One post of anticipated reads for 2018 wasn’t enough to include them all, especially with so many exciting -sounding ones already on the release calendar. Here, a dozen more of the year’s upcoming reads I think are worth taking note of, mainly from the latter part of the year.
Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found (Gilbert King, April 24, Riverhead Books) This “gripping story of sex, race, class, corruption, and the arc of justice twisted and bent straight again in the Florida citrus groves” sounds like another excellent addition to the recent wave of books examining wrongful convictions and the interplay of race and criminal justice, not to mention the possibilities in the rich setting. King is well versed in the genre, having written the Pulitzer-winning bestseller Devil in the Grove. I’ve read a few chapters of an advance of this one and I can see what a thorough, meticulous investigative journalist he is, as well as writing with an engaging narrative style. It’s taken a few tangents, looping in a lot of characters, stories, and history, and I fell a little out of it and took a break. That said, I’m fascinated by the bizarre story and that promise of a dark secret so I’m definitely seeing it through.
Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna (Edith Sheffer, May 15, W.W. Norton) I’m on the fence about whether I’ll read this one. The description indicates that alongside identifying Asperger’s for what it is during this time, the children diagnosed with having it suffered some abuses. Not surprising, I guess, during a time that heavily focused on weeding out those considered less fit and/or unable to assimilate and contribute meaningfully to society, separating them from the idealized specimens. I don’t know if I want to read more about the abuses. But spending much of my time these last years in Vienna, I’m always interested in histories based here and I don’t know anything about Asperger and his work, so it seems worth it.
Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator (Jason M. Colby, June 1, Oxford University Press) Like most everyone who saw it, I was moved and disturbed by the 2013 documentary Blackfish. I’ve only otherwise read Beneath the Surface, a former Sea World trainer’s memoir, on this topic, and Colby’s account includes the personal element of his father having been an orca hunter in Washington state. I think it sounds like a good historical account to explain how the fascination with orcas began, which certainly is an intriguing question. How on earth did we ever decide that one of the ocean’s top predators would make a trainable dancing monkey for children’s amusement?
The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke (Andrew Lawler, June 5, Doubleday) YES PLEASE. The story of Roanoke never fails to fascinate me. I remember passing freeway signs for Roanoke as a kid and being spooked and intrigued just by those alone. The “myth, obsession” part of the subtitle makes me think that this might have some element or storyline akin to The Orchid Thief. The author is involved as a character in the book, and shares his encounters with others obsessed with the story and the truth about the colony. Those kind of go either way for me, when the author inserts themselves, but I think it could work here. Whatever it is, I’m here for it.
Tonight I’m Someone Else: Essays (Chelsea Hodson, June 5, Holt Paperbacks – Macmillan) This one sounds all over the place, so I’ll borrow the publisher’s summary: “From graffiti gangs and Grand Theft Auto to sugar daddies, Schopenhauer, and a deadly game of Russian roulette, in these essays, Chelsea Hodson probes her own desires to examine where the physical and the proprietary collide. She asks what our privacy, our intimacy, and our own bodies are worth in the increasingly digital world of liking, linking, and sharing. Starting with Hodson’s own work experience, which ranges from the mundane to the bizarre—including modeling and working on a NASA Mars mission— Hodson expands outward, looking at the ways in which the human will submits, whether in the marketplace or in a relationship.” Essay collections can also go either way, but I’m intrigued by the range of topics and curious about how she’ll explore them.
Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America (Eliza Griswold, June 12, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux) This is another journalistic story from rural America, this time from the Alleghenies and the small town of Amity, Pennsylvania, which becomes a fracking site. Eventually one resident, Stacey Haney, turned whistleblower, disturbed by the ill effects stemming from fracking. Journalist Griswold (who’s also a poet, making me hopeful for artful prose) reports on the town’s dynamics, the covered-up costs of energy, and Haney’s dedicated personal investigation into the energy companies. It sounds like it could be excellent narrative nonfiction and important for transparency.
The Race to Save the Romanovs: The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family (Helen Rappaport, June 26, St. Martin’s Press) I really enjoyed Russia historian and Romanov era expert Helen Rappaport’s Caught in the Revolution from last year, making me a permanent fan of her historical writing. I love Romanov history, but I also don’t need to read TOO much of it, and I’ve already read and loved Robert Massie’s definitive Nicholas and Alexandra and Edvard Radzinsky’s strange but wonderful The Last Tsar. I still have others on my to-read including Rappaport’s The Romanov Sisters and Last Days of the Romanovs. So I’m not certain I’ll read this. But the topic nevertheless is powerful. The Russian Revolution is considered a crime in Putin’s Russia, and the publisher writes that “the centenary of the massacre of the Imperial Family will be commemorated in 2018 by a huge ceremony.” Romanovs undeniably still fascinate, their story does seem to draw you back in no matter how many times you’ve heard it, and this account of the failed international plots to save the family is sure to be well written and researched, coming from Rappaport.
To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder (Nancy Rommelmann, July 1, Little A) In 2009, a mother dropped her two children into Oregon’s Willamette River. One survived. Journalist Rommelmann spent seven years sifting through the case and the stories comprising it, including a wealth of interviews plus source documents and files, trying to uncover what would drive a mother to commit such an act. That’s certainly a hard question but a strong one, and this is sure to be a tough read but my interest is piqued, as it sounds like Rommelmann’s was. It seems to have a lot of potential in terms of a well done journalistic endeavor.
Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard (Paul Collins, July 17, W.W. Norton) The publisher’s description for this one says what needs to be said: “On November 23, 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the harbor—some leads put Parkman at sea or in Manhattan—but a Harvard janitor held a much darker suspicion: that their ruthless benefactor had never even left the Medical School building. His shocking discovery engulfed America in one of its most infamous trials, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. John White Webster, Harvard’s professor of chemistry. A baffling case of red herrings, grave robbing, and dismemberment, it became a landmark in the use of medical forensics.” This reads like a long list of keywords of everything I love in a true crime, especially a historical crime. I’ve never heard of this case before too, so I’m extra intrigued.
Nothing Good Can Come From This: Essays (Kristi Coulter, August 7, FSG Macmillan) Observational essays written with the clarity that comes from quitting drinking. It’s likened to the essays of Roxane Gay, David Sedaris, and Sarah Hepola’s excellent memoir about heavy drinking, Blackout, so I’m interested. Although I find I have a love/hate relationship with essay collections, it’s worth it to find a new voice you love. I’m also interested by the idea of writing from the perspective of a life in transition, I think insights from this place are inevitably fascinating.
Travelers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism: 1919-1945 (Julia Boyd, August 7, W.W. Norton) This sounds like it’ll be structured somewhat like the above-mentioned Caught in the Revolution, allowing expatriate voices in a changing foreign political atmosphere to speak on their experiences. Among them are celebrities like Charles Lindbergh and Samuel Beckett, and I hope for plenty of average-person perspectives too. It also promises accounts ranging from “the deeply trivial to the deeply tragic”, and I always find no matter how many accounts I read describing the rise of the Nazis, I always learn something new.
Among the Wholesome Children: The Real-Life Abduction That Inspired Lolita (Sarah Weinman, September 6, Ecco) Did you know Nabokov’s Lolita was inspired by a true story? I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the novel, I absolutely love it, but I never knew that! Publishers Marketplace news editor/true crime anthology editor Sarah Weinman writes about the case in 1948, when 50-year-old Frank LaSalle, a convicted pedophile, abducted 11-year-old Sally Horner and took her cross country. She remained with him for two years. Sounds horrifying. A line referencing the case is in Lolita, courtesy of Humbert’s thoughts, hence why it’s believed to have influenced Nabokov, in addition to the obvious similarities. The book expands on a longform piece Weinman wrote for Hazlitt in 2014.
Have you already heard of any of these already? Does anything here sound good and worth adding to your TBR? As always, let me know of any new nonfiction releases on your radar!