We had several authors chat with us on the show this year and Arlene has compiled a list of her favorites. They’re listed below in alphabetical order:
Cynthia Barnett, Rain: A Natural and Cultural History. Crown.
Like the air we breathe and the earth we walk, rain is elemental. We accept it as part of everyday life – celebrating showers on sultry afternoons and during droughts, lamenting downpours on morning commutes and wedding days. But how much have you really thought about rain? How it shaped our landscapes, civilizations, and religions, or influenced music, literature, and even apparel. Award-winning environmental journalist Cynthia Barnett has devoted years to this powerful and enigmatic force in our world.
“This wide-ranging nonfiction book by a Gainesville investigative reporter gracefully weaves together history, science, literature and much more.” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
Margo Jefferson, Negroland: a memoir. Pantheon.
The winner of a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, MARGO JEFFERSON was for years a theater and book critic for Newsweek and The New York Times.
“Ever provocative and insightful, the cultural critic Margo Jefferson bravely directs the focus inward to her own life and times as a child of the rigid and nearly invisible world of black elites in pre-Civil Rights, mid-century America. By turns, melancholic and hopeful, raw and disarming, she weighs the psychic toll of constructed divisions at the intersection of race, gender, caste and privilege. A moving memoir that is an act of courage in its vulnerability.” —Isabel Wilkerson
“[NEGROLAND] shines a spotlight on a fascinating slice of the American experience of which many people are barely aware.” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
Roberta Kaplan with Lisa Dickey, Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA. Norton.
While it is too early to tell if United States v. Windsor will be regarded similarly to other landmark Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of Education or Loving v. Virginia, as this book makes clear, its significance in American history is set in stone. At once personal and political, Then Comes Marriage is more than just the story of the first watershed Supreme Court case of the twenty-first century – it’s a story of love, hope, idealism, and ultimately, equality under the law for all Americans, regardless of whether they happen to be straight or happen to be gay.
“I thought I knew the Windsor case chapter-and-verse. As if! Then Comes Marriage will forever change the understanding of this landmark case – its genesis, its outside-the-box strategy, its tactical brilliance, and ultimately, the human love and drama at the heart of it.” –Rachel Maddow
Diane Roberts, Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. Harper.
College Football, on the cusp of change, has always been a distinctly American pageant – money, and competition, crime and passing grades – the sport our county has built in our most devious image. Part introspective soul search, part cultural analysis, Tribal by writer, professor, and conflicted Seminole Diane Roberts tackles the controversies plaguing college athletics, tracing the dubious historical underpinnings of our most popular sport and exploring how the game shapes our culture.
“Diane Roberts loves Florida State University football. …Feminist English professors with a satirical turn of mind are not, perhaps, typically football crazy. But Roberts’ dual perspective uniquely suits her to her task, and she undertakes it with brio and careful research. .” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
Patti Smith, M Train. Knopf.
This is a book that Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.” Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation. There are memories of Smith’s life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith. It is a deeply moving meditation by a remarkable artist.
Patti Smith said when she was accepting the National Book Award for Just Kids, “Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.”
In addition, outstanding books that did not fit the above category that I have to acknowledge:
Irwin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, Nororious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Day Street/William Morrow.
Although I have not read this book, it is on my list to read. “Nororious R.B.G. refers to Notorious B.I.G., the young rapper who was killed in 1997. The unlikely comparison gave Ginsburg’s fans the perfect vehicle for turning her precise lawyerly voice into a cultural roar.”
–Emily Bazelon, The New York Times Book Review
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. Spiegel and Grau.
The book takes the form of a letter from Coates to his son, overflowing with mingled anger, despair, and love, about the experience of growing up in a country where our foundational heritage is the ongoing freedom of whites to kill blacks with impunity. It requires one to explore racism from a different perspective – that of an African American father talking to his teenage son.
Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth with Project Censored, Censored 2016: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2014-2015. Seven Stories
I consider the Censored Series must reading for every informed person. However, I must admit my bias, I do serve on the Board of Directors of Project Censored and in this particular edition there is a short essay by Mary Glenney and me (“From a Woman’s Point of View,” page 187-191)
“Project Censored is a lifeline to the world’s most urgent and significant stories.” –Naomi Wolf, author The Beauty Myth
“What we don’t know can kill us—whether in wars better avoided, unsafe working conditions neither reported nor repaired, or drugs inadequately tested…This volume, like those that preceded it, it our modest effort to at least slightly reduce that risk.” –Nicholas Johnson, FCC commissioner 1966-73
Jon Krakauer, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Doubleday.
I also found this a very compelling and readable book. “Graphic and unsettling, author Krakauer’s in-depth examination of a string of sexual assaults at the University of Montana is a searing indictment of the U.S. justice systems indifference towards the every-growing rape epidemic. If you saw “The Hunting Ground,” you may remember references to Mr. Krakauer and the book.