Current Events from China to the Koch Brothers | Nonfiction Previews, May 2014, Pt. 3

Barber, Dan. The Third Plate. Penguin Pr. May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781594204074. $29.95. FOOD/SUSTAINABILITY
Barber isn’t just a James Beard Award–winning chef; in 2009, Time dubbed him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. A champion of the farm-to-table movement, he argues for innovative systems of food production and cooking—often inspired by age-old practices—that guarantee sustainability, nutrition, and good taste. Thus he moves us from the first plate (mostly meat) and the second plate (the current organic ideal) to the third plate. Yum!

Devine, Jack. Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story. Farrar. May 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780374130329. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781429944175.
Devine served in the CIA for more than three decades, participating in covert operations that took him from Allende’s Chile through Iran-Contra and Charlie Wilson’s Afghanistan to George Tenet’s Iraq, eventually rising to the position of Directorate of Operations. This book is billed as a master class in spying, but it’s more; Devine sees the current CIA as overly bureaucratized, losing out to the military, yet in danger of turning paramilitary itself.

French, Howard W. China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. Knopf. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780307956989. $27.95.
Former New York Times bureau chief in Africa and China and the winner of two Overseas Press Club awards, French explores a development that’s significant but not much remarked on: China’s presence in Africa, which is rapidly changing the continent’s infrastructure. Why are the Chinese there, what sorts of changes are they making, how are Africans responding, and what about that Chinese entrepreneur who wants to harvest all of Liberia’s old-growth redwoods? French’s previous book on Africa, A Continent for the Taking, did nicely for politically engaged nonfiction, selling in the 30,000-copy range.

Giridharadas, Anand. The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas. Norton. May 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780393239508. $27.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Raisuddin Bhuiyan is a former Bangladeshi Air Force officer who moved here to dream the American dream, but it turned into a nightmare when self-declared American terrorist Mark Stroman shot Bhuiyan in the face in the Texas minimart where he works. Ten years later, he not only forgave Stroman but battled with Gov. Rick Perry to save him from execution. Bhuiyan’s fight in the name of both the U.S. Constitution and Shariah law makes this a study not only of immigration and of mercy but of West meets East and Islam—and what it means to be a “true American.”

Osnos, Evan. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. Farrar. 432p. ISBN 9780374280741. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374712044. INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
Once The New Yorker’s correspondent in China, where he lived from 2005 to 2013, Osnos depicts a country in upheaval where the rise of the individual hits up against the Communist Party’s determination to hang on to power. But it’s complicated. The newly wealthy and the young professionals conversant in pop culture and English nevertheless resist Western pressure.

Schulman, Daniel. Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. Grand Central. May 2014. 432p. ISBN 9781455518739. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781455518746. lib. ebk. ISBN 9781455579006. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. BIOGRAPHY
Their name is pronounced like the soft drink, but the Koch brothers don’t go down sweet and easy for some people, who object to their behind-the-scenes support of conservative causes, including efforts to deny global warming. Schulman serves as senior editor in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones but isn’t intending a critique here, aiming instead for a rounded biography. And it should be juicy, given the brothers’ history: after their father left them money he said would be a blessing or a curse, the brothers built the family’s oil and cattle empire into the second largest private corporation in America. But David and Charles ended up in a nearly two-decade feud with Bill and Frederick that nearly tore the corporation apart. Lots of media on this one.


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.