One post of new nonfiction to look forward to is never enough, so here’s a second roundup of some upcoming titles in 2020 that have caught my eye. This time I’ve got macabre science stories, tales of obsession, badass women of World War II, current social and political commentary, multiple trips to Paris and Siberia, plus tigers, tigers, and a third dose of even more tigers!
The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting, by Michael Rips (April 21) – I love a good story about people’s obsessions, and this one focuses on Manhattan’s famous (and sadly closed) Chelsea flea market and the quirky characters who bought and sold there. It sounds like it’ll have a Susan Orlean-style, and celebrates a bygone NYC institution. Amazon / Book Depository
Gory Details: Adventures From the Dark Side of Science, by Erika Engelhaupt (May 12) – This promises “Mary Roach-style humor and science” around “oft-ignored but alluring facets of biology, anatomy, space exploration, nature, and more” from science writer Engelhaupt. Sounds like perfection. Amazon / Book Depository
The Hunting of Hillary: The Forty-Year Campaign to Destroy Hillary Clinton, by Michael D’Antonio (May 19) – Presidential biographer D’Antonio digs into why so much acrimony exists towards Hillary Clinton, who’s been the subject of conspiracy theories, allegations, and vitriol unrivaled by other women in politics. An exploration of this, including the no-win position Clinton found herself in, sounds not only illuminating but important for understanding the complications faced by powerful women. Amazon / Book Depository
Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why: Essays, by Alexandra Petri (June 2) – “These impossibly cheerful essays on the routine horrors of the present era explain everything from the resurgence of measles to the fiasco of the presidency.” I don’t really need those things explained to me, but it does lessen the pain to read funny, relevant analysis of all the bullshit of the present moment. Plus it’s recommended for fans of Veep which made my heart skip a beat. Amazon / Book Depository
Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl, by Jonathan C. Slaght (June 2) – As I’ve mentioned one or two or 1,000 times, one of my favorite books is The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, which takes place in the Primorye region of Siberia. As does this, which follows a scientist and conservationist tracking the Blakiston’s fish owl, the largest owl species, found only in eastern Russia. “We join a small team for late-night monitoring missions and on mad dashes across thawing rivers; drink vodka with mystics, hermits, and scientists; and listen to fireside tales of Amur tigers. Most captivating of all are the fish owls themselves: vicious hunters, devoted parents, singers of eerie duets, and irrepressible survivors in a harsh and shrinking habitat.” I squealed in excitement. Amazon / Book Depository
Let Them Eat Pancakes: How I Survived Living in Paris Without Losing My Head, by Craig Carlson (June 2) – American Craig Carlson made a little piece of Parisian history when he opened the first American diner in Paris, a journey with no shortage of obstacles chronicled in the warmly wonderful Pancakes in Paris. In this second memoir, he shares more tales from running Breakfast in America, his (now two) diners, under the rigors of French bureaucracy, while maintaining his optimism and delightful sense of humor. His first book was a joy, and in Paris last summer I finally got to experience Breakfast in America myself (twice!) so I can’t wait to read more. Amazon / Book Depository
All the Way to the Tigers, by Mary Morris (June 9) – A personal catastrophe that left the author wheelchair-bound and dealing with surgery and rehab eventually led her on an odyssey to India “in search of the world’s most elusive apex predator.” I loved The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, a meditative, brilliant memoir of another woman enduring an unimaginable illness and reconnecting to life through a particular creature, plus see above for my tiger books obsession, so I have high hopes for this travel memoir. Amazon / Book Depository
My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris, by Alexander Lobrano (June 9) – From the description: “In this debut memoir, a James Beard Award–winning writer, whose childhood idea of fine dining was Howard Johnson’s, tells how he became one of Paris’s most influential food critics.” That’s enough for me to want this immediately. But Lobrano also covers his coming-of-age both in the Parisian dining world and his coming out, which makes this sound like a highly personal, illuminating blend of memoir and food culture, in the vein of Nigel Slater’s Toast. Book Depository
Code Name Madeleine: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris, by Arthur J. Magida (June 9) – The story of Noor Inayat Khan, an Indian mystic’s daughter who volunteered to help the British Special Operations Executive as an undercover agent in Nazi-occupied France. I’m not the biggest spy story fan, but the biography of another exceptional lady spy was one of my favorites last year, plus Rachel at Pace, Amore, Libri gave a fantastic introduction to Khan when she reviewed another biography of her, so I’m especially intrigued by this incredible woman’s life and service. Not to mention the detail of her being a Muslim woman, a not-so-common heroine of narrative nonfiction. Amazon / Book Depository
The Lost Pianos of Siberia, by Sophy Roberts (June 16) – British journalist Roberts went on a three-year journey to learn more about Siberia’s unique music culture. This remote landscape is apparently peppered with pianos, both fancy grands and humble uprights which “tell the story of how, ever since entering Russian culture under the westernizing influence of Catherine the Great, piano music has run through the country like blood.” It explores the beauty in a region known for a lot of historical ugliness. Tigers are allegedly involved too, making this the third book on this list that includes tigers. Thrilling! Amazon / Book Depository
The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos, by Judy Batalion (June 23) – This tells the stories of the Jewish women in Poland who “helped transform the Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis.” It’s another corner of history that hasn’t gotten the attention it’s deserved, and it continually amazes me that these still emerge from the Second World War era when it’s such a busy genre. This introduces us to weapons smugglers, “couriers, armed fighters, intelligence agents, and saboteurs.” If that doesn’t catch your interest, it’s likened to A Train in Winter, which is enough to sell me on it immediately. Amazon / Book Depository
The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands, by Jon Billman (July 7) – Billman is a former wildland firefighter with an MFA in Fiction and an interest in the missing and the void they leave behind. This looks at cases of people who have disappeared in National Parks and wildlands; the bafflement of their friends, families, and searchers trying to make sense of the strange circumstances; and the “eccentric, determined characters who try to find them.” I couldn’t be more intrigued. Amazon / Book Depository
The Case of the Vanishing Blonde and Other True Crime Stories, Mark Bowden (July 7) – Bowden is an outstanding writer of narrative true crime, and I actually prefer his long-form journalism to a book on a single case, although he’s compelling to read no matter what. These are six true crime stories from throughout his career, including “a story of a campus rape at the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 that unleashed a moral debate over the nature of consent when drinking and drugs are involved to three cold cases featuring the inimitable Long Island private detective Ken Brennan and a startling investigation that reveals a murderer within the LAPD’s ranks.” Amazon / Book Depository
As always, publication dates were correct when posted, but keep an eye on any you’re interested in because they often change.
Are you looking forward to any of these too?