Seeking Justice, Uncovering the Past, & More | Nonfiction Previews, Jan. 2018

Burke Harris, Nadine, M.D. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780544828704. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780544828728. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, profiled in The New Yorker, and a TED talker whose “I Was Thinking Too Small” has been viewed 2.5 million times, Burke Harris has changed how we think about the impact of childhood adversity. She was inspired to investigate the relationship between long-standing illness and adverse childhood experiences (ACE) when a young male patient stopped growing after a sexual trauma. Surveying 17,000 adult patients, she found that the higher the incidence of experiences like divorce, abuse, and parental substance dependence, the worse the adult’s health. Further investigation led her to conclude that ACEs change neural systems with lifelong consequences. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Crump, Benjamin. Open Season: Legalized Genocide of People of Color. Amistad. Jan. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780062375094. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062375117. LAW/MEMOIR
The president of the National Bar Association and a leading civil rights attorney who recently represented Trayvon Martin’s family, Crump has handled cases in state and federal courts nationwide. Here, he relies on those cases when arguing not simply that in our justice system the protections of the Constitution aren’t applied equally regarding race and class but that the system is rigged actually to harm people of color. He expands his case by considering factors ranging from the 13th Amendment, the 1951 Genocide Petition to the United Nations, and the Stand Your Ground laws to the impact of increased gun ownership and decreased education spending. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Giffels, David. Furnishing Eternity: A Father, a Son, a Coffin, and a Measure of Life. Scribner. Jan. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781501105944. $24. MEMOIR
Giffels made us think with the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award–nominated The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt  and charmed us with the memoir All the Way Home, an Ohioana Book Award winner about reconstructing an about-to-be-condemned Gilded Age mansion with his family. Now, having turned 50, suffering the deaths of his mother and his best friend, and fretting about spending the time left with his octogenarian father as best he could, Giffels returned to his father’s workshop and constructed a coffin with him. The result shows him reconciling with mortality while offering an affirmative account of a father-son relationship. Giffels does well as a voice of the Midwest, as the promo has it, but this is for everyone.

Leland, John. Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Jan. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780374168186. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374717056. CD: Macmillan Audio. SELF-HELP
His marriage over and his elderly mother waiting to die, award-winning New York Times journalist Leland wondered whether one could reach a point where life was simply not worth living. Then he launched a series for the newspaper investigating the lives of those over 85, America’s fastest-growing age group. Instead of physical and mental deterioration, the six individuals he focused on revealed a wonderful sense of joy and resilience from which we could all learn. The series proved popular, winning nearly half a million online views for the finale alone along with the print readers; this expansion should make you happy.

Petrowskaja, Katja. Maybe Esther: A Family Story. Harper. Jan. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780062337542. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062337580. MEMOIR/HISTORY
With her family fractured by the terrible events of the 20th century and spread across continents, Ukraine-born, Berlin-based Petrowskaja decided to construct a family tree and ended up probing various stories about her ancestors to find meaning in their complex trajectories. Among those she profiles here are Russian grandfather Semyon, who went underground during the revolution; Ukrainian grandfather Vasily, who vanished during World War II and reappeared four decades later; great-uncle Judas Stern, sentenced to death for shooting a German diplomatic attaché in 1932; grandmother Rosa, who ran an orphanage in the Urals for deaf-mute Jewish children; and a great-grandmother who remained in Kiev and was killed by the Nazis. (Her name may have been Esther, hence the title.) An award winner sold to more than 20 countries; not a huge first printing at 25,000 but a book that should be considered.

Pink, Daniel H. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Riverhead. Jan. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780735210622. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780735210646. lrg. prnt. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. BUSINESS/DECISION MAKING
The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author of books like To Sell Is Human, who’s promoted his brand through podcasts (called “Pinkcasts”) and a newsletter with a 100,000-plus readership, Pink returns to tell us how to improve our timing. When is the best time to change jobs or careers? How do we discern patterns in our day that determine the ideal schedule? Why is singing in time with other people good for us and going to the hospital in the afternoon bad for us? Pink draws on research in psychology, biology, and economics to provide the answers. Booming in-house excitement.

Raulff, Ulrich. Farewell to the Horse: A Cultural History. Liveright: Norton. Jan. 2018. 480p. tr. from German by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. ISBN 9781631494321. $35. ANIMALS
Raulff is the award-winning director of the German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar, which makes his subject unexpected: he offers a history of our relationship with horses, which for millennia have allowed us to travel fast, cultivate fields, fight wars, and build civilizations. There would hardly be a human civilization without our fine fetlocked friends, but with mechanization the horse has tragically been losing out. Not just for horse people, though they are committed readers; this is a book for all history lovers.

Sharkey, Patrick. Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence. Norton. Jan. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780393609608. $26.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE/URBAN
The good news: in the last two decades, crime in American cities has tumbled, and the country is safer than it’s been for over a half-century. The bad news? Says Sharkey, sociology chair at New York University, the cause is partly high incarceration rates and abuse of our justice system, which have heightened inequality in the urban environment and threaten a new rise in crime. He’s got suggestions for better ways to counter urban crime and punishing poverty. From a sought-after speaker on the subject; expect related interviews, features, and op-eds when the book is published.

Tolan, Robbie & Lawrence Ross. No Justice: One White Police Officer, One Black Family, and How One Bullet Ripped Us Apart. Center Street: Hachette. Jan. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781478976653. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781478976639. lib. ebk. ISBN 9781546082743. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. HISTORY/AFRICAN AMERICAN
We’ve been shocked by so many stories of African Americans shot and killed by the police. Here’s an equally shocking story of a young black man who was shot and lived. Son of Major League veteran Bobby Tolan, Robbie Tolan was anticipating a career with the Washington Nationals until white Bellaire police officers wrongly suspected him of driving a stolen car and shot him close to his heart on his parents’ front lawn. Though he survived, his career was destroyed, and he fought a long battle for justice that ended with acquittal of police officer Jeffery Cotton in the criminal case and a financial settlement in the civil suit against Cotton and the city of Bellaire, WA, where the incident took place. Tolan’s story has been covered extensively, and with folks like Russell Simmons promoting the book to his 3.5 million Twitter followers, this book should be in demand.


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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