As the year comes to a close, I’ll leave you with another look to the future and what’s new in nonfiction in 2019.
Wishing you a happy, healthy year ahead, and the most heartfelt thanks to everyone who reads and discusses here. Your engagement means so much to me. Here’s to another year of enlightening reading, sharing ideas and thoughtful discussions around all the wonderful things nonfiction has to offer!
The Book of Delights: Essays, by Ross Gay, Algonquin, February 12 – So eagerly anticipating this. A collection of short, lyrical essays by award-winning poet Gay “written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders.” It hits heavy subjects, including the fear inherent in being a black man in America and the detriment of our consumer culture, but the overarching theme is celebrating the small but marvelous in the easily overlooked and too-busy everyday. It seems so joyous and appreciative, and I can’t wait. (Amazon / Book Depository)
City of Omens: A Search for the Missing Women of the Borderlands, by Dan Werb, Bloomsbury, June 4 – Described as “a scientific detective story”, an epidemiologist studies the spike in women’s deaths in Tijuana, linking them to factors from environmental toxins to drugs and HIV. Werb investigates this “femicide” and uncovers the surprising links to “the true cost of American empire-building”. I’m so beyond intrigued and curious. (Amazon / Book Depository)
The Killer Across the Table: Unlocking the Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI’s Original Mindhunter, by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, Dey Street Books, May 7 – The FBI criminal profiler and his writing partner team up again for the latest installment of notes from his case files. This time he’s focusing on “four of the most diabolical criminals he’s confronted, interviewed and learned from.” I’m curious which four! His books are ok for me, they’re kind of like true crime junk food: irresistibly page-turning even if I feel slightly icky by the end. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler, Flatiron, June 25 – Speaking of junk food, I’m addicted to reading about what people eat, and a little corner of this is junk and fast food. Fast Food Nation is a big favorite of mine, and this “insightful and hilarious cultural study” sounds like it might do something similar, albeit much lighter, by examining what about the fast food industry is distinctly American and “deeply personal”. Consider me fascinated. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing by Elissa Altman, Ballantine Books, August 6 – Author and blogger Altman spent years separating herself and her identity from her overbearing mother, with whom she doesn’t have much in common. Until her mother suffers a debilitating fall, requiring Altman to care for her. This sounds so much like one of my favorites this year, Bettyville, right down to being written by a gay author struggling to reconcile with a complicated parental relationship, though here exploring the sometimes fraught mother-daughter bond. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell Jackson, Scribner, March 5 – Jackson, much-lauded for his first novel The Residue Years, describes his family and tumultuous childhood. The title comes “from the calculations … made to keep safe—to stay alive—in their community, a small black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon blighted by drugs, violence, poverty, and governmental neglect.” I’ve flipped through an advance and it’s intense and engrossing even in small bites. A family serving as microcosm for part of American society is a powerful way of storytelling, as was done in Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, another favorite. This seems similar but more personal – Jackson was a onetime drug dealer and is now an award-winning novelist. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan, Metropolitan Books, April 16 – A journalist gets up close and personal with modern conspiracy theories and their endorsers, considering their place in American culture and politics in light of the election of a “conspiracy enthusiast” to the nation’s highest office. It’s highly readable, entertaining (if alarming) on-the-ground and observational reporting. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Chase Darkness with Me: Tracking Serial Killers, Catching Criminals, and Getting Justice-How One True-Crime Writer Became the World’s First Digital Consulting Detective by Billy Jensen, Sourcebooks, August 20 – Jensen is one of the researchers who worked with Michelle McNamara on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and helped finish it after her untimely passing. He covers that story here, along with other cases he’s worked in the increasingly influential world of digital investigations, including “the Halloween Mask Murder, find[ing] a murder/fugitive hiding out in Mexico, and investigat[ing] the only other murder in New York City on 9/11.” (Amazon / Book Depository)
The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus by Ryan Jacobs, Clarkson Potter, June 4 – I’m not a truffle fan (I’m not sure if I’ve ever even tasted one) but I love books about obsession and the obsessed. This promises “a deeply researched dive” into the “hidden world of intrigue, sabotage, and crime” that “undergirds the elegance of truffles” from an investigative reporter who’s deputy editor at Pacific Standard. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life by Amber Scorah, Viking, June 4 – As obsessed as I am with insider stories of leaving religions, I don’t know all that much about the Jehovah’s Witnesses so I’m eager for this one. Scorah proselytized in China where she had to surreptitiously look for “targets”, but her experience among “worldly” people made her begin to see the world differently. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep, Knopf, May 7 – I’ve read an advance and spoiler alert: it’s amazing. Cep pieces together the unbelievable story of Reverend Willie Maxwell, who had a penchant for killing his relatives for insurance money. Until someone killed him. Harper Lee worked for years on a book about the Reverend but ultimately abandoned it. Furious Hours tells two stories – that of the Reverend, the trial against him and of his killer, and a charismatic lawyer who ended up defending both; and Lee’s – her work on her friend Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and the importance to her of truth in reporting, including ideas about why the book went unfinished. (Amazon / Book Depository)
The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner, Random House, June 11 – “A riveting, urgent account of the explorers and scientists racing to understand the rapidly melting ice sheet in Greenland, a dramatic harbinger of climate change.” Journalist and historian Gertner looks at Greenland’s place and significance in history, and how “scientists from all over the world are deploying every technological tool available to uncover the secrets of this frozen island before it’s too late.” This is a “hold me, I’m scared” situation, but I need to know more. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World, by Jeff Gordinier, Tim Duggan Books, July 9 – Food writer Gordinier tags along with Danish chef René Redzepi on a four-year-long “globe-trotting culinary adventure” spanning the Yucatan Peninsula to Australia and the Arctic Circle, returning to Copenhagen and the “resurrection” of Redzepi’s restaurant. It’s described as “memoir, a travelogue, a portrait of a chef, and a chronicle of the moment when daredevil cooking became the most exciting and groundbreaking form of artistry.” I don’t generally like fancy-shmancy culinary tales – if it’s a restaurant I can’t afford I’m not too interested in the story behind it, but the travelogue/adventure aspect sounds fantastic. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II by Svetlana Alexievich, Random House, July 2 – This might be my most anticipated of the year. I still have two backlist books of Alexievich’s to read but the thought of a newly translated one is so exciting. Alexievich curates the memories people relate to her so beautifully, with such deep sensitivity. She’s chronicled some of the major events and catastrophes in contemporary Russian history and I can’t wait to see what she’s done with these children’s stories from across Europe and Russia, giving voice to “those whose stories are lost in the official narratives.” (Amazon / Book Depository)
Do any of these appeal to you? What’s your most anticipated nonfiction of 2019?