Nonfiction Previews: Apr. 2012, Pt. 3: Breakout Nations, Ciudad Ju√°rez, and the World's Tallest Dog

Ahmad, Imran. The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West. Center Street: Hachette. Apr. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781455508495. $24.99. CD: Hachette Audio. MEMOIR
Born in Pakistan, Ahmad emigrated to England with his family at age one and grew up embracing debonair dressing, the British concept of justice, and the Jaguar XJS. A schoolmate’s efforts at conversion led him to investigate his faith and the guidance it afforded on issues ranging from bigotry to the excesses of his peers. In the end, Ahmad remains a perfect blend‚ a Muslim English gentleman who writes with gentle humor about his situation. With great reviews and best book nods from places like the Guardian and the Independent, this title has a lot going for it, and the ten-city tour won’t hurt.

Clegg, Bill. Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery. Little, Brown. Apr. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780316122528. $24.99. MEMOIR/ADDICTION
Aiming to stay clean and sober for 90 days, recovering addict Clegg doesn’t quite make it the first time, lapsing with three days to go. But he perseveres, calling on long-sober allies he meets at the meetings he attends multiple times a day. Clegg has the writing skills to convey his harrowing experience, as evidenced by his highly praised Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man. With a four-city tour to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle‚ but so far not New York, where Clegg works as a literary agent.

Dale, James & Josh Luchs. Illegal Procedure; A Sports Agent Comes Clean on the Dirty Business of College Football. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Apr. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781608197200. $25. SPORTS
Nobody knows better than Luchs just how crooked college football is. He spent years as a sports agent making illegal deals with college athletes, then abandoned the practice and moved to a new agency only to be accused of sins he says he didn’t commit, leading to his suspension from the NFL. His October 2010 tell-all in Sports Illustrated launched his career as whistleblower, continued here with details about corrupt programs and corrupted players and the education college athletes don’t get. Given football’s popularity, this should be in demand; let’s hope Luchs is as honest here as the game itself is dirty.

Donovan, James. The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo‚ and the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation. Little, Brown. Apr. 2012. 554p. ISBN 9780316053747. $29.99. HISTORY
Remember the Alamo! It’s a cry learned by every schoolchild in America. Here, the author of A Terrible Glory gives us another chance to relive the battle for an independent Texas fought by 175 rebels like Davy Crockett and James Bowie against 2000 Mexican troops in February 1836. Given the Alamo’s mythic status and Donovan’s salability‚ A Terrible Glory went through 13 printings in hardcover and paperback‚ this book is important for U.S. history collections.

Grescoe, Taras. Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile. Times Bks: Holt. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780805091731. $25. SOCIAL SCIENCE
With the rising cost and dwindling supply of petroleum, it’s time to face facts, America: our car culture is doomed, and more and more of us will become straphangers‚ that is, users of public transportation. Such transportation is woefully underfunded and has a bad rap as a noisy, dirty means of conveyance limited to the not-so-rich. But it’s the most efficient, world-smart way to go (trust me, I use it daily), and Grescoe is here to sings its praises. The author of highly regarded books like Bottomfeeder, Grescoe surveyed public transportation worldwide‚ from New York and Moscow, to Paris and Copenhagen, to Tokyo and Phoenix‚ to show what really works. And he puts his money where his feet are‚ he’s never owned a car. Don’t overlook this book, even if you’re far from buses or subways; they’re the future.

Gubar, Susan. Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer. Norton. Apr. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780393073256. $24.95. MEMOIR/HEALTH
Perhaps best known as the coauthor (with Sandra Gilbert) of Madwoman in the Attic, distinguished feminist scholar Gubar writes a different kind of book here. She relates her encounter with ovarian cancer, from her 2008 diagnosis to treatment, remission, and recurrence. With a mortality rate of 70 percent, this kind of cancer leaves few survivors, which makes this retrospective especially valuable. Gubar also acts as advocate, arguing that certain treatments make for a miserable end-of-life experience without hope of cure and should not be shoved on women. Important.

Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times. Metropolitan: Holt. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780805088892. $27. SOCIAL SCIENCE
As evidenced by highly regarded books like The Second Shift and The Time Bind, distinguished sociologist Hochschild always manages to catch the zeitgeist. Now, in her first big book in 15 years, she considers how market forces have intruded into our private lives. From dating services and wedding planners to specialists who help us define our very interests or scatter our loved ones’ ashes, the most intimate aspects of our lives have become jobs‚Ķfor someone else. Sobering reading that echoes Michael J. Sandel’s urgent message in What Money Can’t Buy. But buy this.

Nasser, Dave with Lynne Barrett-Lee. Giant George: Life with the World’s Biggest Dog. Grand Central Life & Style. Apr. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781455511457. $23.99. ANIMALS
He’s not Rin Tin Tin or bad dog Marley or courageous military dog Cairo. But George has one enormous claim to fame: the runt of the litter, this Great Dane grew to be nearly five feet tall, seven feet long, and 245 pounds and holds the Guinness World Records not simply for Tallest Living Dog but Tallest Dog Ever. With Oprah appearances, 75,000 Facebook fans, and over 2.6 million hits on his YouTube videos, George is big on followers, too. The important thing, of course, is that he’s a total sweetheart, loved by his family. Buy for all those dog fans‚ we’re legion.

Picozzi, Massimo. Cosa Nostra: An Illustrated History of the Mafia. Norton. Apr. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780393341966. $25. HISTORY
Not just a history of the Mafia from its 19th-century origins but an illustrated history, with stark photos of mob murders in public places that should make us queasy. As The Sopranos showed, interest in the Mafia is as enduring as the Mafia itself, and Picozzi‚ head of the crime research center of the University Carlo Cattaneo in Castellanza, Italy, should know his stuff. Take a look.

Powell, Robert Andrew. This Love Is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Apr. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781608197163. $25. CURRENT EVENTS
Across the border from El Paso, TX, the Mexican city of Juárez is wracked by violence from drug and human trafficking, with more than ten murders occurring each day and the brutal deaths of young women, often raped and tortured, bringing international attention. But this is not a book about the city’s horrors; it’s a book about how the community rises above them, particularly through its love of soccer (that is, fútbol) and its hard-up but inspiring team, the Indios. Among the characters featured is American midfielder Marco Vidal, who returned from Dallas to play for the Indios. Too tough-minded to be called heartwarming but inspiring nonetheless.

Rutkow, Eric. American Canopy: The Role of Trees in the Shaping of a Nation. Scribner. Apr. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9781439193549. $27.50. NATURAL HISTORY/HISTORY
The woods are lovely, dark and deep: or maybe not so lovely to the first European settlers of this country, who found the forests positively foreboding. But soon they were exploiting them to build a huge timber industry, then planting apple trees, using shade trees to vivify cities, and returning to the woods as sanctuary, acknowledging the desecration wrought in building a country. Doctoral student Rutkow offers one of those specific takes on history that could be a real delight; the publisher is certainly enthusiastic.

Sharma, Ruchir. Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles. Norton. Apr. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780393080261. $26.95. ECONOMICS
Managing director and head of emerging markets equity at Morgan Stanley, Sharma is responsible for figuring out what nations will break out next, and now he’s going to share this information with you. Surprise: his list does not include China, whose booming growth rate will soon have to go bust and whose slowdown will correspondingly suppress the promising economies of countries like Russia and Brazil. Again, surprise: the nations he does see as ripe for economic growth include Bangladesh, Nigeria, Poland, and Turkey. I’m betting that this will be both provocative and information-packed‚ and fun, too, with Sharma pondering the meaning of a $17 Bellini. For all smart readers.

Sontag, Susan. As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964‚ 1980. Farrar. Apr. 2012. ed. by David Rieff. 416p. ISBN 9780374100766. $26. LITERATURE/JOURNALS
Issued in 2008, the first volume of Sontag’s journals and notebooks covered her early years at Berkeley, the birth of her son, and the breakup of her marriage. This second of three volumes jumps right in mid-Sixties to her emergence as a significant critic, covering such high points as the publication of Against Interpretation, her trip to Hanoi, and her filmmaking in Sweden. In short, these pages embrace the years when Sontag became Sontag, and they will be juicy reading for all intellectual sorts.

Swift, Vivian. Le Road Trip: A Traveler’s Journal of Love and France. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Apr. 2011. 208p. ISBN 9781608195329. $24. TRAVEL
Franco-fanatics, unite! Here’s just the book for you. Part travel memoir (of Swift’s honeymoon), part tips’n’tactics for road tripping through France, part illustrated volume featuring hundreds of the author’s watercolors, this could be almost as good as being there. Swift, who did well with When Wanderers Cease To Roam, has lived in Paris and sojourned throughout France, so she should be a good guide. I want this book.

Taraborrelli, J. Randy. After Camelot: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family‚ 1968 to the Present. Grand Central. Apr. 2012. 550p. ISBN 9780446553902. $29.99. lrg prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. HISTORY
Taraborrelli’s best-selling biographies cover the likes of Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe, but Jackie, Ethel, Joan is probably his biggest hit thus far. Here he ranges from Jackie’s struggles after JFK’s assassination to Eunice and Sargent Shriver’s philanthropy to the death of John Kennedy Jr. in a book that will likely be much in demand.

Wagner, Tony. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. Scribner. Apr. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451611496. $27. EDUCATION
A former teacher, principal, and university professor in teacher education, first Innovation Education Fellow at Harvard’s Technology & Entrepreneurship Center, founder of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and author of books like The Global Achievement Gap, Wagner is well qualified to write this title. He surveys our most innovative young folks to show that they have developed a passion, largely through unstructured play in childhood, and have been mentored by parents, teachers, and others who have encouraged their interests through sometimes unorthodox methods. Good reading for those worried about the our education system and place in the world; with a four-city tour to Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

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.