1. The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Random House)
“The village of my postwar childhood was a village of women,” writes Alexievich in the introduction to her newly translated book about the experience of women in Europe and Russia through World War II. As in her other brilliant works, like Voices from Chernobyl, Alexievich is interested less in the events than the feelings of living witnesses. Here, she magically creates a chorus of women’s voices -- from snipers, cryptographers, anti-aircraft gunners, radio operators, underground fighters, and surgeons, to cooks and hairdressers -- on the everyday details of life in war, and their deeper thoughts. When Alexievich won the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature, for a “new kind of literary genre,” the Swedish Academy praised her “polyphonic writings, as a monument to suffering and courage” – a description that also aptly applies to this latest work.
2. Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul by Jeremiah Moss (Dey Street)
When he arrived in New York City in 1993, Moss was 22 years old and already too late. “I was Harold and New York was my Maude,” he writes in the introduction to his new book, both a love letter to the city and a damning indictment of 21st century gentrification. As followers of his blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York know, Moss chronicles the changing urban landscape with insight and indignation. More than bittersweet nostalgia, this book explains the city’s transformation, neighborhood by neighborhood. Moss includes a “wish list” of practical policy changes to improve the situation, including expansion of landmarking to protect legacy businesses, restraints on mass tourism, and lower fines for small business. Moss declares: “If you take away just one thing from this book, let it be this: Hyper-Gentrification and its free-market engine is neither natural nor inevitable.”
3. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power by Al Gore (Rodale Books)
Following his best-seller An Inconvenient Truth and the Academy Award-winning documentary that accompanied it, Gore, former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, returns to his public crusade with sequels to both the book and the film. Gore brings together new scientific evidence about global warming accrued in the last decade, integrates stories of environmental disaster from around the globe – and presents real steps for citizens to take to reverse the damage.
4. Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (Viking Books)
This firecracker of a novel begins calmly in the zoo’s Dinosaur Discovery Pit, but within pages it explodes into a late afternoon siege of terror. With hours and minutes noted in each chapter, the drama registers in real time through a mother’s interior monologue and her feverish determination to protect her four-year-old son. Phillips expertly keys into this panic-stricken woman’s psyche as she and her preschooler dodge through the Zoo’s primate zones, porcupine enclosures, and secret buildings to escape the gunmen, who have already left carnage in their wake.
5. What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women & The Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro (Viking Books)
Shapiro, a culinary historian and biographer of Julia Child, focuses here on six women -- Eva Braun, Helen Gurley Brown, Barbara Pym, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dorothy Wordsworth – and what their relationships with food reveal about who they really were and how they lived. For Braun and Brown, being slender (by not eating) was a way to keep a man. Roosevelt cared about food only later in her life, but occasionally used it as a weapon of punishment in her earlier years. British caterer Lewis used food to elevate herself beyond the servant class. Warm references to food inform Pym’s diaries, and while Wordsworth was so deeply connected with her brother that she influenced his poetry, she kept food references to her private diaries. In this charming book, Shapiro finds enormous insight by approaching biography through a culinary lens.