Lynsey Addario, Mohsin Hamid, Mac McClellan, Richard Rhodes | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Feb. 2015, Pt. 1

Addario, Lynsey. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. Penguin Pr. Feb. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9781594205378. $29.95. MEMOIR/PHOTOJOURNALISM
Addario isn’t just any photojournalist—she’s a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer addarioPrize in International Reporting who came to everyone’s attention when she was kidnapped by pro-Qaddafi forces during Libya’s civil war. As such, she should offer more than a little insight into the contemporary world. Having photographed for publications from the New York Times to National Geographic, Addario here gives us  images that capture the Afghan people before and after the Taliban ascendancy, insurgents and civilian casualties in Iraq, death in Darfur, and violence against women in the Congo. Even as she shows us the human side of war, she blends in her personal story—her fight to break into a male-dominated profession, finally finding the right man to marry, and having a child. With a national author tour; inevitably newsworthy, and the visuals for the book’s promotion will be great.

Hamid, Mohsin. Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London. Riverhead. Feb. 2015. 240p. ISBN 9781594633652. $27.95. LITERARY COLLECTIONS/ESSAYS
The internationally best-selling author of three eye-opening novels—Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia—Hamid has been described as a “master critic of the modern global condition” by Foreign Policy. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Born in Pakistan, to which he returned after starting a family; raised in the United States; and a citizen of Britain, where he married, Hamid has a world-sweeping view, as revealed here in hamidessays on the courtship rituals in different countries and the scariness of drones. East really does meet West in his vision, and he helps us understand both.

McClellan, Mac. Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story. Flatiron: Macmillan. Feb. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781250052896. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250053497. MEMOIR/MEDICAL
In July, my picks included David J. Morris’s The Evil Hours: A Biography of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, the story of war correspondent and former marine Morris’s struggle with PTSD. One month later, here’s a similar book, a measure of our growing recognition of how pervasive and serious PTSD is. Veteran human-rights journalist McClellan returned home from covering the 2010 Haitian earthquake and its aftereffects to find herself suffering bouts of sleeplessness, uncontrollable sobbing, and the vivid conjuring of violent images. Recognizing PTSD when she saw it, she set out to understand the history and consequences of this disorder, typically associated with soldiers returning from war but, as McClellan shows, more often resulting from other types of trauma. She also learned to heal, opening her heart to love. Expect good writing; McClellan has won a stack of awards, been twice nominated for a National Magazine Award, and been anthologized in numerous “best writing” books.

Rhodes, Richard. Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World It Made. S. & S. Feb. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9781451696219. $30. HISTORY
Rhodes notably won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but he’s written over two dozen other widely ranging works of nonfiction and fiction. Here he takes on the Spanish civil war, presented as a significant turning point that presaged how military conflict would roll out for the remainder of the 20th century. New weapons and new military strategies emerged, as did significant advances in battlefield surgery; this account emphasizes the perspective of doctors and nurses, as well as the artists and writers who famously bore witness, from Pablo Picasso to Ernest Hemingway to Martha Gellhorn. Important reading as we approach the 70th anniversary of the war’s opening.


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.