Wendy Davis, Dana Goldstein, Steven Pinker, Terry Pratchett, Tavis Smiley | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Sept. 2014, Pt. 5

Davis, Wendy. Untitled Memoir. Blue Rider. Sept. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780399170577. $27.95. MEMOIR/POLITICSwendydavis
A women’s rights heroine for her nearly 11-hour filibuster to block a bill that aimed to close all but five abortion clinics in Texas, Texas state senator Wendy Davis is equally famed for being a single mom who eventually got herself into Harvard Law School, which inspired some unfortunate sniping about biographical details. Now she’s the Democratic candidate for governor in Texas, a key race if there ever was one. Expect an informative and outspoken read.

Goldstein, Dana. The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. Doubleday. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780385536950. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385536967. EDUCATION
Winner of a 2010 Spencer Fellowship in education journalism and currently a Schwarz Fellow at the New America Foundation and a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute, Goldstein has the credentials to write this big book on the history of education in America. As she takes us from the feminization of teaching in the 1800s to the growth of unions and the current debates about testing, she argues that public schools have long been expected to do the impossible—that is, to make up for society’s shortcoming, particularly the burdens of poverty—even as Americans debate whether teachers are civil servants or academic teacherwarsprofessionals. No teacher bashing here.

Pinker, Steven. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Viking. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780670025855. $27.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LANGUAGE
Who better than a best-selling linguist and cognitive scientist to craft a style guide showing us how to use language more effectively, particularly in a world of unrelenting texting and tweets? Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard and a notable author (e.g., The Blank Slate), Pinker is also chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. But there’s no finger wagging here, just advice on how to apply guidelines judiciously and employ imagination and empathy along with grammatical good sense to produce fine writing.

Pratchett, Terry. A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction. Doubleday. Sept. 2014. 768p. ISBN 9780385538305. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385538336. HUMOR/ESSAYS
Pratchett is known to one and all as the celebrated (and knighted) creator of the best-selling Discworld titles, which have sold more than 75 million copies worldwide. But recently he’s been acknowledged for his nonfiction as well. This collection of essays ranges from mushrooms and banana daiquiris to the life of a writer and Gandalf’s presumed love life to important causes like animals’ rights and Alzheimer’s research.

Smiley, Tavis & David Ritz. Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year. Little, Brown. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780316332767. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316332712. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316332750. HISTORY
Host of PBS’s Tavis Smiley and Public Radio International’s The Tavis Smiley Show and author smileyof New York Times best sellers like What I Know for Sure, Smiley reconstructs the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in the year before his assassination—a particularly difficult time for him as he was brushed aside by President Johnson while being challenged by the press and by both black militants and members of the black middle class. Smiley will be a Book Expo America speaker. With a 75,000-copy first printing and a 12-city tour to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham, Jackson, New Orleans, Houston, Washington DC, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Detroit.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @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.