Nonfiction

Baumeister, Roy F. & John Tierney. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781594203077. $27.95.
I was about to laugh off this book‚ another self-help title for the helpless? But then I noted that Florida State University professor Baumeister, the author of 28 books and 450 research papers, has done research showing that will power is fueled by glucose. Reloading the brain with the right food and the right amount of sleep reinforces our determination, which may explain why I break down and eat chocolate when I’m writing this column post-midnight. Baumeister, whose paper on this topic is one of the most cited in recent social science literature, joins with New York Times science writer Tierney to expand his ideas. Definitely investigate; with a national tour.

Ebert, Roger. Life Itself: A Memoir. Grand Central. Sept. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780446584975. $27.99.
The first film critic to win a Pulitzer, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Ebert has been reviewing films since 1967 and talked about them on TV for 30 years; his column is now syndicated in more than 200 newspapers worldwide. After treatment for thyroid cancer, he lost his voice and his ability to eat or drink‚ but he’s still writing about films. Here’s a memoir, ranging from his early newspaper days through marriage, alcoholism, and spiritual beliefs, that should interest every film nut out there.

Frankel, Valerie. It’s Hard Not To Hate You. St. Martin’s. Sept. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780312609788. $24.99.
Annoyed by your kids, snoring husband, and even your cats? Remember mean-girl classmates, Managing Mom (Why are you doing this to me?), and female friends best characterized as Vex and the Shitty? Wonder whether Thin Is the New Happy (the title of Frankel’s popular funny-tough memoir)? Then this new book is for you. Told by a doctor that she must reduce stress‚ never mind that, under the circumstances, stress made sense‚ Frankel decides: The hate in me just has to come out. Fortunately, it comes out fast and funny, tart and taut, in your face and genuinely helpful for anyone who’s felt tense, fat, overmanaged, underloved, or just plain human.

Garfield, Simon. Just My Type: A Book About Fonts. Gotham Bks: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 356p. ISBN 9781592406524. $26.
Typefaces have been around since about 1450, but most of us remained oblivious to their specifics until computers let us play with them. Here, Garfield not only relates the history of typefaces but examines their aesthetic and psychological power, considering what, for instance, our favorite typefaces say about us and how Gotham helped Barack Obama win the presidency. The book itself uses more than 200 typefaces (plus 150 illustrations) to display its topic. A surprise best seller in the UK that’s been edited for U.S. consumption, this book has a certain wild appeal for the design fanatics among us. Watch.

Goldstein, Joshua S. Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide. Dutton. Sept. 2011. 416p. ISBN 9780525952534. $26.95.
Goldstein’s argument that we’re actually beating back war seems counterintuitive, but he marshals some impressive arguments: relative to population, 2010 had one of the lowest death rates ever; no national armies are currently engaged against each other; and despite what we think, UN peacekeeping efforts generally succeed. Okay, I’ll have to read the whole book to be truly convinced, but Goldstein won the International Studies Association Book of the Decade award for War and Gender, so he’s got good credentials.

My Pick
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. Norton. Sept. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780393064476. $26.95.
We all know that the Renaissance was a cultural flowering, beginning in 14th-century Europe, grounded in classical sources. But do we know how it all started? Harvard Swerve1 Nonfictionhumanities professor Greenblatt highlights the discovery, copying, and translation of the last existing manuscript of Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things‚ a radical book proclaiming that the world manages without gods and is made of small particles in constant motion. He then shows how that moment led from Botticelli to Shakespeare to Darwin and onward. The swerve? It’s not just a fanciful title. Lucretius allowed for the existence of free will in his atom-bound universe by theorizing that those little particles swerve randomly. I bet this will be as absorbing and informative as Greenblatt’s Shakespeare study, Will in the World. With an eight-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles.

Groopman, Jerome, M.D., & Pamela Hartzband, M.D. The Patient Decides: How To Make the Right Medical Choices. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781594203114. $27.95.
Too much information, whether from doctors, friends, drug companies, online searches, or media reports: that’s the problem we face when making crucial medical decisions. The authors, who are on the staff of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Cambridge and the faculty of Harvard Medical School, here aim to give patients the tools to sort through the mess. Pay attention, because this is an increasingly urgent topic; that Groopman’s How Doctors Think was a New York Times best seller bodes well for this title.

Harper, Hill. The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in Its Place. Gotham Bks: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781592406500. $26. CD: Penguin Audio.
Harper’s books sell around the 100,000 mark in hardcover or paperback; his Letters to a Young Brother won ALA’s Best Book for Young Adults Award. Here he wants to talk about wealth in all its forms and put money in perspective as a means and not an end. Good inspiration where Harper’s other books have been popular.

Kershaw, Ian. The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944‚ 1945. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 576p. ISBN 9781594203145. $35.
A multiaward winner for his studies of Hitler’s Germany, particularly his two-volume study of the Führer himself, Kershaw returns with an intriguing question: why and how Germany held out for so long before surrendering. (Astonishingly, the Berlin Philharmonic was still performing just weeks before Hitler’s suicide.) Patriotism and officer loyalty to the monster who conferred authority seem to have been a part of it. Essential reading for anyone interested in history; I’m really anticipating this one.

Reid, Anna. Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941‚ 1944. Walker. Sept. 2011. 512p. ISBN 9780802715944. $30.
Seventy years ago this September, Hitler’s armies surrounded Leningrad and laid down a siege that lasted for two and a half years. When it was over, at least three quarters ofleningrad Nonfiction a million Leningraders had died. A former Ukraine correspondent for the Economist with a master’s in Russian history, Reid uses newly available diaries and other materials to get past Soviet mythology and ask pertinent questions, e.g., was Stalin as much to blame as Hitler, and why didn’t the Germans capture the city? A three-city tour to New York, Boston, and Washington, DC, and big promotion tied to an anniversary that should be discussed.

Schott, Ben. Schott’s Quintessential Miscellany. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9781608190218. $16.
Part encyclopedia, part grab bag of facts you never knew you wanted to know, Schott’s Original Miscellany was published in 2003 and with its two sequels has sold close to three million volumes in multiple languages. Now here’s another odd box of gems. Ever wonder about the traditional method of counting sheep? For fun lovers everywhere.

Schultz, William Todd. An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781608195190. $25.
It’s been over 25 years since Patricia Bosworth’s Diane Arbus; time to take another look. Schultz, a Pacific University psychology professor who curates the Inner Lives series, which focuses on artists and political figures, doesn’t go for traditional biography. Instead, he examines key aspects of Arbus’s life, e.g., her identity with outcasts, as a way to understand Arbus and the creative impulse itself. There’s fresh stuff, too, as Schultz draws on interviews with Arbus’s psychotherapist and the recent release of material from the estate. Not so much a Bosworth replacement as a whole new twist.

Sharp, Kathleen. Blood Feud: The Man Who Blew the Whistle on One of the Deadliest Prescription Drugs Ever. Dutton. Sept. 2011. 356p. ISBN 9780525952404. $27.95.
Appearing under various brand names, Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit is a blood booster that has racked up $11 billion in global sales and is Medicare’s most reimbursed drug. But it can work too well, causing such a sudden burst of blood-cell growth that patients die painful deaths, and it’s great food for cancer. Journalist Sharp goes behind the scenes to tell the story of sales rep Mark Duxbury, who challenged the wisdom of selling Procrit and, after testifying in a closed court, was hounded from his job and even attempted suicide. The case against Johnson & Johnson is now back in court, with A Civil Action’s Jan Schlichtmann leading the charge. Even the briefest excerpt suggests that this will be queasy reading but important, too.

Soufan, Ali H. with Daniel Freedman. The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda. Norton. Sept. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9780393079425. $26.95.
In his years as an FBI agent specializing in counterterrorism, Soufan interrogated numerous al-Qaeda operatives and waylaid numerous plots worldwide. He even requested a report months before September 11, 2011, that could have stopped the attacks but was handed to him too late. Here he explains how terrorists think and how they can be stopped. A true insider’s view that all readers interested in current events will want to check out.

Spitz, Marc. Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue. Gotham Bks: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781592406555. $26.
Move over, Keith; it’s Mick’s turn. But the famously reticent Jagger won’t tell his own story. Instead, Vanity Fair‘s music blogger, who’s already assayed David Bowie, talks to Jagger’s friends and enemies to get the full picture. Perhaps not as big as Richard’s Life, since it’s not first person, but there will be interest.

Traverso, Amy. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. Norton. Sept. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780393065992. $29.95.
Apple-Stuffed Biscuit Buns. Cider-Brined Turkey. Apple-Gingersnap Ice Cream. Clearly, if you like apples, then this cookbook is for you. Some 100 recipes from the food editor at Yankee magazine, who ought to know what’s good.

Weir, Theresa. The Orchard: A Memoir. Grand Central. Sept. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780446584692. $23.99.
A cross-genre writer who works in mystery, romance, and the paranormal (her 19 novels include that big underground hit, Amazon Lily), best-selling RITA award winner Weir turns in a memoir about her marriage to the golden boy of her dreams, whose family owns an apple orchard. Tending orchards turns out to be harder than she had imagined, especially when her husband’s family cold-shoulders her as an outsider. Does it all work out? You’ll have to read the book. Of interest to Weir readers and memoir fans generally.

My Pick
Yergin, Daniel. The Quest: The Global Race for Energy, Money, and Power. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. 704p. ISBN 9781594202834. $35. Downloadable: Penguin Audio.
Twenty years after Yergin made news‚ and best sellers lists‚ with The Prize, he returns to reexamine the energy crisis‚ particularly relevant with all eyes on Japan’s escalating nuclear crisis. With corporate mergers and the scramble to control the resources of the former Soviet Union, oil is a bigger headache than ever, while nuclear, coal, and natural gas pose problems of their own. Then there’s wind and solar energy‚ those renewables that we should be considering. Given Yergin’s fluency with energy issues, their vast importance, and the success of the last book, I would consider multiples. With a national tour.

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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