Achenbach, Joel. A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Stop the BP Oil Gusher. S. & S. Apr. 2011. 416p. ISBN 9781451625349. $27. ebook ISBN 9781451625387.
I was right in the last column when I said that Carl Safina’s Blowout would be one of the first books to appear on the BP oil spill. Two more big titles are also appearing in April, in time for the first anniversary of the horrific gusher (see also Tom Shroder and John Konrad’s Fire on the Horizon). Science writer Achenbach, who covered this story for the Washington Post, offers both a blow-by-blow account of efforts to cap the well and an engineering whodunit: why did the well blow, and who’s to blame?

Banks, Ralph Richard. Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone. Dutton. Apr. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780525952015. $25.95.
The Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, Banks will stir controversy with this new title, which points out that across classes black marriages are declining. In fact, black women are three times as likely as white women to remain unmarried. Why? As black women surge forward in terms of earnings and education, says Banks, they face marrying down or marrying out. Expect some interest.

Barcott, Rye. It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace. Bloombury, dist. by Macmillan. Apr. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9781608192175. $26.Barcott did something unusual before joining the U.S. Marines; he lived in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, trying to understand the roots of ethnic violence. There, he joined with a widowed nurse and a community organizer to form Carolina for Kibera (CFK), now a leader in the global movement called Participatory Development. And he continued working with CFK even as he served as a marine intelligence officer in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa. Some forward thinking here; I hope this gets the attention it deserves. With a six-city tour to Washington, DC, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh/Durham, Atlanta, and Boston.

Bono, Chaz with Billie Fitzpatrick: The Story of How I Became a Man. Dutton. Apr. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780525952145. $25.95. CD: Penguin Audio.
Bono traces his very public transition from Chastity to Chaz in a two-part work that first discusses his gender-identity issues in childhood and struggle with addition as an adult and then recounts, step by step and with photos, his transition from woman to man. Interest will be sparked as much by Bono’s high profile as by his story.

Breslin, Jimmy. Branch Rickey: A Penguin Life. Viking. Mar. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9780670022496. $19.95.
In 1947, Rickey, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, followed his conscience (and made history) by bringing Jackie Robinson into the major leagues. Here, newspaper legend Breslin tells his life story. Not just for baseball fans.

Coleman, Melissa. This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone. Harper: HarperCollins. Apr. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780061958328. $25.99.
When Coleman’s idealistic parents decided to ditch the materialistic society of the 1970s and set up a homestead in the Maine woods, they didn’t know how hard the work would be‚ or that the family would be ripped apart when Coleman’s three-year-old sister drowned in their pond. Not a huge first printing but some warm in-house feelings about this memoir, so take a look.

My Pick
Conant, Jennet. A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child; Love, Loyalty and Betrayal in the OSS. S. & S. Apr. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9781439163528. $28. eISBN 9781439168509.
Breaking news, fall 2008: before she started cooking, Julia Child secretly served in the OSS in the Far East during World War II. In addition, she and her husband were hounded during the McCarthy witch hunts, remaining loyal to a best friend accused of being a spy and eventually leaving government service. Best-selling biographer Conant should bring to life the Child we didn’t know. Even without the Julie & Julia phenomenon, this would have been so interesting. Now it will attract fans of all types.

Crow, Sheryl & Chuck White. In the Kitchen. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780312658953. $29.99.
For rock star Crow, summer means touring‚ and cooking with corn and tomatoes. After battling breast cancer, she’s become aware of eating healthily and focusing on what’s local and seasonal. Here are Crow’s favorite recipes, put together with an assist from personal chef White; there are some rise-to-stardom memories, too. Sure there will be interest.

Edgar, Stacey. Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business To Help Women in Poverty Worldwide. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780312621735. $24.99.
Edgar started Global Girlfriend with a $2000 tax return and a dream of helping women around the world lift themselves out of poverty. Now it’s a million-dollar enterprise offering handmade clothing, accessories, and other gifts that meet eco-conscious and fair-trade standards. Yes, you can save the world one step at a time; pair with Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel’s More Than Good Intentions, previewed below.

Fey, Tina. Bossypants. Reagan Arthur Bks: Little, Brown. Apr. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9780316056861. $26.99. CD: Hachette Audio.
In this big biggie, as the publicist puts it, Fey doesn’t give a blow-by-blow account of her life but reflects on the joys (ha, ha) of balancing work, marriage, and motherhood. Watch her agonize drolly over finding the perfect beauty routine and embodying Sarah Palin. And be prepared to buy a couple; with a big national tour.

Greitens, Eric. The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780547424859. $27.
Both during and after college, from Gaza to Croatia to Calcutta, Greitens worked in various refugee camps. But he felt he had to help stop the violence that creates refugees, so he joined the Navy SEALS. This tale of his dual military/humanitarian effort could be paired successfully with Rye Barcott’s It Happened on the Way to War, previewed above. The publisher’s lead April title.

Karlan, Dean & Jacob Appel. More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping To Solve Global Poverty. Dutton. Apr. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780525951896. $26.95.
What does it take to fight global poverty? More money? Better intentions? Actually, Yale economist Karlan and field researcher Appel instead advocate making small but indelible changes in banking practices, healthcare, and more to improve the lives of the poor. And they’re not armchair pedants; they traveled the world to get the ideas furnished in this book. Good work for informed readers; the notion of smaller and often more personal approaches to world aid is getting popular.

Kaufman, Marc. First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth. S. & S. Apr. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781439109007. $26. eISBN 9781439130308.
If microbes can live in distant, inhospitable worlds beyond Earth, as recently discovered, then so can other beings. Washington Post science/space reporter Kaufman explains what this means for our sense of self and our future exploration of space. Not just for science whizzes.

Kihn, Martin. Bad Dog: A Love Story. Pantheon. Apr. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780307379153. $22.95.
Marley has nothing on Hola, possibly a Bernese Mountain dog but definitely out of control, After all, overdrinker Kihn was himself out of control when he got her, failing to train her not to chase Volvos and drug dealers in his Washington Heights, New York, neighborhood. But then his wife left, and Kihn decided to straighten himself out‚ by getting involved in competitive dog training. A story about recovery (and about a dog who loves cheesecake), this reportedly sharp and acidulous mix of Cesar Millan and Augusten Burroughs should have an audience beyond dog folks.

Means, Howard. Right Fresh from Heaven: Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth and the American Story. S. & S. Apr. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781439178256. $26. eISBN 9781439178270.
He was a pacifist and vegetarian in the often violent, unsettled world of postrevolutionary America‚ and a canny nurseryman/speculator who could sense where the population was heading and get there first with his seeds. Former Washingtonian magazine senior editor Means revisits a legend; buy wherever Americana is popular.

O’Rourke, Meghan. The Long Goodbye: A Memoir. Riverhead: Putnam. Apr. 2011. NAp. ISBN 9781594487989. $25.95.
Stunned by the strength of her reaction when her mother died at age 55, award-winning poet and Slate culture critic O’Rourke began keeping a record of her slow passage through grief, which she eventually shared with Slate readers. Her nine-part series got huge response and even sparked comparisons to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. That’s a good recommendation.

Pacelle, Wayne. The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals and Our Call To Defend Them. Morrow. Apr. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780061969782. $26.99. lrg. prnt.
Plenty of books on the human-animal bond have appeared lately, but this one is special: the author is the high-profile president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, the world’s largest animal protection agency (it has 1.4 million online advocates). The book is rich with anecdotes (like Pacelle’s confronting seal clubbers and Michael Vicks), and profits go to the Humane Society. With a 100,000-copy first printing and a six-city tour to Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

Seligman, Martin: Flourish: The New Positive Psychology and the Search for Well-Being. Free Pr. Apr. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9781439190753. $27. eISBN 9781439190777. CD: Hachette Audio.
After Seligman’s best-selling Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness, surely you have found a way to Flourish. But if you haven’t, Seligman gives you the means, stressing that well-being is founded on positive emotions, relationships, accomplishment, meaning, and purpose. With lots of anecdotes and exercises; for the self-help crowd.

Shroder, Tom & John Konrad. Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster. Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780062063007. $27.99. lrg. prnt.
This is a real insider’s view of the BP spill. A veteran oil-rig captain, Konrad was a longtime employee of TransOcean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon, and knew many of the crewmembers personally. His one-on-ones with the crew here meld with former Washington Post editor/writer Shroder’s reporting. The argument: there’s a particular culture on an offshore oil rig that made it inevitable. Sober thought.

Sixx, Nikki: This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx. Morrow. Apr. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780062061874. $29.99.
If you don’t deal with your demons, they will deal with you, and it’s gonna hurt, says Mötley Crüe’s Sixx, author of the New York Times best-selling The Heroin Diaries. Here Sixx reflects on his post-addiction commitment to music, photography, and family. The 150,000-copy first printing says it all.

Styron, Alexandra. Reading My Father: A Memoir. Scribner. Apr. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9781416591795. $25. eISBN 9781416595069.
Memoir? Or biography? Actually, it’s both, with Styron (All the Finest Girls) reconstructing the life of her famous author father, William Styron, while recalling how hard it could be to live with his drinking, demanding, outsized, and (as he himself revealed) depressive personality. With a four-city tour to New York, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco, and Washington, DC; the reading group guide will doubtless be much used.

Weekley, Boo. True Boo: Gator Catchin’, Orangutan Boxin’, and My Wild Ride to the PGA Tour. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780312617295. $24.99.
This is not your standard golf book, even if Weekly has made a name for himself on the PGA tour. In this memoir, he recounts struggling with learning disabilities in school, studying turfgrass science in college, roping alligators, being felled by an orangutan in a boxing ring, and collecting unemployment before making millions on tour. A good-time book.

Wells, Patricia. Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season. Morrow. Apr. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780061238833. $34.99.
Multiple James Beard award winner Wells is here to say (with 150 recipes) that salads taste good, they’re good for you, and they don’t have to include lettuce. Given Wells’s high profile and the book’s useful focus, this can’t miss wherever cookbooks are popular. With a 75,000-copy first printing and an eight-city tour to Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Wert, Jeffry D. A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days to Gettysburg. S. & S. Apr. 2011. 416p. ISBN 9781416593348. $30. eISBN 9781416598473.
An acclaimed Civil War historian (who used to teach high school, bless him), Wert here revisits the early campaigns (June 1862 to July 1863) of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which met with unparalleled success. History buffs will swarm.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @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.