Knausgaard, Macy, Tomalin, & More | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Aug. 2018

Chivers, C.J. The Fighters. S. & S. Aug. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781451676648. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781451676679. MILITARY HISTORY
Part of a team that won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, Chivers walked the walk with American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq for over a dozen years. Now, as a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine, he won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing for “The Fighter.” Here he expands on that piece as he details the courage and camaraderie, suffering and moral confusion of the fighters he met.

Hedges, Chris. America: The Farewell Tour. S. & S. Aug. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9781501152672. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781501152696. HISTORY
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Hedges spent 15 years as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and now serves as a columnist for the progressive website Truthdig and host of the TV program On Contact. Here he sees America saying good-bye, with job uncertainty and rapid social change leading to despair, drug abuse, and rising anger at anything that looks other. Sent as a warning.

Kandel, Eric R. The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves. Farrar. Aug. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780374287863. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780374716103. NEUROSCIENCE
Winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking research into the brain’s storage of memory, Kandel here considers that core question: how does mind (that is, our individual sense of self) arise from the physical matter that is brain? One way of attempting an answer is to look at the careful connections among the brain’s 100 billion neurons, which when disrupted results in disorders from schizophrenia to autism. Thus does the disordered mind suggest how the ordered mind works.

Knausgaard, Karl Ove. Summer. Penguin Pr. Aug. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780399563393. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780399563409. MEMOIR
The singular Norwegian author Knausgaard, whose multi-part “My Struggle” was celebrated worldwide, now wraps up an ongoing literary project that’s divided into four parts by season and purveys his own unvarnished memories and emotions to reflect on fatherhood. Continuing to speak to his new daughter, he also details his troubled relationship with his own father as he recalls rural Swedish summers filled with misquotes and barbecues (Swedish barbeques!). With illustrations by Anselm Kiefer.

Macy, Beth. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America. Little, Brown. Aug. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780316551243. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316551281. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316551212. CD/Downloadable. ADDICTION
Macy, who had a New York Times best seller with Factory Man and a national best seller with Truevine, both highly praised, works by portrait to explain America’s opioid crisis. Starting with a single drug dealer who set about hooking high school football stars in a small Virginia town, then moving to users, families, and first responders, she goes on to show that the crisis is rooted in both greed and desperation; addiction thrives on the pain engendered by unemployment and diminished opportunity in this country today. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Marías, Javier. Between Eternities. Vintage. Aug. 2018. 272p. tr. from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. ISBN 9781101972113. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101972106. LITERATURE
Spanish author Marías, an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner who broke out here with The Infatuations, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book (Thus Bad Begins followed), has published 19 volumes collecting the weekly columns he’s been writing for two decades for the newspaper El País. Only a few of these essays have appeared in English. This volume offers a best-of-the-best survey of incisive pieces ranging from classic cinema and comic books to mortality and Marías’s black-sheep uncle.

Quammen, David. The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life. S. & S. Aug. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9781476776620. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781476776644. SCIENCE
With recent discoveries in molecular biology, life is starting to look very different. In particular, horizontal gene transfer (HGT), the movement of genes across species lines, appears to be a significant aspect of evolution; about eight percent of the human genome derives not from inheritance but viral infection, a type of HGT. With the ascendance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a direct result of HGT, this issue takes on signal importance for human health. From Quammen, winner of the NYPL/Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism and a National Book Critics Circle finalist for Spillover.

Swift, Earl. Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island. Dey St: Morrow. Aug. 2018. 464p. ISBN 9780062661395. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780062661418. NATURE
A 1.3-square-mile scrap of land in Chesapeake Bay, known as the soft-shell-crab capital of the world, Tangier Island is just a few feet about sea level and is losing 15 feet of shoreline a year. It’s thus poised to disappear soon, becoming America’s first victim of climate change. Swift, a veteran reporter for Norfolk’s Virginian-Pilot and a former Fulbright Scholar, lived on the island for two years, getting to know a community numbering under 1,000 who speak a distinct dialect and whose way of life looks doomed. An important book capturing macro changes through microcosm; with a 100,000-copy first printing.

Tomalin, Claire. A Life of My Own: A Biographer’s Life. Penguin Pr. Aug. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780399562914. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399562921. MEMOIR
Tomalin has written eight exemplary biographies, including the Whitbread Book Award–winning Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self and, most recently, the Costa Book Award–winning Charles Dickens. Here she’s her own subject, giving us a life in letters that started with books as shelter from her parents’ nasty divorce, then moving from the 1960s London literary scene, a commission to write her first biography, becoming literary editor of the New Statesman after her journalist husband’s death, and again letting biography light up her life in later years. Grand UK reviews; with a national tour.

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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