Anticipated Reads: Early 2017 Nonfiction

Nonfiction saved the day for me in an underwhelming, infuriating 2016, so I’m definitely looking forward to several new titles in 2017. Here are a few I’m hoping to squeeze in (with descriptions courtesy of their publishers).

Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives by Leigh Gilmore (January 17, 2017)

Tainted Witness elucidates how persistent and pernicious patterns of doubt attach to women who bring forward accounts of sexual and racial violence. Reactions to Anita Hill’s testimony as well as Rigoberta Menchú’s account of genocide in Guatemala, contemporary memoirs that chronicle experiences of gendered and racialized violence, and news stories like Nafissatou Diallo’s claim that Dominique Strauss-Kahn raped her, demonstrate the reflexive processes of judgment that discredit women’s complex accounts of harm, both in legal courts and courts of public opinion.”

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson (January 17, 2017)

“In the wake of yet another set of police killings of black men, Michael Eric Dyson wrote a tell-it-straight, no holds barred piece for the NYT this past July 7: ‘Death in Black and White.’ Comments were closed after they hit 2500, and Beyoncé and Isabel Wilkerson tweeted it. Dyson has been in the media non-stop since. Fifty years ago, Malcolm X told a white woman who asked what she could do for the cause, ‘Nothing.’ Dyson believes he was wrong. In Tears We Cannot Stop, he argues that if we are to make real racial progress, we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.”

The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation by Randall Fuller (January 24, 2017)

“The compelling story of the effect of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species on a diverse group of American writers, abolitionists, and social reformers, including Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott, in 1860. The Book That Changed America offers a fascinating narrative account of these prominent figures as they grappled over the course of that year with Darwin’s dangerous hypotheses. In doing so, it provides new perspectives on America prior to the Civil War, showing how Darwin’s ideas become potent ammunition in the debate over slavery and helped advance the cause of abolition by giving it scientific credibility.”

The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost by Donna Freitas (February 1, 2017)

“Sexting. Cyberbullying. Narcissism. Social media has become the dominant force in young people’s lives, and each day seems to bring another shocking tale of private pictures getting into the wrong hands, or a lament that young people feel compelled to share their each and every thought with the entire world. Have smartphones and social media created a generation of self-obsessed egomaniacs? Absolutely not, Donna Freitas argues in this provocative book. And, she says, these alarmist fears are drawing attention away from the real issues that young adults are facing.”

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt (February 14, 2017)

“With unexpected wit and a wealth of knowledge, Bill Schutt, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, takes us on a tour of the field, exploring exciting new avenues of research and investigating questions like why so many fish eat their offspring and some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why sexual cannibalism is an evolutionary advantage for certain spiders; why, until the end of the eighteenth century, British royalty regularly ate human body parts; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of Neanderthals.”

The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap by Gish Jen (February 28, 2017)

“A provocative and important study of the different ideas Easterners and Westerners have about the self and society and what this means for current debates in art, education, geopolitics, and business. Gish Jen—drawing on a treasure trove of stories and personal anecdotes, as well as cutting-edge research in cultural psychology—reveals how this difference shapes what we perceive and remember, what we say and do and make—how it shapes everything from our ideas about copying and talking in class to the difference between Apple and Alibaba. As engaging as it is illuminating, this is a book that stands to profoundly enrich our understanding of ourselves and of our world.”

Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy by Tressie McMillan Cottom by (February 28, 2017)

Lower Ed, the first book to link the rapid growth of for-profit degrees to America’s increasing inequality, reveals the story of an industry that exploits the pain, desperation, and aspirations of people in vulnerable circumstances and exposes the conditions that allow for-profit education to thrive. Tressie McMillan Cottom draws on her personal experience as a former admissions counselor at two for-profit colleges and over one hundred interviews with students, senior executives, and activists to detail how these schools have become so successful and to decipher the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education.”

Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics by Marjorie J. Spruill (February 28, 2017)

“Although much has been written about the role that ‘social issues’ have played in politics, little attention has been given to the historical impact of women activists on both sides—not only on contraception, abortion rights, and equal opportunity and pay for women, but also on race relations and gay rights. Divided We Stand reveals how these conflicting ideologies in the 1970s subsequently polarized American politics at large, as Democrats gradually supported women’s rights and Republicans embraced “family values” and traditional gender roles.”

Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future by Thomas M. Shapiro (March 14, 2017)

“Following nearly two hundred families of different races and income levels over a period of twelve years, Shapiro’s research vividly documents the recession’s toll on parents and children, the ways families use assets to manage crises and create opportunities, and the real reasons some families build wealth while others struggle in poverty. The structure of our neighborhoods, workplaces, and tax code-much more than individual choices-push some forward and hold others back. A lack of assets, far more common in families of color, can often ruin parents’ careful plans for themselves and their children.”

A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes (March 21, 2017)

“A Colony in a Nation examines the surge in crime that began in the 1960s and peaked in the 1990s, and the unprecedented decline that followed. Drawing on close-hand reporting at flashpoints of racial conflict, as well as deeply personal experiences with policing, Hayes explores cultural touchstones, from the influential “broken windows” theory to the “squeegee men” of late-1980s Manhattan, to show how fear causes us to make dangerous and unfortunate choices, both in our society and at the personal level.”

Which nonfiction books are you looking forward to in 2017?