Nonfiction Previews, May 2013, Pt. 3: History and Current Events, Including the Battle over DSM-5

Feifer, Gregory. Russians: The People Behind the Power. Twelve: Hachette. May 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781455509645. $27.99. CURRENT EVENTS
A native Russian speaker who was National Public Radio’s Moscow correspondent and is now senior correspondent for Radio Free Europe, Feifer has reported from Russia for nearly ten years. Here he aims to explain Russians to the rest of us, showing how some seeming illogicalities (e.g., their embrace of Putin) are grounded in history. Russians themselves get a voice, which isn’t just interesting but validating; readers interested in the state of the world will want to investigate.

Frances, Allen, M.D. Saving Normal: Reclaiming the Natural Power, Resilience, and Self-Healing Properties of the Brain. Morrow. May 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780062229250 $27.99; eISBN 9780062229274. PSYCHOLOGY
Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the defining tool for diagnosis in the profession. The fifth edition, which will appear in May 2013, rocks the foundation by radically broadening the understanding of what constitutes abnormal behavior. Is grief over the death of a loved one really a Major Depressive Disorder? Duke professor Frances is worried that such gerrymandering will leave us all effectively crazy—and since he was chair of the DSM 4 Task Force and part of the leadership group for DSM 3 and DSM 3 (revised), he knows whereof he speaks. This issue is already kicking up a storm of controversy (see Gary Greenberg’s The Book of Woe, previewed below), so pay attention.

Greenberg, Gary. The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). May 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780399158537. $27.95. PSYCHOLOGY
A practicing psychotherapist and author (Manufacturing Depression) whose work has appeared in venues from The New Yorker to Mother Jones, Greenberg joins the outrage over the forthcoming edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Here he recounts a debate that has consumed the profession (and its critics) for two years, summing up concern that DSM-5 will encourage increased diagnosis and increased prescription of therapies—including medications whose consequences aren’t well understood. Read with Frances’s Saving Normal (previewed above) to be fully, anxiously informed.

Holzer, Harold & The New-York Historical Society. The Civil War in 50 Objects. Viking. May 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780670014637. $36. HISTORY
Just as British Museum director Neil McGregor gave us A History of the World in 100 Objects—a New York Times best seller—so Lincoln scholar Holzer draws on the collection of the New-York Historical Society to encompass the history of the Civil War. John Brown’s pike, the Emancipation Proclamation, Grant’s handwritten terms of surrender at Appomattox, leaves from Abraham Lincoln’s bier—all are vivid images telling their own story and the larger one. Essential for lovers of U.S. history.

King, Dean. The Feud: The All-American, No-Holds-Barred, Blood-and-Guts Story of the Hatfields and McCoys. Little, Brown. May 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780316167062. $27.99. HISTORY
King here takes a big leap from the subject of his best-selling Skeletons of the Zahara, recounting the bloody post–Civil War feud in Appalachia between the Hatfields and the McCoys that ultimately left 13 family members dead. Originally scheduled for March 2013, this book recounts a legendary aspect of American history and will likely be big.

Mazzetti, Mark. The Shadow War: A Secret History of America’s Pursuit of its Enemies to the Ends of the Earth. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). ISBN 9781594204807. $29.95. MILITARY/CURRENT EVENTS
As this Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter explains, America has changed its way of doing battle. Now there’s a “shadow war” afoot as special forces and the CIA launch often competing man-hunting (and man-killing operations) under everyone’s radar. Robot fighters and spies as soldiers (and vice versa): is that a morally acceptable way to conduct a war?

Packer, George. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. Farrar. May 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780374102418. $27. CURRENT EVENTS
A staff writer for The New Yorker and author of the award-winning The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, Packer depicts a nation that’s been “unwinding” over a generation as economic shifts polarize the populace. Packer unwinds his own thesis through the stories of four individuals: Dean Price, who preaches a new economy for the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a Rust Belt factory worker; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider torn between idealism and money; and Silicon Valley fat cat Peter Thiel, who has his doubts about the Internet and a vision for the future. Intriguing for discussion.

Pagden, Anthony. The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters. Random. May 2013. 512p. ISBN 9781400060689. $30; eISBN 9780679645313. HISTORY
Just as Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve considered the origins of the Renaissance, so Pagden’s The Enlightenment considers how individuals like Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, and Kant energized thinking in the 17th and 18th centuries and laid the foundations for government, science, and society today. Pagden, a UCLA professor of political science and history, serves as our guide to a fascinating age.

Richards, Sarah Elizabeth. Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. S. & S. May 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781416567028. $25; eISBN 9781416567295. MEDICINE
With U.S. fertility clinics declaring the success rate with frozen eggs almost as high as that with freshly harvested eggs, women who would like to put off pregnancy now feel safe freezing their eggs for future implantation. But just how reliable is the science of egg freezing? And how much does medical rivalry and just plain greed enter into the equation? Freelancer Richards takes us into a brave new world. Of considerable interest, given that the number of babies owing their birth to Assisted Reproductive Technology has reach five million worldwide.

Vogel, Steve. Through the Perilous Fight: Three Weeks That Saved the Nation. Random. May 2013. 496p. ISBN 9781400069132. $28; eISBN 9780679603474. HISTORY
An award-winning military reporter at the Washington Post who covered the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon goes back in time to cover another attack on the nation’s capital—the British march on Washington in 1814 after a headstrong America attacked Britain. The narrative is told through some interesting characters, primarily the tough-as-nails British admiral George Cockburn (American students learn to hate him) and an American lawyer Francis Scott Key (who was inspired by “the perilous fight” to pen the national anthem). Another bicentennial goodie.


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.