BAND — Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees — is a group organized to promote the joy of reading nonfiction. We are “advocates for nonfiction as a non-chore,” and we want you to join us. Each month, a member of BAND hosts a discussion on their blog related to nonfiction.
The topic of July’s nonfiction discussion is a good one, although perhaps a problem for my ever-growing To Be Read list. Zohar at Man of la Book asked us to write about upcoming nonfiction we’re excited to read.
While there are many, many books that I’m looking forward to, here are four that I’m especially excited about that all happen to be acquisitions from Book Expo America. I hope you’ll forgive the cover copy descriptions, but since I haven’t read them yet I’m not sure I can do the descriptions justice!
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich (September 10 from Public Affairs)
When I went to BEA in June, the only must get book on my entire list was The Good Girls Revolt. This book appeals to just about all of my bookish weaknesses — journalism, feminism, history and a good narrative. It’s been hard to keep myself from reading this one immediately, but I’m trying to hold off until a little closer to the publication date. I’m pretty sure it’ll be on my August reading list though.
On March 16, 1970, the day “Newsweek “published a cover story on the fledgling feminist movement entitled “Women in Revolt,” forty-six “Newsweek “women charged the magazine with discrimination in hiring and promotion. It was the first female class action lawsuit–the first by women journalists–and it inspired other women in the media to quickly follow suit.
Lynn Povich was one of the ringleaders. In The Good Girls Revolt, she evocatively tells the story of this dramatic turning point through the lives of several participants. With warmth, humor, and perspective, she shows how personal experiences and cultural shifts led a group of well-mannered, largely apolitical women, raised in the 1940s and 1950s, to challenge their bosses–and what happened after they did.
The Slumbering Masses by Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer (September 10 from the University of Minnesota Press)
I love nonfiction on quirky things, and from what I can tell The Slumbering Masses will fit right into that niche. Sleep is obviously something that impacts all of us, but I have to admit I’ve never spent time thinking about how notions of sleep are impacted by how modern society is designed. In some ways, I think this book will explore sleep in a similar way to how Katherine Sharpe explored depression in Coming of Age on Zoloft, another book I read recently and enjoyed.
Americans spend billions of dollars every year on drugs, therapy, and other remedies trying to get a good night’s sleep. Anxieties about not getting enough sleep and the impact of sleeplessness on productivity, health, and happiness pervade medical opinion, the workplace, and popular culture. In The Slumbering Masses, Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer addresses the phenomenon of sleep and sleeplessness in the United States, tracing the influence of medicine and industrial capitalism on the sleeping habits of Americans from the nineteenth century to the present.
Before the introduction of factory shift work, Americans enjoyed a range of sleeping practices, most commonly two nightly periods of rest supplemented by daytime naps. The new sleeping regimen—eight uninterrupted hours of sleep at night—led to the pathologization of other ways of sleeping. Arguing that the current model of sleep is rooted not in biology but in industrial capitalism’s relentless need for productivity, The Slumbering Masses examines so-called Z-drugs that promote sleep, the use of both legal and illicit stimulants to combat sleepiness, and the contemporary politics of time. Wolf-Meyer concludes by exploring the extremes of sleep, from cases of perpetual sleeplessness and the sleepwalking defense in criminal courts to military experiments with ultra-short periods of sleep.
The End of Men by Hanna Rosin (September 11 from Riverhead Hardcover)
The End of Men is actually a book I’ve been anticipating for a couple of years. I think the boyfriend first pointed me to Hannah Rosin in 2010 after she wrote a provocative article for The Atlantic with the same title as the book. We had a couple good discussions about her thesis — that modern society is better suited to women — and I’m looking forward to reading this one soon. I expect there will be a lot of publicity for this book in the next month or two.
Men have been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But Hanna Rosin was the first to notice that this long-held truth is, astonishingly, no longer true. At this unprecedented moment, by almost every measure, women are no longer gaining on men: They have pulled decisively ahead. And “the end of men”—the title of Rosin’s Atlantic cover story on the subject—has entered the lexicon as dramatically as Betty Friedan’s “feminine mystique,” Simone de Beauvoir’s “second sex,” Susan Faludi’s “backlash,” and Naomi Wolf’s “beauty myth” once did.
In this landmark book, Rosin reveals how this new state of affairs is radically shifting the power dynamics between men and women at every level of society, with profound implications for marriage, sex, children, work, and more.
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan (November 13 from Free Press)
I’m certainly not the only person excited to read Brain on Fire. It was the only nonfiction selection at the 2012 BEA Editor’s Buzz panel, and I know several other bloggers who have already read and recommended it. I’m fascinated by medical stories, and I know reading about the terrifying experience of someone so similar to me will be intense.
One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four year old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.
Susannah’s astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.