Assad to Cyberwarfare to Uncomfortable Conversations | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Jun. 2018

Auletta, Ken. Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else). Penguin Pr. Jun. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780735220867. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780525633310. Downloadable. MEDIA STUDIES
Longtime “Annals of Communications” columnist for The New Yorker, NYPL Literary Lion Auletta examines the $2 trillion global advertising and marketing business, seriously under siege since the Digital Age dawned. With conversations from old-guard Sir Martin Sorrell, head of the world’s largest ad agency holding company, to Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s head of Sales.

Dagher, Sam. Assad, Or We Burn the Country: How One Family’s Lust for Power Destroyed Syria. Little Brown. Jun. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780316556729. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316556705. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316518307. Downloadable. POLITICAL SCIENCE
Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, Dagher has lasered in on the war in Syria since 2012 and for a time was one of few Western reporters and the only American based full-time in Damascus. So look to this account of President Bashar al-Assad’s determined destruction of his country and his people over six years, creating a humanitarian crisis of immeasurable proportions.

Di Robilant, Andrea. Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse. Knopf. Jun. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781101946657. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101946664. LITERATURE
A tapped-out Hemingway hadn’t published a novel in years when he visited Venice in 1948. There, he fell in love with beautiful young Adriana Ivancich, eventually using her as the model for Renata in Across the River and into the Trees and inspired by her company when he has writing The Old Man and the Sea. Di Robilant (A Venetian Affair) comes naturally by this story; his great-uncle partied with Hemingway.

Griswold, Eliza. Amity and Prosperity: A Story of Energy in Two American Towns. Farrar. Jun. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780374103118. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374713713. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Prize for her New York Times best-selling The Tenth Parallel, Griswold makes fracking upfront and personal by taking us to impoverished Amity, PA, where lifetime resident Stacey Haney initially welcomed the cash fracking brought. Then animals began to die, inexplicable illnesses struck, and Haney took it upon herself to uncover corporate wrongdoing.

Halevi, Yossi Klein. Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. Harper. Jun. 2018. 160p. ISBN 9780062844910. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062844934. HISTORY
Author of the award-winning Like Dreamers, as well as Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist (he once associated with groups like the Jewish Defense League), Halevi left New York in the 1970s to help build the Jewish homeland. Now he wants to see it as morally responsible, here reaching out to Palestinians: “ ‘Neighbor’ might be too casual a word to describe our relationship. We are intruders into each other’s dream.”

Harman, Oren. Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World. Farrar. Jun. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9780374150709. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374716530. SCIENCE
Once there were the cosmologies of the ancients, and it sounds as if Harman speaks their language. But when he introduces us to an anxious mitochondrion bringing forth sex and death and consciousness springing from an octopus’s memory, such mythologizing reveals the beauty of scientific discoveries and how they clarify a world never completely transparent. From a Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner.

Hersh, Seymour M. Reporter: A Memoir. Knopf. Jun. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780307263957. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525521587. CD/downloadable. MEMOIR
Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for revealing the massacre in My Lai, Vietnam, Hersh has circled the globe to tackle the tough stories, winning five George Polk Awards, two National Magazine Awards, and more. Now here are the stories behind the stories, to show how reporting works.

Iftin, Abdi Nor. Call Me American: A Memoir. Knopf. Jun. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781524732196. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524732202. Downloadable. MEMOIR
Having learned English by imbibing American pop songs and movies, Somali-born Iftin secretly posted dispatches to NPR and the Internet when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab took over his country. A tough path led him to Kenya, America’s annual visa lottery, and finally Maine, where he works as a translator for fellow Somalis while studying political science at the University of Southern Maine. Bravo!

Lively, Penelope. Life in the Garden. Viking. Jun. 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780525558378. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780525558385. Downloadable. MEMOIR
“To garden is to elide past, present, and future; it is a defiance of time.” So says Booker Prize winner Lively, whose recent The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories was an LJ Best Short Story Collection. Recalling flowers flourishing at her childhood home in Cairo, at a Somerset cottage, and in Oxford and London settings, Lively uses gardening to reflect on art, literature, and life.

Quart, Alissa. Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America. Ecco. Jun. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780062412256. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062412270. SOCIAL SCIENCE
High childcare costs, meager family-leave policies, no dependable working hours. No wonder Americans feel financially stressed, says Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and a Los Angeles Press Club Award winner; raising children is so expensive. From policy fixes to more personal approaches, she’s got solutions. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Sanger, David E. The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age. Crown. Jun. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780451497895. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780451497918. Downloadable. POLITICAL SCIENCE
What’s a bigger threat to America’s safety than terrorism or even nuclear attack? Cyberwarfare, which is easy to acquire, hard to guard against, and able to disrupt and damage key infrastructure and, as we are seeing, influence elections. Chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, Sanger (The Inheritance) shocks us awake.

Wood, Zachary R. Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America. Dutton. Jun. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781524742447. $26; ebk. ISBN 978152474246. Downloadable. MEMOIR
A Robert L. Bartley Fellow at the Wall Street Journal, Wood will graduate from Williams College in 2018, having served as president of Uncomfortable Learning, a student group drawing national attention with its provocative speakers—folks with whom Wood sometimes strongly disagrees. Here he relates growing up poor and black in Washington, DC, learning to live between his tough neighborhood and elite school. My vote for one of next year’s most important books.

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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