Last week, we offered a sampling of fiction titles to get you started on the summer-reading road. Now let’s turn the page to an equally eclectic list of recommended nonfiction titles. They’re arranged alphabetically by author name. Publishing dates are noted for those not on sale now.
Next week: those guilty pleasures known as “beach reads.”
E.L. Doctorow had an interesting view about nonfiction: “I am led to the proposition that there is no fiction or nonfiction as we commonly understand the distinction: there is only narrative.”
“Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything” by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Simon & Schuster, $26, 320 pages; July 5): The TV series “Seinfeld” was a cultural touchstone from 1989 through 1998, peaking with an audience of 40 million. TV historian Armstrong takes readers behind the scenes during the show’s heyday, and tries to get a handle how something so seemingly insignificant resonated with so many for so long.
“The Osamu Tezuka Story” by Toshio Ban (Stone Bridge, $21, 928 pages; July 12): The late artist and film producer was the acknowledged “father of manga” (“Astro Boy,” “Phoenix”), the cartooning art form with roots in 1800s Japan. Appropriately, his biography is delivered in manga form. It also serves as “a never-before-seen pop culture history of postwar Japan.”
“Voyager” by Russell Banks (Ecco, $26, 288 pages): The much-acclaimed novelist takes readers on a global journey via 10 reflectively philosophic “travel essays” that touch down in Scotland, the Himalayas, Florida, the Caribbean, Alaska and other destinations. “Since childhood, I’ve longed for escape,” he writes. Here, he makes his ultimate getaway.
“Eric Rohmer” by Antoine de Baecque and Noel Herpe (Columbia University Press, $49, 608 pages): Consulting “personal archives” and conducting interviews with many of the late French film director’s friends and associates, the biographers have forged an intimate, anecdote-filled look at a legend.
“Brilliance and Fire” by Rachelle Bergstein (Harper, $30, 400 pages): In this “cultural biography of diamonds,” we get a look at how the world became transfixed with a rock whose queenly status is largely a result of monopoly and marketing. The diamond industry probably doesn’t want you to know this, but the Sears & Roebuck catalog of 1894 included diamond rings priced from $4.50 to $121.50.
“Everybody Behaves Badly” by Lesley M.M. Blume (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29, 352 pages): Joining international journalist Blume’s books on artist Jackson Pollock and writer Truman Capote is this revealing reconstruction of Ernest Hemingway’s revelry with friends in Pamplona, Spain, in 1925 and how it became the source of his groundbreaking modernist novel “The Sun Also Rises.”
“Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To” by Dean Burnett (W.W. Norton, $26, 336 pages; July 26): Amid the recent glut of brain-centric books for the lay person – some more formal than others – this very approachable tour of the “master organ” has an actual sense of humor. Its neuroscientist author explains the concepts of “anxiety, attention, memory, personality and intelligence” and the ways our brains can trick us.
“Jungle of Stone” by William Carlsen (William Morrow, $29, 544 pages): Journalist Carlsen takes us to the 1840s, when the “fathers” of modern archeology adventured into the Yucatan Peninsula and discovered the remains of the great Mayan civilization. Following in the spirit of those explorers – John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood – the author treks 2,500 miles through the jungles of the Yucatan and Central America in search of the past.
“How May We Hate You? Notes From the Concierge Desk” by Anna Drezen and Todd Dakotah Briscoe (Potter Style, $15, 144 pages): In this hilarious and irreverent tell-all, two former hotel concierges reveal what really goes on behind the obliging smiles in five-star hotels. Plus, tips for getting room upgrades and how best to navigate hotel hierarchy.
“The Wonder Trail” by Steve Hely (Dutton, $27, 336 pages): Hely, a winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, put together this “blend of travel writing, history and comic memoir” after his event-filled jaunt through Central and South America. One of his tips for a must-do in Machu Picchu – where there’s not much to do, he says – is to “feed an apple to a llama.”
“The Aloha Shirt” by Dale Hope (Patagonia, $60, 384 pages): Nothing says hip and casual better than an aloha shirt, and this ultimate guide to its history and status as a fashion statement shows why. Hundreds of color and vintage black-and-white photos and color illustrations capture the aloha spirit over the decades, with chapters on some of the islands’ most famous designers and brands.
“You’ll Grow Out of It” by Jessi Klein (Grand Central, $26, 304 pages; July 12): The stand-up comic and TV writer (“Inside Amy Schumer,” previously “Saturday Night Live”) narrates her life story in a series of funny and sometimes painful vignettes. It’s been a rough ride and Klein isn’t shy about the details.
“The Pigeon Tunnel” by John le Carré (Viking, $30, 320 pages; Sept. 6): The master of intrigue (“A Delicate Truth”) and the author who invented the term “spycraft” plays host to his well-traveled life and times. Many of his personal exploits made their ways into his 23 novels, and parts of his autobiography read like a thriller.
“Grunt” by Mary Roach (W.W. Norton, $27, 288 pages): The Oakland-based writer turns her scientific curiosity and acute sense of humor on the military in a fascinating and funny examination of “the curious science of humans at war.” Roach is well-known for her unique brand of scrutiny of other topics, including human cadavers (“Stiff”), the afterlife (“Spook”), the digestive system (“Gulp”) and sexuality (“Bonk”).
“Tong Wars” by Scott D. Seligman (Viking, $29, 368 pages; July 12): Against the backdrop of Prohibition-era Manhattan, veteran Asia hand Seligman recounts the three decades of gang-vs.-gang warfare (and city hall corruption) in New York’s Chinatown, when secret societies (tongs) were all about “vice, money and murder.”
“Wolf Boys” by Don Slater (Simon & Schuster, $26, 352 pages; Sept. 13): Two all-American teenagers couldn’t see the future when they were recruited by the Zetas cartel in Laredo, Texas, moving from smuggling drugs and stealing cars to murder. On their trail was American police detective Robert Garcia.
“Original Gangstas” by Ben Westhoff (Hartchette, $27, 432 pages; Sept. 13): White America was baffled when the music genre known as “gangsta rap” took over L.A. in the late 1980s and moved east across the nation, ending up on pop charts by the early 1990s. Westhoff traces the roots of West Coast rap and dwells on some of the major players including Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur.
“Face Value” by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano (Simon & Schuster, $25, 288 pages): Beauty is far more than skin deep, as the journalist-author discovered when she researched the connection between feminine beauty and how it pervades and influences society and the collective self-esteem of women. Particularly interesting are the many interviews with women from differing walks of life. Who knew makeup is so important?