17 new non-fiction books to read this season

Odenkirk’s memoir could also have been titled “Obscurity Obscurity Obscurity Fame”. He was a cult comedy fan favorite in the late 1990s for his work on the sketch comedy series “Mr. Show,” but his supporting role in “Breaking Bad” and his starring role in the show’s prequel , “Better Call Saul,” have made him a household name.His memoir charts his stubborn and unlikely path from Chicago comedy clubs to leading man.

Random House, now available

Brand is perhaps best known for his countercultural magazine Whole Earth Catalog, first published in 1968. During the same decade, Brand participated in the exploits of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Now 83, he has pursued a long and varied life of thought and activism in the areas of environmentalism, Native American rights, and personal computing. Markoff, a former New York Times tech reporter, wraps his arms around the whole story in this new biography.

Penguin Press, now available

In her first book, critic and essayist Newton delves into her family’s past, from Depression-era Texas to witch-hunting Massachusetts, without flinching at what she sees. Closer to today, she fights against the racism of her father and the religious extremism of her family. Rooted in the personal, Newton’s book opens with an examination of a culture obsessed with Ancestry.com and 23andme.com, and asks what we’re really looking for in the past.

Random House, March 29

The poet Keats died aged 25 in 1821, and his short life and brilliant work inspired a great deal of literature. In his new book, Miller says literature often forgets how rowdy and subversive Keats was. She wants to highlight aspects of her life and work “that haven’t always been part of the popular imagination, which still tends to make it seem a bit more ethereal than it actually was.” .

Knopf, April 19

Davis, a staple of TV and movie screens, winner of an Oscar (for “Fences”) and an Emmy (for “How to Get Away With Murder”), found steady work and then fame in as an actor after growing up in incredibly difficult circumstances. In her memoir, she writes about the poverty and food insecurity her family suffered in Rhode Island as a child, and how acting changed her life, leading to a college scholarship, Juilliard, and success. theatrical and Hollywood that followed.

Harper One, April 26

In 2013, at age 50, Goetsch’s life began to fall apart. Her success as a writer and public school teacher masked a decades-long depression. In a blog for The American Scholar in 2015, Goetsch wrote about how she “longed daily to be a woman,” a desire she had suppressed since childhood. Her new memoir focuses on her own transition and the history of the trans community during her lifetime.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, May 24


Less than a month after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Alexander published an essay in The New Yorker titled “The Trayvon Generation,” in which she wrote about young people who had grown up over the past 25 years, repeatedly watching stories that “taught them that hate and anti-black violence were never far away.” His concern for this generation, including his own sons, was intertwined with a consideration of “creative emergences” in black communities. This book expands on that widely shared essay.

Grand Central Publishing, April 5

Tulane law professor Amy Gajda examines the history of privacy in America, from the concerns of the Founding Fathers to the concerns of those who carry an ever-growing trove of personal data in our pockets every day. In recounting the long history of debates over privacy, Gajda distinguishes between ordinary citizens and the press, and explains the dangers of too little and too much privacy.

Viking, April 12

Piketty, economist and author of perhaps the most surprising best-selling book in recent memory (the 800+ page “Capital in the 21st Century”), synthesizes his insights on the persistence of economic inequality here in a shorter form. But as the “equality” in the title suggests, it also emphasizes the means by which progress has been made. “In the long term, the march towards equality is very clear”, he recently declared. “I really want to emphasize that.”

Belknap Press, April 19

Floyd’s name and face circled the world shortly after his death on May 25, 2020. This book by two Washington Post reporters — building on a six-part series in The Post — chronicles the life behind the tragedy. It traces Floyd’s family roots in slavery and sharecropping, recounts his segregated childhood upbringing in Houston, and draws the connections between his adult life and crises in American housing, criminal justice, and poverty. police.

Viking, May 17


“The Empire was not just a few threads in the national fabric of Britain,” writes Elkins, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. “It was the fabric from which the modern British nation was made.” It explores how brutality was inextricably linked to the British colonial project – and was in fact a central part of its “civilizing” mission – focusing on a few historical episodes, including the Morant Bay Rebellion, the Irish War of Independence, the Second Boer War. and others.

Knopf, March 29

Heydrich, the powerful SS leader, was the main architect of the Holocaust, nicknamed the “executioner of the Gestapo” and “the butcher of Prague”. Dougherty died in 2013, before finishing this book, so Christopher Lehmann-Haupt – a longtime literary critic for The Times – finished it. Lehmann-Haupt died in 2018.

Knopf, May 24

In this far-reaching investigation, Kelly unearths the stories of the people – farm workers, domestic servants, factory workers – behind some of the labor movement’s greatest successes.

Atria/One Signal, April 26

In the 19th century, British explorers Richard Burton and John Speke set out to chart the Nile, a years-long process that led Speke to what he eventually called Lake Victoria. But Millard shows that the men “discovered” nothing – the local people knew very well where the sources of the Nile were – and their journey was greatly aided by Sidi Mubarak Bombay, an East African man who was sold into slavery and sent to India before returning to the mainland.

Double day, May 17


De Waal – whose lively, intelligent and utterly compelling studies of bonobos and chimpanzees have touched on topics such as empathy, grief and compassion – here turns to gender and sex. “While gender goes beyond biology, it is not created out of thin air,” he writes. “So there’s every reason to see what we can learn about ourselves from comparisons with other primates.”

Norton, April 5

“Writing about Hong Kong has become an exercise in subtraction,” says Lim, a journalist and author who grew up there. She talks about her efforts to protect her sources, removing identifying details that could put them at risk, but the point has greater resonance in the history of a place whose history has often been overtaken by a point of view colonial. With this book, Lim wanted to put Hong Kongers at the center of the story, weaving portraits of citizens with major historical moments – the British takeover in 1842, the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997, the pro- democracy in recent years.

Riverhead, April 19

What are these disturbing visions that people sometimes have? Are they, in fact, real? It’s the fascinating story of psychiatrist John Barker, who invited his fellow Britons to share their premonitions with him after becoming convinced that the 1966 Aberfan disaster – in which an avalanche of coal mud buried a school in the Wales and other buildings – had been foretold by supernatural events. panels.

Penguin Press, May 3

About Stuart M. McFarland

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