This year has already proven to be an eventful one, and this fall’s crop of social science titles takes on the thorny issues behind some of the biggest headlines.
On the health front, two highly anticipated books take on controversial subjects. From Liza Long, author of the viral post “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” published following the tragic Newtown massacre in 2013, comes The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness. Long takes a devastating look at how we address mental illness in America, especially in children, who are funneled through a system that often leads to prison—or much worse. In Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, bestselling author and surgeon Atul Gawande looks at how modern medicine is failing to properly address the end of life, and how accepted practices often run counter to the interests of the human spirit when it comes to aging and, inevitably, death.
Two big books also look at the growing influence of technology on our lives. In The Internet Is Not the Answer, tech writer Andrew Keen argues that the Internet has so far been largely a disaster for everyone except a small group of young, privileged, white male Silicon Valley multimillionaires. And in Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), OKCupid cofounder Christian Rudder offers a fascinating look at what our online lives reveal about us, and how the data our online activities yield will ultimately transform how we study human behavior.
As the U.S. prepares to leave Afghanistan after 13 years of war, Americans might wonder what’s next for that struggling nation. In The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan, investigative reporter Jenny Nordberg offers a fascinating look at one of the world’s most dangerous countries for women, uncovering a hidden custom in which girls are raised as boys, and exposing how women grow up in a segregated society with little freedom.
Meanwhile, at home, the abortion debate is inching toward another Supreme Court battle, as more and more states pass restrictive laws. In Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights author Katha Pollitt pours gas on those embers, arguing that a woman’s right to make decisions about her reproductive life—including whether to terminate a pregnancy—should be accepted as a moral right.
On the other side of the “life” debate, the death penalty has been in the news after a botched execution in Oklahoma. In The Death Penalty: What’s Keeping It Alive, criminal defense attorney Andrea Lyon looks at why the death penalty remains alive in America at all, in light of the well-documented flaws in our justice system.
With events in the Crimea, Russia is making headlines, too, and in Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, TV producer Peter Pomerantsev offers a fascinating glimpse at post-Soviet Russian life, where Communist Party oppression has given way to an oligarchy of oil barons, politicians, and gangsters.
In a quirky yet enlightening cultural biography, Joseph Andrew Orser chronicles The Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam’s Twins in Nineteenth-Century America, the famous conjoined twins who lived in North Carolina, and what their fame reveals about the changing racial and cultural landscape of the U.S.
And finally, closing on a hopeful note, the acclaimed husband-and-wife team of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn offer A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, an inspiring look at some of the people working to make the world a better place and ways we can support them.
PW’s Top 10: Social Sciences
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Atul Gawande. Metropolitan Books, Oct. 7
Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking). Christian Rudder. Crown, Sept. 9
The Death Penalty: What’s Keeping It Alive. Andrea D. Lyon. Rowman & Littlefield, July 30
The Internet Is Not the Answer. Andrew Keen. Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 6
The Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam’s Twins in Nineteenth-Century America. Joseph Andrew Orser. Univ. of North Carolina, Nov. 3
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia. Peter Pomerantsev. PublicAffairs, Nov. 11
A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Knopf, Sept. 23
The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness. Liza Long. Penguin/Hudson Street, Aug. 28
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Katha Pollitt. Picador, Oct. 14
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. Jenny Nordberg. Crown, Sept. 16.
Social Sciences Listings
The Internet Is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen (Jan. 6, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-8021-2313-8). Technology writer Keen argues that the Web has so far been on balance a disaster for everyone—except a tiny group of young, privileged, white male Silicon Valley multimillionaires.
Impolite Conversations: On Race, Politics, Sex, Money, and Religion by Cora Daniels and John L. Jackson Jr. (Sept. 30, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4767-3911-3). When was the last time you said everything on your mind without holding back? In this book, a journalist and a cultural anthropologist offer a no-holds-barred discussion of America’s top hot-button issues.
The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration by David Bacon (Sept. 2, paper, $17, ISBN 978-0-8070-6121-3) reports the growing resistance of Mexican communities to the poverty that forces people to migrate to the United States.
Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics by Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski (Jan. 6, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-8070-9191-3). Providing numerous examples—from the murder of Matthew Shepard, to attacks on undocumented workers—Whitlock and Bronski challenge our beliefs on hate and violence, arguing that it is our collective responsibility to foster more just communities.
Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari (Jan. 20, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-62040-890-2). The startling story of the disastrous war on drugs is propelled by moving human stories, insight into addiction, and fearless international reporting.
Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny (Sept. 16, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-62040-689-2) draws on the broad history of feminist thought to take on cultural phenomena from the Occupy movement to economic justice, freedom of speech, eating disorders, sexual assault, and Internet trolls.
Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette Hahn Niman. (Nov., Paperback, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-60358-536-1). Hahn Niman, an environmental lawyer turned rancher, argues that whatever the world’s future food system will look like, livestock can and must be part of the equation.
Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal by Mumia Abu Jamal, edited by Johanna Fernandez (Jan. 6, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-87286-675-1). On death row for more than 30 years, Mumia Abu-Jamal has written extensively on the black experience, race relations, freedom, justice, social change, and the future of American society.
Generation Rx: A Story of Dope, Death, and America’s Opiate Crisis by Erin Marie Daly (Aug. 12, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-61902-291-1) looks at how a generation of young people playing around with today’s increasingly powerful opioids are finding themselves in the frightening grip of heroin.
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg (Sept. 16, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-307-95249-3). Investigative reporter Nordberg delves into Afghanistan, uncovering a hidden custom according to which girls are raised as boys, and revealing a dangerous, segregated society where women have little freedom.
Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder (Sept. 9, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-385-34737-2). Rudder, OKCupid’s cofounder, offers a fascinating look at what our online lives reveal about us and how the deluge of online data will transform the science of human behavior. He has invented a new form of statistical storytelling, where numbers become narrative.
A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans by Mike Gonzalez (Sept. 2, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-8041-3765-2) highlights the most dramatic demographic shift of the past election: how Hispanics are redefining America’s makeup and what conservatives must do to appeal to this group.
Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz (Aug. 19, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4767-0271-1). A former Yale professor and author of the acclaimed A Jane Austen Education argues that elite colleges are turning out conformists without a compass.
Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story by Thanassis Cambanis (Jan. 14, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4516-5899-6). Journalist Cambanis tells the inside story of the 2011 Egyptian revolution by following two courageous and pivotal leaders, showing and how their imperfect decisions changed the world.
Reading Publics: New York City’s Public Libraries, 1754–1911 by Tom Glynn (Nov. 1, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-8232-6264-9). This lively, nuanced history of New York City’s early public libraries traces their evolution within the political, social, and cultural worlds that supported them.
On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss (Sept. 30, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-55597-689-7). NBCC Award–winner Biss stuns with a powerful examination of what vaccines mean for our children, our communities, and the world, in a BEA Editors Buzz pick.
The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from Its Violent History by Becca Stevens (Nov. 4, hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-1-4555-1902-6). Stevens draws readers into the world of tea making, describing her work to ensure fair trade and community enhancement, and exposing an underbelly of corruption, abuse, and extortion that plagues laborers in the tea industry. 20,000-copy announced first printing.
The Chain Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food by Ted Genoways (Oct. 14, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-228875-2). From the former editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review comes a powerful work of investigative journalism that explores the runaway growth of the American meatpacking industry and its dangerous consequences. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Best American Infographics 2014, edited by Nate Silver, series editor Gareth Cook (Oct. 7, paper, $20, ISBN 978-0-547-97451-4). Now in its second year, this neatly presented volume showcases the finest examples of data visualization from the past year. 45,000-copy announced first printing.
Johns Hopkins Univ.
Rock Star: The Making of Musical Icons from Elvis to Springsteen by David R. Shumway (Aug. 21, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4214-1392-1) explores the nature and meaning of rock stardom through an examination of Presley, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, and Bruce Springsteen to.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (Oct. 28, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-385-35404-2). Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Lepore uses an astonishing trove of documents, including the newly available private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, to explain the mysterious origins of the world’s most famous female superhero. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity by Robert Beachy (Nov. 18, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-307-27210-2) guides readers through the history of Berlin’s vast homosexual subcultures to present the foundational work of a culture that has shaped and influenced the way we think of sexuality to this day.
A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Sept. 23, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-385-34991-8). From the acclaimed husband-and-wife team comes an examination of people who are working to make the world a better place, and ways we can support them. 200,000-copy announced first printing.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (Oct. 7, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-8050-9515-9). The surgeon and bestselling journalist tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending, arguing that the goals of medicine often run counter to the interest of the human spirit when it comes to the inevitable condition of aging and death.
Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation by Laura Kipnis (Nov. 18, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-62779-187-8) dissects Kipnis’s fascination and identification with the “opposite sex, especially the more confounding and intemperate male personalities she’s encountered during a lifetime of research.
The New Press
Latino Stats: American Hispanics by the Numbers by Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani (Jan. 16, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-59558-961-3). An essential handbook of eye-opening—and frequently surprising—facts and figures about the lives of an increasingly influential population. 17,500-copy announced first printing.
Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement by Thomas Geoghegan (Dec. 2, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-59558-836-4). From the author of the labor classic Which Side Are You On? comes a galvanizing argument for revitalizing American unions and saving the middle class. 12,500-copy announced first printing.
Is There Life After Football? Surviving the NFL by James A. Holstein, Richard S. Jones, and George E. Koonce (Dec. 19, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-4798-6286-3). Inspired by the NFL life and afterlife of George E. Koonce Jr., this book offers an insider’s look at the problems facing NFL players when they leave the game. Based on more than 100 interviews with former players, the authors expose the financial, physical, and psychological issues facing retired players.
Kids Gone Wild: From Rainbow Parties to Sexting, Understanding the Hype over Teen Sex by Joel Best and Kathleen A. Bogle (Aug. 29, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8147-6073-4) examines the role traditional media and the Internet play in sensationalizing isolated instances of teens and sex to appear as if they are a widespread trend, striking fear and panic in parents. By looking at these sex panics, the authors tackle larger questions about how society views sex and kids.
The Italian Americans: A History by Maria Laurino (Dec. 1, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-393-24129-7). In this companion book to the PBS series, Laurino looks beyond the familiar stereotypes fostered by The Godfather and The Sopranos to reveal surprising, fascinating lives.
The Devil’s Long Tail: Religious and Other Radicals in the Internet Marketplace by David Stevens and Kieron O’Hara (Jan. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-19-939624-5). In this well-reasoned book, the authors argue that censorship won’t quash extremism—only free speech will.
What Women Want: An Agenda for the Women’s Movement by Deborah L. Rhode (Sept. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19-934827-5). A comprehensive analysis of the challenges the feminist movement faces today—and a new policy agenda for women.
A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker (Oct. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19-989034-7) offers a fascinating investigation of the Salem witch trials and explores their long-lasting influence on America’s cultural imagination.
The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris (Aug. 7, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-59184-693-2). When online experiences dominate our lives, what gets lost? In this book, a meditation on what we miss out on by spending so much time in the digital space, non-Luddite Harris suggests that “the fear of absence is the surest sign that absence is direly needed.”
Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal by Tom Shroder (Sept. 9, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-399-16279-4). Award-winning journalist Shroder looks at the therapeutic powers of psychedelic drugs, particularly in the treatment of PTSD, and the past 50 years of controversy they have ignited.
The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness by Liza Long, foreword by Harold Koplewicz (Aug. 28, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-59463-257-0). Long, author of the viral post “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” takes a devastating look at how we address mental illness, especially in children, who are funneled through a system of education, mental healthcare, and juvenile detention that leads far too often to prison, or worse.
The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, and Create More by Luke Dormehl (Nov. 4, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-399-17053-9). Journalist Dormehl explores the complex, fast-moving, and increasingly influential area of algorithms, introducing readers to the mathematicians, artificial intelligence experts, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are shaping this brave new world.
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt (Oct. 14, hardcover, $20, ISBN 978-0-312-62054-7). Forty years after Roe v. Wade, the word “abortion”still evokes strong reactions, even though one-third of American women will terminate a pregnancy by menopause. Pollitt reframes abortion as a part of a woman’s reproductive life that should be accepted as a moral right.
The Devil Wins: A History of Lying from the Garden of Eden to the Enlightenment by Dallas G. Denery II (Jan. 18, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-691-16321-5) uncovers the complicated history of lying from the early days of the Catholic Church to the Enlightenment, and how the lie, long thought to be the source of worldly corruption, eventually became the very basis of social cohesion and peace.
The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle by Peter Baldwin (Sept. 21, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-691-16182-2) offers the first major trans-Atlantic history of copyright from its origins to today—and an indispensable guide to understanding a crucial economic, cultural, and political conflict that has reignited in digital times.
City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai (Sept. 9, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-61039-519-9) is an intimate, backstreet-wise portrait of modern Tehran and the lives of ordinary people forced to live extraordinary lives in a duplicitous city, from a British-Iranian journalist and on-camera anchor for the online Channel 4.
The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong by Judith Rodin (Nov. 11, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-61039-470-3). Through fascinating stories and original research, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation shows how communities and individuals can cope with devastating problems—natural disasters, resource shortages, geopolitical conflicts—and develop successful paths to revitalization and renewal.
Latino America: How America’s Most Dynamic Population Is Poised to Transform the Politics of the Nation by Matt Barreto and Gary M. Segura (Sept. 30, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-61039-501-4). Over the next generation, Latinos will transform the face of American politics. Two leading Latino researchers explain what that transformation means for everyone, and challenge many of the myths surrounding Latino politics.
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia by Peter Pomerantsev (Nov. 11, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-61039-455-0). A writer and TV producer’s adventures in the new Russia, where Soviet oppression has given way to a bizarre oligarchy of oil barons, politicians, gangsters, and call girls.
Rowman & Littlefield
The Death Penalty: What’s Keeping It Alive by Andrea D. Lyon (July 30, hardcover, $34, ISBN 978-1-4422-3267-9). A criminal defense attorney turns a critical eye toward the reasons why the death penalty remains active in most states, in spite of well-documented flaws in the justice system.
Jewish Mad Men: Advertising and the Design of the American Jewish Experience by Kerri P. Steinberg (Jan. 15, paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8135-6375-6) looks at how advertising helped shape American Jewish life and culture over the past 100 years, exploring such famous advertising campaigns as Levy’s Rye Bread, Hebrew National, and Manischewitz, as well as the legendary players behind them.
Who We Be: The Colorization of America by Jeff Chang (Oct. 21, hardcover, $32.99, ISBN 978-0-312-57129-0) provides an intelligent, honest look at multiculturalism and race in America over the past 50 years.
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, a Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs (Sept. 23, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4767-3190-2) is a heartfelt and riveting biography of the short life of a talented young African-American who escaped the slums of Newark for Yale University only to succumb to the dangers of the streets when he returns home.
The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Is Changing Women’s Lives by Sarah Granger (Aug. 26, paper, $17, ISBN 978-1-58005-514-7). A revealing examination of how digital media is quietly changing us: our identities, our lives, and the world we live in.
Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping by Kerry Cohen (Oct. 28, paper, $17, ISBN 978-1-58005-512-3). Women reveal the impact that spending money has on their emotions, their self-worth, and their relationships.
(dist. by Perseus)
Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World by Candy Leonard (Aug. 26, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-62872-417-2). Part generational memoir and part cultural history of the 1960s, the author allows the reader to experience—again or for the first time—what it was like to grow up with the Beatles and shows the impact of “beatleness” as an ever-evolving stimulant in young lives. 15,000-copy announced first printing.
Thames & Hudson
How the World Was Won: The Americanization of Everywhere by Peter Conrad (Dec. 9, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-500-25208-6). Australian sociologist Conrad examines America’s influence on the world, from politics and war to jeans and sneakers, from an international perspective.
Univ. of Chicago
How Many Is Too Many? The Progressive Argument for Reducing Immigration into the United States by Philip Cafaro (Dec. 23, hardcover, $27.50, ISBN 978-0-226-19065-5) is sure to ruffle feathers as Cafaro argues that progressives are wrong to favor wide open borders, and that in fact progressive principles demand that we rethink immigration and find a way to limit it.
Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism by Judy Wajcman (Nov. 5, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-226-19647-3). Who doesn’t feel ever more pressed for time these days? Wajcman makes the case that it’s not our devices, but our decisions, that are to blame.
Univ. of North Carolina
The Lives of Chang and Eng Siam’s Twins in Nineteenth-Century America by Joseph Andrew Orser (Nov. 3, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-4696-1830-2) chronicles the twins’ history, their journey through antebellum America and domestic lives in North Carolina, and what their fame revealed about the changing racial and cultural landscape of the U.S.
(dist. by Random)
The Death and Life of American Labor: Toward a New Worker’s Movement by Stanley Aronowitz (Oct. 7, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1781681381). A longtime scholar of the American union movement, Aronowitz argues that the labor movement as we have known it for most of the past 100 years is effectively dead, and offers an expansive survey of new initiatives, strikes, organizations, and allies for labor’s renewal.
Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class by Scott Timberg (Jan. 13, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-300-19588-0). A persistent economic recession, social shifts, and technological change have combined to put our artists—from graphic designers to indie rock musicians, from architects to booksellers—out of work. This important book looks deeply and broadly into the roots of the crisis of the creative class in America and tells us why it matters.