True Story

Great Reporting that Leads to Great Books, and More New Nonfiction Releases

Last week, Ta-nehisi Coates published a stunning piece about Donald Trump and the Trump presidency in The Atlantic called “The First White President.” Reading it got me fired up, about both politics and my love for really good long-form reporting and analysis. Reported features can help introduce you to new writers, or help you get a handle on a topic you may not have considered before.

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Mary Jane’s Ghost by Ted Gregory.

Summer 1948 in Oregon, Illinois, a young couple visiting lovers’ lane is murdered. The crime garners nationwide headlines, but after a sweeping manhunt no one is arrested and the deaths of Mary Jane Reed and Stanley Skridla fade from memory. Fifty years later entrepreneur Michael Arians moves to Oregon, opens a roadhouse, gets elected mayor, and becomes obsessed with the crime. He contacts the Chicago Tribune and his letters fall to reporter Ted Gregory. For the next thirteen years Gregory remains beguiled by the case and Arians’s hopeless pursuit of justice. This is the story of these two odysseys

Several of my favorite books from the last few years started as long-form reporting. Katy Butler’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door, one of the best books I’ve read on aging and our medical system, started as a New York Times Magazine piece called “What Broke My Father’s Heart.” I discovered Anthony Shadid and his beautiful memoir, House of Stone, through some of his reporting for the Washington Post. And Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink’s devastating account of decisions at a hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, began as a series that won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

But, even if you don’t want to go book length on some of these topics, there’s a lot of great journalism out there to discover. The Atlantic conveniently put together this list of more than 100 great works of journalism, which has a cool variety of pieces to peruse through with some authors I am sure you’ll recognize. The Best American series is also a good resource – I particularly like checking out Best American Essays and Best American Science and Nature Writing to find new writers to follow.

And now I turn to you, readers. What are some of your favorite sources for interesting reporting? Have you discovered a book or writer because of a piece in a newspaper or magazine?

New Releases on My Radar

Despite the fact that our TBR piles keep growing and our time for reading never seems to increase, this week was another great one for new nonfiction. In addition to Hillary Clinton’s much-anticipated memoir about the 2016 election, What Happened, here are a few books that made it on my radar:

  • Ranger Games by Ben Blum – A reporter investigates how his Marine cousin came to be part of a crew robbing a bank.
  • Unbelievable by Katy Tur – A CNN anchor recounts her experiences covering the 2016 Trump campaign.
  • Curry by Naben Ruthnum – Essays on curry, a dish that “doesn’t quite exist” but that “can have infinite, equally authentic variations.”
  • Bloodlines by Melissa del Bosque – A rookie FBI agent infiltrates a Mexican drug cartel through American quarter horse racing.

Over at Book Riot…

Ann Foster has a list of books on the well-behaved women of history.

I put together a list of 10 great YA nonfiction books (and have some most posts on YA nonfiction brewing – it’s a really interesting, growing genre).

Cindy Butor shared some basic background on DACA and the DREAMERs, and offers some reading suggestions to understand this issue better.

Katie MacBride rounds up some great audiobooks by women in politics.

And Tara Cheeseman writes about the Mitford sisters and suggestions some fiction, biography and memoirs to get to know them better.

Science and Math Kindle Deals

Add to your e-reader TBR with some of these great Kindle deals on books from the science and math section:

  • Console Wars by Blake Harris for $1.99 – A look at the battle between Sega and Nintendo during the early 1990s. I read this one, it’s pretty fun.
  • A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell for $1.99 – A memoir about the “ins and outs of beekeeping”A Book of Bees
  • The Network by Scott Woolley for $1.99 – The inside story of how America’s airwaves were developed through the relationship between an industrialist and an inventor.

A Look Ahead: National Book Awards!

Just after my deadline for this newsletter, the 10 titles that made this year’s National Book Awards longlist for nonfiction were announced. I’m hoping to write a little bit about them next week. With that, you know the drill – you can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at with questions, comments, suggestions, or book recommendations. Happy reading!

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10 New Nonfiction Books Out This Week

It seems that fall is truly here – the leaves are turning, pumpkin spice lattes are back, and a ton of awesome books are newly out on the shelves.

The first Tuesday of the month is typically a big day in publishing, and this week was no exception – my TBR is exploding from all of the awesome books that came out on September 5. This week, I decided to channel my favorite velocireader, Liberty Hardy, and put together a new books megalist focused strictly on nonfiction. Here are 10 of the books I’m most excited to check out ASAP.

Sponsored by Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough

Complex, passionate, brilliant, flawed—Alexander Hamilton comes alive in this exciting biography.

He was born out of wedlock on a small island in the West Indies and orphaned as a teenager. From those inauspicious circumstances, he rose to a position of power and influence in colonial America.

Discover this founding father’s incredible true story: his brilliant scholarship and military career; his groundbreaking and enduring policy, which shapes American government today; his salacious and scandalous personal life; his heartrending end.

Richly informed by Hamilton’s own writing, with archival artwork and new illustrations, this is an in-depth biography of an extraordinary man.

Border by Kapka Kassabova (Graywolf Press) – A reporter returns to her country of origin, Bulgaria, to explore its border between Turkey and Greece and its role as a border to the West. This book looks like a fascinating mix of history, travel, journalism, and memoir.

Crash Override by Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs) – After an ex-boyfriend posted an inflammatory, untruthful blog post about her, game developer Zoe Quinn found herself the most public victim of the #gamergate movement. In the book, Quinn shares her experience being harassed by an online mob, and her work to help others through the Crash Override Network, an advocacy and online-abuse crisis resource.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire by Kurt Andersen (Random House) – While it seems like the who “fake news” and “alternative facts” era we’re in is new, it actually has a long history in our country. Kurt Andersen explores how this may actually be “the ultimate expression of our national character and path” – a potent mix of individualism, epic dreams and epic fantasies.

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A by Danielle Allen (Liveright) – Cuz is one of the books I was most curious to pick up BookExpo this spring. Allen writes about her baby cousin, Michael Allen, a young man arrested for attempted carjacking at 15 who spent the next 11 years in prison. After Michael was released, Allen tried to help him, but learned how the world isn’t open to young black men just out of prison.

Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (St. Martin’s Press) – In 2015, podcast host Manoush Zomorodi encouraged the listeners of Note to Self to participate in an experiment – one week of unplugging from their devices to help rethink our relationship to our gadgets. Bored and Brilliant is an extension of that experiment that shares more research on links between boredom and creativity, and guides readers through their own seven day experiment in unplugging.

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter) – Memoirs by chefs are some of my favorite books. In this book, Alice Waters traces her meandering path to opening Chez Panisse in 1971. I am really excited by the the note that the book includes recipes, photographs and letters, which I imagine will be very cool.

Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson (Avery) – I have been trying to develop a consistent meditation habit for the last couple of years, but it never seems to stick. In this book, Goleman and Davidson explore “the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it” through smart practice and the newest science of mind-training.

Reconcilable Differences by Dawn Markova and Angie McArthur (Spiegel and Grau) – A cognitive neuroscientist and a communication expert team up to explore how to connect with people when it feels like you’re speaking entirely different languages. At the core of the book is an exploration of the difference between rational and relational intelligence.

If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan (St. Martin’s Press) – Living alone after a painful divorce at 27, Ilana Kurshan began a daily study of the Talmud, “a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law.” For the next seven years, Kurshan studied daily and shares some of her insights in this memoir.

Tales of Two Americas, edited by John Freeman – In this collection, 36 contemporary writers explore what life is like in a country as divided as the United States. The collection includes essays, poems, and stories to try and help connect these deeply varied experiences to our own. Any collection that can pull together Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Edwidge Danticat, Eula Bliss, Karen Russell and more, is worth picking up.

Kindle Deals in Biography and Memoir

And if that’s not enough book goodness for you, here are three great Kindle Monthly Deals from the biography and memoir section you can snag this month:

And with that, I’ll close this newsletter out so I can get back to my book — I’m about two-thirds done with Bored and Brilliant and want to hide my phone in my sock drawer forever. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at with questions, comments, suggestions, or book recommendations. Happy reading!

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Last Books of Summer, and a Didion Documentary

Welcome to September, fellow readers. Fall is a big season in publishing, and this year is not exception… my list of new releases for September is about a mile long. But before we get into that, I want to peek back on a couple of summer releases I didn’t get to feature yet, share some news from women writers, and feature a few book lists to add to your already toppling TBR. Let’s get into it!

Sponsored by Endeavour Press

500 years before the Vikings and a millenia before Columbus, an Irish monk set sail westward on the Atlantic, in search of the Garden of Eden.

Acclaimed travel writer, Tim Severin, sets out on the same voyage using identical equipment that St Brendan describes in his sixth century account. This classic of modern exploration has been translated into 27 languages – find out why in this gripping book.

New Releases on My Radar

Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo — I don’t know how this book didn’t get my attention when it came out earlier this summer. After her college graduation, Michelle Kuo arrived in rural Arkansas as a Teach for America volunteer. This book is about her relationship with one student, Patrick, who was jailed for murder after Kuo finished her teaching assignment. Kuo returns to Arkansas to mentor Patrick as he waits for his trial to brgin. There’s been some buzz about this one on the Book Riot back channels, all really good.

Bonus Read: Kuo answered five questions about the book for the New York Times.

A Woman’s Place is at the Top by Hannah Kimberley —  I’ve never heard of Annie Smith Peck, which is such a shame. A scholar, lecturer, educator, writer, and suffragist, Peck was also a daring mountain climber who became famous after climbing Matterhorn (scandalously, in pants!) in 1895. Hannah Kimberley began researching Peck for her PhD, and brings a wealth of new sources to the book. This one sounds exciting!

Bonus Read: The Sierra Club has a brief story on the book with some comments from the author.

To Siri with Love by Judith Newman — In this book, journalist Judith Newman writes about her 13-year-old autistic son, Gus, and his relationship with his iPhone’s virtual assistant, Siri. Newman explores how technology can help those who are struggling to find their voice, and what life is like for families trying to help an autistic child make their way in the world.

Bonus Read: This isn’t related to the book, but I thought it was funny. In 2014, Newman wrote about her odyssey to get an author page published on Wikipedia.

Photo by Julian Wasser, courtesy of Netflix

Netflix to Release Joan Didion Documentary

I am so in for this one. Netflix will be releasing a documentary on journalism legend Joan Didion on October 27. Titled Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, the film is being directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne, who called it “a true labor of love.” Joan Didion is basically too cool for this world, I hope I can channel some of that just by watching the movie.

Excerpts from What Happened Released

Hillary Clinton released an excerpt from her upcoming memoir, What Happened, that I think just about any woman can relate too. In the excerpt, Clinton shares what she was thinking during the second presidential debate, when Donald Trump spent a good chunk of the town hall looming over her shoulder. I remember being viscerally uncomfortable during that time, and it sounds like Clinton was too:

“It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, ‘back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’”

If you can’t get enough of post-2016 election books, another one to look for in early September is Unbelievable by NBC News correspondent Katy Tur. You may recall that Tur was repeatedly targeted by Trump and, at one point, had to be escorted to her car by Secret Service agents after being called out at a rally.

Book Lists to Topple Your TBR

I love a good book list. Here are a few I’ve come across lately:

On My Nightstand

I’m in the middle of two books right now: Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun and Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick.

Calhoun’s book is an expansion of a Modern Life essay by the same name, and looks at the complexities of marriage. Instead of thinking of a wedding as the end of a love story, Calhoun treats it like the first chapter in a bigger story that will have its own challenges and beautiful moments. I thought a lot about my own relationships while reading this one.

Black Flags is… less cheerful than that. I can see why the book, a chronicle of the rise of ISIS from a prison in Jordan to the major force it is today, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. The narrative and storytelling are very strong, and it’s really drawing me into this complex and terrible world.

And that’s all I’ve got for this week, aside from some exciting news to share. Beginning this month, True Story will be going to a weekly newsletter, so look for me in your inbox again next Friday. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

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Children’s Stories, Corporate Scandals, and Kindle Deals

This week in nonfiction we’ve got a deep dive into children’s stories, a French corporate scandal involving the world’s richest woman, and authors recommending nonfiction to read at the beach. Let’s dive in!

Annotated brings you the story of the world’s most glamorous librarian. Download it for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your podcast player or choice.

New Books On My Radar

Wild Things by Bruce Handy (August 15 from Simon and Schuster) – Vanity Fair contributing editor Bruce Handy revisits the classics of children’s literature, looking at the backstories of their creators to explore how these books have changed and influenced us over time. I’m especially intrigued by the promise of a close analysis of these stories and the values they help instill in readers.

Bonus Read: Newsday has a good Q&A with Handy about his influences for the book and how he approached putting it together.

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams and Jeannine Amber (August 22 from Dey Street Books) – Comedian Patricia Williams grew up as one of five children of a single mother. Petty crime was common in their home, as were drugs, scams, and sexual abuse. Williams was a mother of two by 15, but managed to use hustle and humor to get ahead. I’m usually a little nervous about redemption memoirs, but I’m curious about this one.

Bonus Listen: Ms. Pat shared her story with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast a couple of years ago.

The Bettencourt Affair by Tom Sancton (August 8 from Dutton) – For the last decade Liliane Bettencourt, the 94-year-old heiress to the L’Oréal fortune, has been embroiled in the “Bettencourt Affair” – a scandal involving corporate history, World War II secrets, and a curious love story between Bettencourt and a French artist. I will always take a second look at a book with this much political and legal drama, so curious!

Bonus Read: NPR has a short review and interview with Tom Sancton on the book, which gives a better summary of the case than I can possibly manage.

Priestdaddy is Coming to the Screen

The Wrap reports that Imagine Television has optioned Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy, about her father, a converted Catholic priest, and the eight months she and her husband spent living back to the rectory with her parents. The project will be a limited series – one of my favorite tv formats – but no news yet on where it might be available to watch.

Nonfiction for the Beach

Although summer is (sadly!) coming to an end, there’s still at least one vacation weekend to fill with great reads. Authors Kevin Flynn, Rebecca Lavoie, and Scaachi Koul put together a great list of nonfiction to read at the beach that includes an interesting mix of true crime, history, memoir, and essays.

Meanwhile, Over At Book Riot…

Ebook Deals to Check Out!

This week I skimmed through the biography and memoir Kindle deals for this month and pulled out a few that I think you might enjoy:

On My Nightstand

I decided to dig into some history this week with Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy (Oct. 10 from Hachette). Even though it’s a World War II history book (something I don’t usually find very exciting), I’m all in for books about the unsung work of professional women. I also really love cryptography and code breaking, even though I definitely don’t have the skills for that particular kind of work. I’m a few chapters in and, so far, I’m really loving it.

As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

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New Nonfiction on Evolutionary Biology, Fear, and Creativity

Welcome to August, nonfiction lovers. This month seems to kick off the big fall publishing schedule, although most of the releases I’m thinking about are out closer to the end of the month. This week I’ve got two new titles to highlight, along with a bunch of news about adaptations and another major political memoir announcement. Let’s dive in!

Annotated brings you the story of the world’s most glamorous librarian. Download it for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your podcast player or choice.

New Releases on My Radar

Improbable Destinies by Jonathan B. Losos (August 8 from Riverhead Books) – Jonathan Losos, a biology professor at Harvard University, is a leader in the study of evolutionary biology. In this book, he explores a major debate in the field – convergence versus contingency – through the scientists leading the way in experimental evolutionary science. This book is a little outside my science comfort zone, but I also think it sounds pretty fascinating.

Bonus Reads: Back in 2013, Losos was the author of a popular New York Times blog, Scientist at Work. Improbable Destinies was also recently reviewed in Science magazine.

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life by Megan Stielstra (August 1 from Harper Perennial) – I am a sucker for new essay collections, especially those that are about “fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice” and that have a blurb from Roxane Gay. And I think contemplating fears, those that seem justified and those we may move past, is something we all should do more.

Bonus Reads: I enjoyed this short profile of Stielstra from Chicago Mag and this Chicago Reader piece about Stielstra based on interviews from her friends and family. The second, in particular, is a fun way to explore writing about an essayist who uses their friends and family in their work.

Hillary Clinton Announces Title of Memoir

Last week, Hillary Clinton announced the title and publication date of her upcoming memoir – What Happened out Sept. 12 – and shared a little bit about the writing process. In a Facebook post, Clinton wrote:

“I’ll be honest: Writing “What Happened” wasn’t easy. Neither is witnessing what we see in the news every day. It’s never been more important to fight back and stand up for what we believe. I hope this book inspires you to keep going.”

The announcement fueled numerous think pieces (including this smart one from Nicole Froio on the book’s historical importance) and a bunch of funny tweets and a lot of speculation about what the book will actually be about. I’m somewhere between excited and skeptical. I would love to see Clinton really talk about the sexist challenges of being the first female presidential candidate, but I’m worried it’s going to be all about Russia and the stupid email scandal. I want reflective and biting… not avoidance and blaming. We shall see in September.

Ta-Nehisi Coates Essays Coming This Fall

I’m a little late on including this news in a newsletter, so apologies for that. Ta-Nehisi Coates will have a collection of new and previously published essays on the Obama era published on Oct. 3 from Penguin Random House. The book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, is a follow up to 2015’s Between the World and Me, which is pretty much a must-read title on race and America. I am definitely looking forward to reading this one.

ODWABDANOTWM Coming to Small Screen

Scaachi Koul’s excellent essay collection One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None of This Will Matter may be coming to the small screen. Playback Online reports that a Toronto company, First Generation Films, has optioned the rights to the collection for a half-hour TV comedy that will also be Koul’s tv writing debut. This sounds so fun!

In Cold Blood to Be Revisited in Limited Series

A “limited series” based on the 1959 Clutter family murders made famous in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is being planned. Deadline reports:

“The new, limited series will reveal never-before-seen evidence gathered by law enforcement during the original investigation. It also brings to light newly discovered clues as to what really happened the night the Clutter family was killed.”

On My Nightstand

If I’m going to be totally honest with you, dear readers, my entire nightstand is filled with fiction right now. I got a bunch of holds in from the library, so I am immersed in those books at the moment. But when I get back to nonfiction, I’ve got two books I plan to pick up – American Eclipse by David Baron (narrative history about Gilded Age America and the 1878 total solar eclipse) and The Return by Hisham Matar (the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir about Matar’s “journey home to his native Libya in search of answers to his father’s disappearance”). American Eclipse is because I want to learn more about the eclipse before August 21, and The Return because my book club will be reading it soon.

As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

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Memoirs from the Obama Administration are Coming!

This week’s newsletter is full to the brim with new books and news about some upcoming political memoirs I think will be awfully interesting. Onwards!

Sponsored by JT McCormick, the CEO of Book In A Box and author of I Got There

JT McCormick shouldn’t have succeeded. He was born the mixed-race son of a negligent, drug-dealing pimp father and a struggling, single mother. He was raised in the slums of Dayton, Ohio, suffered incredible abuse and racism, and had multiple stints in the juvenile justice system. He barely graduated high school. But succeed he did.

Starting by scrubbing toilets, JT hustled and worked his way into better opportunities, eventually finding incredible success in the mortgage industry. And then it all fell apart. He lost his job, and his money. But this setback became the springboard for him to reach even bigger heights–eventually becoming President of a multimillion-dollar software company, and then CEO of a multimillion-dollar book-publishing start-up.


Obama Staffers Writing Books!

It was big news when Barack and Michelle Obama announced a two book deal with Penguin Random House, but it turns out that’s just the tip if the iceberg when it comes to books by former members of the administration. Here are a few of the ones I’ve seen in the last few weeks:

  • Joe Biden has a major book tour planned in conjunction with his upcoming memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, scheduled for publication on November 14. He’ll start the “American Promise” tour by sitting down with Oprah, then head out to 19 cities across the United States.
  • Pete Souza, former White House photographer, has a collection of photos — Obama: An Intimate Portrait — out on November 7. Go follow him on Instagram right now, he’s amazing.
  • David Litt, Obama’s former speechwriter, has a memoir coming out on September 19 — Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House YearsIt was a simpler time back then.
  • Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s top advisors, has signed a book deal with Viking, a “medley of personal history and civic advice, narrating her path since childhood.” No details on a publication date yet.
  • Former FBI Director James Comey also has plans to write a book and, as you might expect, a lot of publishers are interested in it. By the time you read this, an official deal may have been announced for the book, which will be about “the principles that have guided [him] through some of the most challenging moments of his legal career.” (And yes, I know he’s not really an Obama staffer… forgive me for stretching).

Current Events Reading Lists

Given how much Russian has been in the news lately, I highly recommend this January post from Rioter Katie McBride: Required Reading for Understanding WTF is Happening in Russia. Masha Gessen, one of the authors mentioned in the post, has another book coming out later this year to keep on your radar — The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (October 3 from Riverhead).

A couple of recent posts that offer some context on current issues include this one on body positive memoirs, and this one on health care, North Korea, and populism.

New Releases on My Radar

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro — Journalist and culinary historian (can that be my job?) Laura Shapiro explores the lives of six women — Dorothy Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym, and Helen Gurley Brown — through the food they ate, cooked, and loved. I like the idea of really digging into the idea that you are what you eat.

Bonus Read: Eater magazine recently published a profile of Shapiro that I think is a fun read.

Among the Living and the Dead by Inara Verzemnieks — Inara Verzemnieks was raised by her Latvian grandparents in the state of Washington, where she heard stories about the country they were forced to flee, ravaged by war. Eventually, she traveled back to the villages her family came from to follow the story of her grandmother and her grandmother’s sister through their separation and exile.

Bonus Read: Although not specifically book-related, this NYT Magazine piece on “life in Obamacare’s dead zone” by Verzemnieks is an excellent read.

Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif — I totally missed this book when it came out last month, my bad! Manal al-Sharif grew up in a devoutly religious family. After getting her education, al-Sharif began work as a computer security engineer and started to object to the strict codes of conduct for women. She became an accidental activist after choosing to drive her car on city streets.

Bonus Read: Al-Sharif wrote a moving piece about leaving her son in Saudia Arabia after getting a divorce from her husband and being forced to leave the country because of her activism.

On My Nightstand

My recent nonfiction reading hasn’t been very cheerful. I’m almost finished with Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, a look at rental housing and the challenge it can be for living in poverty to keep a roof over their heads. It’s been making me alternatively sad and angry, though I’m hoping that by the end Desmond will be able to offer some suggestions about what we might do to fix some of the really serious problems with the system.

And I think that’s enough for this week. Thanks for reading all the way throught! As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

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25 More Nonfiction Favorites Now Out in Paperback

Welcome to the third quarter of the year, nonfiction lovers. I hope you all had a great Fourth of July holiday weekend, filled with booze and books and sunshine.

Sponsored by Overdrive

Meet Libby, a new app built with love for readers to discover and enjoy eBooks and audiobooks from your library. Created by OverDrive and inspired by library users, Libby was designed to get people reading as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Libby is a one-tap reading app for your library who is a good friend always ready to go to the library with you. One-tap to borrow, one-tap to read, and one-tap to return to your library or bookshelf to begin your next great book.

This week’s edition of the newsletter is devoted to my favorite book format, the mighty trade paperback. That’s right, as promised in March, I’ve put together a list of 25 nonfiction favorites that finally came out in paperback in the second quarter of 2017 (from April to June). I culled the titles from a variety of sources, and while it certainly isn’t comprehensive, I hope it’ll be useful for snagging some of these great 2016 titles for your library.

The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward – Essays and poems about race, collected as a response by James Baldwin’s 1963 essay collection of the same title.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer – A group of librarians “pull a brazen heist worth of Ocean’s Eleven” to save ancient texts from Al Qaeda.

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin – An account of the Patty Hearst saga of the 1970s, and a more general look at the turbulence of that time.

White Trash by Nancy Isenberg – This is another one of those book that’s gotten a boost thanks to the election of President Trump. Isenberg surveys the 400 year history of the marginalization of poor white Americans.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown – A groundbreaking researcher shares “stories of being brave, falling, and getting back up.” This is a favorite for many Rioters.

In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero – An actress recounts her challenges as a young woman after her parents, illegal immigrants, were deported, leaving her alone in the United States.

American Pharoah by Joe Drape – A reported account of how American Pharoah won the Triple Crown and affected his jockey, trainer, and owner.

The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth – In 1884, the Midnight Assassin terrorized Austin, Texas, violently murdering women and earning the title of America’s first serial killer.

But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman – Klosterman takes on the challenging task of trying to figure out what the modern world will look like when it’s in the past – what reasonable ideas will eventually look ridiculous?

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi – After Faludi learns that her estranged 76-year-old father has had sex reassignment surgery, she digs into her family’s past and the meaning of identity.

The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang – Yang shares the story of her father, a “song poet” in the Hmong tradition who came to Minnesota as a refugee.

The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson – Two twentysomethings in World War II London set up a marriage bureau to help eligible citizens find love.

Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick – From the subtitle, “George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution.”

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman – A collection of essays from a favorite author.

Paper: A World History by Mark Kurlansky – The author who told the story of salt is back with a microhistory of paper. So nerdy!

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing – After moving to New York City on her own, Olivia Laing explores what it means to be alone, and “how it might be resisted and redeemed.”

Grunt by Mary Roach – Another excellent entry from a favorite science writer, this one looking at the research that keeps soldiers safe and comfortable.

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach – Soccer star Abby Wambach writes about how her “professional success often masked her inner struggle to reconcile the various parts of herself.”

A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson – A memoir about seven generations of women in one family, spanning the 19th century to the present.

The Lynching by Laurence Leamer – The “true story of a brutal race-based killing in 1981 and subsequent trials that undid one of the most pernicious organizations in American history – the Ku Klux Klan.”

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee – A look at how we’ve come to understand the gene and the science that could come from this discovery.

Love Wins by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell – The story of the two men behind Obergefell v Hodges, the case that legalized gay marriage in the United States.

A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder – A profile of Paul English, a “Pied Piper” of geeks and “unconventional inventor and entrepreneur.”

Consequence: A Memoir by Eric Fair – Rioter Tracy Shapey called this memoir, by a former interrogator in Iraq, called this “one of the frankest, most brutally honest” memoirs she’d ever read.

Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art by Virginia Heffernan – A look at the digital world, and an argument that the internet should be considered a huge collaborative work of art.

Before I put this newsletter to bed, I want to close with a quick plug for Book Riot’s newest podcast, Annotated. The podcast is a documentary series about books, reading, and language, with a similar format to podcasts like This American Life, Planet Money, or Invisibilia (all great, especially for you nonfiction lovers). Episodes of Annotated’s first season (six episodes total) will come out every other week, and you can subscribe in Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or in your podcast player of choice.

As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

Nonfiction for Summer Reading!

June has brought us two of the most anticipated memoirs of the year, one from Sherman Alexie and another from Roxane Gay, along with a host of book recommendation lists from across the internet. Read on for more!

Sponsored by The Pierre Hotel Affair, by Daniel Simone with Nick Sacco. Published by Pegasus Books.

At 3:50 a.m. on January 2, 1972, a group of thieves pulled up in a limo to New York City’s famed Pierre Hotel. Dressed in tuxedoes, they entered the hotel and—with near-balletic choreography—seized the security guards and took as hostages the night staff and several unfortunate guests. The deposit boxes inside the vault chamber were plundered and, after holding the Pierre under siege for almost two hours, the gentlemanly thieves departed in their limousine with a haul of $28 million.

A suspenseful narrative of mafia intrigue, police corruption, and personal betrayal, The Pierre Hotel Affair is the incredible true tale of one of the greatest heists in American history.

New Books On My Radar

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (June 13 from Little, Brown) — Following the loss of his mother, Sherman Alexie wrote this memoir full of “raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine, much less survive.” His mother, Lillian, was a wealth of contradictions that Alexie explores in the book. I haven’t seen as much buzz about this one as I expected, but early reviews have been very good.

Bonus Read: Alexie talks about his childhood, his writing, and the state of Native writers in this interview with NPR.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen (June 20 from Plume) — In this essay collection, Anne Helen Petersen, a culture writer at BuzzFeed, looks at the ways in which female celebrities, from Lena Dunham to Nicki Minaj, are pushing against the boundaries of what it means to be an acceptable woman today. I am all for a book celebrating the unruly, persisting, opinionated women that the world loves to try and push down.

Bonus Read: In a recent BuzzFeed post, Petersen asks why we like to project the resistance on to Melania Trump.

The Pretender by Marc Ruskin (June 6 from Thomas Dunne Books) — During the 1990s and 2000s, Marc Ruskin was one of the FBI’s top undercover operatives. Engaged in multiple cases, Ruskin would change identities daily, working to investigate public corruption, fraud, drug trafficking, counterfeiting and more. The Pretender is an inside look at the work of undercover agents, even in a world increasingly reliant on electronic investigations.

Bonus Read: Ruskin highlights some of the stories from the book and talks about the work that goes into creating undercover identities in this interview with VICE.

Lots of Press for Roxane Gay’s Hunger 

On June 13, Roxane Gay’s highly-anticipated memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, hit the shelves, accompanying a dizzying media blitz in outlets around the world… not all of it done particularly sensitively (which shows why there’s a deep need for this book).

Gay and others have been very critical of a story published by an Australian website, Mamamia, which revealed a number of the private requests made ahead of Gay’s interview. I managed to read the story before it was deleted and an apology was posted… it was pretty horrendous. The Mashable article linked above gives a good overview.

Thankfully, much of the other coverage has been excellent. For example, Gay’s interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show was great (hopefully that link works, it was being futzy for me). I also enjoyed interviews/profiles published in ELLEVogue, and NPR. For those of you who have read Hunger, what did you think?

Best Books and Summer Reading

Can you believe we’re half-way through 2017? Whew! With the midway point of the year, we’ve got a ton of best books so far and summer reading lists coming out:

Over at Book Riot, we’ve published some great nonfiction book lists as well — stories of strong as hell females, books to read if you love Veep, great military history books, and nonfiction about hair. I can feel my TBR tumbling already.

On My Nightstand

After seeing and loving Wonder Woman, I decided I wanted to learn more about the history of the character. I hemmed and hawed over a few titles, finally settling on Wonder Woman Unbound by Tim Hanley. I almost picked The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, but didn’t love her writing style from a previous book and so decided to try someone new. Hanley is also a comic book historian, so I felt good about his credentials.

Anyway… so far, so good! Hanley is a funny writer, but I like the way that he’s approaching his subject with a sense of seriousness, using a mix of historical data and close reading of the comic books. He’s structured the book to explore Wonder Woman’s portrayal through various periods of comic book history, so I think the book will give a newbie like me a good overview in that respect as well.

As always, feedback and comments are always welcome. You can catch me on Twitter @kimthedork, Instagram @kimthedork, or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

Space and Glowing Girls: The Buzzy Nonfiction of BookExpo

Hello, fellow nonfiction aficionados. I’m writing this newsletter having just gotten back from BookExpo in New York City. BookExpo is an annual trade show conference for publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians and other book-adjacent professionals. During the show there are book signings and galley giveaways, as well as presentations, education sessions and panels covering all sorts of trends and issues in the book world.

This is near one of the main entrances for BookExpo. Dad-like dudes were popular this year.

(As a quick informational aside, the conference recently split to address the needs of two different audiences – BookExpo, on Thursday and Friday, is more publishing industry focused, while BookCon, on Saturday and Sunday, is designed more for consumers.)

Sponsored by HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Much advice about achievement is logical, earnest… and downright wrong. In Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker reveals the extraordinary science behind what actually determines success. You’ll learn:

  • Why valedictorians rarely become millionaires
  •         How your biggest weakness might be your greatest strength
  •         Lessons about cooperation from gangs, pirates, and serial killers
  •         The Navy SEAL secret to “grit”
  •         How to find work-life balance from Genghis Khan, Albert Einstein, and Spider-Man

By looking at what separates the extremely successful from the rest of us, we learn how to be more like them—and discover why it’s sometimes good that we aren’t.

In my experience, the buzziest books of BookExpo tend to be fiction – some of the longest lines this year were for authors like Jennifer Egan, John Grisham and Celeste Ng, or for celebrities like Chad Michael Murray, Savannah Guthrie, or Isla Fisher.

If you’re excited about nonfiction, you’re generally not going to stand in any really, really long lines (unless it’s a celebrity memoir, but even those seemed more muted this year). That said, there were two nonfiction books that generated quite a bit of excitement, one by a celebrity (of sorts) and the other capitalizing on the popularity of nonfiction in pop culture.

Scott Kelly signed excerpts from his upcoming memoir, ENDURANCE. I was… not smooth when I got to meet him.

My first highlight of BookExpo was getting to meet Scott Kelly, an astronaut who spent a year living on the International Space Station. He was signing samples from his upcoming memoir, Endurance (Oct. 17 from Knopf), and couldn’t have been nicer during his autographing session. He followed up a very, very long line by jumping across the Penguin Random House booth for another signing, this time for his children’s book, My Journey to the Stars.

Kate Moore was very charming during her signing of RADIUM GIRLS. This one is next up on my TBR.

The other book I was pleasantly surprised to see generating a lot of buzz was The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (April 18 from Sourcebooks), a true story of the young women tasked with painting the glowing numerals on watches using a newly-discovered element, radium, around World War I. But as we know now, radium turns out to be incredibly dangerous, setting up a faceoff between the increasingly ill girls and the factory owners who are slowly poisoning them. I suspect the excitement around this book has something to do with the popularity of Hidden Figures, and I hope will lead to more books on women often ignored by history.

I feel like I have a ton more to say about BookExpo and trends in nonfiction, but I feel like this newsletter is getting a little long already. So, I’ll just leave you with five titles that are at the top of my TBR – one that’s out now, and four you can look for later this fall – and a promise to feature some of the other books I brought up closer to their publication date.

Upcoming Books On My Radar (BookExpo Edition)

All Day by Liza Jessie Peterson (April 18 from Center Street) – Poet and actress Liza Jessie Peterson writes about a year spent teaching at Island Academy, the high school for teenagers detained at Rikers Island.

Bored and Brilliant by Manoosh Zomorodi (Sept. 5 from St. Martin’s Press) – Based on an experiment conducted by the Note to Self podcast in 2015, Bored and Brilliant looks at “the connection between boredom and original thinking.”

Crash Override by Zoe Quinn (Sept. 5 from PublicAffairs) – Video game developer Zoe Quinn shared her experiences as a victim in the #gamergate awfulness, and about her work with her advocacy and online-abuse crisis resource, the Crash Override Network.

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan (Sept. 26 from Touchstone) – The Last Castle is the book I decided to pick up on my plane ride home. Kiernan – who previously wrote The Girls of Atomic City – turns her attention to the story of the Biltmore mansion and the end of America’s Gilded Age. It’s a lot of fun so far.

Bunk by Kevin Young (Nov. 14 from Graywolf Press) – Subtitled “The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News,” Bunk is a look at the history of the hoax, and its connection to stereotypes, suspicion and race. This one feels substantial and important.

And that’s what I’ve got for this edition! As always, feedback and comments are always welcome. You can catch me on Twitter @kimthedork, Instagram @kimthedork, or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

True Stories of Space, Serial Killers, and Super Storms

Welcome to another week in nonfiction releases, news and other stuff that I think is interesting. My favorite bit of news has to do with one of my favorite true crime books — read on for more!

Sponsored by The Crime Book, the newest title in DK’s award-winning “Big Ideas Simply Explained” series

The Crime Book is a complete compendium for crime aficionados to add to their collection. From Jack the Ripper to Jeffrey Dahmer, it is a full study of international true crime history that unpacks the science, psychology, and sociology of criminal behavior with infographics and in-depth research.

Foreword writer and consultant Cathy Scott is a Los Angeles Times best-selling author and investigative journalist best known for her books The Killing of Tupac Shakur and The Murder of Biggie Smalls.

New Releases On My Radar

Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances by Leland Melvin (May 23 from Amistad) – Here’s a fun fact from the book jacket: former astronaut and wide receiver Leland Melvin is the only person to have ever caught a pass in the NFL and in space. In this book, Melvin recounts his personal journey as an athlete, engineer, and space traveler. I love that the cover of the book is his official NASA portrait.

Bonus Read: This Q&A between Swapna Krishna and Melvin at Paste Magazine is a delight to read.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris (May 30 from Little, Brown and Company) – Truthfully, I’m not sure how I feel about this trend of publishing notebooks and diaries from famous writers. But, anything new from David Sedaris is worth noting. This book includes the “overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers” that have become the source of many of his most famous essays.

Bonus Read: The New Yorker published an excerpt of the book last month, a series of entries from 1983 to 1990 while Sedaris was at the Art Institute of Chicago and the International House of Pancakes.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (May 30 from Vintage) – Blogger and comedian Samantha Irby’s collection of comic essays looks to be very funny, something I think we could all use right now. Rioter Aisling Twomey said the book is “moody, vulgar, gross and so much goddamn unapologetic fun” and a must read for “any woman who’s tired of giving a damn and just wants to live life her way.”

Bonus Read: Check out Irby’s excellent blog, bitches gotta eat.

The ‘Devil in the White City’ to be exhumed

Experts in Chicago are preparing to exhume the remains of H.H. Holmes, the Chicago serial killer of Erik Larson’s 2003 book The Devil in the White City. The exhumation request was made by one of Holmes’ descendants, apparently to find out once and for all if he faked his own death. Before he was executed, Holmes confessed to more than 27 killings, many single women killed in his “Murder Castle.” Grisly!

Chicago Tribune photo

If you’re looking for more true crime, over at Book Riot, Charley Macorn shared five true crime comics that will keep you up at night. Creepy!

The Year of Living Biblically picked up by CBS

A comedy based on A.J. Jacobs best-selling book The Year of Living Biblically has been given a series order by CBS. The show, re-titled By The Book, “centers on a modern day man at a crossroads in his life who decides to live according to the Bible. It stars Jay R. Ferguson, now free and clear after his ABC series The Real O’Neals was canceled, Lindsey Kraft, Ian Gomez, David Krumholtz, Tony Rock and Camryn Manheim.”

On My Nightstand

I decided to dig into a backlist title this week, Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (yep, same one), the story of the deadliest natural disaster in American history – a 1900 hurricane that killed more than 6,000 people in Galveston, Texas. The central “character” of the story is Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau. Larson chronicles the day using telegrams, letters, and stories from survivors. I’m just a few chapters in, but I’m definitely intrigued.

As always, feedback and comments are always welcome. You can catch me on Twitter @kimthedork, Instagram @kimthedork, or via email at Happy reading!