Non-fiction books dominate the landscape for me this Tuesday. So if you feel like learning something, making something, or laughing along to someone’s stories (about Chickens!) then you’re in the right place.
Here are the new releases you need to learn about for Mar 19, 2013:
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma; Viking Adult; 272 pages
Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here. This one technically doesn’t come out for a couple more days (Mar 21), but I’ve been so intrigued by this title ever since I heard about it a couple months back, so it’s making the list. My list, my rules! This is just one of those books that is all about exploring the stories that make us who we are, and it’s gonna be pretty good.
From as early as he can remember, the hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator of this ambitious debut novel has wanted to become a writer.
From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s irresistible narrator will be inspired and haunted by the success of his greatest friend and rival in writing, the eccentric and brilliantly talented Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Julian’s enchanting friend, Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. After the trio has a disastrous falling out, desperate to tell the truth in his writing and to figure out who he really is, Jansma’s narrator finds himself caught in a never-ending web of lies.
As much a story about a young man and his friends trying to make their way in the world as a profoundly affecting exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards will appeal to readers of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists and Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad with its elegantly constructed exploration of the stories we tell to find out who we really are.
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart; Algonquin Books; 400 pages
My favorite publishers in all the land are out with a delicious new non-fiction read from the great Amy Stewart. Really all you need to know is that this book comes equipped with recipes to make your own cocktails, but if you need more than that (who knows why) you’ll also learn about the history of alcohol, gardening, and why drinks are made the way they are.
Every great drink starts with a plant. Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley. Gin was born from a conifer shrub when a Dutch physician added oil of juniper to a clear spirit, believing that juniper berries would cure kidney disorders. “The Drunken Botanist” uncovers the enlightening botanical history and the fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, and fruits (and even one fungus).
Some of the most extraordinary and obscure plants have been fermented and distilled, and they each represent a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history. Molasses was an essential ingredient in American independence: when the British forced the colonies to buy British (not French) molasses for their New World rum-making, the settlers outrage kindled the American Revolution. Rye, which turns up in countless spirits, is vulnerable to ergot, which contains a precursor to LSD, and some historians have speculated that the Salem witch trials occurred because girls poisoned by ergot had seizures that made townspeople think they d been bewitched. Then there’s the tale of the thirty-year court battle that took place over the trademarking of Angostura bitters, which may or may not actually contain bark from the Angostura tree.
With a delightful two-color vintage-style interior, over fifty drink recipes, growing tips for gardeners, and advice that carries Stewart’s trademark wit, this is the perfect gift for gardeners and cocktail aficionados alike.
Pieces of Light by Charles Fernyhough; Harper; 320 pages
I haven’t heard that much hype about this non-fiction title, but I feel like it’s getting undersold. Memory is such a fickle thing and such an interesting topic that I’m really excited to see what Fernyhough has to say. Maybe those of you who can actually remember to turn the oven off won’t share my enthusiasm, but I think it’s cool. And it’d be pretty rad to live in an apartment that doesn’t always smell like burnt pizza.
Blending the most up to date science with literature and personal stories, a psychologist provides an illuminating look at human memory-the way we remember and forget.
A new consensus is emerging among cognitive scientists: rather than possessing fixed, unchanging memories, we create recollections anew each time we are called upon to remember. According to psychologist Charles Fernyhough, remembering is an act of narrative imagination as much as it is the product of a neurological process. In Pieces of Light, he eloquently illuminates this theory through a series of personal stories-a visit to his college campus to see if his memories hold; an interview with his ninety-three-year-old grandmother; conversations with those whose memories are affected by brain damage and trauma-each illustrating memory’s complex synergy of cognitive and neurological functions.
Fernyhough guides readers through the fascinating new science of autobiographical memory, covering topics including navigation, imagination, and the power of sense associations to cue remembering. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, Pieces of Light brings together science and literature, the ordinary and the extraordinary, to help us better understand our powers of recall and our relationship with the past.
Once Upon a Flock by Lauren Scheuer; Atria; 256 pages
It’s possible that I know almost nothing about this book but totally love the cover. But, look! Chickens! Come on, you know you want to read about chickens! They’re Chickens! And they’re cute! Because, well, they’re chickens!!! Shut up. Just buy it.
When longtime illustrator and lover of power tools Lauren Scheuer was looking for a project, she got the idea to raise backyard chickens. Her husband and teenage daughter looked on incredulously as coop sketches and chicken-raising books filled their New England home. But when the chicks arrived, the whole family fell in love with the bundles of fluff and the wild adventures began. Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens stars Scheuer’s backyard chickens—with their big personalities, friendships, rivalries, and secrets—and the flock’s guardian, Marky the terrier. The flock includes Hatsy, the little dynamo; Lil’White, the deranged and twisted Buff Orpington; Pigeon, the fixer-upper chicken; and Lucy, the special-needs hen who bonds with Lauren and becomes a fast friend.
This charming story of Lauren’s life with her quirky flock is filled with moments of humor and heartbreak: When Lucy is afflicted with a neurological disease, Lauren builds Lucy a special-needs coop. When Lucy’s nesting instinct leads
Lauren to act as a chicken midwife of sorts, Lauren hatches a chick in her home. And when Lucy’s best friend Hatsy falls ill, Lauren finds an unlikely friend for Lucy in a chicken named Pigeon, who requires an emergency bath and blow-dry. Enthusiastically immersing herself in the world of her flock, Lauren discovers that love, loss, passion, and resilience are not only parts of the human experience, but of the chicken experience as well. Throughout it all, Lauren documents the laughter and drama of her flock’s adventures with her own whimsical photos and illustrations. At once humorous, poignant, and informative, Once Upon a Flock is a feathered tale like no other.