Nonfiction Previews, March 2012, Pt. 2: From Allman to American Art to AIDS

Aldous, Richard. Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship. Norton. Mar. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780393069006. $27.95. HISTORY
Eugene Meyer Professor of British History and Literature at Bard, Aldous offers a revisionist view of the relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, generally seen as cozy. In fact, argues Aldous, they clashed over nuclear weapons, the Falklands, and more, making the link between Britain and America a whole lot less secure than it seemed at the time. Food for thought; watch what the scholars say about this one.

Allman, Gregg. My Cross To Bear. Morrow. Mar. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780062112033. $27.99. lrg. prnt. MEMOIR/MUSIC
After major surgery in 2010, Allman launched a 2011‚ 12 tour with the Allman Brothers Band and released a solo album, Low Country Blues, while still finding time to polish up this memoir. He covers it all, from his 1960s Southern upbringing and the emergence of the Allman sound to his trouble with drugs and alcohol and the dual motorcycle deaths that upended the band. With a one-day laydown on March 13 and a 250,000-copy first printing; yes, rock memoirs rock.

Byock, Ira, M.D. The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest To Transform Care Through the End of Life. Avery: Penguin Books (USA). Mar. 2012. ISBN 9781583334591. $26. HEALTH/MEDICINE
Director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, Byock argues that far too many people spend their last days overwhelmed by high-tech procedures and the fight-disease-at-any-cost approach of most hospitals. Here he recommends ways to reform our health-care system so that death is a less horrifying experience for patient and loved ones alike. Worthy.

Davenport-Hines, Richard. Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From. Morrow. Mar. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780061876844. $25.99. HISTORY
As the centennial of the Titanic‘s sinking approaches, we can expect a tidal wave of books on the subject. This one is a bit different from the standard accounts, focusing on the individuals deeply involved with the tragedy, from the robber barons and society matrons in first class to the immigrants in steerage to the ship’s owner, builder, and crew. Cool! With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Drummond, Ree. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier: Simple, Scrumptious, Satisfying. Morrow. Mar. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780061997181. $29.99. COOKING
Glazed doughnuts, apple dumplings, creamy cheese grits with chilies, and mushrooms stuffed with brie‚ these are the kinds of cowboy-approved comfort food dished up by Drummond (but do cowboys like brie?). Author of the hugely best-selling memoir The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels‚ A Love Story and the just as hugely best-selling The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Drummond will likely hit pay dirt with this title, too. With a 350,000-copy first printing and a one-day laydown on March 13.

Gertner, Jon. The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Mar. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781594203282. $25.95. BUSINESS
Working cooperatively across fields and with complete intellectual freedom‚ the bottom line be damned‚ the inventive and sometimes wacky sorts employed by Bell Laboratories in its heyday (1920s‚ 80s) dreamed up radar, lasers, satellites, mobile phones, and more. Among them were 13 Nobel prize winners. New York Times Magazine writer Gertner examines a remarkable corporate culture that should make us all drool. Not just for business readers.

Goldsmith, Jack. Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11. Norton. Mar. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780393081336. $26.95. POLITICS
Presidential power has expanded over the last two centuries, and with 9/11 all the constraints are off, right? Then why hasn’t President Obama seized this power and scaled back on George W. Bush’s oft-criticized counterterrorism policies? Harvard Law School professor Goldsmith, who served in the Office of Legal Counsel under Bush, argues that Presidential power is not what we think; congressional committees, courts, and the media continue to act in sometimes not-so-obvious ways to keep Presidents in line, in accordance with the checks-and-balances provisions of the Constitution. A subtle argument; buy where smart readers like debate.

Goodavage, Maria. Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes. Dutton. Mar. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780525952787. $26.95. PETS/MILITARY HISTORY
Cairo, the Belgian Malinois whose surefootedness helped the Navy SEAL team that raided Osama bin Laden’s compound last May, isn’t the only military dog getting attention these days. News stories report on the adoption of loyal dogs by their handlers or nonmilitary dog lovers, and Rex, the longest-serving military canine, is getting his own book at year’s end (Mike Dowling’s Four-Legged Hero: Winning Hearts and Minds with the World’s Bravest Dog). Goodavage, editor and featured writer of a widely read dog blog, covers the training, duties, retirement, and adoption of military dogs while explaining that these animals live for their missions. Big interest in this subject.

Hardy, Jim with Ron Kaspriske. Solid Contact: A Top Golf Coach’s Guide to Learning Your Swing DNA and Instantly Striking the Ball Better Than Ever. Gotham Bks: Penguin Books (USA). Mar. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9781592406586. $26. SPORTS
Top-ranked golf coach and PGA/Champions player Hardy argues that there is no right way to swing a golf club; each player will have a best swing all his or her own. That would seem to make writing an instructional guide a little difficult, but Hardy boils his advice down to basics and focuses on self-diagnosis. For your dedicated golfers.

Lamott, Anne with Sam Lamott. Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Mar. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781594488412. $26.95. CD: Penguin Audio. MEMOIR
An author of both fiction and nonfiction whose best sellers include Grace (Eventually) and Plan B, Lamott touches affectingly on personal issues in all her books, and this one is no exception. Here she recounts learning that her 19-year-old son, Sam, will soon become a father and then details the first year of grandson Jax in what should be touching and hilarious style. Great for Lamott fans and other gentle souls.

Langella, Frank. Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them. Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780062094476. $26.99. MEMOIR
Langella has won three Tonys, five Drama Desk awards, and one Oscar nomination, so an account of his life would be pretty interesting. Here, however, he doesn’t so much tell his own story as relate encounters with others‚ and not just theater folks like Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Olivier. Read this, and you’ll meet John F. Kennedy, William Styron, Brooke Astor, and more. Fun for all.

Lehrer, Jonah. Imagine: How Creativity Works. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780547386072. $26. SCIENCE
The enfant terrible of neuroscience, with two well-received books under his belt (Proust Was a Neuroscientist and How We Decide), Wired contributing editor Lehrer here argues that creativity is not a single, rarely given attribute but a set of processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. Bracing reading (and maybe really, really advanced self-help) not solely for the science-smart; with a six-city tour to Boston, Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Lustgarten, Abrahm. Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster. Norton. Mar. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780393081626. $27.95. ENVIRONMENT
Aiming to cut costs, British Petroleum fired employees, allowed the improper disposal of toxic chemicals, and failed to maintain equipment, resulting in a corporate turnaround‚ and repeated deadly accidents that led to the horrendous Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010. ProPublica reporter Lustgarten presents the evidence, which echoes findings in a report released September 14 by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Especially interesting in light of that report; PBS cooperated with ProPublica on a Frontline report that featured this book.

Preston, Paul. The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. Norton. Mar. 2012. 464p. ISBN 9780393064766. $29.95. HISTORY
Overshadowed by World War II and figuring in America’s imagination largely as the place noble young men (especially poets and novelists) went to fight, the Spanish civil war was a particularly dark and bloody moment in European history‚ on and off the battlefield. Perhaps the authority on the subject, about which he’s written nearly a dozen books, London School of Economics professor Preston offers a detailed account of the terror that reigned in Franco’s Spain. There’s just not as much coverage as there should be on this crucially important issue, so I welcome Preston’s title. Those interested in 20th-century history and its consequences owe themselves a good look.

Slater, Lauren. The $60,000 Dog: My Life with Animals. Norton. Mar. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780393081114. $25.95. MEMOIR/ANIMALS
From horseback-riding camp to arguments over neutering the family dog to her insistence as a young vet tech on getting plastic surgery for an injured swan, psychologist Slater (Opening Skinner’s Box) investigates her relationship with animals. The human-animal bond is getting increasing attention (as it should), so this book should be popular‚ especially with the excerpt in O (as in Oprah).

Smith, RJ. The One: The Life and Music of James Brown. Gotham Bks: Penguin Books (USA). Mar. 2012. 464p. ISBN 9781592406579. $27.50. MUSIC/BIOGRAPHY
Smith, who’s written for venues ranging from the Village Voice to Spin and whose first book, The Great Black Way, was a Los Angeles Times best seller, checked out some pretty interesting sources to write this big bio of the Godfather of Soul. Not only did he interview more than 100 folks who knew Brown personally or professionally but he surveyed Brown’s love letters, documents from the IRS, and Oval office tapes capturing the Brown-Nixon meeting. Buy wherever pop music bios are popular.

Timberg, Craig & Daniel Halperin. Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Mar. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781594203275. $27.95. SCIENCE/HISTORY
Carried harmlessly for centuries by the chimpanzees of Cameroon, the HIV virus was unleashed when colonialists plowed their way through previously untraveled reaches of Africa, leading to rapidly escalating human-animal exchange. Pious Western lectures about sexual behavior didn’t help, changing age-old customs (e.g., circumcision) that might have slowed the virus’s progress. Today, argue Timberg, former Johannesburg bureau chief for the Washington Post, and Harvard AIDS researcher Halperin, Western attitudes are still hurting the effort to combat AIDS in Africa. Essential for understanding a relentlessly urgent issue.

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.