With one week to go until Book Expo America kicks off at the Javits Center in New York City, Shelf Awareness is taking a look at this year's bumper crop of new books with a multi-part series on upcoming books for the summer and fall. Today's list, compiled with the help of publishers and independent booksellers, delves into nonfiction (yesterday's we looked at fiction; installments on YA and middle grade, and children's and early readers will run over the next two days).
In The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey (June 30, Simon & Schuster), author and journalist Rinker Buck recounts his four-month-long journey along the historic Oregon Trail in a covered wagon pulled by three mules. His only travel companions, aside from the mules, were his brother, Nick, and their Jack Russell terrier, Olive Oyl. Their adventure takes them some 2,000 miles, from Missouri to the Pacific Coast; on the way they contend with prairie thunderstorms, runaway mules, scarcity of water and broken-down wagons. Through it all, Buck weaves an engaging history of the trail that took more than 400,000 pioneers across the western United States. Pam Cady, the general manager of the trade books department at University Book Store in Seattle, Wash., said the book was a favorite of virtually all of her buyers. Anne Holman, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, likened the book's blend of history and humor to Bill Bryson's 1998 travel classic A Walk in the Woods. "The history is terrific, it's the real deal," said Holman. "And the way they talk, the way they put themselves in the setting, it's just amazing."
Coming September 8 from Picador is Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy, M.D. Tweedy, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University and a practitioner at the Durham VA Medical Center in Durham, N.C., has published articles about the intersection of race and medicine. Black Man in a White Coat, his first book, illuminates his experience as, first, a black medical student and then a black doctor in the predominantly white medical world. "He explores the issues of race and medicine in such a personal and profound way," said Sarah Bagby, the owner of Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, Kans. "He's very open about his thoughts on what happens in an examination room. He really draws you in."
The release of Barefoot to Avalon (Atlantic Monthly Press) on August 4 will mark novelist David Payne's first foray into nonfiction. In 2000, while moving from Vermont to North Carolina with the help of his younger brother, George, Payne looked in the rearview mirror to witness George lose control of the rental truck he was driving, careen into a ditch and flip over. George died in the crash, and Payne's life took a downward spiral from which he struggled to pull himself. Barefoot to Avalon recounts not only the accident and its aftermath but also David's sometimes tough relationship with his brother and a family history of mental illness and addictive personalities. Linda Marie Barrett, the general manager of Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe in Asheville, N.C., praised the book as a wonderful memoir about brotherhood and dealing with grief.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, returns with Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (September 22, Riverhead). In it, Gilbert delves into her own creative process and the fickle nature of inspiration, offering readers advice on how to move past roadblocks in their own creative lives. Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books and Books in Coral Gables, Fla., expects Big Magic to be huge at his stores. Sarah Bagby, of Watermark Books & Cafe, also expects big things from Gilbert. Said Bagby: "I am completely seduced by everything she writes, because of her voice and her wit."
Between the World and Me, the next book by the Atlantic's senior editor Ta-Nehisi Coates, is framed as a letter to his adolescent son and borrows its title from a Richard Wright poem of the same name. Coates recounts his own gradual awakening to the history of racism, violence and oppression in the United States and offers poignant insights into how those legacies play out today. Between the World and Me is Coates's second book; it's due out September 8 from Spiegel & Grau. Christine Onorati, the owner of WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., highlighted it as a title to watch out for.
On October 6, writer and musician Patti Smith returns with M Train (Knopf), the follow-up to her National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids. M Train begins in Greenwich Village, at a cafe where Smith has her coffee every morning; from there, Smith takes readers on a journey to 18 "stations" around the world, including La Casa Azul (the Frida Kahlo Museum) in Mexico, an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin and Far Rockaway in New York. Through it all Smith ruminates on art, writing, the state of the world and her deceased husband, Fred Sonic Smith, and interspersed within the narrative are Smith's own black-and-white Polaroids. Watermark's Sarah Bagby picked it as one of her most anticipated fall reads.
Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck and Millerton, N.Y., identified an "embarrassment of riches" of celebrity memoirs. Among them are Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, out June 16 from Penguin Press, Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me?, in stores on September 29 from Crown Archetype, and Mary-Louise Parker's Dear Mr. You, expected November 17 from Scribner. In Modern Romance, the former Parks and Recreation star teams up with Eric Klinenburg, a sociologist at New York University, to dissect dating in the modern age. Why Not Me? is Kaling's follow-up to her 2011 hit Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns); in a series of funny, personal essays, Kaling explores topics like America's obsession with the weight of actresses, making and losing friends as an adult, her relationship with B.J. Novak, and many others. And Dear Mr. You is a series of letters that Parker has written to various men, both real and imagined, who have influenced her throughout her life. Both Ansari and Kaling will make appearances at BEA and BookCon.
Rounding out today's list is The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution by Donald R. Prothero (Columbia University Press). Prothero, a paleontologist, uses the discovery of 25 fossils to explore the history of both life on earth and the scientific field of paleontology. Among the highlighted fossils are those of Carcharocles angustidens, a prehistoric shark that could reach over 30 feet in length; Archaeopteryx, one of the fossil record's first birds; Ambulocetus, an ancient ancestor of modern whales that could both walk on land and swim in water; and the famous Australopithecus fossil known as Lucy, one of humanity's earliest ancestors. Chosen by Geoff Nichols, buyer at University Book Store in Seattle, Wash., as one of his most anticipated books for the summer, The Story of Life in 25 Fossils comes out on August 25. --Alex Mutter