Two sure-to-be-talked-about books on the urban experience are from polar opposite points of view. Sudhir Venkatesh’s Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy finds the intrepid author exploring the seedy core of the Big Apple—from immigrants with their illicit jobs to socialites and small-time crack dealers. Choire Sicha, former Gawker editor and cofounder of the Awl, offers Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. A.D. 2009) in a Large City, which follows a group of young men navigating post-9/11 New York.
Food culture, meanwhile, remains a hot topic. Rowman & Littlefield has built an impressive list for its Altamira imprint with a number of tantalizing titles—including cultural histories of breakfast and lunch—but its profiles of cities and their cuisines look too good to pass up, including New York City: A Food Biography. And for a peek at how food culture became a massive staple of the entertainment business, Putnam offers Allen Salkin’s From Scratch: Inside the Tumultuous Billion-Dollar World of the Food Network.
With the new health-care law beginning to come into effect, readers can expect no shortage of headlines about the program’s provisions—and costs. From PublicAffairs comes a timely look at the issues underpinning our nation’s health-care crisis, The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More Is Getting Us Less by Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor. And on a more specific health-care note, C-sections have skyrocketed in the past 30 years despite the serious cost to our health-care system and harm to women and children. NYU Press casts a critical eye on that in Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America by Theresa Morris.
As thorny as the issues may seem, there is always someone to remind us how to approach them with grace. From Agate/Midway comes Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now: The Best of Mary Schmich, a collection of the Chicago Tribune writer’s most popular columns.
And two books remind us that culture isn’t all serious business—sometimes it’s just good fun. From Plume comes Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein, an oral history of TV network.
From Touchstone comes Swingland: Between the Sheets of the Secretive, Sometimes Messy, but Always Adventurous Swinging Lifestyle by Daniel Stern. Billed as one man’s journey into the swinger lifestyle, it explores a fascinating and misunderstood subculture.
Finally, libertarian Ron Paul is back, this time with his thoughts on how big government has messed up education. In The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System, from Grand Central, the former congressman offers a treatise about America’s education system. You may agree or disagree with Paul, but chances are, with the Common Core state standards about to roll out, you are probably going to wind up talking about his thoughts on education.
This fall’s crop of social science titles comes at a fascinating time for Americans. Social and societal issues carried the freight in last November’s elections, but now comes the heavy lifting—Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and gay marriage, the Common Core educational reforms, as well as the implementation of Barack Obama’s signature health-care reform. As this fall’s books show, we are a rich, culturally diverse nation, always striving, sometimes struggling, but never boring.
PW’s Top 10: Social Sciences
Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy.
Sudhir Venkatesh. Penguin Press, Sept.
Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City.
Choire Sicha, Harper, Aug.
New York City: A Food Biography.
Andrew F. Smith. Rowman & Littlefield/Altamira, Nov.
From Scratch: Inside the Tumultuous Billion-Dollar World of the Food Network.
Allen Salkin. Putnam, Oct.
Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America.
Theresa Morris. NYU Press, Oct.
The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More Is Getting Us Less.
Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor, foreword by Harvey V. Fineberg. PublicAffairs, Nov.
Swingland: Between the Sheets of the Secretive, Sometimes Messy, but Always Adventurous Swinging Lifestyle.
Daniel Stern. Touchstone, Oct.
The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System.
Ron Paul. Grand Central, Sept.
Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age.
Mathew Klickstein. Plume, Sept.
Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now: The Best of Mary Schmich
Mary Schmich. Agate/Midway, Aug.
Social Sciences Listings
((dist. by PGW)
Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now: The Best of Mary Schmich by Mary Schmich (Aug. 13, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1572841451). A collection of the most popular columns from the 2012 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
We Do! American Leaders Who Believe in Marriage Equality by Madeleine M. Kunin and Jennifer Baumgardner (Oct. 1, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1617751875). Former Vermont governor Kunin teams up with Baumgardner to tell the inspiring story of American leaders’ growing acceptance of gay marriage.
The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration by David Bacon (Sept. 10, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0807001615). The story of the growing resistance of Mexican communities to the poverty that forces people to migrate to the United States.
“You Can Tell Just by Looking”: And 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People by Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, and Michael Amico (Oct. 1, paper, $16, ISBN 978-0807042458). This book breaks down the most commonly held misconceptions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and unpacks enduring, popular, and deeply held myths.
Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk by Melinda Chateauvert (Jan. 7, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0807061398). A provocative history that reveals how sex workers have been at the vanguard of social justice movements for the past 50 years.
BenBella/Smart Pop Books
(dist. by Perseus)
Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison, foreword by Lev Grossman (Dec. 3, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1939529190). Everyone’s talking about fanfiction these days, thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey.
Chicago Review Press
(dist. by IPG)
First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School by Alison Stewart, forword by Melissa Harris-Perry (Aug. 1, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1613740095) details the history of a great American institution and the efforts it took to build it.
Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement by Tea Krulos (Oct. 1, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1613747759) traces the author’s journey into the strange subculture of Real Life Superheroes, random citizens who have adopted comic book–style personas and hit the streets to fight injustice.
Columbia Univ. Press
Fashioning Appetite: Restaurants and the Making of Modern Identity by Joanne Finkelstein (Oct. 8, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0231167963). With gastronomy now divided between the golden arches of McDonald’s and the prized stars of Michelin, we are no longer what we eat but also how we we eat.
Meatonomics: How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much—and How to Eat Better, Live Longer, and Spend Smarter by David Robinson Simon (Sept. 1, paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1573246200). The true cost of satisfying our craving for meat.
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (Sept. 20, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0307718969). Physician and Pulitzer Prize–winner Fink investigates patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The XX Factor: How Seventy Million Working Women Created a New Society by Alison Wolf (Oct. 1, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0307590404). Noted English economist and journalist Wolf offers a new measure of women’s progress in the boardroom and at the upper echelons of global society.
Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America by Jason Fagone (Nov. 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0307591487). An epic tale of invention, in which ordinary people’s lives are changed by a quest that combines elements of the Olympics, NASCAR, Junkyard Wars, the Longitude Prize of 1714, and the Apollo program.
Superheroes! A Never-Ending Battle by Laurence Maslon (Oct. 1, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0385348584). Published to tie in with a PBS-documentary series, this book will explore the 70-year history of the superheroes that have captured the imagination for generations.
The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty by Nina Munk (Sept. 10, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0385525817). A powerful portrayal of celebrated economist Jeffrey Sachs, and his ambitious quest to end global poverty.
Duke Univ. Press
Anti-Crisis by Janet Roitman (Dec. 9, paper, $21.95, ISBN 978-0822355274). Taking the subprime mortgage crisis as her case study, Roitman analyzes “crisis” as a narrative device, explaining how the term enables some questions while foreclosing others.
Faber and Faber
Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection by Debora L. Spar (Sept. 17, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0374298753). Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, why are women still living in a man’s world?
Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure by Samira Kawash (Oct. 15, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0865477568). A lively cultural history explores how candy in America became food, and how food became more like candy.
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery (Nov. 12, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0374168230). A globe-trotting, eye-opening exploration of how cities can and do make us happier people.
The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System by Ron Paul (Sept. 17, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-1455577170). The former Texas congressman, presidential candidate and #1 New York Times bestselling author returns with a highly provocative and controversial treatise about America’s education system.
The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things by Anna Holmes (Oct. 22, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1455502806). From Jezebel.com, the popular Web site for women, comes a must-read encyclopedic guide to pop culture, feminism, fashion, sex, and much more.
Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. A.D. 2009) in a Large City by Choire Sicha (Aug. 6, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0061914300). From the longtime editor of Gawker and founder of The Awl Web site, an elegant true story set in New York City follows a handful of young men as they navigate through the ruins of money and power in search of love and connection.
The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory by Jesse Walker (Aug. 20, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062135551). The books editor of Reason magazine explores the origins, evolution, legacy, and impact of paranoia in American politics and culture.
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston (Oct. 1, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062241795). Combining in-depth research with her own personal story of recovery, an award-winning journalist examines the precipitous rise in risky drinking among women and girls.
Harvard Univ. Press
Do Muslim Women Need Saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod (Nov. 12, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0674725164). An indictment of a mindset that has justified all manner of foreign interference, including military invasion, in the name of rescuing women from Islam.
Hay House/Smiley Books
Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood by Rick Najera (Sept. 16, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1401943127). Award-winning writer, actor, director, comedian, playwright, and producer Najera explores what it means to be a Latino as a Hollywood creative.
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross by Henry Louis Gates and Donald Yacovone (Oct. 1, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-1401935146) is a companion book to the six-part documentary of the same name, airing on PBS in the fall, chonicling 500 years of African-American history.
The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (Aug. 20, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0316208260). The question of our time: can we reclaim our lives in an age that feels busier and more distracting by the day?
High-Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing by Audrey Petty (Sept. 10, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1938073373). Former residents of Chicago’s notorious public housing projects describe life in the now-demolished high-rises.
(dist. by Perseus)
Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality by David Cay Johnston (Oct. 29, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1595589231) gathers more than 30 leading economists, journalists, and scholars to explore the most urgent issue of our time: the upward redistribution of wealth and income in America.
Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers by Monique W. Morris (Jan. 7, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1595589194). An essential handbook of eye-opening and frequently counterintuitive facts and figures about the real lives of African-Americans today.
Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India by Amana Fontanella-Khan (Aug. 5, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0393062977). A portrait of a fiery sisterhood changing the lives of India’s women.
Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia by Anthony Townsend (Oct. 7, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-0393082876). An unflinching look at the aspiring city-builders of our smart, mobile, connected future.
Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America by Theresa Morris (Oct. 7, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0814764114) looks at why the rate of C-sections in America has skyrocketed in the past 30 years despite the serious cost to our health-care system and harm to women and children.
The Punishment Imperative: The Rise and Failure of Mass Incarceration in America by Todd R. Clear and Natasha A. Frost (Oct. 18, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0814717196). Part historical study, part forward-looking policy analysis, this book assesses the rise and dramatic fall of the American experiment in punitive penal policy.
Oxford Univ. Press
The City That Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control by Franklin E. Zimring (Nov. 1, paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-0199324163). Including a new preface by Adam Gopnik, this is a detailed and comprehensive investigation into New York City’s falling crime rates from 1990 to 2009.
For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law by Randall Kennedy (Sept. 3, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0307907370). From the author of the New York Times bestseller Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word and, more recently, The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency.
Latino Americans by Ray Suarez (Sept. 3, paper, $18, ISBN 978-0451238146). In this companion to the six-hour PBS documentary series of the same name, Latino Americans vividly and candidly tell how their story is very much the story of our country.
Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy by Sudhir Venkatesh (Sept. 12, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594204166). The bestselling author of Gang Leader for a Day reveals the secrets of New York’s underground economy in this vivid memoir of sociological investigation.
Smarter than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson (Sept. 12, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594204456). A lively and accessible argument for the way technology boosts our cognitive abilities.
Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein (Sept. 24, hardcover, $20, ISBN 978-0142196854). The nostalgic, surprisingly complex, and impressively compelling story of how Nickelodeon began as a DIY startup in the late 1970s.
The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving by Leigh Gallagher (Aug. 1, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1591845256). A Fortune journalist examines why the suburbs are transforming and losing their appeal, and why that’s not a bad thing.
Princeton Univ. Press
The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich (Oct. 21, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0691144054). An intimate portrait of the Big Apple.
The Betrayal of the American Dream by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele (Sept. 3, paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-1610393201). A fiercely reported indictment of how the American middle class has been condemned to terminal decline, from the authors of the New York Times bestseller America: What Went Wrong.
The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More Is Getting Us Less by Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor, foreword by Harvey V. Fineberg (Nov. 5, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1610392099). Why, if we spend more money than any other country on health care, does the U.S. still rank so low when it comes to life expectancy and infant mortality?
From Scratch: Inside the Tumultuous Billion-Dollar World of the Food Network by Allen Salkin (Oct. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0399159329). Big personalities, high drama, and the extraordinary behind-the-scenes story of the Food Network, now about to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Rowman & Littlefield/AltaMira Press
Breakfast: A History by Heather Arndt Anderson (Aug. 1, hardcover, $38, ISBN 978-0759121638) explores the “most important meal of the day,” from corn flakes to pancakes, as a social and gastronomic phenomenon.
San Francisco: A Food Biography by Erica J. Peters (Oct. 1, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0759121515). San Francisco’s famous restaurant scene has been the subject of several books, but the full complexity of the city’s culinary history is revealed anew.
Africa and the World by Tukufu Zuberi (Oct. 1, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1442216419). A dynamic discussion of how Africa shapes world events today.
New York City: A Food Biography by Andrew F. Smith (Nov. 1, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0759122130) showcases all the vibrancy, innovation, diversity, influence, and taste of this most-celebrated American metropolis.
Lunch: A History by Megan Elias (Dec. 1, hardcover, $38, ISBN 978-0759121669). The meal most often eaten in public, lunch has a long tradition of establishing social status and cementing alliances.
I’m Only Here for the WiFi: A Complete Guide to Reluctant Adulthood by Chelsea Fagan (Sept. 3, paper, $14, ISBN 978-0762449132). A mix of commentary, humor, and real advice for uncertain young adults on how to succeed in the “real world.”
Simon & Schuster
The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion by Virginia Postrel (Nov. 5, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1416561118). The critically acclaimed author and Bloomberg View columnist offers a provocative theory of glamour, elucidating how this dominant cultural force shapes our most fundamental choices.
(dist. by W.W. Norton)
Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? The Evolution of Sex and Gender by Lewis Wolpert (Nov. 6, hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-1626361263). A biological roadmap between Mars and Venus, Xs and Ys, and the battle of the sexes.
Syracuse Univ. Press
The Banshees: A Literary History of Irish American Women by Sally Barr Ebest (Oct. 1, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0815633303) traces the feminist contributions of a wide range of Irish-American women writers, from Mother Jones, Kate Chopin, and Margaret Mitchell to contemporary such authors as Gillian Flynn, Jennifer Egan, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Temple Univ. Press
Savage Portrayals: Race, Media and the Central Park Jogger Story by Natalie Byfield (Oct. 1, paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-1439906347) uncovers how the media’s racialized coverage of the Central Park Jogger case influenced the conviction of five young minority men accused of “wilding” and affected the American juvenile justice system.
Swingland: Between the Sheets of the Secretive, Sometimes Messy, but Always Adventurous Swinging Lifestyle by Daniel Stern (Oct. 1, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1476732534). The wryly amusing and revealing story of one man’s journey into the swinger lifestyle pulls back the curtain on a fascinating—and little understood—subculture.
UNIV. of California Press
Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us by S. Lochlann Jain (Oct. 15, paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0520276574). Through a powerful combination of personal memoir, history, and cultural analysis, this book explores the high-stake relationships at play in our desire to understand and face this often fatal disease.
The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century by Randy Shaw (Oct. 1, paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-0520274051). In showing how people can win social change struggles against even overwhelming odds, this is an indispensable guide not only for activists but for anyone interested in the future of progressive politics in America.
Univ. of North Carolina Press
Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America since 1940 by Jonathan Scott Holloway (Oct. 15, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-1469610702) offers a look at stories black Americans have told about their past and why those are vital to understanding modern black identity.
Yale Univ. Press
Earthly Mission: The Catholic Church and World Development by Robert Calderisi (Sept. 24, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0300175127). A lively investigation of the Catholic Church and its controversial social mission in the developing world.
Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age by Alice E. Marwick (Nov. 26, hardcover, $27.50, ISBN 978-0300176728). Social media, once heralded as revolutionary and democratic, have instead proved exclusionary and elitist.
The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us—And How They Don’t by Nick Yee (Jan. 7, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0300190991). A surprising assessment of the ways in which virtual worlds tangle with human psychology.