Biography, Freud, & Flood | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Aug. 2017

Atlas, James. The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale. Pantheon. Aug. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9781101871690. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101871706. Downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR/LITERARY
Atlas is a publishing-world fixture, having founded Atlas Books and the “Lipper/Viking Penguinatlas Lives” series and been a staff writer, contributor, or editor for publications from Time to the New York Times Magazine to The New Yorker. But he’s likely best known to general readers as the author of the monumental Bellow: A Biography and Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet, a National Book Award nominee. Here he looks at the biographer’s art, from the Renaissance writers of various “Lives” to James Bowell and Richard Ellmann to his own work while giving as an insider’s view of his literary generation. A high-profile publication.

Crews, Frederick. Freud: The Making of an Illusion. Metropolitan: Holt. Aug. 2017. 800p. ISBN 9781627797177. $40; ebk. ISBN 9781627797184. PSYCHOLOGY/BIOGRAPHY
Revisionist isn’t the word. Crews, professor emeritus of English at Berkeley, has always challenged the mystique surrounding Sigmund Freud and here sets about to dismantle him completely, arguing that he falsified case histories, appropriated the works of others, betrayed colleagues, dealt irrationally with patients, failed to comprehend key psychological issues of the day, and hooked unfortunates on cocaine. Yet his star hangs high in the sky because he was a master of self-invention and promotion. Bound to stir up a firestorm; with library marketing.

Fagan, Kate. What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen. Little, Brown. Aug. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780316356541. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316356534. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316466455. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. PSYCHOLOGY
The January 2014 suicide of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, a popular student and star athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, is a tragedy in itself that also highlights the escalating issue of depression among college students today, for whom suicide is a leading cause of death. After espnW columnist Fagan profiled Maddy’s life and death, she heard from many college athletes traumatized by the push for perfection and expanded her piece to include a consideration of the pressures on these athletes and students generally today. That move may not be without controversy—Fagan’s original piece drew some criticism as possibly provoking hoodanncopycat suicides—but one hopes this book will bring greater understanding of the problem. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Hood, Ann. Morningstar: Growing Up with Books. Norton. Aug. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9780393254815. $22.95. LITERATURE/ESSAYS
A New York Times best-selling author with a stack of awards to her name (e.g., two Pushcart Prizes and a Best American Spiritual Writing Award), Hood offers a collection of essays that nicely parallels her most recent fiction, The Book That Matters Most. Here she talks about growing up in a household where the love of reading was not encouraged and thus finding her own way, relishing Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar, learning about social issues from Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, and getting bitten by the travel bug after reading Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago. For her, these were books that didn’t just shape her life but saved it. A lot of us can identify.

James, Aaron. Surfing with Sartre: An Aquatic Inquiry into a Life of Meaning. Doubleday. Aug. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780385540735. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385540742. Downloadable: Random Audio. PHILOSOPHY/SPORTS
Philosophy I adore, and though surfing is not in my skill set, the idea of having a University of California, Irvine, philosophy professor explain key concepts like freedom, being, and epistemology from a surfer’s perspective is way too cool. (Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said that “the ideal limit of aquatic sports…is waterskiing,” which explains the title.) As James showed with his popular Assholes: A Theory, he knows how to make us think deeplyjamesaaron in a fun way. His new book is likened to Matthew B. Crawford’s Shopclass as Soulcraft and Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance—not to mention William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days for the surfing angle—but for an approachable work on philosophy, the best comparison is Eric Kaplan’s Does Santa Exist? A Philosophical Investigation.

Roker, Al. Ruthless Tide: The Tragic Epic of the Johnstown Flood. Morrow. Aug. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062445513. $28.99. lrg. prnt. HISTORY
The winner of 13 Emmys, mostly for his work on NBC’s Today show, New York Times best-selling author Roker (The Storm of the Century) returns to the topic of David McCullough’s 1968 book, The Johnstown Flood. That flood was set off in 1889 when a foot of rain fell in a day, swelling the Little Conemaugh River in Pennsylvania, which eventually breached the South Fork Dam. More than 2,200 people were killed in what remains the deadliest flood in U.S. history. Roker includes the stories of key figures like engineer John Park, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and Henry Clay Frick, who ordered renovations to his nearby fishing resort that weakened the dam. Obviously, Roker knows his weather; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

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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, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.

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