Six intriguing new nonfiction titles -- some are already climbing our bestseller list.
"Boy Erased" by Garrard Conley (Riverhead: 352 pp., $27)
Being gay in Arkansas is not easy, and after Conley was outed at 19, his parents sent him to a Christian ministry's conversion therapy program. More than a decade later, Conley recounts the experience in this memoir. The power of Conley's story resides not only in the vividly depicted grotesqueries of the therapy system, but in his lyrical writing about sexuality and love, and his reflections on the Southern family and culture that shaped him.
"The Gene: An Intimate History" by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner: 608 pp., $32)
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Emperor of All Maladies," Mukherjee explicated the genesis and horrors of cancer, and now he turns his formidable explanatory talents to the world of the gene. He draws on his own family history of mental illness to illuminate the relationships between genes and identity, and provides fascinating insights into the ways in which genes can be manipulated — for good and for ill.
"Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth (Scribner: 352 pp., $28)
Psychology professor and MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Duckworth delivered one of the most popular TED talks of all time. She is recognized for her theory that the combination of perseverance and passion are the key to success. In "Grit," Duckworth offers examples from her fieldwork with disparate subjects such as cadets at West Point, National Spelling Bee finalists and Wall Street kings. Through it all, she argues that grit is usually unrelated to talent — and often more important.
"The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics" by John Hickenlooper and Maximillian Potter (Penguin: 368 pp., $30)
In a season of platitudinous political autobiographies, the high-profile governor of purple Colorado gets high marks for his candor and humor as he recounts his unlikely rise from a troubled childhood to success as a brewpub entrepreneur and eventual statewide election. Embracing the beer metaphor -- activists as yeast, the political leader as brewer -- in this memoir, written with his former media adviser and speechwriter Potter, Hickenlooper puts such topics as his love life, the legalization of marijuana and same-sex unions on tap.
"Paper: Paging Through History" by Mark Kurlansky (W.W. Norton: 416 pp., $27.95)
With all of the current talk about "going paperless," this might seem like an inauspicious moment to celebrate paper. But Kurlansky, author of earlier mono-focused books "Cod" and "Salt," makes this historical journey well worth the ride. He has a deep instinct for telling detail, which he combines with a disarmingly fun narrative style. Kurlansky makes a compelling case that paper has always been a revolutionary force — a foundation for expression of every sort — and that it is certainly not dead yet.
"Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets" by Sveltlana Alexievich, translated by Bela Shayevich (Random House: 496 pp., $30)
Belarussian writer Alexievich won last year's Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time." She has interviewed ordinary Russians, repeatedly and over many years, and her oral histories – including "Voices From Chernobyl," an artfully constructed history of those who suffered through the 1986 Ukraine nuclear disaster -- chronicle life in a way that captures the full spectrum of human emotion. Alexievich's latest book, "Secondhand Time," deals with the demise of the Soviet Union, revealing a painful mix of oppression and suffering — but also a certain Russian pride.
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