Present and Future | Social Science Previews, Sept. 2017

Bruder, Jessica. Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. Norton. Sept. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780393249316. $26.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Expanding her eye-opening Harper’s cover story, “The End of Retirement,” which shows that many Americans can no longer afford to quit work during the so-called golden years, Bruder introduces nomadlandus to an intrepid bunch that give new meaning to the term road trip as they take to their RVs to become migrant laborers, or “workampers.” To get an insider’s understanding, Bruder worked on Amazon’s CamperForce at a huge warehouse in Texas

Campbell, Deborah. A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War. Picador. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781250147875. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781250147899. POLITICAL SCIENCE
Working undercover in Damascus to report on the Iraqi refugees flooding into Syria after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, Canadian-based National Magazine Award winner Campbell befriended Ahlam, who supported her family by supplying Western media with information and contacts. Then Ahlam was kidnapped, and Campbell worked overtime to try to find her. Rave reviews in Canada, where the book won the prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction.

Chu, Lenora. Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race To Achieve. Harper. Sept. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062367853. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062367877. FAMILY/EDUCATION
An American journalist of Chinese heritage working in Shanghai, Chu was quick to notice that Chinese youngsters were better behaved than her wild-child three-year-old, Rainer, even as chuChinese students reached the top spot in international academic rankings. But she and her husband had mixed feelings after putting Rainer in China’s state-run public school system. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Drozdiak, William. Fractured Continent: Europe’s Crises and the Fate of the West. Norton. Sept. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9780393608687. $26.95. POLITICAL SCIENCE
Europe as a whole staggers from a surge of desperate refugees, right wingers threaten to overcome centrists, and Spain and Greece contend with extreme economic difficulties. Then there’s Brexit. What does this all mean for America? Pulitzer Prize finalist Drozdiak, a former editor and chief European correspondent of the Washington Post, explains.

Ewalt, David M. Defying Reality: The Inside Story of the Virtual Reality Revolution. Blue Rider. Sept. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781101983713. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101983737. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. TECHNOLOGY/BUSINESS
Ewalt (Of Dice and Men) tracks the development of virtual reality, from its start in Cold War military laboratories to breakthroughs wrought by a 19-year-old video game fan to the high profile now sustained by the Silicon Valley–based, hundred-billion-dollar industry. Based on a 2015 cover story for Forbes, where Ewalt is a contributing editor.

Foer, Franklin. World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. Penguin Pr. Sept. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781101981115. ebk. ISBN 9781101981139. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. TECHNOLOGY
It’s so convenient to shop at Amazon, meet and greet on Facebook, and search Google. Maybe a little too convenient, argues Atlantic correspondent Foer (How Soccer Explains the World). Even as these huge conglomerates cheer themselves on as proponents of individuality and pluralism, they squash us into conformity, invade our privacy, facilitate misinformation, and in general threaten to create “a world without mind.” Ripe for discussion.

Genoways, Ted. This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm. Norton. Sept. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780393292572. $26.95. AGRICULTURE
Winner of a National Press Club Award, Genoways explores the fate of American farming today by chronicling the experiences of Rick Hammond who grew up on a farm and has been raising cattle and crops kerstetteron his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska for 40 years. But will his children take over the farm, and can small family farms endure in America?

Kerstetter, Jon. Crossings: A Doctor-Soldier’s Story. Crown. Sept. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9781101904374. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101904381. MEMOIR
Raised in poverty on an Oneida reservation, Kerstetter followed service as a volunteer medic in Kosovo and Bosnia with time in Iraq as a medic and an officer, which meant he was tasked with both healing and killing. Injury and stroke during his third tour of duty left him unable to do either. Great in-house buzz as a beautiful and affecting memoir.

Kyncl, Robert & Maany Peyvan. Streampunks: YouTube and the Rebels Remaking Media. HarperBusiness. Sept. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780062657732. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062657749. BUSINESS/ENTERTAINMENT
YouTube’s chief business officer offers an account of YouTube’s rise to power, showing how streaming video has revolutionized media and entertainment. And he argues that streaming does not impoverish artists, financially or imaginatively, but has inspired a creative boom that’s led to richer and more diverse content. Another book ripe for discussion; with a 60,000-copy first printing.

Livesey, Finbarr. From Global to Local: The Making of Things and the End of Globalization. Pantheon. Sept. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781101871218. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101871225. Downloadable: Random Audio. ECONOMICS/POLITICSlivesey
We’re so convinced that globalization is the name of the game, now and in the future, in business, government, and culture, that we’re not noticing signs that the world is shifting away from that model. So argues Livesey, a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge, pointing to increased automation, additive manufacturing, and environmental pressures among many factors.

McGregor, Richard. Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century. Viking. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780399562679. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780399562686. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. WORLD POLITICS
China’s rise, Japan stagnation, their long history of conflict, and President Trump’s utter disinterest in diplomatic niceties all combine to create a volatile environment in East Asia today. Veteran journalist McGregor surveys the military, diplomatic, and economic relations among China, Japan, and the United States since the 1970s to help us figure out what’s next.

Markham, Lauren. The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life. Crown. Sept. 2017. ISBN 9781101906187. $27. ebk. ISBN 9781101906194. Downloadable: Random Audio. BIOGRAPHY/CURRENT EVENTS
Raised in rural El Salvador in the shadow of civil war, Ernesto Flores always dreamed of going to the United States. When he offended a dangerous gang in the region, he had to flee north for his safety, followed by identical twin Raul. Here’s the story of how these two 17-year-olds ended up in the custody of an estranged older brother in Oakland, CA, and learned to adapt to America.

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.

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