18 Booklist January 1 & 15, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
Journalism & Publishing
Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things:
A Memoir of Love, Loss, and
By Amy Dickinson.
Mar. 2017. 256p. Hachette, $27 (9780316352642);
e-book, $13.99 (9780316352581). 070.92.
Advice columnist Dickinson, of “Ask Amy,”
Philosophy & Psychology
moved to her hometown in upstate New
York in the early 2000s, after having lived
in major cities like New York and Washing-
ton, D.C. Not only is the town’s population
sparse, hovering somewhere near 500, but
most of its residents seem related to her. Yet
this return does not seem to stifle her; in
fact, the homecoming opens an unexpected
door to love. Who says there’s no life in a
small town? For in Freeville, New York,
single parent Dickinson
meets another single par-
ent, someone she knew in
school, and thus begins a
sweet and tender court-
ship. Still, the subsequent
marriage and the blend-
ing of children are not
without bumps, and she
deftly recounts such moments truthfully
but without trespassing on family members’
privacy. This is a memoir of relationships,
as Dickinson tenuously connects with her
ne’er-do-well father and helps care for her
ailing mother, the loss of whom renders
her bereft. Although she tries many rem-
edies, it is really the passage of time and a
line from the movie Tootsie which see her
through. Dickinson’s warm and generous
spirit makes a reader feel as though they’ve
been invited in for hot cocoa on a cold day.
The Creative Spark: How Imagination
Made Humans Exceptional.
By Agustín Fuentes.
Mar. 2017. 352p. Dutton, $28 (9781101983942). 153.3.
Behind the Pietà, Fuentes sees a line of
human creativity stretching back from
Michelangelo three million years to the prehuman hominins who first began using stone
tools to shape the world to satisfy their desires.
Condensing a great deal of anthropological research, Fuentes shows how imaginative
resourcefulness enabled a vulnerable species
lacking fangs and claws to survive in a world
of fierce predators. In time, the creativity that
allowed Homo sapiens to survive opened possibilities that set the species apart from all
of the planet’s other occupants—in physical
mode of life and travel, in social organization,
in communication, in capacity to investigate
nature, and even in transcendent self-understanding. Unfortunately, the evolutionary
record of the creative singularity of the human
race also includes bloody ingenuity in the violence of war. But whether facing the current
threat of armed conflict or pondering contemporary controversies surrounding gender
and religion, Fuentes draws one imperative
lesson from humankind’s deep past: we survive as a species only so long as we continue to
creatively innovate. —Bryce Christensen
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us
Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.
By Florence Williams.
Feb. 2017. 288p. illus. Norton, $26.95 (9780393242713).
Science journalist Williams’ (Breasts, 2012)
research leads to a scientist who hopes to
design—you guessed it—an app so smart-phones can measure the aesthetic and
restorative powers of physical settings and users
can crowdsource their findings. Various scientists hook Williams up to gear that either tries
to measure her contentment or tries to imitate
nature. She usually emerges with motion sickness, or her vital signs don’t react as predicted.
Williams visits Japan and South Korea, whose
national programs in “forest bathing,” or experiencing nature, aim to slash health-care costs,
mainly by reducing stress. In Finland, which is
also seeking to reduce the cost of health care,
she meets researchers who claim that humans
need a minimum of five hours of exposure
to nature a month. In Scotland, she observes
nature therapy for petty criminals and former
drug addicts. Williams often states that real nature works better than fake nature, but the only
large-scale slowdown in the speeding spread of
We’ve hardly swapped out our calendars, but the publishing year is well under way. Here are just a few of the books you’ll want to know about for 2017’s
first half. —Annie Bostrom
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. By Neil deGrasse Tyson. Norton, $18.95
The universe explained by the beloved astrophysicist (who has more than 6 million Twitter followers) in under 150 pages? Better order several.
Celestial Mechanics. By William Least Heat-Moon. Three Rooms, $28 (9781941110560). Apr.
The acclaimed author of Blue Highways (1982) will release his first novel, a genre-bending, illustrated tale of magic realism, this spring.
Into the Water. By Paula Hawkins. Riverhead, $27 (9780735211209). May.
Not much is known about Hawkins’ (Girl on the Train, 2015) next novel of psychological
suspense aside from its focus on two sisters, and the fact that “holds” queues will be
The Red Hunter. By Lisa Unger. Touchstone, $25.99 (9781501101670). Apr.
Unger’s next thriller, a stand-alone, follows two women who begin as strangers, one
having just moved into a home where the other lived and experienced a horrible trauma.
The Secrets of My Life. By Caitlyn Jenner and Buzz Bissinger. Grand Central, $29
Reality-TV personality, retired Olympic athlete, and transgender-rights activist Jenner
will address her 2015 transition and life in the public eye in this memoir, coauthored with
Some Rise by Sin. By Philip Caputo. Holt, $28 (9781627794749). May.
Pulitzer Prize–winning Caputo returns to fiction with this tale about two Americans, a
doctor and a priest, serving the townspeople of a drug-cartel-brutalized village in Mexico.
Testimony. By Scott Turow. Grand Central, $29 (9781455553549). May.
In Turow’s next legal thriller, a man is sent to investigate the long-unsolved disappearance of a Gypsy refugee camp following the Bosnian War.
The Thirst. By Jo Nesbø. Knopf, $27.95 (9780385352161). May.
Nesbø’s most famous detective returns in the eleventh book in the Harry Hole series.
This time, the Oslo cop tracks a serial killer who’s been finding victims via Tinder.
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