Akyol, Mustafa. Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. Norton. Jul. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780393070866. $25.95.
We hear it all the time: Islam is not compatible with democracy. In this new work, Turkish journalist Akyol shows that while Islam has become rigid over the centuries, it also has liberal tendencies, as evidenced by developments in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire and in Turkey’s adherence to the secular state. These are models for how Islam can be open yet true to itself. Thought-provoking for smart readers.

Arnold, Jennifer. In a Dog’s Heart. Spiegel & Grau. Jul. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780679643715. $26. CD: Random Audio.
Stricken with multiple sclerosis at age 16, Arnold became involved with training service dogs and went on to found Canine Assistants, now acting as its executive director. In last summer’s Through a Dog’s Eyes, she explained her positive-reinforcement methods and profiled several heroic service dogs. Here she continues her story. Serious instruction with feel-good overtones.

Johnson, Christopher. Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little. Norton. Jul. 2011. 192p. ISBN 9780393077407. $19.95.
In this guidebook, Johnson helps us think small, explaining how to write effectively when we write all those little bits that are now a part of our lives. Think brand names, sound bites, taglines, domain names, and tweets‚ in each case, As a verbal branding consultant‚ now there’s an interesting job‚ he should know. This actually could be pretty useful.

Lauterbach, Preston. The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll. Norton. Jul. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780393076523. $26.95.
There really was a Chitlin’ Circuit‚ it gave us James Brown, B.B. King, and Little Richard, for instance‚ and music journalist Lauterbach brings it alive again to show how black entertainers mid-century gave us rock’n’roll. This could be really fascinating.

My Pick
Mezrich, Ben. Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind The Most Audacious Heist in History. Doubleday. Jul. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780385533928. $26.95. eISBN 9780385533935. CD/downloadable: Random Audio.
NASA fellow Thad Roberts wanted to charm his girlfriend, so he convinced her and another friend, both NASA interns, to help him get past all those security checkpoints and steal some moon rocks. Considering how wacky this sounds and that best-selling author Mezrich wrote both The Accidental Billionaires (the basis for the film The Social Network) and Bringing Down the House (the basis for the film 21), this would seem to be a winner.

Morrison, Grant. Supergods. Spiegel & Grau. Jul. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781400069125. $26. eISBN 9780679603467.
Who better than Morrison to tell us how the superheroes of yesterday were slicked up to become the superheroes of today? His Arkham Asylum is reportedly the best-selling original graphic novel (GN), having sold a half million copies. Not all GN fans will care, but those who want to dig a little deeper will want to investigate.

Norwich, John Julius. Absolute Monarchs: The History of the Papacy. Random. Jul. 2011. 528p. ISBN 9781400067152. $30. eISBN 9780679604990.
When Norwich writes, I read; this member of the House of Lords is a notable and engrossing historian, perhaps best known for his monumental study of Byzantium. Here he offers a history of the nearly two-millennia papacy that should be popular with many readers.

Shockey, Lauren. Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris. Grand Central. Jul. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780446559874. $24.99.
Shockey trained at the French Culinary Institute. Then she got out into the real world of restaurants and found she had more to learn, so she decided to apprentice at four upscale restaurants worldwide. With more and more chef memoirs appearing and everyone into food (cookbooks are now the top nonfiction circulator in public libraries), this could, um, catch fire. And it’s being pitched to the Eat Pray Love crowd

Stewart, Rory & Gerald Knaus. Can Intervention Work? Norton. Jul. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9780393081206. $23.95.
Ranging from the Balkans and the Soviet Union’s breakup to Iraq and Afghanistan, the authors draw on firsthand experience to consider when political or military intervention can work and what it can and cannot accomplish. Stewart’s status as British MP and best-selling author (The Prince of the Marshes) will help bring this book attention, and it’s worth considering wherever current events are popular.

Thomas, Susan Gregory. In Spite of Everything: A Memoir of Divorce, My Messed-Up Childhood, and the Fight To Make Everything Right. Random. Jul. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781400068821. $25. eISBN 9781588369468.
Scarred by her parents’ divorce when she was a teenager, investigative reporter Thomas was determined not to repeat history. But her marriage crashed anyway. Here’s how she coped. So many memoirs, but certainly some readers will relate to Thomas’s.

Thompson, Alison. The Third Wave: A Volunteer Story. Random. Jul. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780385529167. $24. eISBN 9780679604921.
Books recently featured in this column, from Conor Grennan’s Little Princes to Stacey Edgar’s Global Girlfriends to Rye Barcott’s It Happened on the Way to War, show how individual effort can indeed change the world. This is the story of how Australian filmmaker Thompson volunteered for months at Ground Zero in New York, her adopted hometown, then went on to work in post-tsunami Sri Lanka and post-earthquake Haiti. The Third Wave, Thompson’s film on her Sri Lanka experiences, has done well on the film festival circuit. Worth investigating, especially where current events titles are popular.

Warrick, Joby. The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA. Doubleday. Jul. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780385534185. $27.95. eISBN 9780385534192. CD/downloadable: Random Audio.
Double agent Humam Khalil al-Balawi infiltrated al-Qaeda and gave the CIA invaluable information. Then, at a meeting in Khost, Afghanistan, he proved himself to be a triple agent by detonating a bomb that killed seven CIA operatives. Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize‚ winning reporter who covers intelligence for the Washington Post, details a case that showed up evident weaknesses in how the CIA conducts its business. This should be gripping reading, and not just for folks who read everything on the War on Terror.

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.


  1. […] Journal gave a heads-up to Four Kitchens in it’s pre-pub review this week. Let’s hope it catches […]