Barbara’s Picks, Aug. 2013, Pt. 6: Nonfiction, Including Lawrence in Arabia, War Dogs, and More

Anderson, Scott. Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Doubleday. Aug. 2013. 592p. ISBN 9780385532921. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385532938. HISTORY
T.E. Lawrence himself called the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I “a sideshow to a sideshow,” but this little divertissement eventually remapped the world. From a German academic in Cairo who encouraged jihad against British rule to the Zionist activist who charmed the Ottomans while masterminding an anti-Ottoman spy ring, the non-Arabs whose involvement is portrayed here stood outside standard political and military circles. And of course there was Lawrence himself, who started the war as an archaeologist in Syria and ended it by leading an Arab charge against British imperialism. A veteran war correspondent, now a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, Anderson wants us to understand colonialist machinations as the root of the modern Middle East and its travails.

Frankel, Rebecca. War Dogs. Atria: S. & S. Aug. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781451674071. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781451674095. ANIMALS/MILITARY
Frankel is a journalist of wide-ranging accomplishments, but at the moment she might be best known for “Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week,” written for Foreign Policy’s award-winning blog The Best Defense. Dogs have been fighting—and bonding—with U.S. soldiers for over a century, and Frankel here shows the dogs in training, being deployed in everything from parachute jumps to bomb clearance, and helping to heal soldiers suffering from war injuries both physical and psychological. Am I highlighting this history because I am demonstrably a canine lover? Well, yes, but also because the book was inspired by the most-read piece in the history of Foreign Policy, having received 11.2 million page views; note also that Maria Goodavage’s related Soldier Dogs was a New York Times best seller.

Guinn, Jeff. Manson. S. & S. Aug. 2013. 512p. ISBN 9781451645163. $27.50; ebk. ISBN 9781451645187. TRUE CRIME
Training his lens on the dark side of the Sixties, Edgar finalist Guinn reexamines the life of Charles Manson, interviewing Manson’s sister and cousin, who have not previously spoken out, and gleaning new information from childhood friends, cellmates, and Manson Family members. In the end, Guinn argues that while Manson spouted incoherent race-war rhetoric about the killings, they were in fact related to his failed ambitions to be a rock star. Many readers will be interested in grappling with the psyche behind these horrific killings, a signal event in American cultural history, and though I’m not one of them, I predict that this book will get the considerable attention the 100,000-copy first printing anticipates.

Schell, Orville & John Delury. Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century. Random. Jul. 2013. 608p. ISBN 9780679643470. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780679645382. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Currently Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, Schell is among our keenest observers of China. Here he joins with Delury, a senior fellow at the center and assistant professor of international studies at Yonsei University, to assess China’s ongoing performance on the world stage. This book, set for an August publication but rescheduled for July within the last few weeks, is included here so that you won’t miss it.

Sheffield, Robert. Turn Around Bright Eyes. It: HarperCollins. Aug. 2013. 288p. ISBN 978006220762. $25.99. MEMOIR
In 2007’s Love Is a Mix Tape, music journalist Sheffield envisioned 22 mix tapes to recount his relationship with wife Renee, who died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism in 1997. While 2011’s Talking to Girls About Duran Duran tracked back to the awkward teenage years, Sheffield now returns to the years directly after Renee’s death as he copes with his grief by moving to a new town and throwing himself in music, especially…karaoke? Here’s Sheffield singing Frank Sinatra at a senior-citizens center in Florida and Merle Haggard at a cowboy saloon in the Mojave desert. All those who loved Mix Tape enough to turn it into a best seller and cult favorite will want; with a 100,000-copy first printing.


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.