Nonfiction Previews: July 2012, Pt. 1: Opium Dreams and Our War with Iran

Coren, Stanley. Do Dogs Dream?: Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You To Know. Norton. Jul. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9780393073485. $23.95. PETS
Author of best sellers like The Intelligence of Dogs, Coren is your go-to guy when you’re seeking information about canines. Here, using a Q&A format, he brings both his expertise and a certain cheeky flair to 75 questions about the social and emotional lives of dogs, e.g., do they see themselves in the mirror? And when those little paws start moving in their sleep, do they really dream? My dog says yes.

Crist, David. The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jul. 2012. 576p. ISBN 9781594203411. $36. CURRENT EVENTS
CIA spies square off against their counterparts in Iran, Iranian speedboats attack Western oil tankers, and Iran counters the American invasion of Iraq by sending in soldiers disguised as tourists, reporters, and aid workers. Iran and the United States have engaged in an unacknowledged almost-war for three decades, argues Crist, who as senior historian for the federal government has access to the people and the papers that can give him the data to make his case. Important. and deeply relevant; see today’s news story about an American man sentenced to death by an Iran court on charges of spying.

Guy, John. Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel. Random. Jul. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9781400069071. $35; eISBN 9780679603412. BIOGRAPHY
Chancellor to Henry II, then his nemesis as Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett was exiled for six years and assassinated by four of Henry’s knights upon his return home. Perhaps a well-known story, but Guy has the credentials to tell it well, having lectured in early modern British history and presented five documentaries for BBC2 television. Pitched as appropriate for undergraduate use, so definitely for your high-end readers.

Harjo, Joy. Crazy Brave: A Memoir. Norton. Jul. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9780393073461. $24.95. MEMOIR
Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle, poet/performer Harjo writes verse suffused with spiritual concern, sociopolitical hunger, and evidence of her Muskogee Creek heritage. This memoir returns to her youth (abusive stepfather, Indian arts boarding school, single motherhood as a teenager) to disclose how she became a poet. Expect beautiful writing, and look how popular Leslie Marmon Silko’s The Turquoise Ledge was.

Herman, Arthur. Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy That Won World War II. Random. Jul. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9781400069644. $27; eISBN 9780679604631. HISTORY/ECONOMICS
Pulitzer Prize finalist for Ghandi & Churchill, Herman here presents businessmen as the good guys, showing how two in particular‚ Danish immigrant William Knudsen and shipbuilding magnate Henry Kaiser‚ pummeled businesses around the country to build what was needed for the war effort. The result? Service to democracy and the creation of the military-industrial complex. Not just for history fans.

Martin, Steven. Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction. Villard. Jul. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780345517838. $26; eISBN 9780345517852. MEMOIR
Having settled in Thailand because of a longtime interest in the glories of the Orient past, freelance reporter Martin began collecting opium-smoking equipment. Then he began smoking opium, developing a bottomless addiction broken only by a stay at a Buddhist monastery. Great on the shelf next to popular books like David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy and Bill Clegg’s Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, and I understand that there’s real curiosity about this lesser-known drug; a 2000 Vanity Fair story by Nick Tosches still holds the record for reader response.

Meyer, Dakota & Bing West. Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War. Random. Jul. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780812993400. $28; eISBN 9780679645443. CURRENT EVENTS
Appropriately billed as Black Hawk Down meets Lone Survivor, this book tells what happened in September 2009 when a huge contingent of Taliban surrounded a company of Afghan soldiers and their marine advisers‚ including Meyer, who disobeyed his commanding officer and took charge of the company, saving 18 men and charging the enemy. He won a Medal of Honor, but his actions remain controversial, which should make this especially thought-provoking to read.

Phelps, Carissa with Larkin Warren. Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time. Viking. Jul. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780670023721. $26.95. MEMOIR
A runaway and school dropout by age 12 who worked the streets for a brutal pimp, Phelps finally freed herself and is now a lawyer also working with a global collective helping survivors of sex trafficking rebuild their lives. This memoir, following hard on the heels of an award-winning documentary, is stirring some interest.

Slotkin, Richard. The Long Road To Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution. Liveright: Norton. Jul. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9780871404114. $32.95. HISTORY
As Slotkin tells it, the Civil War became a revolution in summer 1862, when Lincoln acknowledged that peaceful compromise was at that point impossible and thoroughly committed himself to war. First up in this new strategy: the Emancipation Proclamation. As Lincoln clashed with ambitious general George McClellan, the country started on the bloody road to Antietam. Cultural critic Slotkin, author of Regeneration Through Violence, likes to bust myths and look at our dark side.

Wasik, Bill & Monica Murphy. Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. Viking. Jul. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780670023738. $25.95. HISTORY
The source of a brain infection that causes horrid symptoms and is nearly always fatal, rabies has been feared through the ages. Here Wired senior editor Wasik departs from his bailiwick to join wife Murphy, who has degrees in public health and veterinary medicine, to offer a cultural history of the disease‚ the myths it engendered and how it reflects our fear of the wild both within us and outside us. In-house interest is sparking; watch.

Williams. Terrie M. The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jul. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781594203398. $27.95. NATURAL HISTORY
Hawaiian monk seals are the most endangered marine mammal in U.S. waters, with only 1100 remaining. So when a newborn pup was abandoned by his mother on a Kauai beach, he was brought to the marine lab in Santa Cruz despite resistance from the local community. Studying Kauai Pup 2 (KP2) to learn more about his species, wildlife biologist Williams also fell in love with his fun-loving spirit. Animal-human bonding, ecology, and the cutest face on the cover (not the author’s).

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.