True Story

Spooky Reads, Serial Killers, and Kindle Deals in Politics

Now that it’s finally October, I’ve found myself turning towards nonfiction of the creepy variety. I’m kind of a chicken, but give me some good true crime or spooky history, and I’ll happily sleep with the light on so I can enjoy it. Two of my favorite seasonally-appropriate nonfiction books are The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

Sponsored by Because I Was a Girl, edited by Melissa de la Cruz.

Whether they’re young or old, household names or behind-the-scenes players, so many women have incredible stories to tell. And now is their chance.

Because I Was a Girl showcases true stories from an inspiring roster of talented, diverse women ages 10 to 88 about the obstacles they’ve faced because of their gender — and the dreams they’ve made come true. This beautifully designed book is the perfect gift for young women to show them that they can do and be anything.

The Poisoner’s Handbook, a tale of “murder and the birth of forensic science in Jazz Age New York,” follows chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler as they try to figure out the science behind murder by poison. This one will have you looking twice at the next cup of coffee your significant other serves you.


There’s a lot of spooky true crime out there, but In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s original “nonfiction novel” on the murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas is one that I distinctly remember kept me awake at night. His reconstruction of the crime from the point of view of the killers is chilling, and it’s clear why this book, in particular, has become a classic of the genre.


This year, I’ve got two new creepy books on my radar. The first is The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke (Oct. 10 from Del Ray). Mahnke, creator of the Lore podcast, is publishing his first book on the history of terrifying creatures like werewolves, poltergeists, vampires, and vengeful spirits. If you’re a fan of Lore, Rioter Katie McClain rounded up a few of her favorite creepy books, including three nonfiction titles.

And in true crime, I am looking forward to Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell (Oct. 10 from Liveright). Eatwell uses new evidence and historical records to revisit the unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, “an aspiring starlet from Massachusetts who had been lured west by the siren call of Hollywood.” Her body was found, mutilated, in a public park, but despite the sensation of the case, her killer was never found.

I’m curious, dear readers – do you have any favorite creepy, crawly, or spooky topics you turn to during the fall season? Hit me up with your suggestions and recommendations. And with that, on to the news of the week.

Follow Up: H.H. Holmes Really is Dead

Earlier this year, experts planned to exhume the body of H.H. Holmes, the Chicago serial killer at the center of Erik Larson’s 2003 book The Devil in the White City. Descendants made the request as part of a History Channel show, looking into whether Holmes may have escaped death. Turns out, he didn’t. Dental records show that the body buried in a pine box that was filled with cement is actually Holmes. Whew.

Chicago Tribune photo

Already, Books Coming in 2018?

A couple of releases set for 2018 caught my attention recently. Journalists Michael Isikoff (chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News) and David Corn (Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones) will release a book on “the controversies surrounding Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin and Russia’s influence.” The book is tentatively called The Russian Connection. I’m intrigued, since the long history of Trump’s connections to Russia doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it may deserve.

The other book I had no idea was coming, but now I’m super curious about, is a true crime book written by Patton Oswalt’s late wife, Michelle McNamara. At the time of her unexpected death in 2016, McNarama was working to investigate the Golden State Killer, “an unknown assailant who police believe was responsible for 50 rapes and 10 murders in California in the 1970s and ’80s.” I’ll Be Gone in the Dark will include an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by Oswalt.

Kindle Deals in Politics and Social Science

This week, I’ve got some political and social science ebooks for you to check out:

Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea Ritchie for $1.99

The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future by Gretchen Bakke for $1.99

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward for $1.99

And that’s all for this week. I’ll be back next week with an early October new books list – there are A LOT of titles coming out this month that I’m excited to highlight.

As always, you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram @kimthedork and via email at Happy October!

True Story

36 New Nonfiction Favorites Now Out in Paperback

Fall is finally here, which means it’s finally time to cuddle up with some tea, a fuzzy blanket, and great books. Winter is probably my favorite reading season — I live in Minnesota, so there are many days of the year when it’s best to just never leave the house — but autumn is a close second. What’s your favorite season to read? You can share in this poll over at Book Riot.

Sponsored by TarcherPerigee, publisher of Things Are What You Make of Them by Adam J. Kurtz

From the mind and heart of designer Adam J. Kurtz comes an upbeat rallying cry for creatives of all stripes: Things Are What You Make of Them.

Expanding on a series of popular essays he wrote for Design*Sponge, this empathetic and empowering guide—packed withhandwritten and heartfelt insights—is The Artist’s Way for a new generation and will be a touchstone for writers, artists, entrepreneurs, or anyone else seeking a more aesthetic life.

With perforated tear-and-share pages, this vibrant, full-color book will serve as kindling for stoking and sustaining creative fires.

I thought I’d kick off fall with one of my favorite things: a giant, TBR-busting list of nonfiction favorites that are finally out in paperback. This list features some heavy-hitters, as well as some books that I missed when they first came out last year. As always, I hope you can find something awesome to read.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande — A look at medicine, aging and death.

The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams — A literary celebration of national parks and what they mean to us.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer — Essays from a comic actress on growing up making people laugh.

Blood at the Root by Patrick Phillips — The history of Forsyth County, Georgia, and the violent means by which locals kept Forsyth ‘all white’ well into the 1990s.”

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi — A history of “how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.”

Code Warriors by Stephen Budiansky — An inside look at the roots of the National Security Agendy.

Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre — The inside history of Britain’s elite Special Air Service.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance — Memoir by a Yale Law School graduate about “growing up in a poor Rust Belt town.”

Sing for Your Life by Daniel Bergner — The story of a young black man’s journey from prison to life as a rising opera star.

White Rage by Carol Anderson — A history of how “social progress for African American was countered by deliberate and cleverly crafted opposition” from white America.

Urban Forests by Jill Jonnes — An exploration of how trees and urban green spaces contribute to public health and urban infrastructure.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton — An Oprah-endorsed memoir about confronting pain to build deeper, truer relationships. y of living your own truth.

Presence by Amy Cuddy — Techniques for improving confidence and performance through mind-body connections.

Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson — A memoir of “family, friends, the hustle to make it from DC to Hollywood, and the joy of living your own truth.”

The Invention of Russia by Arkady Ostrovsky — A look at Russia’s nationalist movement and aggression against America.

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessie Klein — Essays on growing up as a tomboy and becoming a woman.

I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman — A memoir of mothers and daughters and the complexity of families.

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston — A memoir by the star of Breaking Bad.

The Battle for Home by Marwa al-Sabouni — An eyewitness account of life in Syria by an architect.

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner — The true story of an American family separated by the Iron Curtain for more than 40 years.

Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood — “A journey through the world of death fraud.”

Pilgrimage by Mark K. Shriver — A portrait of Pope Francis based on interviews from the people who knew him as Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick — Essays on life from a short, funny, introverted actress.

Never Look an American in the Eye by Okey Ndibe — “A memoir of flying turtles, colonial ghosts, and the making of Nigerian American.”

Books for Living by Will SchwalbeA look at the books that can help answer life’s big and small questions.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen — Rock star memoir!

In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett — A behind-the-scenes look at The Carol Burnett Show.

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston — An eyewitness account of following in the footsteps of a swashbuckling journalist in Honduras.

The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy — A Book Riot favorite, a memoir of growing up working class in Queens.

The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carré — A memoir from a legendary author who got his start in British Intelligence during the Cold War.

Messy by Tim Harford — An economist explores “the benefits that messiness has in our lives: why it’s important, why we resist it, and why we should embrace it instead.”

When We Rise by Cleve Jones — A memoir of life in the gay rights movement in the 1970s.

The Boys of Dunbar by Alejandro Danois — The true story of a Baltimore basketball coach whose undefeated team launched four players to the NBA.

Soul at the White Heat by Joyce Carol Oates — Critical and personal essays on the writing life.

Frantumaglia by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein — An invitation into Elena Ferrante’s workshop where she answers questions on the writing life.

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry — A humorous collection of essays on why Florida is just so damn weird.

And that’s all for this week! I hope the weather where you are is lovely, the books on your shelves are plentiful, and the people you live with don’t mind you spending the weekend with a good book! — Kim

True Story

National Book Awards, WHAT HAPPENED Sets Records, and New Nonfiction

Last week, the National Book Foundation announced the longlisted titles for the National Book Awards in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. I have to admit, I had mixed feelings about the nonfiction list, which you can see in the photo below and the link to the NBA site.

The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis published in hardcover and ebook from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. She married a man from within the fold and began a family. But at age forty, Tova decides to leave her husband and her faith. This is a memoir about what it means to free the part of yourself that has been suppressed, even if it means walking away from the only life you’ve ever known. Honest and courageous, Tova shows us how she learns to silence her fears on her own path to happiness.

Intellectually, I can see that it’s a list that makes a strong statement about our current political climate. There are several books on the history of race relations in the United States, two on the rise of the evangelical wing of the Republican Party, and three others on issues that have been in the news lately (totalitarianism in Russia, fake news, and progressive activism). I appreciate that the judges for the long list made a statement about what the world is like right now.

Emotionally, it left me a little disappointed. There’s room in great nonfiction to read for fun, or to read about the strange and quirky things that make up the world around us. This list doesn’t have any memoirs or books on science, for example, which are two areas where I know there’s great writing. I can’t help wishing we had space in our awards lists for some of that.

As a different example of an awards list, last week Kirkus Reviews also announced their finalists for the Kirkus Prize. That list has almost no political books on it, and instead includes some natural history, science history, and memoirs. I don’t know if a list that leans away from our current climate is better or worse, it’s just different.

I’m curious what you all think on this issue, and what we might see as the rest of the major awards for the year get announced. I wrote about this a bit more about the NBA list specifically over at Book Riot, if you care to think about it further, and if you’re into videos, Rincey talked a little about her book award list wishes on the site this week too.

What Happened Breaks Sales Records

Speaking of political books… Simon and Schuster, the publisher of Hillary Clinton’s memoir What Happened, told the Associated Press that the book has sold more than 300,000 copies in the first week of sales. According to BookScan, the hardcover sales of 168,000 copies is the highest opening for a nonfiction book since Mark Owen’s 2012 memoir, No Easy Day, which sold 250,000 copies. Sales of the ebook and audiobook editions have also been record-setting for the publisher. Looks like people cared what she had to say, after all.

Book Riot Launches Recommended!

In case you haven’t heard, Book Riot recently launched a new podcast, Recommended. In each episode, interesting people talk about books that matter to them. The first three episodes have each featured a writer of nonfiction – Samantha Irby (author of the essay collection We Are Never Meeting in Real Life), Tara Clancy (author of the memoir The Clancy’s of Queens), and Annalee Newitz (a tech and science writer who wrote about extinction in Scatter, Adapt, and Remember). You can find out more about Recommended and subscribe at this link.

New Releases on My Radar

Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand – My history reading leans toward the very specific. I’m not likely to pick up a book on the broad history of south and central Asia, but I’m all in for an account of “greed, conquest, murder, torture, colonialism, and appropriation” told through the history of a diamond.

Backlist Bump: I’ve heard excellent things about Anand’s 2015 book on Sophia Duleep Singh, titled Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary.

Thanks, Obama by David Litt – The buzz on the Book Riot backchannel for this book, a “hopey, changey” look at the Obama White House, has been universally good. I’m saving it for when I really need a shot of optimistic nostalgia.

Bonus Read: Litt had a funny excerpt in Politico Magazine about how he managed to upset the entire country of Kenya in a speech.

Reset by Ellen Pao – In 2015, Ellen Pao sued a Silicon Valley venture capital firm for workplace discrimination and retaliation. Although Pao eventually lost the suit, it helped open up a conversation about discrimination and sexism in the tech industry, and her fight for change as CEO of reddit and through the nonprofit Project Include.

Bonus Read: I liked this take on the book from Wired, suggesting Reset is the next logical read in business books after Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

And that’s it for this week. Let me know what you look for in your book awards lists, along with any other comments or feedback on Twitter and Instagram at @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

Great Reporting that Leads to Great Books, and More New Nonfiction Releases

Last week, Ta-nehisi Coates published a stunning piece about Donald Trump and the Trump presidency in The Atlantic called “The First White President.” Reading it got me fired up, about both politics and my love for really good long-form reporting and analysis. Reported features can help introduce you to new writers, or help you get a handle on a topic you may not have considered before.

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Mary Jane’s Ghost by Ted Gregory.

Summer 1948 in Oregon, Illinois, a young couple visiting lovers’ lane is murdered. The crime garners nationwide headlines, but after a sweeping manhunt no one is arrested and the deaths of Mary Jane Reed and Stanley Skridla fade from memory. Fifty years later entrepreneur Michael Arians moves to Oregon, opens a roadhouse, gets elected mayor, and becomes obsessed with the crime. He contacts the Chicago Tribune and his letters fall to reporter Ted Gregory. For the next thirteen years Gregory remains beguiled by the case and Arians’s hopeless pursuit of justice. This is the story of these two odysseys

Several of my favorite books from the last few years started as long-form reporting. Katy Butler’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door, one of the best books I’ve read on aging and our medical system, started as a New York Times Magazine piece called “What Broke My Father’s Heart.” I discovered Anthony Shadid and his beautiful memoir, House of Stone, through some of his reporting for the Washington Post. And Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink’s devastating account of decisions at a hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, began as a series that won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

But, even if you don’t want to go book length on some of these topics, there’s a lot of great journalism out there to discover. The Atlantic conveniently put together this list of more than 100 great works of journalism, which has a cool variety of pieces to peruse through with some authors I am sure you’ll recognize. The Best American series is also a good resource – I particularly like checking out Best American Essays and Best American Science and Nature Writing to find new writers to follow.

And now I turn to you, readers. What are some of your favorite sources for interesting reporting? Have you discovered a book or writer because of a piece in a newspaper or magazine?

New Releases on My Radar

Despite the fact that our TBR piles keep growing and our time for reading never seems to increase, this week was another great one for new nonfiction. In addition to Hillary Clinton’s much-anticipated memoir about the 2016 election, What Happened, here are a few books that made it on my radar:

  • Ranger Games by Ben Blum – A reporter investigates how his Marine cousin came to be part of a crew robbing a bank.
  • Unbelievable by Katy Tur – A CNN anchor recounts her experiences covering the 2016 Trump campaign.
  • Curry by Naben Ruthnum – Essays on curry, a dish that “doesn’t quite exist” but that “can have infinite, equally authentic variations.”
  • Bloodlines by Melissa del Bosque – A rookie FBI agent infiltrates a Mexican drug cartel through American quarter horse racing.

Over at Book Riot…

Ann Foster has a list of books on the well-behaved women of history.

I put together a list of 10 great YA nonfiction books (and have some most posts on YA nonfiction brewing – it’s a really interesting, growing genre).

Cindy Butor shared some basic background on DACA and the DREAMERs, and offers some reading suggestions to understand this issue better.

Katie MacBride rounds up some great audiobooks by women in politics.

And Tara Cheeseman writes about the Mitford sisters and suggestions some fiction, biography and memoirs to get to know them better.

Science and Math Kindle Deals

Add to your e-reader TBR with some of these great Kindle deals on books from the science and math section:

  • Console Wars by Blake Harris for $1.99 – A look at the battle between Sega and Nintendo during the early 1990s. I read this one, it’s pretty fun.
  • A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell for $1.99 – A memoir about the “ins and outs of beekeeping”A Book of Bees
  • The Network by Scott Woolley for $1.99 – The inside story of how America’s airwaves were developed through the relationship between an industrialist and an inventor.

A Look Ahead: National Book Awards!

Just after my deadline for this newsletter, the 10 titles that made this year’s National Book Awards longlist for nonfiction were announced. I’m hoping to write a little bit about them next week. With that, you know the drill – you can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at with questions, comments, suggestions, or book recommendations. Happy reading!

True Story

10 New Nonfiction Books Out This Week

It seems that fall is truly here – the leaves are turning, pumpkin spice lattes are back, and a ton of awesome books are newly out on the shelves.

The first Tuesday of the month is typically a big day in publishing, and this week was no exception – my TBR is exploding from all of the awesome books that came out on September 5. This week, I decided to channel my favorite velocireader, Liberty Hardy, and put together a new books megalist focused strictly on nonfiction. Here are 10 of the books I’m most excited to check out ASAP.

Sponsored by Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough

Complex, passionate, brilliant, flawed—Alexander Hamilton comes alive in this exciting biography.

He was born out of wedlock on a small island in the West Indies and orphaned as a teenager. From those inauspicious circumstances, he rose to a position of power and influence in colonial America.

Discover this founding father’s incredible true story: his brilliant scholarship and military career; his groundbreaking and enduring policy, which shapes American government today; his salacious and scandalous personal life; his heartrending end.

Richly informed by Hamilton’s own writing, with archival artwork and new illustrations, this is an in-depth biography of an extraordinary man.

Border by Kapka Kassabova (Graywolf Press) – A reporter returns to her country of origin, Bulgaria, to explore its border between Turkey and Greece and its role as a border to the West. This book looks like a fascinating mix of history, travel, journalism, and memoir.

Crash Override by Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs) – After an ex-boyfriend posted an inflammatory, untruthful blog post about her, game developer Zoe Quinn found herself the most public victim of the #gamergate movement. In the book, Quinn shares her experience being harassed by an online mob, and her work to help others through the Crash Override Network, an advocacy and online-abuse crisis resource.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire by Kurt Andersen (Random House) – While it seems like the who “fake news” and “alternative facts” era we’re in is new, it actually has a long history in our country. Kurt Andersen explores how this may actually be “the ultimate expression of our national character and path” – a potent mix of individualism, epic dreams and epic fantasies.

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A by Danielle Allen (Liveright) – Cuz is one of the books I was most curious to pick up BookExpo this spring. Allen writes about her baby cousin, Michael Allen, a young man arrested for attempted carjacking at 15 who spent the next 11 years in prison. After Michael was released, Allen tried to help him, but learned how the world isn’t open to young black men just out of prison.

Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (St. Martin’s Press) – In 2015, podcast host Manoush Zomorodi encouraged the listeners of Note to Self to participate in an experiment – one week of unplugging from their devices to help rethink our relationship to our gadgets. Bored and Brilliant is an extension of that experiment that shares more research on links between boredom and creativity, and guides readers through their own seven day experiment in unplugging.

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter) – Memoirs by chefs are some of my favorite books. In this book, Alice Waters traces her meandering path to opening Chez Panisse in 1971. I am really excited by the the note that the book includes recipes, photographs and letters, which I imagine will be very cool.

Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson (Avery) – I have been trying to develop a consistent meditation habit for the last couple of years, but it never seems to stick. In this book, Goleman and Davidson explore “the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it” through smart practice and the newest science of mind-training.

Reconcilable Differences by Dawn Markova and Angie McArthur (Spiegel and Grau) – A cognitive neuroscientist and a communication expert team up to explore how to connect with people when it feels like you’re speaking entirely different languages. At the core of the book is an exploration of the difference between rational and relational intelligence.

If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan (St. Martin’s Press) – Living alone after a painful divorce at 27, Ilana Kurshan began a daily study of the Talmud, “a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law.” For the next seven years, Kurshan studied daily and shares some of her insights in this memoir.

Tales of Two Americas, edited by John Freeman – In this collection, 36 contemporary writers explore what life is like in a country as divided as the United States. The collection includes essays, poems, and stories to try and help connect these deeply varied experiences to our own. Any collection that can pull together Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Edwidge Danticat, Eula Bliss, Karen Russell and more, is worth picking up.

Kindle Deals in Biography and Memoir

And if that’s not enough book goodness for you, here are three great Kindle Monthly Deals from the biography and memoir section you can snag this month:

And with that, I’ll close this newsletter out so I can get back to my book — I’m about two-thirds done with Bored and Brilliant and want to hide my phone in my sock drawer forever. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at with questions, comments, suggestions, or book recommendations. Happy reading!

True Story

Last Books of Summer, and a Didion Documentary

Welcome to September, fellow readers. Fall is a big season in publishing, and this year is not exception… my list of new releases for September is about a mile long. But before we get into that, I want to peek back on a couple of summer releases I didn’t get to feature yet, share some news from women writers, and feature a few book lists to add to your already toppling TBR. Let’s get into it!

Sponsored by Endeavour Press

500 years before the Vikings and a millenia before Columbus, an Irish monk set sail westward on the Atlantic, in search of the Garden of Eden.

Acclaimed travel writer, Tim Severin, sets out on the same voyage using identical equipment that St Brendan describes in his sixth century account. This classic of modern exploration has been translated into 27 languages – find out why in this gripping book.

New Releases on My Radar

Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo — I don’t know how this book didn’t get my attention when it came out earlier this summer. After her college graduation, Michelle Kuo arrived in rural Arkansas as a Teach for America volunteer. This book is about her relationship with one student, Patrick, who was jailed for murder after Kuo finished her teaching assignment. Kuo returns to Arkansas to mentor Patrick as he waits for his trial to brgin. There’s been some buzz about this one on the Book Riot back channels, all really good.

Bonus Read: Kuo answered five questions about the book for the New York Times.

A Woman’s Place is at the Top by Hannah Kimberley —  I’ve never heard of Annie Smith Peck, which is such a shame. A scholar, lecturer, educator, writer, and suffragist, Peck was also a daring mountain climber who became famous after climbing Matterhorn (scandalously, in pants!) in 1895. Hannah Kimberley began researching Peck for her PhD, and brings a wealth of new sources to the book. This one sounds exciting!

Bonus Read: The Sierra Club has a brief story on the book with some comments from the author.

To Siri with Love by Judith Newman — In this book, journalist Judith Newman writes about her 13-year-old autistic son, Gus, and his relationship with his iPhone’s virtual assistant, Siri. Newman explores how technology can help those who are struggling to find their voice, and what life is like for families trying to help an autistic child make their way in the world.

Bonus Read: This isn’t related to the book, but I thought it was funny. In 2014, Newman wrote about her odyssey to get an author page published on Wikipedia.

Photo by Julian Wasser, courtesy of Netflix

Netflix to Release Joan Didion Documentary

I am so in for this one. Netflix will be releasing a documentary on journalism legend Joan Didion on October 27. Titled Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, the film is being directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne, who called it “a true labor of love.” Joan Didion is basically too cool for this world, I hope I can channel some of that just by watching the movie.

Excerpts from What Happened Released

Hillary Clinton released an excerpt from her upcoming memoir, What Happened, that I think just about any woman can relate too. In the excerpt, Clinton shares what she was thinking during the second presidential debate, when Donald Trump spent a good chunk of the town hall looming over her shoulder. I remember being viscerally uncomfortable during that time, and it sounds like Clinton was too:

“It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, ‘back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’”

If you can’t get enough of post-2016 election books, another one to look for in early September is Unbelievable by NBC News correspondent Katy Tur. You may recall that Tur was repeatedly targeted by Trump and, at one point, had to be escorted to her car by Secret Service agents after being called out at a rally.

Book Lists to Topple Your TBR

I love a good book list. Here are a few I’ve come across lately:

On My Nightstand

I’m in the middle of two books right now: Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun and Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick.

Calhoun’s book is an expansion of a Modern Life essay by the same name, and looks at the complexities of marriage. Instead of thinking of a wedding as the end of a love story, Calhoun treats it like the first chapter in a bigger story that will have its own challenges and beautiful moments. I thought a lot about my own relationships while reading this one.

Black Flags is… less cheerful than that. I can see why the book, a chronicle of the rise of ISIS from a prison in Jordan to the major force it is today, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. The narrative and storytelling are very strong, and it’s really drawing me into this complex and terrible world.

And that’s all I’ve got for this week, aside from some exciting news to share. Beginning this month, True Story will be going to a weekly newsletter, so look for me in your inbox again next Friday. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

Children’s Stories, Corporate Scandals, and Kindle Deals

This week in nonfiction we’ve got a deep dive into children’s stories, a French corporate scandal involving the world’s richest woman, and authors recommending nonfiction to read at the beach. Let’s dive in!

Annotated brings you the story of the world’s most glamorous librarian. Download it for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your podcast player or choice.

New Books On My Radar

Wild Things by Bruce Handy (August 15 from Simon and Schuster) – Vanity Fair contributing editor Bruce Handy revisits the classics of children’s literature, looking at the backstories of their creators to explore how these books have changed and influenced us over time. I’m especially intrigued by the promise of a close analysis of these stories and the values they help instill in readers.

Bonus Read: Newsday has a good Q&A with Handy about his influences for the book and how he approached putting it together.

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams and Jeannine Amber (August 22 from Dey Street Books) – Comedian Patricia Williams grew up as one of five children of a single mother. Petty crime was common in their home, as were drugs, scams, and sexual abuse. Williams was a mother of two by 15, but managed to use hustle and humor to get ahead. I’m usually a little nervous about redemption memoirs, but I’m curious about this one.

Bonus Listen: Ms. Pat shared her story with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast a couple of years ago.

The Bettencourt Affair by Tom Sancton (August 8 from Dutton) – For the last decade Liliane Bettencourt, the 94-year-old heiress to the L’Oréal fortune, has been embroiled in the “Bettencourt Affair” – a scandal involving corporate history, World War II secrets, and a curious love story between Bettencourt and a French artist. I will always take a second look at a book with this much political and legal drama, so curious!

Bonus Read: NPR has a short review and interview with Tom Sancton on the book, which gives a better summary of the case than I can possibly manage.

Priestdaddy is Coming to the Screen

The Wrap reports that Imagine Television has optioned Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy, about her father, a converted Catholic priest, and the eight months she and her husband spent living back to the rectory with her parents. The project will be a limited series – one of my favorite tv formats – but no news yet on where it might be available to watch.

Nonfiction for the Beach

Although summer is (sadly!) coming to an end, there’s still at least one vacation weekend to fill with great reads. Authors Kevin Flynn, Rebecca Lavoie, and Scaachi Koul put together a great list of nonfiction to read at the beach that includes an interesting mix of true crime, history, memoir, and essays.

Meanwhile, Over At Book Riot…

Ebook Deals to Check Out!

This week I skimmed through the biography and memoir Kindle deals for this month and pulled out a few that I think you might enjoy:

On My Nightstand

I decided to dig into some history this week with Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy (Oct. 10 from Hachette). Even though it’s a World War II history book (something I don’t usually find very exciting), I’m all in for books about the unsung work of professional women. I also really love cryptography and code breaking, even though I definitely don’t have the skills for that particular kind of work. I’m a few chapters in and, so far, I’m really loving it.

As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

New Nonfiction on Evolutionary Biology, Fear, and Creativity

Welcome to August, nonfiction lovers. This month seems to kick off the big fall publishing schedule, although most of the releases I’m thinking about are out closer to the end of the month. This week I’ve got two new titles to highlight, along with a bunch of news about adaptations and another major political memoir announcement. Let’s dive in!

Annotated brings you the story of the world’s most glamorous librarian. Download it for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your podcast player or choice.

New Releases on My Radar

Improbable Destinies by Jonathan B. Losos (August 8 from Riverhead Books) – Jonathan Losos, a biology professor at Harvard University, is a leader in the study of evolutionary biology. In this book, he explores a major debate in the field – convergence versus contingency – through the scientists leading the way in experimental evolutionary science. This book is a little outside my science comfort zone, but I also think it sounds pretty fascinating.

Bonus Reads: Back in 2013, Losos was the author of a popular New York Times blog, Scientist at Work. Improbable Destinies was also recently reviewed in Science magazine.

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life by Megan Stielstra (August 1 from Harper Perennial) – I am a sucker for new essay collections, especially those that are about “fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice” and that have a blurb from Roxane Gay. And I think contemplating fears, those that seem justified and those we may move past, is something we all should do more.

Bonus Reads: I enjoyed this short profile of Stielstra from Chicago Mag and this Chicago Reader piece about Stielstra based on interviews from her friends and family. The second, in particular, is a fun way to explore writing about an essayist who uses their friends and family in their work.

Hillary Clinton Announces Title of Memoir

Last week, Hillary Clinton announced the title and publication date of her upcoming memoir – What Happened out Sept. 12 – and shared a little bit about the writing process. In a Facebook post, Clinton wrote:

“I’ll be honest: Writing “What Happened” wasn’t easy. Neither is witnessing what we see in the news every day. It’s never been more important to fight back and stand up for what we believe. I hope this book inspires you to keep going.”

The announcement fueled numerous think pieces (including this smart one from Nicole Froio on the book’s historical importance) and a bunch of funny tweets and a lot of speculation about what the book will actually be about. I’m somewhere between excited and skeptical. I would love to see Clinton really talk about the sexist challenges of being the first female presidential candidate, but I’m worried it’s going to be all about Russia and the stupid email scandal. I want reflective and biting… not avoidance and blaming. We shall see in September.

Ta-Nehisi Coates Essays Coming This Fall

I’m a little late on including this news in a newsletter, so apologies for that. Ta-Nehisi Coates will have a collection of new and previously published essays on the Obama era published on Oct. 3 from Penguin Random House. The book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, is a follow up to 2015’s Between the World and Me, which is pretty much a must-read title on race and America. I am definitely looking forward to reading this one.

ODWABDANOTWM Coming to Small Screen

Scaachi Koul’s excellent essay collection One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None of This Will Matter may be coming to the small screen. Playback Online reports that a Toronto company, First Generation Films, has optioned the rights to the collection for a half-hour TV comedy that will also be Koul’s tv writing debut. This sounds so fun!

In Cold Blood to Be Revisited in Limited Series

A “limited series” based on the 1959 Clutter family murders made famous in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is being planned. Deadline reports:

“The new, limited series will reveal never-before-seen evidence gathered by law enforcement during the original investigation. It also brings to light newly discovered clues as to what really happened the night the Clutter family was killed.”

On My Nightstand

If I’m going to be totally honest with you, dear readers, my entire nightstand is filled with fiction right now. I got a bunch of holds in from the library, so I am immersed in those books at the moment. But when I get back to nonfiction, I’ve got two books I plan to pick up – American Eclipse by David Baron (narrative history about Gilded Age America and the 1878 total solar eclipse) and The Return by Hisham Matar (the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir about Matar’s “journey home to his native Libya in search of answers to his father’s disappearance”). American Eclipse is because I want to learn more about the eclipse before August 21, and The Return because my book club will be reading it soon.

As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

Memoirs from the Obama Administration are Coming!

This week’s newsletter is full to the brim with new books and news about some upcoming political memoirs I think will be awfully interesting. Onwards!

Sponsored by JT McCormick, the CEO of Book In A Box and author of I Got There

JT McCormick shouldn’t have succeeded. He was born the mixed-race son of a negligent, drug-dealing pimp father and a struggling, single mother. He was raised in the slums of Dayton, Ohio, suffered incredible abuse and racism, and had multiple stints in the juvenile justice system. He barely graduated high school. But succeed he did.

Starting by scrubbing toilets, JT hustled and worked his way into better opportunities, eventually finding incredible success in the mortgage industry. And then it all fell apart. He lost his job, and his money. But this setback became the springboard for him to reach even bigger heights–eventually becoming President of a multimillion-dollar software company, and then CEO of a multimillion-dollar book-publishing start-up.


Obama Staffers Writing Books!

It was big news when Barack and Michelle Obama announced a two book deal with Penguin Random House, but it turns out that’s just the tip if the iceberg when it comes to books by former members of the administration. Here are a few of the ones I’ve seen in the last few weeks:

  • Joe Biden has a major book tour planned in conjunction with his upcoming memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, scheduled for publication on November 14. He’ll start the “American Promise” tour by sitting down with Oprah, then head out to 19 cities across the United States.
  • Pete Souza, former White House photographer, has a collection of photos — Obama: An Intimate Portrait — out on November 7. Go follow him on Instagram right now, he’s amazing.
  • David Litt, Obama’s former speechwriter, has a memoir coming out on September 19 — Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House YearsIt was a simpler time back then.
  • Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s top advisors, has signed a book deal with Viking, a “medley of personal history and civic advice, narrating her path since childhood.” No details on a publication date yet.
  • Former FBI Director James Comey also has plans to write a book and, as you might expect, a lot of publishers are interested in it. By the time you read this, an official deal may have been announced for the book, which will be about “the principles that have guided [him] through some of the most challenging moments of his legal career.” (And yes, I know he’s not really an Obama staffer… forgive me for stretching).

Current Events Reading Lists

Given how much Russian has been in the news lately, I highly recommend this January post from Rioter Katie McBride: Required Reading for Understanding WTF is Happening in Russia. Masha Gessen, one of the authors mentioned in the post, has another book coming out later this year to keep on your radar — The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (October 3 from Riverhead).

A couple of recent posts that offer some context on current issues include this one on body positive memoirs, and this one on health care, North Korea, and populism.

New Releases on My Radar

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro — Journalist and culinary historian (can that be my job?) Laura Shapiro explores the lives of six women — Dorothy Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym, and Helen Gurley Brown — through the food they ate, cooked, and loved. I like the idea of really digging into the idea that you are what you eat.

Bonus Read: Eater magazine recently published a profile of Shapiro that I think is a fun read.

Among the Living and the Dead by Inara Verzemnieks — Inara Verzemnieks was raised by her Latvian grandparents in the state of Washington, where she heard stories about the country they were forced to flee, ravaged by war. Eventually, she traveled back to the villages her family came from to follow the story of her grandmother and her grandmother’s sister through their separation and exile.

Bonus Read: Although not specifically book-related, this NYT Magazine piece on “life in Obamacare’s dead zone” by Verzemnieks is an excellent read.

Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif — I totally missed this book when it came out last month, my bad! Manal al-Sharif grew up in a devoutly religious family. After getting her education, al-Sharif began work as a computer security engineer and started to object to the strict codes of conduct for women. She became an accidental activist after choosing to drive her car on city streets.

Bonus Read: Al-Sharif wrote a moving piece about leaving her son in Saudia Arabia after getting a divorce from her husband and being forced to leave the country because of her activism.

On My Nightstand

My recent nonfiction reading hasn’t been very cheerful. I’m almost finished with Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, a look at rental housing and the challenge it can be for living in poverty to keep a roof over their heads. It’s been making me alternatively sad and angry, though I’m hoping that by the end Desmond will be able to offer some suggestions about what we might do to fix some of the really serious problems with the system.

And I think that’s enough for this week. Thanks for reading all the way throught! As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!

True Story

25 More Nonfiction Favorites Now Out in Paperback

Welcome to the third quarter of the year, nonfiction lovers. I hope you all had a great Fourth of July holiday weekend, filled with booze and books and sunshine.

Sponsored by Overdrive

Meet Libby, a new app built with love for readers to discover and enjoy eBooks and audiobooks from your library. Created by OverDrive and inspired by library users, Libby was designed to get people reading as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Libby is a one-tap reading app for your library who is a good friend always ready to go to the library with you. One-tap to borrow, one-tap to read, and one-tap to return to your library or bookshelf to begin your next great book.

This week’s edition of the newsletter is devoted to my favorite book format, the mighty trade paperback. That’s right, as promised in March, I’ve put together a list of 25 nonfiction favorites that finally came out in paperback in the second quarter of 2017 (from April to June). I culled the titles from a variety of sources, and while it certainly isn’t comprehensive, I hope it’ll be useful for snagging some of these great 2016 titles for your library.

The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward – Essays and poems about race, collected as a response by James Baldwin’s 1963 essay collection of the same title.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer – A group of librarians “pull a brazen heist worth of Ocean’s Eleven” to save ancient texts from Al Qaeda.

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin – An account of the Patty Hearst saga of the 1970s, and a more general look at the turbulence of that time.

White Trash by Nancy Isenberg – This is another one of those book that’s gotten a boost thanks to the election of President Trump. Isenberg surveys the 400 year history of the marginalization of poor white Americans.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown – A groundbreaking researcher shares “stories of being brave, falling, and getting back up.” This is a favorite for many Rioters.

In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero – An actress recounts her challenges as a young woman after her parents, illegal immigrants, were deported, leaving her alone in the United States.

American Pharoah by Joe Drape – A reported account of how American Pharoah won the Triple Crown and affected his jockey, trainer, and owner.

The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth – In 1884, the Midnight Assassin terrorized Austin, Texas, violently murdering women and earning the title of America’s first serial killer.

But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman – Klosterman takes on the challenging task of trying to figure out what the modern world will look like when it’s in the past – what reasonable ideas will eventually look ridiculous?

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi – After Faludi learns that her estranged 76-year-old father has had sex reassignment surgery, she digs into her family’s past and the meaning of identity.

The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang – Yang shares the story of her father, a “song poet” in the Hmong tradition who came to Minnesota as a refugee.

The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson – Two twentysomethings in World War II London set up a marriage bureau to help eligible citizens find love.

Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick – From the subtitle, “George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution.”

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman – A collection of essays from a favorite author.

Paper: A World History by Mark Kurlansky – The author who told the story of salt is back with a microhistory of paper. So nerdy!

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing – After moving to New York City on her own, Olivia Laing explores what it means to be alone, and “how it might be resisted and redeemed.”

Grunt by Mary Roach – Another excellent entry from a favorite science writer, this one looking at the research that keeps soldiers safe and comfortable.

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach – Soccer star Abby Wambach writes about how her “professional success often masked her inner struggle to reconcile the various parts of herself.”

A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson – A memoir about seven generations of women in one family, spanning the 19th century to the present.

The Lynching by Laurence Leamer – The “true story of a brutal race-based killing in 1981 and subsequent trials that undid one of the most pernicious organizations in American history – the Ku Klux Klan.”

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee – A look at how we’ve come to understand the gene and the science that could come from this discovery.

Love Wins by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell – The story of the two men behind Obergefell v Hodges, the case that legalized gay marriage in the United States.

A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder – A profile of Paul English, a “Pied Piper” of geeks and “unconventional inventor and entrepreneur.”

Consequence: A Memoir by Eric Fair – Rioter Tracy Shapey called this memoir, by a former interrogator in Iraq, called this “one of the frankest, most brutally honest” memoirs she’d ever read.

Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art by Virginia Heffernan – A look at the digital world, and an argument that the internet should be considered a huge collaborative work of art.

Before I put this newsletter to bed, I want to close with a quick plug for Book Riot’s newest podcast, Annotated. The podcast is a documentary series about books, reading, and language, with a similar format to podcasts like This American Life, Planet Money, or Invisibilia (all great, especially for you nonfiction lovers). Episodes of Annotated’s first season (six episodes total) will come out every other week, and you can subscribe in Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or in your podcast player of choice.

As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are always welcome. You can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at Happy reading!