Congratulations, you survived April Fools Day. And to reward your cleverness, the world has provided you some new books to enjoy.
Here are the new releases that’ll keep you sharp for Apr 2, 2013:
Napalm by Robert M. Neer; Belknap Press; 352 pages
Starting this week off with a bang. Napalm is a pretty nasty substance and its history is quite dramatic. Neer has put together the first comprehensive look at the creation and use of napalm, and it should be interesting if a little horrifying.
Napalm, incendiary gel that sticks to skin and burns to the bone, came into the world on Valentine s Day 1942 at a secret Harvard war research laboratory. On March 9, 1945, it created an inferno that killed over 87,500 people in Tokyo more than died in the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It went on to incinerate sixty-four of Japan s largest cities. The Bomb got the press, but napalm did the work.
After World War II, the incendiary held the line against communism in Greece and Korea Napalm Day led the 1950 counter-attack from Inchon and fought elsewhere under many flags. Americans generally applauded, until the Vietnam War. Today, napalm lives on as a pariah: a symbol of American cruelty and the misguided use of power, according to anti-war protesters in the 1960s and popular culture from “Apocalypse Now” to the punk band Napalm Death and British street artist Banksy. Its use by Serbia in 1994 and by the United States in Iraq in 2003 drew condemnation. United Nations delegates judged deployment against concentrations of civilians a war crime in 1980. After thirty-one years, America joined the global consensus, in 2011.
Robert Neer has written the first history of napalm, from its inaugural test on the Harvard College soccer field, to a Marine Corps plan to attack Japan with millions of bats armed with tiny napalm time bombs, to the reflections of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, a girl who knew firsthand about its power and its morality.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen; Little, Brown books for Young Readers; 40 pages
Got some variety in the form of a children’s book. Basically, when Lemony Snicket comes out with something new it’s worth paying attention. And what could possibly be more universal than being afraid of the dark. As a child (and sometimes still as an adult) the dark can be a tricky place to navigate, so we can all relate to Laszlo’s predicament.
Laszlo is afraid of the dark.
The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn’t come into Lazslo’s room. But one night, it does.
This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.
With emotional insight and poetic economy, two award-winning talents team up to conquer a universal childhood fear.
Gulp by Mary Roach; W.W. Norton & Company; 336 pages
Hold onto your lunches, Mary Roach is taking you on an adventure along the digestive track. I won’t lie, I wasn’t terribly enthused about reading a book about digestion, but Mary Roach has a unique ability to turn an otherwise disturbing subject into an interesting, delightful investigation. So, I’ll swallow my skepticism on this one.
The irresistible, ever-curious, and always best-selling Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside.
“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on a unforgettable tour of our insides. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions inspired by our insides are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers inStiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find names for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? We meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks—or has the courage—to ask. And we go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a bacteria transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal.
Like all of Roach’s books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.
Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel; Graywolf Press; 336 pages
I’m having a good time with these futuristic adaptations of American culture right now. This one has a unique twist, looking into a cult that tries to cure loneliness in this increasingly digital age. There’s an added element of mystery and spy-stuff going on in here too, so it should be a fun ride.
Thurlow Dan is the founder of the Helix, a cult that promises to cure loneliness in the twenty-first century. With its communes and speed-dating, mixers and confession sessions, the Helix has become a national phenomenon—and attracted the attention of governments worldwide. But Thurlow, camped out in his Cincinnati headquarters, is lonely. And his ex-wife, Esme, is the only one he wants. They were a family once; they had a child together. For Esme’s part, she’s a covert agent who has spent her life spying on Thurlow, mostly in an effort to protect him from the law.
Now, with her superiors demanding results, Esme recruits four misfits to botch a reconnaissance mission in Cincinnati. But when Thurlow abducts them, he ignites a siege of the Helix House that could keep him and Esme apart forever. With fiery, ecstatic prose, Maazel takes us on a ride through North Korea’s guarded interior, a city of vice beneath Cincinnati, and a commune housed in a Virginia factory, while Thurlow, Esme, and their daughter search for a way to be a family again.Woke Up Lonely is a sprawling and original novel that reminds us our Nation’s deepest problems cannot be fixed by the simple formulas that so frequently beguile us.