Clinton, Coates, Taibbi, & More | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Oct. 2017, Pt. 1

Blakeslee, Nate. American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West. Crown. Oct. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781101902783. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781101902790. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. NATURAL HISTORY
Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and a New York Times Notable Book, Blakeslee’s Tulia dealt with wrongful conviction in a small Texas town. His new work also deals with the wrongfully maligned, the majestic wolf, here for millennia and now being forced out of its natural habitat. He tells the story of American wolves by focusing on O-Six, a legendary female wolf at Yellowstone that is loved by the park’s rangers and has proved to be both an indefatigable pack leader and a fond mother to her cubs. But ranchers and hunters are not on their side.

Clinton, Hillary Rodham. Untitled Personal Essays. S. & S. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781501175565. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781501175572. MEMOIR/POLITICALclinton
This just in: a new book from Clinton that features essays about her life, all the way up to the 2016 presidential campaign. The pieces are inspired by quotations she has collected over the years. As she says, “These are the words I live by. These quotes have helped me celebrate the good times, laugh at the absurd times, persevere during the hard times, and deepen my appreciation of all life has to offer. I hope by sharing these words and my thoughts about them, the essays will be meaningful for readers.”

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. We Were Eight Years in Power: A Journey Through the Obama Era. One World: Random. Oct. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780399590566. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780399590580. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. SOCIAL SCIENCE/ESSAYS
Coates, who took readers by storm with the National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me, follows up with a collection of essays that sweep through the Obama era. Included are annotated versions of much-discussed essays he wrote for the Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President”; two new essays that reassess the Obama era and consider what’s to come; and a big piece based on Coates’s interviews with President Obama during his final year in office. Also included: shorter essays on the arts, language, and media that defined the era. Chock-full.

Doughty, Caitlin. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World To Find the Good Death. Norton. Oct. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780393249897. $24.95. MEMOIR
In Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a New York Times best seller and LibraryReads topdoughty pick, mortician Doughty explained how she came to her job while trying to persuade us to be more accepting of death. Here she looks at how those in other countries confront life’s end, showing us the careful cleaning and dressing of a grandfather’s two-year-old mummy in rural Indonesia and Bolivia’s natitas, human skulls that puff on cigarettes and are said to grant wishes. From new approaches to death (e.g., green burial) to new rituals (open-air pyres), these are serious and important concerns, but it’s not surprising to see publication falling in the month of Halloween.

Gessen, Masha. The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. Riverhead. Oct. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781594634536. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780698406209. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. HISTORY
Activist Russian American journalist Gessen, author of the best-selling The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, charts the emergence of a new brand of autocracy in Russia today by charting the lives of four people born at the time communism fell. Entrepreneurs or intellectuals, they grew up ready to break boundaries, with big hopes and dreams that have been stripped away by the state.

Sacks, Oliver. The River of Consciousness. Knopf. Oct. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780385352567. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385352574. Downloadable: Random Audio. SCIENCE/NEUROSCIENCE
One of two books distinguished scientist and best-selling author Sacks was working on at his death in 2015, this essay collection grapples with the key ideas of evolution, creativity, time, memory, consciousness, and experience. Given the sheer range of his knowledge, the connections he makes here are bound to shimmer.

Taibbi, Matt. I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street. Spiegel and Grau. Oct. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780812988840. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780812988864. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. SOCIAL SCIENCEtaibbi
Eric Garner’s death in July 2014, after a police officer on Staten Island, New York, put him in a chokehold for selling single cigarettes, was captured on video and horrified millions, with national protests contributing to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Shortly thereafter, two New York police officers were killed by a young black man from Maryland claiming revenge. Taibbi, a National Magazine Award winner and the author of three New York Times best sellers (e.g., The Divide), takes on a seminal event in race relations today.

Wills, Garry. What the Qur’an Meant: And Why It Matters. Viking. Oct. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781101981023. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781101981030. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. RELIGION
Does the Qur’an justify violence in the name of Islam? You can’t really say if you don’t have any understanding of the text, which top religious scholar Wills aims to provide. Wills, who has a stack of New York Times best sellers to his name, takes a serious look at the text itself, examining its precepts and comparing it with other sacred books to show why Muslims and non-Muslims alike have found the Qur’an a source of inspiration.

Wilson, Edward O. The Origins of Creativity. Liveright: Norton. Oct. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781631493188. $24.95. SCIENCE
After The Meaning of Human Existence, world-renowned biologist/naturalist Wilson continues to wax philosophical, drawing on paleontology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience to consider the source of human creativity. Wilson sees creativity emerging not 10,000 years ago, as scientists have long opined, but more than 100,000 years ago, and he draws on everything from song to metaphor to gardening as he explains how the creative impulse moved from primates to humans. What’s next? A “Third Enlightenment” blending of science and the humanities to clarify the origins of the human condition.

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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