Thursday, January 3, 2013

5 Nonfiction Titles to Watch For in January

A new year is a great time to try some new nonfiction and get a new perspective on the world. Here are 5 titles being released in January 2013 that have caught my eye.

On Looking: eleven walks with expert eyes (M)
by Alexandra Horowitz (January 8)

I loved Horowitz's 2009 book Inside of a Dog: what dogs see, smell, and know and that I have a huge soft spot for books about dogs was only part of the reason. Horowitz has a delightfully approachable writing style and reading that book was like having a conversation with a good friend. I'm interested to see how she takes that style to a new topic: human perception.

"On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, the well-known artist Maira Kalman, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. She also walks with a child and a dog to see the world as they perceive it. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer."

Big Truck That Went By: how the world came to save Haiti and left behind a disaster (M)
by Jonathan M. Katz (January 8)

On the eve of the third anniversary of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti on January 10, 2010 comes a book looking at what has happened since as this impoverished nation has attempted to recover.

"The Big Truck That Went By presents a sharp critique of international aid that defies today’s conventional wisdom; that the way wealthy countries give aid makes poor countries seem irredeemably hopeless, while trapping millions in cycles of privation and catastrophe. Katz follows the money to uncover startling truths about how good intentions go wrong, and what can be done to make aid “smarter.” "

Friendfluence: the surprising ways friends make us who we are (M)
by Carlin Flora (January 15)

With all the talk about internet social networking these days, we're accustomed to reading about the ways that our social connections can impact our lives in terms of business and opportunity, but how do our friends influence us as people, and what do our friendships say about us as individuals.

"Why is dinner with friends often more laughter filled and less fraught than a meal with family? Although some say it’s because we choose our friends, it’s also because we expect less of them than we do of relatives. While we’re busy scrutinizing our romantic relationships and family dramas, our friends are quietly but strongly influencing everything from the articles we read to our weight fluctuations, from our sex lives to our overall happiness levels. Evolutionary psychologists have long theorized that friendship has roots in our early dependence on others for survival. These days, we still cherish friends but tend to undervalue their role in our lives. However, the skills one needs to make good friends are among the very skills that lead to success in life, and scientific research has recently exploded with insights about the meaningful and enduring ways friendships influence us. With people marrying later—and often not at all—and more families having just one child, these relationships may be gaining in importance. The evidence even suggests that at times friends have a greater hand in our development and well-being than do our romantic partners and relatives."

The Heavy: a mother, a daughter, a diet - a memoir (M)
by Dara-Lynn Weiss (January 15)

Food and food issues are in the news almost constantly these days: this memoir seems to have something for parents or anyone who has thought about the modern North American diet and what it means for us.

"When a doctor pronounced Dara-Lynn Weiss’s daughter Bea obese at age seven, the mother of two knew she had to take action. But how could a woman with her own food and body issues—not to mention spotty eating habits - successfully parent a little girl around the issue of obesity? In this much-anticipated, controversial memoir, Dara-Lynn Weiss chronicles the struggle and journey to get Bea healthy. In describing their process - complete with frustrations, self-recriminations, dark humor, and some surprising strategies - Weiss reveals the hypocrisy inherent in the debates over many cultural hot-button issues: from processed snacks, organic foods, and school lunches to dieting, eating disorders, parenting methods, discipline, and kids’ self-esteem."

The Future: six drivers of global change (M)
by Al Gore (January 29)

A book by Al Gore is almost certain to be an event. The former US vice president's book and related film An Inconvenient Truth became a cultural phenomenon since its release in 2006. This new book seems a fitting follow up to the environmental treatise that asked us to consider our actions and beware the consequences, because, as the name implies, it looks forward to where the world is headed.

"From his earliest days in public life, Al Gore has been warning us of the promise and peril of emergent truths—no matter how “inconvenient” they may seem to be. As absorbing as it is visionary, The Future is a map of the world to come, from a man who has looked ahead before and been proven all too right."

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