Nonfiction Previews, May 2012, Pt. 4: Dionne, Price, Imam Feisal, and Crows

Acosta, Hipolito with Lisa Pulitzer. The Shadow Catcher. Atria: S. & S. Apr. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451632873. $24; eISBN 9781451632897. MEMOIR/CRIME
The son of Mexican American migrant workers, Acosta is the most decorated officer in the history of the U.S. Immigration and Nationalization Service. He got all those medals for undercover work targeting Mexico’s crime organizations, going so far as to get himself locked in a U-Haul with immigrants heading to Chicago (there was no food or water) and once finding himself in a Mexican prison, his identity intentionally revealed by authorities to his dangerous cellmates. Here he decries the criminal underpinnings of illegal immigration while empathizing with those desperate for a better life. Likely an assumption buster; should be gripping reading.

Barron, Carrie, M.D. & Alton Barron, M.D. The Creativity Cure: A Do-It-Yourself Prescription for Happiness. Scribner. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451636789. $26; eISBN 9781451636802. SELF-HELP
So many books about getting happy, so what makes this book distinctive? The authors‚ a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst on the faculty of the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and an orthopedic surgeon, president of the New York Society for Surgery of the Hand, who has worked with members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera for more than ten years‚ focus on creativity as the key. And not just vague and inspirational creativity but actively engaged effort; note the concrete fourth step in a five-step plan that includes insight, movement, mind rest, using your own two hands, and mind shift. We all know the satisfaction of actively making something (yes, even writing this column), and this book aims to help us exploit that feeling for our benefit. A strong contender for self-help collections.

Clarke, Peter. Mr. Churchill’s Profession. Bloomsbury Pr., dist. by Macmillan. May 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781608193721. $30. HISTORY
This is not a book about Churchill the statesman but Churchill the author, who plied his trade long before he entered politics, turned to it when he thought his career was over, and spent a quarter-century on his magisterial four-volume History of the English-Speaking People. Clarke, himself author of the final volume of the Penguin History of Britain, Hope and Glory, Britain 1900‚ 2010, would seem made-to-order for this job. I’m excited at this one.

Dionne, E.J. Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781608192014. $27. POLITICS
We all know that Americans love radical individualism. But, says Dionne, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, Washington Post columnist, Georgetown University professor, and best-selling author, that’s not the whole story. Contrary to what the Tea Partyers would have us believe, the American tradition balances individualism with regard for community needs. I hope folks listen; syndicated columnist Dionne does have a following.

Draper, Robert. Untitled on the U.S. Congress. Free Pr: S. & S. May 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781451642087. $28; eISBN 9781451642100. POLITICS
Draper caught our attention with Dead Certain, a deeply researched look at the Bush presidency that turned into a New York Times best seller. Here he updates us on the current House of Representatives, elected tumultuously at midterm in 2010. Pay attention.

Gibbs, Nancy & Michael Duffy. The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity. S. & S. 416p. ISBN 9781439127704. $29.99. POLITICS
No, it’s not fiction; the Presidents Club was something dreamed up by Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover at the time of Eisenhower’s inauguration. Its members compete in the spotlight yet quietly rely on one another, with Kennedy asking Ike for advice about Cuba, Nixon asking Johnson for advice about getting reelected, Reagan and Clinton using Nixon as an unofficial emissary to Russia, and Clinton and Obama chatting even as they compete. Time executive editor Gibbs and Duffy, her coauthor on the best-selling The Preacher and the Presidents, should know their stuff.

Heymann, C. David. Joe and Marilyn. Atria: S. & S. May 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781439191774. $26; eISBN 9781439191798. BIOGRAPHY/ENTERTAINMENT
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married for only nine months in 1954, but they remained friends until Monroe’s death in 1962. Bobby and Jackie author Heymann uses interviews and archival research to tell the story of their doomed romance. Is there really more to say about Marilyn? In any case, she’s still news (note, for instance, last year’s The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his Friend Marilyn Monroe by Scottish novelist Andrew O’Hagan and the just-released film My Week with Marilyn).

Marzluff, John & Tony Angell. The Gift of the Crow: A Scientific Journey into Seven Human Characteristics Shared by These Cerebral Birds. Free Pr: S. & S. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781439198735. $25. eISBN 9781439198759. NATURAL HISTORY
You’re wondering why you should be interested in big, black birds? In fact, crows are considered among the smartest creatures in the animal world, capable of tool-making, planning, play, gift giving, risk taking, and rethinking their actions, not to mention seeking revenge and luring other birds to their deaths (okay, not nice). These long-lived, big-brained, socially adaptive birds even watch humans and learn from us. Maybe we have something to learn from them. Cool book; I’m betting this will be a delight for nature lovers.

Porter, Jessica. The MILF Diet: Change Your Life, Change Your Body, Change Your Future, Deliciously. Atria: S. & S. May 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781451655681. $24. NUTRITION/DIET
How to become an MILF (for those not in the know, a slang term for a desirable older woman)? Since she’s author of the popular The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics and manager of the Way to Health Program at the Kushi Institute in Massachusetts, it’s not surprising that Porter takes a nutrition-based approach, recommending whole grains, seasonal organic vegetables, and mostly plant-based proteins to create a sexier you while dumping on dairy, white sugar, processed foods, and meat. Lots of recipes and not aimed solely at vegetarians/vegans; hey, if it works.

Price, Reynolds. Midstream: An Unfinished Memoir. Scribner. May 2012. 192p. ISBN 9781439183496. $25; eISBN 9781439183557. MEMOIR
This book picks up where Price’s third memoir, Ardent Spirits, left off and ends all too soon, Price having died earlier this year. Here, the award-winning author of Kate Vaiden and 36 other titles discusses turning 30 (the years covered are 1961‚ 65), launching a teaching career, losing his mother, looking for love, and traveling to Rome with Stephen Spender, where he dines with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Our last word from the priceless Price, so, literati, take it in.

Rauf, Imam Feisal Abdul. Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America. Free Pr: S. & S. May 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781451656008. $24; eISBN 9781451656022. RELIGION
Some readers may see Imam Feisal as controversial‚ he was the one who proposed the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, actually an interfaith center, in southern Manhattan. But in fact he’s a moderate who argues that orthodox Islam supports religious tolerance and equal rights for women and sees the death of Osama bin Laden as a turning point. Here he speaks for the large swath of his fellow believers in America who aren’t the radical tipping point. We should all learn from this book.

Sheen, Martin & Emilio Estevez with Hope Edelman. Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son. Free Pr: S. & S. May 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781451643688. $27; eISBN 9781451643770. MEMOIR
Perhaps best known for his role in The Breakfast Club, Estevez directed his father (and himself) in The Way, a recently released film centered on the Camino de Santiago‚ the 1000-year-old pilgrimage route across northern Spain. The film had special meaning for Sheen, originally from Spain (he was born Ramon Antonio Geraldo Estevez), and the experience had special meaning for both actors as they used the occasion to consider differing spiritual perspectives and the father-son bond. So maybe not your standard celebrity turn.

Slakey, Francis. To the Last Breath: A Story of Going to Extremes. S. & S. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781439198957. $25. MEMOIR
Upjohn Lecturer on Physics and Public Policy at Georgetown University, Slakey writes for both technical venues (his work has received over 500 citations) and the popular press. But this isn’t a book about science or administration. In 1997, the carefully detached Slakey made the bold decision to climb the highest mountain on every continent and, in confronting fierce storms, fiercer guerrillas, and, finally, death, learned how to get outside himself and really live. Excitement and high-end inspiration.

Steyer, James P. Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age. Scribner. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451657340. pap. $15; eISBN 9781451657357. PARENTING
Issues from cyberbullying to privacy to homework distraction cause many responsible parents to worry about the Internet in general. Here, Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, gives advice on navigating the cyberminefield without cutting the online connection entirely. Could be really useful if it’s good.

Strauss, Barry. Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership. S. & S. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781439164488. $26. HISTORY
Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar didn’t just fight wars; they had to look beyond the clash of swords to grasp whom to fight, why to fight, when to call it quits, and how to govern conquered lands. In short, they were also statesmen, and their particular talents are summed up here by prolific Cornell history/classics professor Strauss. For your smart readers.

Sweat, Keith. Make It Last Forever. Atria: S. & S. May 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781593094065. $24; eISBN 9781451655773. RELATIONSHIPS
Recording artist Sweat takes his title from his hit R&B album and single, but this is not about music. Sweat discusses finding a good relationship‚ the key is compatibility‚ nurturing it, and mending the rips and tears. He’s host of The Sweat Hotel, the country’s No. 1 urban nighttime program, so I guess he’s qualified.

Talbot, David. Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love. Free Pr: S. & S. May 2012. ISBN 9781439108215. $28; eISBN 9781439127872. HISTORY
The city of love? That’s San Francisco in the Sixties, until its exuberance was cut short by Altamont, the Zodiac and Zebra killings, Harvey Milk’s assassination, and the advent of AIDS. But the city has slowly regained its spirit and remains emblematic of the tolerance it taught an entire nation. Salon founder and CEO Talbot, also author of the New York Times best-selling Brothers, knows the city well and should be a persuasive guide.

Zevin, Dan. Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dad and Dude. Scribner. May 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781451606461. $24. HUMOR
A funnyman who’s been heard on NPR and read in publications ranging from the Boston Phoenix to Rolling Stone, Zevin is also author of such chucklers as The Day I Turned Uncool, now in film development. Here, Zevin considers how he got to have a wife, a house, two kids, and stay-at-home dad status. If you’re in the mood for wry middle-age kvetching, go for it.

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.