I know it’s not Wednesday today, but I’ll have something much more interesting and important to say this Wednesday, so I moved some things around. Today, let’s take a look at the newest releases of April in the non-fiction genre. As you might know, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction – as is clear from my blog. But I do enjoy them once in a while. Other new releases of April 2018 can be found by genre right here on Goodreads.
- The Feather Thief: beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk W. Johnson
Publication date: April 24th, 2018
A rollicking true-crime adventure and a thought-provoking exploration of the human drive to possess natural beauty for readers of The Stranger in the Woods, The Lost City of Z, and The Orchid Thief. On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins–some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them–and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man’s relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.
- Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich
Publication date: April 10th, 2018A razor-sharp polemic which offers an entirely new understanding of our bodies, ourselves, and our place in the universe, Natural Causes describes how we over-prepare and worry way too much about what is inevitable. One by one, Ehrenreich topples the shibboleths that guide our attempts to live a long, healthy life — from the importance of preventive medical screenings to the concepts of wellness and mindfulness, from dietary fads to fitness culture. But Natural Causes goes deeper — into the fundamental unreliability of our bodies and even our “mind-bodies,” to use the fashionable term. Starting with the mysterious and seldom-acknowledged tendency of our own immune cells to promote deadly cancers, Ehrenreich looks into the cellular basis of aging, and shows how little control we actually have over it. We tend to believe we have agency over our bodies, our minds, and even over the manner of our deaths. But the latest science shows that the microscopic subunits of our bodies make their own “decisions,” and not always in our favor. We may buy expensive anti-aging products or cosmetic surgery, get preventive screenings and eat more kale, or throw ourselves into meditation and spirituality. But all these things offer only the illusion of control. How to live well, even joyously, while accepting our mortality — that is the vitally important philosophical challenge of this book. Drawing on varied sources, from personal experience and sociological trends to pop culture and current scientific literature, Natural Causes examines the ways in which we obsess over death, our bodies, and our health. Both funny and caustic, Ehrenreich then tackles the seemingly unsolvable problem of how we might better prepare ourselves for the end — while still reveling in the lives that remain to us.
- Voices from the Rust Belt by Anne Trubek
Publication date: April 3rd, 2018
The essays in Voices from the Rust Belt “address segregated schools, rural childhoods, suburban ennui, lead poisoning, opiate addiction, and job loss. They reflect upon happy childhoods, successful community ventures, warm refuges for outsiders, and hidden oases of natural beauty. But mainly they are stories drawn from uniquely personal experiences: A girl has her bike stolen. A social worker in Pittsburgh makes calls on clients. A journalist from Buffalo moves away and misses home…. A father gives his daughter a bath in the lead-contaminated water of Flint, Michigan” (from the introduction). Where is America’s Rust Belt? It’s not quite a geographic region but a linguistic one, first introduced as a concept in 1984 by Walter Mondale. In the modern vernacular, it’s closely associated with the “Post-Industrial Midwest,” and includes Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as well as parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, and New York. The region reflects the country’s manufacturing center, which, over the past forty years, has been in decline. In the 2016 election, the Rust Belt’s economic woes became a political talking point and helped pave the way for a Donald Trump victory. But the region is neither monolithic nor easily understood. The truth is much more nuanced. Voices from the Rust Belt pulls together a distinct variety of voices from people who call the region home. Voices that emerge from familiar Rust Belt cities―Detroit, Cleveland, Flint, and Buffalo, among other places―and observe, with grace and sensitivity, the changing economic and cultural realities for generations of Americans.
- Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found by Gilbert King
Publication date: April 24th, 2018
In December 1957, which brings a brutal freeze to Florida’s orange groves, Blanche Bosanquet Knowles, the wealthy young wife of a citrus baron, is raped in her home while her husband is away. She says a “husky Negro” did it, and Lake County’s infamously racist sheriff, Willis McCall, has no hesitation in rounding up a herd of suspects matching that description. But within days all are released without explanation. Just as inexplicably, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle white nineteen-year-old with the mental capacity of a ten-year-old. Every attempt to exonerate Jesse fails, and he is railroaded up north to the Florida State Hospital for the Insane. Facts are stubborn things, however, especially in the hands of crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese. While Jesse languishes at Chattahoochee, she frets over the case and its baffling outcome. Who is protecting whom, or what? Reese recruits to the cause an inexperienced young lawyer, and together they pursue the case, winning unlikely allies and chasing down leads until at long last they begin to unravel the unspeakable truths behind a racial conspiracy that shocked a community into silence. It is only now, half a century on, that Gilbert King has been able to coax the last long-guarded secrets out of proud, private families and to bring the whole shameful story to light. Powerful and page-turning, Beneath a Ruthless Sun ripples with the tensions that still roil our own times.
- The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do about Them) by Lucy Jones
Publication date: April 17th, 2018
Natural disasters emerge from the same forces that give our planet life. Earthquakes have provided us with natural springs. Volcanoes have given us fertile soil. A world without floods would be a world without rain. It is only when these forces exceed our ability to withstand them that they become disasters. Together, these colossal events have shaped our cities and their architecture; elevated leaders and toppled governments; influenced the way we reason, feel, fight, unite, and pray. The history of natural disasters is a history of ourselves. The Big Ones is a look at some of the most devastating disasters in human history, whose reverberations we continue to feel today. It considers Pompeii, and how a volcanic eruption in the first century AD challenged and reinforced prevailing views of religion for centuries to come. It explores the California floods of 1862, examining the failures of our collective memory. And it transports us to today, showing what Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami can tell us about governance and globalization. With global temperatures rising, natural disasters are striking with greater frequency. More than just history, The Big Ones is a call to action. Natural disasters are inevitable; human catastrophes are not. With this energizing and richly researched book, Jones offers a look at our past, readying us to face down the Big Ones in our future.
So, which books will you be reading? I didn’t add any to my to-read list. It’s still too big as it is, and none of these books really grabbed my attention.