Zadie Smith & Nassim Nicholas Taleb | February Nonfiction on Audio

Abrams, Jonathan. All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525529262. Read by January LaVoy, Jonathan Abrams, Prentice Onayemi, & Arthur Bishop.
Since its final episode aired in 2008, HBO’s acclaimed crime drama The Wire has only become more popular and influential. The issues it tackled, from the failures of the drug war and criminal justice system to systemic bias in law enforcement and other social institutions, have become more urgent and central to the national conversation. The show’s actors, such as Idris Elba, Dominic West, and Michael B. Jordan, have gone on to become major stars. Its creators and writers, including David Simon and Richard Price, have developed dedicated cult followings of their own. Universities use the show to teach everything from film theory to criminal justice to sociology. Politicians and activists reference it when discussing policy. When critics compile lists of the Greatest TV Shows of All Time, The Wire routinely takes the top spot. It is arguably one of the great works of art America has produced in the 20th century. But while there has been a great deal of critical analysis of the show and its themes, until now there has never been a definitive, behind-the-scenes take on how it came to be made.

Armstrong, Ken & T. Christian Miller. A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525526360. Read by Hillary Huber & the authors.
Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists tell the riveting true story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the detectives who followed a winding path to arrive at the truth. Based on investigative files and extensive interviews with the principals, A False Report is a serpentine tale of doubt, lies, and a hunt for justice, unveiling the disturbing reality of how sexual assault is investigated today—and the long history of skepticism toward rape victims.

Balko, Radley & Tucker Carrington. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478990437. Reader TBA.
This is an account of two tragedies. At the heart of the first is Dr. Steven Hayne, a doctor the State of Mississippi employed as its de facto medical examiner for two decades. Beginning in the late 1980s, he performed anywhere from 1,200 to 1,800 autopsies a year, five times more than is recommended, performed at night in the basement of a local funeral home. Autopsy reports claimed organs had been observed and weighed when, in reality, they had been surgically removed from the body years before. Hayne, the only game in town, also often brought in local dentist and self-styled “bite-mark specialist” Dr. Michael West, who would discover marks on victim’s bodies, at times invisible to the naked eye, and then match those marks—“indeed and without doubt”—to law enforcement’s lead suspect. This leads to the second tragic tale: that of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, two black men each convicted in separate cases of the brutal rape and murder of young girls. Dr. Hayne’s autopsy and Dr. West’s bite-mark matching formed the bases for their convictions. Combined, the two men served over thirty years in Parchman Farm, Mississippi’s notorious penitentiary, before being exonerated in 2008. Brooks’ and Brewer’s wrongful convictions lie at the intersection of both the most pressing problem facing this country’s criminal justice system—structural injustice built on the historic foundation of race and class—as well as with the much more contemporary but equally egregious problem of invalid forensic science. The old problem is inextricably bound up with and exacerbates the new.

Barth, F. Diane. I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women’s Lives. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538511459. Read by Erin Bennett.
“Do I have enough friends?” “Why did my friendship end?” and “What makes a good friendship work?” These are questions that F. Diane Barth, a psychotherapist widely recognized for her expertise in women’s relationships, fields all the time. In I Know How You Feel, she draws out engaging stories from a lively and diverse cast of women, many of whom speak about feelings they haven’t shared before. She explores how life changes affect women’s friendships in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Interweaving examples from classic women’s literature to chick flicks, she provides grounded advice on how to manage betrayal and rejection, how to deal with a narcissistic or bossy friend, what to do when your best friend and your family don’t get along, how to let go of a friendship that has stopped working, and much more.

Callow, Simon. Being Wagner: The Story of the Most Provocative Composer Who Ever Lived. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525632443. Read by the author.
Richard Wagner’s music dramas have never been more popular or more divisive. His ten masterpieces, created against the backdrop of a continent in severe political and cultural upheaval, constitute an unmatched body of work. A man who spent most of his life in abject poverty, inspiring both critical derision and hysterical hero-worship, Wagner was a walking contradiction: belligerent, flirtatious, disciplined, capricious, demanding, visionary, and poisonously anti-Semitic. Acclaimed biographer Simon Callow evokes the intellectual and artistic climate in which Wagner lived and takes us through his most iconic works, from his pivotal successes in The Flying Dutchman and Lohengrin, to the musical paradigm shift contained in Tristan and Isolde, to the apogee of his achievements in The Ring of the Nibelung and Parsifal, which debuted at Bayreuth shortly before his death. Being Wagner brings to life this towering figure, creator of the most sublime and most controversial body of work ever known.

Cantú, Francisco. The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525528302. Read by the author.
For Cantú, the border is in the blood. His mother, a second-generation Mexican American, raised him in Arizona’s desert scrublands and the national parks where she worked as a ranger, driven to protect the places she loved. Haunted by the landscape of his youth, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. Stationed at the remote crossroads of a drug route and a smuggling corridor, he learns how to track other humans under the punishing glare of the sun and through dark, frigid nights. He detains the exhausted, the parched, huddled children yearning for their families. He hauls in the bodies from where they have fallen. Plagued by nightmares, Cantú abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when a friend, a regular at the café where he now works, travels back to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantu discovers that the border and its stories have migrated with him.

Garnier, Stéphane. How To Think Like a Cat. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520098388. Read by George Newbern.
The Cat is calm, observant, charismatic, independent, proud, and joyful; he knows how to strut and is impervious to judgement; he accepts himself as he is and adapts quickly; he knows to say nothing and to avoid conflicts, and yet he knows exactly what he wants and dares to ask for it. The Cat is free. After observing his cat, Ziggy, for years, Stéphane Garnier became convinced that cats have life down to an art form, so he set out to share Ziggy’s je ne sais quoi with the world. Highlighting forty trademark cat qualities that are (almost) entirely applicable to human daily living, Garnier provides insights that are delightfully useful as well as tips for living a day in the life of a cat-and a Q&A to test your “cat quotient” to see how much work you have to do learn the subtle art of living like a feline.

Goddard, Neville. Five Lessons: A Master Class. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520092935, Read by John Chancer.
In 1948, the modern mystic Neville Goddard presented a groundbreaking series of lessons, which many consider to be his clearest, most penetrating explanation of his methods regarding mental creativity. This audiobook recording of the five-part course he gave to Los Angeles students recreates that master class, preserving his words exactly as those original students heard them. It includes the following lessons: 1. Consciousness Is the Only Reality, 2. Assumptions Harden into Fact, 3. Thinking Fourth-Dimensionally, 4. No One to Change but Self, 5. Remain Faithful to Your Idea.


Knapp, Cheston. Up Up, Down Down. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520092812. Read by the author.
Knapp tackles Big Questions through seemingly unlikely avenues: an examination of a local professional wrestling promotion becomes a meditation on pain and his relationship with his father; a profile on UFO enthusiasts ends up probing his history in the church and, more broadly, the nature and limits of faith itself; attending an adult skateboarding camp launches him into a virtuosic analysis of nostalgia; and the shocking murder of a neighbor expands into an interrogation of our culture’s prevailing ideas about community and the way we tell the stories of our lives.

Origgi, Gloria. Reputation: What It Is and Why It Matters. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501975691. Read by Andrea Gallo.
Reputation touches almost everything, guiding our behavior and choices in countless ways. But it is also shrouded in mystery. Why is it so powerful when the criteria by which people and things are defined as good or bad often appear to be arbitrary? Why do we care so much about how others see us that we may even do irrational and harmful things to try to influence their opinion? In this engaging book, Gloria Origgi draws on philosophy, social psychology, sociology, economics, literature, and history to offer an illuminating account of an important yet oddly neglected subject. Origgi examines the influence of the Internet and social media, as well as the countless ranking systems that characterize modern society and contribute to the creation of formal and informal reputations in our social relations, in business, in politics, in academia, and even in wine. She highlights the importance of reputation to the effective functioning of the economy and e-commerce. Origgi also discusses the existential significance of our obsession with reputation, concluding that an awareness of the relationship between our reputation and our actions empowers us to better understand who we are and why we do what we do.

Preston, Diana. Paradise in Chains: The Bounty Mutiny and the Founding of Australia. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501968037. Read by Davina Porter.
The story of the mutiny of the Bounty and William Bligh and his men’s survival on the open ocean for 48 days and 3,618 miles has become the stuff of legend. But few realize that Bligh’s escape across the seas was not the only open-boat journey in that era of British exploration and colonization. Indeed, 9 convicts from the Australian penal colony, led by Mary Bryant, also traveled 3,250 miles across the open ocean and some uncharted seas to land at the same port Bligh had reached only months before.

Schaefer, Kayleen. Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525527541. Read by Lauren Fortgang.
Kayleen Schaefer has experienced (and occasionally, narrowly survived) most every iteration of the modern female friendship. First there was the mean girl cliques of the ’90s; then the teenage friendships that revolved around constant discussion of romantic interests and which slowly morphed into “Sex and the City” spin-offs; the disheartening loneliness of “I’m not like other girls” friendships with only men; the discovery of a platonic soulmate; and finally, the overwhelming love of a supportive female squad (#squad). And over the course of these friendships, Schaefer made a startling discovery: girls make the best friends. And she isn’t the only one to realize this. Through interviews with friends, mothers, authors, celebrities, business women, doctors, screenwriters, and historians (a list that includes Judy Blume, Megan Abbott, The Fug Girls, and Kay Cannon), Schaefer shows a remarkable portrait of what female friendships can help modern women accomplish in their social, personal and work lives. A validation of female friendship unlike any that’s ever existed before, this book is a mix of historical research, the author’s own personal experience, and conversations about friendships across the country. Everything Schaefer uncovers leads to–and makes the case for–the eventual conclusion that these ties among women are making us (both as individuals and as society as a whole) stronger than ever before.

Smith, Patti. Devotion: Why I Write. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538539583. Reader TBA.
Patti Smith first presents an original and beautifully crafted tale of obsession—a young skater who lives for her art, a possessive collector who ruthlessly seeks his prize, a relationship forged of need both craven and exalted. She then takes us on a second journey, exploring the sources of her story. We travel through the South of France to Camus’ house, and visit the garden of the great publisher Gallimard where the ghosts of Mishima, Nabokov, and Genet mingle. Smith tracks down Simone Weil’s grave in a lonely cemetery, hours from London, and winds through the nameless Paris streets of Patrick Modiano’s novels. Whether writing in a café or a train, Smith generously opens her notebooks and lets us glimpse the alchemy of her art and craft in this arresting and original book on writing.

Smith, Zadie. Feel Free. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525528753. Read by Nikki Amuka-Bird.
Arranged into four sections–In the World, In the Audience, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free–this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network–and Facebook itself–really about? “It’s a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore.” Why do we love libraries? “Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay.” What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? “So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we’d just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes–and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat.”

Stone, Daniel. The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525531159. Read by the author.
In the 19th century, American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable lust to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater. Kale from Croatia, mangoes from Manila, and hops from Bavaria. Cashews from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from Malta. Fairchild’s finds weren’t just limited to food: from Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and via Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening our nation’s capital. Along the way, he was arrested, caught diseases, and bargained with island tribes. But his culinary ambition came during a formative era, and through him, America transformed from a blank agricultural canvas to the most diverse food system ever created.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525630920. Read by Joe Ochman.
Citing examples ranging from Hammurabi to Seneca, Antaeus the Giant to Donald Trump, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows how the willingness to accept one’s own risks is an essential attribute of heroes, saints, and flourishing people in all walks of life. Taleb challenges long-held beliefs about the values of those who spearhead military interventions, make financial investments, and propagate religious faiths. Among his insights: For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing; Ethical rules aren’t universal; Minorities, not majorities, run the world; You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot; Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find); and True religion is commitment, not just faith.

Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

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