Odd But True History | Nonfiction Audio Coming in May

Bass, Jonathan, S. He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty. Tantor Audio. ISBN 9781515965565. Read by Mirron Willis. digital download.
Caliph Washington’s life was never supposed to matter. As a black teenager from the vice-ridden city of Bessemer, Alabama, Washington was wrongfully convicted of killing an Alabama policeman in 1957. Sentenced to death, he came within minutes of the electric chair—nearly a dozen times. A Kafka-esque legal odyssey in which Washington’s original conviction was overturned three times before he was finally released in 1972, his story is the kind that pervades the history of American justice.

Bell, W. Kamau. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, bellMama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524733780. Read by Kamau Bell. digital download.
Tackling a wide range of such issues as race relations; fatherhood; the state of law enforcement today; comedians and superheroes; right-wing politics; failure; his interracial marriage; his upbringing by very strong-willed, race-conscious, yet ideologically opposite parents; his early days struggling to find his comedic voice, then his later days struggling to find his comedic voice; why he never seemed to fit in with the Black comedy scene… or the white comedy scene, W. Kamau Bell discusses how he was a Black nerd way before that became a thing and how it took his wife and an East Bay lesbian to teach him that racism and sexism often walk hand in hand…and much, much more.

Butler, Paul. Chokehold: Policing Black Men. Brilliance Audio. ISBN 9781531836672. Read by JD Jackson. digital download.
Cops, politicians, and civilians are afraid of black men. The result is the chokehold: laws and practices that treat every African American man like a thug. In this explosive new book, an African American former federal prosecutor shows that the system is working exactly the way it’s supposed to. Black men are always under watch, and police violence is widespread—all with the support of judges and politicians. Butler, whose scholarship has been featured on 60 Minutes, uses new data to demonstrate that white men actually commit the majority of violent crime in the United States. He also also discusses the problem of black-on-black violence and how to keep communities safer—without relying solely on the police.

Cabot, Heather and Samantha Walravens. Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427291998. Reader TBA.
Meet the women who haven’t asked for permission from Silicon Valley to chase their dreams. They are going for itbuilding the next generation of tech start-ups, investing in each other’s ventures, crushing male hacker stereotypes and rallying women and girls everywhere to join the digital revolution. Geek Girl Rising isn’t about the famous tech trailblazers you already know, like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer. Instead, veteran journalists Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens introduce readers to the fearless female entrepreneurs and technologists fighting at the grassroots level for an ownership stake in the revolution that’s changing the way we live, work and connect to one another.

De Grasse Tyson, Neil. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538408018 Read by Neil De Grasse Tyson. digital download.
Today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So astrophysicist and TV commentator Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in digestible chapters that are consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day. While waiting for your morning coffee to brew, or while waiting for the bus, the train, or the plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe, listeners will get an earful.

English, Charlie. The Storied City: The Quest for Timbuktu and the Fantastic Mission to Save Its Past. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524754952. Read by Enn Reitel. digital download.
To Westerners, the name “Timbuktu” long conjured a tantalizing paradise, an African El Dorado where even the slaves wore gold. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, a series of explorers, gripped by the fever of“discovery,” tried repeatedly to reach the fabled city.  But one expedition after another went disastrously awry, succumbing to attack, the climate, and disease. Timbuktu was rich in another way too. A medieval center of learning, it was home to tens of thousands—according to some, hundreds of thousands—of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy. When al-Qaeda–linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents, a remarkable thing happened: a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding.

Eurich, Tasha. Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524702342. Read by Tasha Eurich. digital download.
Integrating hundreds of studies with her own research and work in the Fortune 500 world, organizational psychologist Eurich shatters conventional assumptions about what it takes to truly know ourselves—like why introspection isn’t a bullet train to insight, how experience is the enemy of self-knowledge, and just how far others will go to avoid telling us the truth about ourselves. Through stories of people who’ve made dramatic gains in self-awareness, she offers surprising secrets, techniques and strategies to help readers do the same—and therefore improve their work performance, career satisfaction, leadership potential, relationships, and more.

Franken, Al. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478912569. Reader TBA.
Franken’s first campaign for the senate was an unlikely one, with an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga. Here is a book about what happens when the nation’s foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it. It’s an aduiobook about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast. In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him—from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics.

Graham, Ashley. A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like. HarperAudio. ISBN 9780062682666. Reader TBA.
In this collection of insightful, provocative essays plus-sized model, Graham shares her perspective on how ideas around body image are evolving—and how we still have work to do; the fun—and stress—of a career in the fashion world; her life before modeling; and her path to accepting her size without limiting her dreams—defying rigid industry standards and naysayers who told her it couldn’t be done. As she talks about her successes and setbacks, Graham offers support for every woman coming to terms with who she is, bolsters her self-confidence, and motivates her to be her strongest, healthiest, and most beautiful self.

Halson, Penrose. The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London. HarperAudio. ISBN 9780062674302. Read by Jane Copland.
In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London’s Bond Street and set about the delicate business of matchmaking. From shop girls to debutantes, widowers to war veterans, clients came in search of security, acceptance, or simply love. And thanks to the meticulous organization and astute intuition of the bureau’s matchmakers, most found what they were looking for.

Ham, Paul. Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth. Brilliance Audio. ISBN  9781489390738. Read by Robert Meldrum. digital download.
This is the true World War I story of the ordinary men on both sides who were forced to endure a constant state of siege, with a very real awareness that they were being gradually, deliberately, wiped out. Yet the men never broke: they went over the top, when ordered, again and again and again. And if they fell dead or wounded, they were casualties in the ‘normal wastage’, as the commanders described them, of attritional war. Only the soldier’s friends at the front knew him as a man, with thoughts and feelings. His family back home knew him as a son, husband or brother, before he had enlisted. By the end of 1917 he was a different creature: his experiences on the Western Front were simply beyond their powers of comprehension.

Kakalios, James. The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524780173. Reader TBA. digital download.
Breaking down the world of things into sections that outline a single day, Kakalios satisfies our curiosity about how our refrigerators keep our food cool, how a plane manages to remain airborne, and how our wrist fitness monitors keep track of our steps. Each explanation is coupled with a story showing the astonishing science at work and revealing the interplay of the invisible forces that surround us. Through this “narrative physics,” The Physics of Everyday Things demonstrates that—far from the abstractions conjured by phrases like the Higgs Boson, black holes, and gravity waves—sophisticated science is also quite practical.

animalsKatz, Jon. Talking to Animals: How You Can Understand Animals and They Can Understand You. Simon & Schuster Audio. ISBN 9781508237334. digital download.
Devoting each chapter to an animal from his life, Katz, a big city guy who left it all for a farm, tells funny and illuminating stories about his profound experiences with them, showing us how healthy engagement with animals falls into five key areas: Food, Movement, Visualization, Language, and Instincts. Along the way, we meet Simon the donkey, who arrives at Katz’s farm near death and now serves as his Tai Chi partner. We meet Red the dog who started out antisocial and untrained and is now a therapy dog working with veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. And we meet Winston, the dignified and brave rooster who was injured defending his hens from a hawk and who has better interpersonal skills than most humans.

Kasparov, Gary with Mig Greengard. Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begin. Blackstone. ISBN 9781478920335.
In May 1997, the world watched as Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player in the world, was defeated for the first time by the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. It was a watershed moment in the history of technology: machine intelligence had arrived at the point where it could best human intellect. Here, Kasparov tells his side of the story for the first time—what it was like to strategize against an implacable, untiring opponent—the mistakes he made and the reasons the odds were against him. But more than that, he tells his story of AI more generally, and how he’s evolved to embrace it, taking part in an urgent debate with philosophers worried about human values, programmers creating self-learning neural networks, and engineers of cutting edge robotics. He surveys the serious questions facing a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on AI, creating a guide for the business readers and educators he speaks to every year.

Koul, Scaachi. On Day We’ll Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427291417. Read by Scaachi Koul.
In these essays, Koul shares all the fears, outrages, and mortifying moments of her life. She learned from an early age what made her miserable, and for Scaachi anything can be cause for despair. Whether it’s a shopping trip gone awry; enduring awkward conversations with her bikini waxer; overcoming her fear of flying while vacationing halfway around the world; dealing with Internet trolls, or navigating the fears and anxieties of her parents. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of color: where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision, or outright scorn; where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, leaving little room for a woman not solely focused on marriage and children to have a career (and a life) for herself.

McDermott, Terry. Off-Speed: Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception. Highbridge Audio. ISBN 9781681685182. Read by Joe Barrett. digital download.
Tracing the evolution of pitching and the pitcher’s art of deception, McDermott tells the story of baseball’s 150-year hunt for the perfect pitch. Using the framework of a single game (nine chapters, nine innings, nine pitches), he explores the history of every type of pitch, combining the folk wisdom of the players with the enormous wealth of new data brought to the sport by the growing legion of statisticians who are transforming many of the sport’s once sacred beliefs.

Moss, Tara. Speaking Out: A  21st-Century Handbook for Women. Brilliance Audio. ISBN 9781489390790. Read by Tara Moss. digital download.
Drawing on 20 years of wide experience in the public sphere, Moss responds to the question: “How can I speak out?” in the most practical way. In this handbook she gives advice on preparation, speaking out, and negotiating public spaces—sometimes in the face of downright savage trolling. With a focus particularly on social media and online safety, she offers tips on how to research, form arguments, deliver confidently, find support, and handle criticism. A guide for women young and old that not only helps them find their voice, but argues for why it matters.

Nevins, Sheila. You Don’t Look Your Age: And Other Fairy Tales. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427286659. Read by an all-star cast.
Famed documentary producer (as President of HBO Documentary Films for over 30 years), Nevins steps out from behind the camera and takes her place front and center. This audiobook presents the real-life challenges of being a woman in a man’s world, what it means to be a working mother, what it’s like to be an older woman in a youth-obsessed culture, the sometimes changing, often sweet truth about marriages, what being a feminist really means, and that you are in good company if your adult children don’t return your phone calls.

Oswalt, Patton, Dave Anthony, and Gareth Reynolds. The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524755294. Read by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds. digital download.
Short and informative stories of the most outlandish (but true) people, events, and more from our country’s little-known history. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds cover the weird stories you didn’t learn in high school, such as 10-Cent Beer Night, the Jackson Cheese, and the Kentucky Meat Shower.

Poundstone, Paula. The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness.  Highbridge Audio. ISBN 9781681684031. Read by Paula Poundstone. digital download.
Is there a secret to happiness? Comedian Paula Poundstone conducts a series of “thoroughly scientific” experiments to find out, offering herself up as a guinea pig and recording her data for the benefit of all humankind. Armed with her self-deprecating wit and the scientific method, in each chapter Paula tries out a different get-happy hypothesis. She gets in shape with taekwondo. She drives fast behind the wheel of a Lamborghini. She communes with nature while camping with her daughter. Swing dancing? Meditation? Volunteering? Does any of it bring her happiness? And more important, can the happiness last when she returns to the daily demands of her chaotic life?

Poundstone, William. Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street. Tantor Audio. ISBN  9781541453722. Read by Kyle McCarley. digital download.
In 1956 two Bell Labs scientists discovered the scientific formula for getting rich. One was mathematician Claude Shannon, neurotic father of our digital age, whose genius is ranked with Einstein’s. The other was John L. Kelly, Jr., a Texas-born, gun-toting physicist. Together they applied the science of information theory—the basis of computers and the Internet—to the problem of making as much money as possible, as fast as possible.

Rosen, William. Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524755836. Read by Rob Shapiro. digital download.
As late as the 1930s, virtually no drug intended for sickness did any good; doctors could set bones, deliver babies, and offer palliative care. That all changed in less than a generation with the discovery and development of a new category of medicine known as antibiotics. By 1955, the age-old evolutionary relationship between humans and microbes had been transformed, trivializing once-deadly infections. Rosen captures this revolution with all its false starts, lucky surprises, and eccentric characters. He explains why, given the complex nature of bacteria—and their ability to rapidly evolve into new forms—the only way to locate and test potential antibiotic strains was by large-scale, systematic, trial-and-error experimentation. Organizing that research needed large, well-funded organizations and businesses, and so our entire scientific-industrial complex, built around the pharmaceutical company, was born.

Smith, Stephen Kennedy and Douglas Brinkley. JFK: A Vision for America. HarperAudio. ISBN 9780062671707. Reader TBA.
Published in commemoration of the centennial of President John F. Kennedy’s birth, here is the definitive compendium of JFK’s most important and brilliant speeches, accompanied by commentary and reflections by leading American and international figures—including Senator Elizabeth Warren, David McCullough, Kofi Annan, and the Dalai Lama—edited by JFK’s nephew Stephen Kennedy Smith and renowned historian Douglas Brinkley, listeners can hear  about JFK’s life, presidency, and his compelling vision for America.

Steigerwald, Bill.  30 Days a Black Man: The Forgotten Story that Exposed the Jim Crow South. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538431931. Reader TBA. digital download.
In 1948 most white people in the North had no idea how unjust and unequal daily life was for the ten million African Americans living in the South. But that changed after Ray Sprigle, a famous white journalist from Pittsburgh, went undercover and lived as a black man in the Jim Crow South. Escorted through the South’s parallel black society by John Wesley Dobbs, a historic black civil rights pioneer from Atlanta, Sprigle met with sharecroppers, local black leaders, and families of lynching victims. He visited ramshackle black schools and slept at the homes of prosperous black farmers and doctors. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter’s series was syndicated coast to coast in white newspapers and carried into the South only by the Pittsburgh Courier, the country’s leading black paper. His vivid descriptions and undisguised outrage at “the iniquitous Jim Crow system” shocked the North, enraged the South, and ignited the first national debate in the media about ending America’s system of apartheid.

Tannen, Deborah. You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525493044. Read by Deborah Tannen. digital download.
Bestselling author Tannen deconstructs the ways women friends talk and how those ways can bring friends closer or pull them apart. From casual chatting to intimate confiding, from talking about problems to telling what you had for dinner, Tannen uncovers the patterns of communication and miscommunication that affect friendships at different points in our lives. She shows how even the best of friends—with the best intentions—can say the wrong thing, and how words can repair the damage done by words. Listeners will hear about themselves and their friendships on every page.

Weil, Andrew MD. Mind Over Meds: Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better—and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478962922. Reader TBA.
Bestselling author Weil alerts readers to the problem of over-medication, and outlines when medicine is necessary, and when it is not. Dr. Weil examines how we came to be so drastically over-medicated, presents science that proves that drugs aren’t always the best option, and provides reliable integrative medicine approaches to treating common ailments like high blood pressure, allergies, depression, and even the common cold. Includes case histories, healthy alternative treatments, and input from other leading physicians.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*