While investigating what new nonfiction 2019 has in store, I found way too many exciting titles. I could spread these out over the year, but why wait?
So here’s the final installment of nonfiction I’m looking forward to in the coming year. What sounds good to you here?
D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose, Crown, April 23 – Continuing the trend of recent popular histories exploring women’s often unsung contributions to the Second World War (see: Code Girls, The Girls of Atomic City) this “draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories” to share the stories of three French women recruited to Churchill’s secret Special Operations Executive agency. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime and Obsession, by Rachel Monroe, Scribner, August 20 – Monroe (who has an excitingly eclectic catalog of journalism) writes an “illuminating exploration of women, violence, and obsession” that hits lots of my favorite keywords: “A[n] investigation of our cultural fascination with crime, linking four archetypes—Detective, Victim, Attorney, Killer—to four true stories about women driven by obsession.” Using these four case studies, “she traces the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting.” (Amazon / Book Depository)
Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein, Knopf, April 9 – Former Top Chef contestant Onwuachi writes a memoir covering “the intersection of race, fame, and food.” Growing up between the Bronx and Nigeria, he’s already accomplished so much at a young age – he made $20K selling candy on the subway (!!!) and started a catering company with it, and has cooked at the White House, among his impressive career milestones. He describes what it’s like to be a person of color in the fine dining industry, a story I definitely want to know. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park, by Conor Knighton, Crown Archetype, July 2 (cover to come) – CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Knighton spent a year traveling the US and visiting every National Park, an experience that affected many aspects of his worldview. This sounds like it has the potential to get hippy-dippy and I’m wary of such things, but it does promise an “irresistible mix of personal narrative and travelogue” plus “some well-placed pop culture references,” which sounds fun and appealing. (Amazon / Book Depository)
The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation, by Rich Cohen, Spiegel & Grau, June 4 – The story of shadowy underworld gangster-type Albert Hicks, a career criminal who haunted the dives of New York’s Five Points in the mid-1800s. Until a crime went awry, ending in a massacre onboard a ship. When the “ghost” ship was found it was empty, with only the telltale signs of a struggle. Ooo-wee-ooo! Cohen tells the story from Hicks’s “humble origins to his incarnation as a demon who terrorized lower Manhattan, at a time when pirates anchored off of 14th street.” (Amazon / Book Depository)
Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly, Viking, August 27 – The issue of crime against Indigenous women is a terribly troubling one, with the demographic rarely getting the attention it deserves, including when women and girls go missing or are murdered. Tina Fontaine was a Winnipeg teenager and half-Ojibwe, half-Cree who was found dead in 2014. BBC reporter Jolly covers the efforts to seek justice in her case, and “asks questions about how Indigenous women, sex workers, community leaders, and activists are fighting back to protect themselves and change perceptions.” (Amazon / Book Depository)
Behind Putin’s Curtain: Friendships and Misadventures Inside Russia by Stephan Orth, Greystone Books, May 7 – A German travel writer ventures off the beaten path in Russia, covering the Moscow-Vladivostok route. Not only a travelogue depicting the colorful characters he encounters (“Internet conspiracy theorists, faux shamans, and Putin fans” among them) he shows the “real, unfiltered Russia” beyond the headlines, and documents “the effects of Putin’s influence in the run-up to the 2016 American election and the power of propaganda in this ‘post-fact’ era.” It’s blurbed by Lisa Dickey, whose own cross-Russia journeys made an excellent travelogue and sociopolitical commentary, so that’s enough to convince me. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Time Song: Journeys in Search of a Submerged Land by Julia Blackburn, Pantheon, August 6 – Described as “a lyrical exploration—part travelogue and part history—of Doggerland, the area beneath the North Sea which, until 6,000 years ago, was home to a rich ecosystem and human settlement.” I have to admit I’ve never heard of such a place, and I want to know everything. Blackburn travels across Great Britain and continental Europe to find out more. It sounds like a thoughtful, philosophical meditation on notions of time and infinity, making it deeper (no pun intended) than the average history. (Amazon / Book Depository)
The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un, Bright Sun of the Twenty-first Century by Anna Fifield, PublicAffairs, June 11 – Fifield, Tokyo Bureau Chief for The Washington Post focusing on Japan and the Koreas, is uniquely positioned to write a “behind-the-scenes story of the rise and reign of the world’s strangest and most elusive tyrant.” She’s had unprecedented access to figures including “the aunt and uncle who posed as his parents while he was growing up in Switzerland” and Dennis Rodman’s entourage on his “quasi-ambassadorial” trips. I’m fascinated with stories from inside the hermit kingdom, and it recently hit me how little I know about the “ridiculous but deadly” Kim Jong Un after seeing his wife in news footage and realizing I hadn’t known he was married. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother’s Disappearance as a Young Girl by Laura Cumming, Scribner, August 6 – In 1929, at three years old, Cumming’s mother was kidnapped from a beach in coastal England. She was found unhurt a few days later and the incident wasn’t designated a crime, but rather stuffed down and never discussed in the family in classic repressive fashion. The family hid other details, including that she’d been adopted and had her name changed. Now her daughter “brilliantly unspools the tale of her mother’s life and unravels the multiple mysteries at its core.” Curiosity piqued. (Amazon / Book Depository)
American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan, Viking, July 2 – Investigative journalist Callahan spent years documenting the case of Israel Keyes, the enigmatic serial killer caught in 2012. “She was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade…so began a project that consumed her for the next several years—uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist.” I don’t know anything about Keyes beyond the creepy monster factor, but this seems like a thorough exploration of a modern nightmare. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End, Kevin Alexander, Penguin, July 9 – Food journalist Alexander explores the past decade in American dining, including how the food world’s transformation has reshaped the landscapes of certain neighborhoods and even cities. “It seemed, for a moment, like a glorious golden age of eating and drinking in America. And then it was over.” He interviews influential figures including chefs, bartenders, and activists of this “veritable gold-rush” era to tell the story of what happened where, and why. (Amazon / Book Depository)
Are you anticipating any of these as well?