Nonfiction Roundup: August 2022

Below I’m highlighting some nonfiction books coming out in August. All of the mentioned titles are available to put on hold in our catalog and will also be made available via the library’s Overdrive website on the day of publication in eBook and downloadable audiobook format (as available). For a more extensive list of new nonfiction books coming out this month, check our online catalog.

Top Picks

Acceptance book coverAcceptance: A Memoir” by Emi Nietfeld (Aug 2)
As a homeless teenager writing college essays in her ’92 Toyota Corolla, Emi Nietfeld was convinced that an elite school was the only path away from her dysfunctional childhood. But upward mobility required crafting the perfect resilience narrative, proving that she was an “overcomer,” made stronger by all that she had endured. The truth was far murkier. Emi’s mom was a charming hoarder who had her put on antipsychotics, but believed in her daughter’s brilliance — unlike the Minnesotan foster family who banned her “pornographic” art history flashcards (of Michelangelo’s David). Emi’s other parent’s departure from her life was tied up in a gender transition that few in the mid-2000s understood. Her own past was filled with facts that she needed to hide: mental health struggles, Adderall addiction and the unbecoming desperation of a teenager fending for herself. The obstacles Emi claimed she had transcended still defined her life; even though she would go on to graduate from Harvard and become a software engineer at Google, she found that success didn’t necessarily mean safety. Told with an incisive storyteller’s eye, this searing memoir exposes the cost of trading a troubled past for the promise of a bright future. Having experienced the American Dream firsthand, Emi speaks truth to the high cost of upward mobility, the hypocrisy of elite spaces, and the harsh standards set by societal ideals of grit and resilience. Candid and often harrowing, with a ribbon of dark humor, “Acceptance” is an electrifying read that challenges our ideas of what it means to overcome — and find contentment on your own terms.

Life on the Mississippi book coverLife on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure” by Rinker Buck (Aug 9)
A modern-day Huck Finn, Buck casts off down the river on the flatboat Patience accompanied by an eccentric crew of daring shipmates. Over the course of his voyage, Buck steers his fragile wooden craft through narrow channels dominated by massive cargo barges, rescues his first mate gone overboard, sails blindly through fog, breaks his ribs not once but twice, and camps every night on sandbars, remote islands and steep levees. As he charts his own journey, he also delivers a richly satisfying work of history that brings to life a lost era. The role of the flatboat in our country’s evolution is far more significant than most Americans realize. Between 1800 and 1840, millions of farmers, merchants, and teenage adventurers embarked from states like Pennsylvania and Virginia on flatboats headed beyond the Appalachians to Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana. Like the Nile, the Thames, or the Seine before them, the western rivers in America became a floating supply chain that fueled national growth. Settler families repurposed the wood from their boats to build their first cabins in the wilderness; cargo boats were broken apart and sold to build the boomtowns along the water route. Joining the river traffic were floating brothels, called “gun boats;” “smithy boats” for blacksmiths; even “whiskey boats” with taverns mounted on jaunty rafts. In the present day, America’s inland rivers are a superhighway dominated by leviathan barges — carrying $80 billion of cargo annually — all descended from flatboats like the ramshackle Patience, which must avoid being crushed alongside their metal hulls. As a historian, Buck resurrects the era’s adventurous spirit, but he also challenges familiar myths about American expansion, confronting the bloody truth behind settlers’ push for land and wealth. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced more than 125,000 members of the Cherokee, Choctaw and several other tribes to travel the Mississippi on a brutal journey en route to the barrens of Oklahoma. Simultaneously, almost a million enslaved African Americans were carried in flatboats and marched by foot 1,000 miles over the Appalachians to the cotton and cane fields of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, birthing the term “sold down the river.” Weaving together a tapestry of first-person histories, Buck portrays this watershed era of American expansion as it was really lived.

Raising Lazarus book coverRaising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis” by Beth Macy (Aug 16)
Nearly a decade into the second wave of America’s overdose crisis, pharmaceutical companies have yet to answer for the harms they created. As pending court battles against opioid makers, distributors and retailers drag on, addiction rates have soared to record-breaking levels during the COVID pandemic, illustrating the critical need for leadership, urgency and change. Meanwhile, there is scant consensus between law enforcement and medical leaders, nor an understanding of how to truly scale the programs that are out there, working at the ragged edge of capacity and actually saving lives. Distilling this massive, unprecedented national health crisis down to its character-driven emotional core as only she can, Beth Macy takes us into the country’s hardest hit places to witness the devastating personal costs that one-third of America’s families are now being forced to shoulder. Here we meet the ordinary people fighting for the least of us with the fewest resources, from harm reductionists risking arrest to bring lifesaving care to the homeless and addicted to the activists and bereaved families pushing to hold Purdue and the Sackler family accountable. These heroes come from all walks of life; what they have in common is an up-close and personal understanding of addiction that refuses to stigmatize — and therefore abandon — people who use drugs, as big pharma execs and many politicians are all too ready to do. Like the treatment innovators she profiles, Beth Macy meets the opioid crisis where it is — not where we think it should be or wish it was. Bearing witness with clear eyes, intrepid curiosity, and unfailing empathy, she brings us the crucial next installment in the story of the defining disaster of our era, one that touches every single one of us, whether directly or indirectly. A complex story of public health, big pharma, dark money, politics, race and class that is by turns harrowing and heartening, infuriating and inspiring, “Raising Lazarus” is a must-read for all Americans.

More Notable Releases for August

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