THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH, Joan Schenkar, St. Martin's. Definitive biography of the controversial American novelist. The New York Times says, “[Schenkar] writes with great authority and perverse affection….[She] shows an uncannily keen grasp of Highsmith’s spirit.” Publishers Weekly made the book its Pick of the Week, saying “Author and playwright Schenkar presents a compelling portrait of suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith, whose own life was often as twisted as that of her antihero Tom Ripley....Schenkar illuminates how her demons played out on the page and in real life.”
FUR, FORTUNE, AND EMPIRE: THE EPIC HISTORY OF THE FUR TRADE IN AMERICA, Eric Jay Dolin, Norton. In a sweeping narrative crammed with larger-than-life stories and characters, Dolin shows how America's manifest destiny was built on the skins of beaver, buffalo, and other fur-bearers, and the men who exploited them.
MASTER OF WAR: THE LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS, Benson Bobrick, Simon & Schuster. The stirring story of the man who may have been the finest general in all American history, who turned the tide of the Civil War with one perfect battle.
THE DAY WE FOUND THE UNIVERSE, Marcia Bartusiak, Pantheon. The story of Edwin Hubble's discovery that the Milky Way was not the entire universe but just one small galaxy in an infinite, expanding universe.
REMARKABLE CREATURES: EPIC STORIES IN THE SEARCH FOR THE ORIGINS OF SPECIES, Dr. Sean B. Carroll, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. National Book Award finalist, 2009. The world's most prominent evolutionary biologist regales science and history buffs with stories of the great naturalists and field biologists, and their adventures, travels, and discoveries.
Y: REVEALING THE MYSTERIES OF MALENESS, Dr. Steve Jones, Houghton Mifflin. A biologist’s views on the scientific underpinnings of what it means to be a human male.
THE DEVIL AND SONNY LISTON, Nick Tosches, Little, Brown. An book-length expansion of the Vanity Fair article by contributing editor Tosches, investigating the brutal life and mysterious death of heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston. As he did in his classic DINO (about Dean Martin), Tosches uses a figure from pop culture to delve into the dark places in the American heart where entertainment and crime intersect, with grave and tragic consequences.
CAN’T FIND MY WAY HOME: AMERICA IN THE GREAT STONED AGE, 1945-2000, Martin Torgoff, Simon & Schuster. A grand-scale social history, involving more than 1,000 interviews and five years of travel and research.
THE SPICE ROUTES, Jack Turner, Knopf. Epic history of 4,000 years in the quest for cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and the like. Turner sees the spice trade as an engine driving the forces of history, bringing distant cultures into contact since ancient Egyptian times and thus profoundly affecting the shape of civilization.
A LAWYER’S LIFE, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. with David Fisher, St. Martin’s Press. The famed trial lawyer tells stories from his forty-year career.
THE WICKED GAME: JACK NICKLAUS, ARNOLD PALMER, TIGER WOODS, AND THE STORY OF MODERN GOLF, Howard Sounes, Morrow. An investigative journalist explores the evolution of golf into a pop phenomenon, building his narrative around the three greats who transformed the game.
BRIGHT EARTH: ART AND THE HISTORY OF COLOR, Philip Ball, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. A blend of art history and science, as Ball, a writer and editor at Nature, examines art from a scientific and technological perspective, exploring how artists are influenced by things like the chemistry of paint, the optics of the human eye, and so on.
POISONED POLE: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE DESPOILED ARCTIC, Marla Cone, Grove/Atlantic. The head of environmental reporting for the Los Angeles Times takes an 18-month leave of absence to travel throughout the Arctic, reporting on a shocking fact: the “clean” Arctic is riddled with pollution. A combination of personal adventure-travel, popular anthropology, and popular science.
DIGITAL BIOLOGY, Dr. Peter Bentley, Simon & Schuster. Bentley, a young British scientist, is the pioneer in an exciting new form of computer programming that will cause sweeping changes in the 21st century. Bentley and his colleagues are learning to create computers which are modeled on forms and patterns found in nature.
WALKING TALL: A BRIEF HISTORY OF BEING HUMAN, Dr. Craig Stanford, Houghton Mifflin. A primatologist examines the rise of bipedalism and theorizes that it may have been the development most responsible for the development of sentience in our species.
PLAGUE: A STORY OF RIVALRY, SCIENCE, AND THE SCOURGE THAT WON’T GO AWAY, Edward Marriott, Holt. An ambitious book tying together the history of the black plague (which, contrary to popular misconception, is an ongoing health problem); an account of a terrifying outbreak in 1994; a suspenseful recounting of the race between two scientists in the late 19th century to discover how the disease spreads; and the author’s travels and adventures as he visits plague loci from Los Angeles to New York to Paris to India to Hong Kong.
ZERO HOUR: AMERICA AT WAR FROM PEARL HARBOR TO MIDWAY, DECEMBER 8, 1941 – JUNE 6, 1942, Joseph E. Stevens, Doubleday. A major work of American history which begins the day after Pearl Harbor and shows the cultural, military, economic, political, and philosophical transformation of America in the six months immediately after the attack, as the country transformed itself into a nation at war.
MAGNIFICENT MARS, Dr. Ken Croswell, Simon & Schuster. An ambitious coffee-table book consisting of nearly 100 of the most spectacular Martian photographs ever made, many taken directly on the Martian surface by NASA spacecraft. Dr. Croswell, an astronomer, selected the images and contributed 40,000 words of text.
THE END OF DETROIT: HOW THE CONSUMER TOOK BACK THE AUTO INDUSTRY, Micheline Maynard, Doubleday. A top New York Times automotive writer chronicles the imminent demise of the entire American car industry.
THE UNKNOWN NIGHT: THE GENIUS AND MADNESS OF RALPH ALLEN BLAKELOCK, AN AMERICAN PAINTER, Glyn Vincent, Grove/Atlantic. Blakelock, sometimes called “America’s Van Gogh,” was a mentally ill, institutionalized painter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
LILIBET, Carolly Erickson, St. Martin’s Press. A biography of Queen Elizabeth II of England (who is known to her friends by her childhood nickname, “Lilibet.”)
THE FIELD: THE QUEST FOR THE SECRET FORCE OF THE UNIVERSE, Lynne McTaggart, HarperCollins. A noted journalist specializing in science and medicine, McTaggart reports on a wide variety of research being done in leading universities around the world into the Zero Point Field. The ZPF, an energy field which permeates the universe, may hold the key to explaining various so-called “paranormal” phenomena from telepathy to the collective unconscious.
COMIC WARS: HOW TWO TYCOONS BATTLED OVER THE MARVEL COMICS EMPIRE – AND BOTH LOST, Dan Raviv, Broadway. A senior national correspondent for CBS News, Raviv tells the story of one of the strangest business battles of all time: the struggle for the ownership and soul of Marvel Comics. The players include two of the world’s wealthiest men, Ronald O. Perelman and Carl Icahn, and two self-made Israeli immigrant entrepreneurs. The little guys won, wresting the company away from the billionaires and returning it to its roots.
THE SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRDS, David Sibley, Knopf. A revolutionary new approach to field identification of North American birds. Has supplanted all previous efforts to become the dominant book of its kind.
“FOSSIL FACE”: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF STEPHEN JAY GOULD, Frederic Golden, Joseph Henry Press. A biography of the famed evolutionary biologist and bestselling author.
THE WIND MASTERS by Pete Dunne, Houghton Mifflin. “Of man and hawks”: folklore, zoology, human interest and anecdotes from one of America’s leading natural historians.
WIDE AS THE WATERS: THE STORY OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE AND THE REVOLUTION IT INSPIRED, Benson Bobrick, Simon & Schuster. The story of the huge effort to translate the King James Bible: a PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS of poetry, literature, history, and translation, peopled by larger-than-life historical figures and some interesting villains as well.
THE ERIE CANAL, Gerard Koeppel, Doubleday. Like its inspiration, the classic bestseller THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, this is the story of a mighty project which changed the course of history. The Erie Canal was the most ambitious engineering project yet attempted, and opened up a path which led directly to America’s expansion toward the Pacific.
HEROES WITHOUT A COUNTRY: AMERICA’S BETRAYAL OF JOE LOUIS AND JESSE OWENS, Donald McRae, Ecco/HarperCollins. A dual biography of two great athletes, who were close friends and whose careers offer many eerie parallels, both in their personal triumphs and tragedies and in their impact on history. America’s ambivalence about African-American athletes – such a huge issue in the history of modern sport – has its roots in the intertwined careers of these two men. A moving story about two courageous and heroic figures, the book is also a thought-provoking history of one of our country’s most confusing and troubling contradictions.
DOG DAYS AND DANDELIONS: A LIVELY GUIDE TO THE ANIMAL MEANINGS BEHIND EVERYDAY WORDS, Martha Barnette, St. Martin’s Press. From origins that are immediately apparent (grubby refers to grubs, and lousy to lice), to others that might take a little thought (burrito means little donkey, vermicelli translates as little worms), all the way to influences only an etymologist would know (bombastic comes from the Old French bombace, meaning soft padding, which in turn came from bómbyx, the ancient Greek word for silkworm), Barnette offers an entertaining look at the animal kingdom as a source for some of the most colorful and interesting words in the English language.
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE: THE CAUSE OF THE MOST DRAMATIC EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF LIFE, Dr. Andrew Parker, Perseus. A young Oxford zoologist has solved one of science’s greatest puzzles: why did the Cambrian Explosion take place? Parker not only solves the mystery but tells the riveting personal story of his decade-long scientific investigation.
THE ARCHIVES OF THE UNIVERSE: A TREASURY OF ASTRONOMY’S HISTORIC WORKS OF DISCOVERY, edited by Marcia Bartusiak, Pantheon. Excerpts from more than 100 original scientific papers that have transformed astronomy over two millennia, from Aristotle to the present day. Each paper is introduced with an essay by Bartusiak explaining its role in the history of astronomy.
THE PRIZE OF ALL THE OCEANS: ANSON’S VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD, Glyn Williams, Viking. A stirring sea saga of a military expedition around the world in l740-l744 which ended in mutiny, murder, and, strangely, the elevation of Commodore Anson to heroic status thanks to his successful cover-up of the catastrophic end of his mission. Glyn Williams exposes the cover-up after 250 years.
THE POPE AND THE HERETIC: A TRUE STORY OF COURAGE AND MURDER AT THE HANDS OF THE INQUISITION, Michael White, HarperCollins. John Grisham meets LONGITUDE: the story of Bruno’s trial before the Inquisition in 1600, a riveting courtroom drama that changed the course of civilization.
THOMAS KUHN: RELUCTANT REVOLUTIONARY, Keay Davidson, Oxford University Press. A biography of the science historian, to be published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of his groundbreaking work, THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS.