Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Nonfiction from Rowan Moore, Laura Heyenga, Naoki Higashida, Daniel Tammet, and Tajla Said.

Some of these titles, but not all of them, are on Boswell's Best this week. While you'd normally think that September was an important pub month, the publishers seem to like to wait until after Labor Day for their September release, making this week and next rather dry, but September 10 is absolutely packed with books. Honestly, I would have looked at this and moved a couple of titles to August 27. We have no new Boswell's Best nonfiction titles this week, so the ones I'm writing up now are in the carry-over category.

If I could read whatever I wanted, I'd probably hve more architecture and urban planning books in my pile. Not textbooks mind you, but books like Rowan Moore's Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture (Harper Design). Architecture critic and former director of the Architecture Foundation, Moore looks at structures both historical and modern to look at our changing idea of home, and looks at such disperate projects as the islands of Dubai, the successful New York's High Line and Daniel Libeskind's failed (I'm using copy here!) design for the World Trade Center. Nigel Coates in The Architecture Review notes that Moore takes a journalist's approach and wishes there were more about the radical avant garde.

This next book might be called What We Do with Books We Don't Read, but it's actually Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed (Chronicle), compiled by Laura Heyenga. One example might be Dave and Valerie's wedding arch of several weeks ago. This book is a survey of folks working in this medium, and it seems like they can do just about anything. It's hard to actual describe this book, but here's Brian Dettmer's website with images from his work. And here's a Fast Company sub-website called Co Create with other images from the book. Hugh Hart notes that when Alyson Kuhn's work "first gained traction via Twitter in 2011, some traditionalists sounded sour notes" but anyone who really works in the book business notes that pulping is a fact of life.

The next book is an interesting memoir by a 13-year-old Japanese author Naoki Higashida, discovered by none other than the writer David Mitchell. After finding this book incredibly helpful for raising his own child, The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism wound up being translated by Mitchell as well. From Random House, we learn Naoki, having very low verbal fluency, used an alphabet grid to painstakingly spell out his answers to the questions he imagines others most often wonder about him: why do you talk so loud? Is it true you hate being touched? Would you like to be normal? The result is an inspiring, attitude-transforming book that will be embraced by parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends of autistic children.

Keeping to the way different people's minds interpret things differently, Daniel Hammet's newest book, Thinking In Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math (Little, Brown). Hammet is a mathematical savant, and discusses how his mind works. Oliver Sacks wrote "The irresistibly engaging book that "enlarges one's wonder at Tammet's mind and his all-embracing vision of the world as grounded in numbers." The book notes that Tammet is nspired variously by the complexity of snowflakes, Anne Boleyn's eleven fingers, and his many siblings, exploring questions such as why time seems to speed up as we age, whether there is such a thing as an average person, and how we can make sense of those we love. Here's an interview from Rachel Mann on Weekend Edition Sunday.

Another book that has been out a few weeks is Najla Said's memoir Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family (Riverhead). The author, Edward Said's daughter, talks about re-embracing her roots.The book is inspired by her solo show "Palestine", which had an Off-Broadway run.Notes Haaretz, who profiled the book and author in the Jewish Daily Forward: "I am a Palestinian-Lebanese-American Christian woman, but I began my life as a WASP. I was baptized into the Episcopal Church and sent to an all-girls private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, one that boasts among its alumnae such well-groomed American blue bloods as the legendary Jacqueline Onassis. It was at that point that I realized that something was seriously wrong — with me.”

And of course, there is one fiction book that went on sale today. It's Louise Penny's How the Light Gets In. Her ticketed event is tonight. Based on how our advance sales have gone, I'll probably see you there.

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