starred review, Kirkus raved: “Anyone who loves [Victor] Hugo, France, and the French language will revel in this delightful book that explains all the intimacies of 19th century French life.”

On shelves: March 21


BUY

No One Cares About Crazy People

The personal is political

Lest you be put off by the title of this important book, let us give you the subtitle: “The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America.” In it, Pulitzer-winner Ron Powers tells the story of his two sons with schizophrenia, one of whom tragically died in 2005. At the same time, Powers gives readers a sweeping view of mental health care in this country and the issues that plague our current system. In uniting his personal story with politics, Powers weaves a uniquely affecting story that is sure to stay with readers long after they turn the final page.

On shelves: March 21


BUY

Somebody with a Little Hammer

Because she wanted to

Mary Gaitskill is known for her fiction, including the short story collection Bad Behavior and her most recent novel The Mare. Here, Gaitskill shifts into a different mode, and delivers a series of essays that take on topics as diverse as religion and date rape. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, “The surprising, nimble prose alone is a delight, and the pages burst with insight and a candid, unflighting self-assessment sure to thrill Gaitskill’s existing fan’s and win her new ones.” Readers will relish these glimpses into Gaitskill’s life, and will be left wanting more.

On shelves: April 4

Down the Up Staircase

Across generations

In this fascinating new book, husband and wife co-authors Bruce D. Haynes and Syma Solovitch examine the history of Harlem as seen by three generations of one family: Haynes’ own. Haynes’ family history is fascinating. His great grandfather worked with W.E.B. Du Bois, and his grandmother was a significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Down the Up Staircase combines elements of memoir and sociology, culminating in an incredibly rich story. This book is ideal for readers who loved Margo Jefferson’s Negroland, which similarly examined the intersection of issues of race and class.

On shelves: April 11


BUY

The Road to Jonestown

A charismatic leader

In American popular culture, “drinking the Kool-Aid” is synonymous with engaging in cult-like behaviors. The phrase is often used as a joke, but its origin is very dark and tied to a tragedy. On November 18, 1978, Jim Jones and nearly 1,000 followers drank a beverage with cyanide in it in a jungle in Guyana. Today, the tragedy is remembered as the Jonestown Massacre. In The Road to Jonestown, Jeff Guinn tells the story of how the Jonestown Massacre came to be from the very beginning. Readers will meet a young Jim Jones, and gain a deeper understanding of these bizarre, tragic, and seemingly inexplicable events.

On shelves: April 11


BUY

Imagine Wanting Only This

Nothing lasts forever

You’re in luck: There’s a second exciting graphic memoir coming out this spring. In Imagine Wanting Only This, author and illustrator Kristen Radtke visits ruined and abandoned places around the world, while telling the story of a heart problem that afflicts members of her family. Into all of this, she also weaves history and personal reflection, making this a book quite unlike any other. This visually gorgeous volume ruminates on what it is to lose people, places, and time. Reader: Not picking this one up would be its own kind of loss.

On shelves: April 18


BUY

Killers of the Flower Moon

Oil money

If you have been hankering for a gripping piece of narrative nonfiction, look no further than Killers of the Flower Moon. In it, author David Grann (a staff writer at The New Yorker) tells the story of the Osage murders. Members of the Osage Indian Nation were some of the wealthiest people on the planet in the 1920s, and many of them were brutally killed (as were some of the people investigating the deaths). At the same time that this was happening, the F.B.I. was just being set up, and these murders would become their first big homicide case. This a true crime book that sheds light on horrific treatment of Native Americans and the history of the F.B.I.

On shelves: April 18


BUY

He Calls Me By Lightning

Wrongfully convicted

In 1957, Caliph Washington was convicted of murder. He was nearly put to death in an electric chair multiple times before the decision was overturned and he was released 15 years later. How could this have happened? Much of it had to do with the fact that Washington was black, and Jim Crow laws still loomed large over Bessemer, Alabama and indeed the American South as a whole. S. Jonathan Bass embeds this story into broader context about the history of civil rights in the United States. Kirkus writes in a starred review that Bass’ is “A stirring book that explores numerous aspects of racism in Alabama and the nation as a whole.”

On shelves: May 2


BUY

Theft by Finding

Dear diary

David Sedaris fans: You’re in luck. This beloved author is coming out with a new collection of his diaries, written between the years 1977 and 2002, and they provide a fascinating look inside his life. Fans will also see a more somber side of Sedaris here, as he pulls back the curtain on some of his personal and professional challenges, including a struggle with alcoholism and his strained relationship with his father. For existing Sedaris fans, picking this one up is a no-brainer, but it’s likely that this book will strike a chord for a host of new Sedaris readers, too.

On shelves: May 30

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