Hot-Button Issues from Gun Control to Abortion | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Oct. 2014, Pt. 2

Biskupic, Joan. Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Oct. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780374298746. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374712419. BIOGRAPHY
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer having released a memoir just last year, what can Biskupic bring to the table? Aside from her experience as a 20-year veteran of the Supreme Court beat and author of American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, it’s her approach. Biskupic offers a biography of Sotomayer that shows how the first Latina justice made the very best of social and political change—she’s a self-described affirmative-action baby—to become one of our most dynamic justices. changjeff

Chang, Jeff. Who We Be: The Colorization of America. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780312571290. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466854659. SOCIOLOGY
Chang won our attention with Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, a multi-award winner that’s now a standard text at hundreds of institutions nationwide and led to his being named a USA Ford Fellow in Literature. Here, examining contemporary art, campus protests, and corporate marketing campaigns (he’s executive director, Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford), Chang moves from the March on Washington to the killing of Trayvon Martin and beyond to examine how our views on race have—and haven’t changed—in 50 years.

Dwyer, Jim. More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest To Save Your Privacy from Facebook. Viking. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780670025602. $27.95. BUSINESS/COMMUNICATIONS
Ambitious Max, idealistic Ilya, brainiac coder Dan, and on-top-of-everything Rafi: four New York University undergraduates who dreamed of building a social network that would give users control of their own data instead of passing it on to big-brother corporations like Facebook. They called their project Diaspora and quickly raised start-up funds, but success eluded them, and Ilya eventually committed suicide. Dwyer, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for the New York Times, shows us shattered dreams while raising our concerns about lost privacy.

Giffords, Gabrielle & Mark Kelly. Enough: Our Fight To Keep America Safe from Gun Violence. Scribner. Oct. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781476750071. $25. POLITICAL SCIENCEenough
After the 2011 Tucson shooting that nearly killed Giffords, the former congresswoman joined with her husband, astronaut Kelly, to form Americans for Responsible Solutions. Its aim? To promote responsible gun ownership (the authors are gun owners and Second Amendment supporters), find ways to keep guns from criminals and the mentally ill, and encourage lawmakers to stop tiptoeing around the gun lobby and address the gun violence that has overrun us. With a four-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, Tucson, and Washington, DC; pubbing September 30.

Greene, David. Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia. Norton. Oct. 2014 320p. ISBN 9780393239959. $26.95. TRAVEL
Traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railroad with NPR host Greene sounds like good fun, but recent events in Ukraine make this book loom larger. What is life like after communism for the average Russian, and what is driving Putin’s Russia today? As Greene chats with ordinary Russians on his 6,000-mile way from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok, he discovers some answers.

Pollitt, Katha. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Picador. Oct. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780312620547. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781250055842. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Here’s a book that will surely kick up heated commentary. Nation columnist Pollitt, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award for her poetry and two National Magazine awards for her essays and criticism, reclaims women’s abortion rights at a time of relentless challenge, arguing that abortion must be considered a common aspect of a woman’s reproductive life—one in three American woman terminate a pregnancy before menopause—and that in today’s world it can be a source for social good.

Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy. Spiegel & Grau. Oct. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780812994520. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780812994537. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LAW
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1988, Stevenson traveled to Alabama, where speeded-up executions were threatening the very concept of justice as many of those condemned were too poor or disempowered to secure legal representation. To help such people, he founded the Equal Justice Initiative. Here, as he chronicles the case of a black man he defended at the time, he shows us how much we still need his Equal Justice Initiative. Note that MacArthur fellow Stevenson is a TED talker with a million-plus hits.


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.