Jul 18, 2012

Upcoming Non-Fiction of the Squee-Worthy Variety

For some time now, BAND (Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees) has been coming up with monthly discussion topics in an effort to promote reading “nonfiction as a non-chore” (don’t you love that tag line?). Every month I mean to join in, and yet I never seem to get around to it. This month’s question, posed by Man of la Book, is about upcoming non-fiction releases we’re excited about. This was an easy one for me – for some reason lately I’ve been adding non-fiction titles to my wishlist at a much greater rate than fiction (it probably helps that most of my considerable TBR pile is fiction), so it took me no time at all to come up with a handful of them:

More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby

  • First and foremost, there’s Nick Hornby’s More Baths Less Talking, a new collection of his “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” columns for The Believer. Some of you may remember how much I loved The Polysyllabic Spree and Shakespeare Wrote for Money, how sad I was when Hornby stopped writing his columns, how I jumped around in excitement when he returned to them, and how eagerly I’ve been waiting for a new collection. Hornby’s previous essay collections are my absolute favourite books about books (which is saying a lot), so I’m dying to get my hands on More Baths Less Talking.

  • Heroines by Kate Zambreno

  • Then there’s Heroines by Kate Zambreno, which the publisher describes as follows:
    On the last day of December, 2009 Kate Zambreno began a blog called Frances Farmer Is My Sister, arising from her obsession with the female modernists and her recent transplantation to Akron, Ohio, where her husband held a university job. Widely reposted, Zambreno’s blog became an outlet for her highly informed and passionate rants about the fates of the modernist “wives and mistresses.” In her blog entries, Zambreno reclaimed the traditionally pathologized biographies of Vivienne Eliot, Jane Bowles, Jean Rhys, and Zelda Fitzgerald: writers and artists themselves who served as male writers’ muses only to end their lives silenced, erased, and institutionalized. Over the course of two years, Frances Farmer Is My Sister helped create a community where today’s “toxic girls” could devise a new feminist discourse, writing in the margins and developing an alternative canon.
    In Heroines, Zambreno extends the polemic begun on her blog into a dazzling, original work of literary scholarship. Combing theories that have dictated what literature should be and who is allowed to write it—from T. S. Eliot’s New Criticism to the writings of such mid-century intellectuals as Elizabeth Hardwick and Mary McCarthy to the occasional “girl-on-girl crime” of the Second Wave of feminism—she traces the genesis of a cultural template that consistently exiles female experience to the realm of the “minor”, and diagnoses women for transgressing social bounds.
    !!! Clearly I NEED this book.

  • Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf

  • Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf is one I anticipate with caution. The publisher tells us that it “combines rigorous science explained for lay readers with cultural history”, which sounds intriguing to me; but Wolf has said enough things I have huge problems with over the years that my enthusiasm is tempered with wariness. It sounds like it might be worth reading even if I don’t agree with every point, though.

  • An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris by Stephanie LaCava

  • An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris by Stephanie LaCava. Again, I give you the publisher’s description:
    An awkward, curious girl growing up in a foreign country, Stephanie LaCava finds solace and security in strange and beautiful objects. When her father’s mysterious job transports her and her family to the Parisian suburb of Le Vesinet, the young American embarks on a life of discovery. Tasting the enchantments of Paris, she makes friends with her peers at a wildly unconventional international school and faces terrorism. But Stephanie’s wonder gives way to anxiety and a deep depression brought on by a series of circumstances.

    Through her darkest moments, Stephanie continues to filter the world through her peculiar lens, discovering the strange beauty surrounding her. The grotesque (beetles and catacombs), the natural (mushrooms and lilies of the valley) the cultural (Nirvana and other nineties touchstones) and the historical (Nancy Cunard, Jean Seberg), all become unique talismans. Encouraged by her father through trips to museums and scavenger hunts in antique shows, she traces an interconnected web of stories of past outsiders, historical and natural objects, and her present predicament that ultimately helps her survive when she feels she’s losing control.

    A series of essays that unfold in cinematic fashion,
    An Extraordinary Theory of Objects moves from past to present as Stephanie revisits France seeking to understand and make peace with her childhood. Her journey reveals the magic of seemingly ordinary objects to distract us from our lives, construct order in an unpredictable world, and reveal the power of stories to shape and reflect who we are.
    This summary makes me suspect that this is the sort of book that could go either way for me, but it does sound like a perfect match for my newfound Paris obsession.

  • The Face of the Earth: Natural Landscapes, Science, and Culture by Sue Ellen Campbell

  • On the other hand, the description of The Face of the Earth: Natural Landscapes, Science, and Culture by Sue Ellen Campbell (upcoming only in paperback, so I guess I’m cheating a little bit) fills me with nothing but unmitigated excitement:
    In a rich weave of scientific, cultural, and personal stories, The Face of the Earth examines mirages and satellite images, swamp-dwelling heroes and Tibetan nomads, cave paintings and popular movies, investigating how we live with the great shaping forces of nature—from fire to changing climates and the intricacies of adaptation. The book illuminates subjects as diverse as the literary life of hollow Earth theories, the links between the Little Ice Age and Frankenstein’s monster, and the spiritual allure of deserts and their scarce waters.
    As I mentioned above, I usually love books that combine science and cultural history, so this sounds right up my alley.

  • Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color by Nina G. Jablonski

  • Finally, the same goes for Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color by Nina G. Jablonski:
    Richly illustrated, this book explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaning—a product of evolution perceived by culture. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, how negative stereotypes about dark skin developed and have played out through history—including being a basis for the transatlantic slave trade. Offering examples of how attitudes about skin color differ in the U.S., Brazil, India, and South Africa, Jablonski suggests that a knowledge of the evolution and social importance of skin color can help eliminate color-based discrimination and racism.
    Sounds very promising, right?

  • How about you? Did any of these catch your attention? Any other upcoming releases you’re particularly excited about?

    Affiliates disclosure: if you buy a book through one of my affiliates links I will get 5%.


    1. More Baths Less Talking catches my eye. I don't read much non-fiction and when I do, it's usually "non-fiction lite."

    2. It's sort of baffling to me that anyone could think of reading non-fiction as chore! But to each his/her own. Anyway, so many awesome sounding books here--and I'd heard of none of them before! Without a doubt, I'll be buying Nick Hornby's new one. Also rather intrigued by The Extraordinary Theory of Objects. Though I have a serious problem with the publisher's description--there is nothing grotesque about beetles. :) Would also love to read Living Color! I've had her book Skin on my wish list for ages, but still haven't gotten around to picking it up. Okay, my dear, look at the damage you've done to my wish list in just one short post!!! Do hope you're proud of yourself. :P

    3. I admit I did make a little squeal of joy when I saw Hornby will have a new book on books. All the others you mention sound really good too especially Heroines. And I'm not sure what to think about Wolf. Sometimes I like her and sometimes she makes me say wtf?

    4. They all look incredibly fascinating, especially Heroines. I still haven't read anything by Nick Hornby although I have had my eye on The Polysyllabic Spree for many years. Lots of things to look forward to!

    5. I so loved The Polysyllabic Spree! More Baths Less Talking is on the list. I must have it.

    6. I had not heard about More Baths Less Talking. That's exciting!!

    7. I have always wanted to read Hornby, and have had one of his books on my shelf for the longest time, but have not read it due to time constraints. I need to get to it soon, so I can be ready for the new one. Excellent choices, though I think reading that Vagina book on the bus might get you some curious stares! :)

    8. New Hornby columns, how had I not heard about this?!?! So excited.

    9. thanks for eyes up on the Hornby I loved the polysyllabic spree book by him so will know I love this one ,many thanks Ana ,stu

    10. I share your Wolf mistrust, but it does look interesting!

    11. These all sound so good. I don't think I've read any of Horby's books on books, but clearly that needs to change. Do you recommend either of the earlier ones over the other for a first-time reader?

    12. Oh wow, I kind of want all of these!! But I'm most excited about the new Hornby! For some reason I thought he wasn't going to do any more nonfic books....I guess that's because he had stopped writing the column but I totally forgot that he STARTED it AGAIN! \o/ Can't wait to hear your thoughts on these :D

    13. Love that tagline! And I really pity people you regard reading non-fiction as a chore. Probably someone instilled this feeling in them with a hopelessly boring book and a bad attitude and some never recover from it!

      I'm so glad as well that Hornby didn't stop after all. But I'm looking forward most of all to the skin color book on your list! Also thanks so much for posting this list! :)

    14. Kathy: Nothing wrong with that! We all have different preferences and everything.

      Debi: As a matter of fact I am ;) If it's any comfort, you did make me add Skin to my wishlist as well.

      Stefanie: Squealers of the world unite! And yes, same here about Wolf. Fingers crossed that there won't be much nonsense in this book, as I do like the idea of it a lot.

      Sakura: You so need to read The Polysyllabic Spree! I just love his reading philosophy.

      Amy: You and me both! Not long to go until it's out.

      Kelly: Yes, isn't it?

      Zibilee: Probably, yes :P And the word is the same in my language so not even that would give me cover.

      Melissa: I know, right? :D

      Stu: You're welcome! Hopefully it will be every bit as good as the previous ones.

      bibliolathas: It does, doesn't it? I'll give it a try at some point.

      Kim: You can start anywhere, really. Enjoy!

      Chris: Yep, he did start again :D Dying to read it.

      Bina: Yes, it's easy to be intimidated by genres or categories of books we don't know too much about and think are not for us. I know I've done it myself! But nonfiction is a diverse enough category that there's something out there for everyone.

    15. I had no idea that Nick Hornby had another book coming out! Yay!

    16. The extraordinary Theory of Objects and Living Color both sound really good! I can't wait until they come out.

    17. How did I miss that Hornby was doing a new column of books! I am so excited that a new one is coming out, I've read all his other ones! YAAAY!!

      I have been buying biographies, of all things. I just picked up Effie today, finally out in softcover here. Maybe I'll do a post, since this is unusual for me to be buying this many.

      I also think the Face of the Earth sounds really interesting. Some really good books here, Ana!


    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.