Max Brooks on the Harlem Hellfighters, Boston Marathon Victim Jeff Bauman on Hope, & More | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Apr. 2014, Pt. 3

Bauman, Jeff with Bret Witter. Stronger: Fighting Back After the Boston Marathon Bombing. Grand Central. Apr. 2014. 250p. ISBN 9781455584376. $26. MEMOIR
Bauman’s life changed dramatically when a bomb exploded at last spring’s Boston Marathon, severing both of his legs. A photograph of his initial agony came to embody the tragedy of the event, and from intensive care he provided information that helped identify the culprits. Since then, his upbeat, determined attitude has been an inspiration to people worldwide. Bauman’s account of the marathon and the months following will be published on the first anniversary of the event, So far, he’s given few interviews but will actively engage the media next spring (interviewers are already lining up); his longtime employer, Costco, has pledged support. With a 250,000-copy first printing.

Begley, Adam. Updike. Harper. Apr. 2014. 512p. ISBN 9780061896453. $29.99. BIOGRAPHY
Two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction, two National Book Awards, and three National Book Critics Circle awards—the beloved John Updike surely measured up. Begley measures up, too, having served as books editor for the New York Observer for nearly 15 years (from 1996 to 2009) and twice profiled Updike. Here he offers an in-depth portrait of the master, tracing him from Berks County, PA, to Harvard, and throughout his professional career to discover a charmer with an edge. Expect good perceptions; with a 35,000-copy first printing and perhaps less promotion than I might like to see.

Blaser, Martin. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. Holt. Apr. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780805098105. $28. HEALTH/MEDICINE
Director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University and founder of the estimable Bellevue Literary Review, Blaser is the right man to tell us what’s wrong with our current overuse of antibiotics. As he explains, bacterial and human cells have coexisted for hundreds of thousands of years, benefiting each other, but now irreplaceable microbes are being lost to antibiotic treatments. The result? Increased incidences of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and some cancers and the potential for real health catastrophes in the future. Tons of in-house excitement for this one, says the publicist.

Brooks, Max (text) & Caanan White (illus.). The Harlem Hellfighters: A Graphic Novel. Broadway. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780307464972. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780804140331. GRAPHIC NOVEL/HISTORY
The New York Times best-selling author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z does something different here. He offers a fictionalized account of the 369th Infantry Regiment, the first African American regiment mustered to fight in World War I. The Hellfighters (so named by their enemies) served with distinction, spending more time in combat than any other American unit, but have never received their due. Intense black-and-white illustrations throughout, and intense promotion, too, from New York Comic Con to history sites to Brooks’s website and Facebook channels—which command over one million followers, and let’s hope they pay attention.

Moore, Wes. The Work: Creating Success in New and Meaningful Ways. Spiegel & Grau. Apr. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780812993578. $26. MEMOIR
An American student at Oxford after 9/11. A combat officer in Afghanistan. Special assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. An Obama campaigner. A Wall Street banker as the stock market crashed. And now a community activist in his hometown, Baltimore. As already suggested in his first book, The Other Wes Moore—which has sold more than 500,000 copies in hardcover and paperback—Moore has come far from his days as a fatherless boy on the streets, and he’s had some cliff-hanging moments along the way. Here he tells his life story to help others, especially young people, struggling with the question, “What is my work?” Expect lots of publicity, since Moore is already out there; a 12-city author tour to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Atlanta, Kansas City (MO), St. Louis, Little Rock, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Saviano, Roberto. Zero Zero Zero. Penguin Pr. Apr. 2014. 464p. tr. from Italian by Virginia Jewiss. ISBN 9781594205507. $27.95. ORGANIZED CRIME
Saviano has lived under 24-hour police protection since the 2006 publication of his explosive Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’s Organized Crime System, a situation he has used to build relationships with law enforcement worldwide. That’s given him a thoroughgoing view of the international cocaine trade, whose products include “zero zero zero,” the whitest, brightest, highest-quality cocaine available. Here he shows how the trade’s center has shifted from Colombia to Mexico, how the cartels have built relationships with Italians, Russians, Africans, and others, and how the cartels have, like all ambitious businesses, diversified. Sobering is perhaps not the right word here, but reading this should feel like a cold slap.

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.