This spring’s literary nonfiction offers fresh perspectives on old books and past masters, with stories about the making—or unmaking—of famous titles, new materials from the archives of well-known authors, and an account of how great writers have faced the end.
Essays & Literary Criticism Top 10
Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth
A.O. Scott. Penguin Press, Feb. 9
The New York Times film critic shows why we need criticism now more than ever, pointing out that critical thinking informs almost every aspect of artistic creation, civil action, and interpersonal life.
Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays
Cynthia Ozick. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 5
Ozick offers critiques of writers from the mid–20th century to today, including Martin Amis, Saul Bellow, William Gass, and Bernard Malamud.
Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises
Lesley Blume. HMH/Dolan, June 7
Blume reveals how a raucous trip to Pamplona, Spain, in the summer of 1925 led Hemingway to create a masterwork.
Calvin Trillin. Random, June 28
The best of New Yorker writer Trillin’s pieces about the American South in the 1960s and the legacy of those years are gathered into one volume.
Joe Gould’s Teeth
Jill Lepore. Knopf, May 17
New Yorker staff writer Lepore tells the story of the discovery of a long-lost manuscript, The Oral History of Our Time by Joe Gould, the subject of two famous profiles by New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell.
Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life
Sayed Kashua. Grove, Feb. 2
Kashua presents columns written for Haaretz between 2006 and 2014 about his life and perspective as an Arab-Israeli.
Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide
Michael Kinsley. Crown/Duggan, Apr. 26
Vanity Fair columnist Kinsley takes an irreverent look at the boomer generation’s maturation, using his own 20-year battle with Parkinson’s as a starting point.
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Pioneer’s Correspondence
Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by William Anderson. Harper, Mar. 8
Newly available, the letters collected in this volume span 60 years, from 1894 to 1956, offering a new perspective on the author of the Little House on the Prairie books.
The View from the Cheap Seats: A Collection of Introductions, Essays, and Assorted Writings
Neil Gaiman. Morrow, May 31
The acclaimed author of novels and comics assembles a collection of his nonfiction for the first time.
The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End
Katie Roiphe. Dial, Mar. 8
Roiphe provides a deeply researched account of the last days of Sigmund Freud, Maurice Sendak, Susan Sontag, Dylan Thomas, John Updike.
Essays & Literary Criticism Listings
Housebroken by Laurie Notaro (July 12, trade paper, $17, ISBN 978-1-101-88608-3). In this new collection, essayist Notaro boldly takes on what the Victorians referred to as “homecraft,” embarking on a series of hilarious, often failed, attempts to master the domestic arts.
(dist. by Consortium)
A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century by Jerome Charyn (Mar. 15, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-934137-98-7). Novelist Charyn introduces us to a different Emily Dickinson: not the virginal, reclusive Belle of Amherst, but a fierce, brilliant, and sexually charged poet.
Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide by Michael Kinsley (Apr. 26, hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-1-101-90376-6) is a series of warm and witty essays from Vanity Fair columnist Kinsley, who takes an irreverent look at the boomer generation’s maturation, using his own 20-year battle with Parkinson’s as a starting point.
(dist. by Columbia Univ.)
The Great Latin American Novel by Carlos Fuentes, trans. by Brendan Riley (Feb. 12, trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-1-62897-130-9). One of the late great novelist’s final projects, this compendium of his criticism traces the Latin American novel from the conquistadors’ arrival in the New World to the present.
The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe (Mar. 8, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-385-34359-6). One of today’s most perceptive and provocative voices produces a startlingly original meditation on mortality. Roiphe provides a deeply researched account of the last days of Sigmund Freud, Maurice Sendak, Susan Sontag, Dylan Thomas, and John Updike.
The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New by Annie Dillard (Mar. 15, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-243297-1). In recognition of a long and lauded career, this collection assembles past work by the master essayist, selected by Dillard herself, including both widely known pieces and some rarely seen work.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces by Ian Frazier (June 7, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-374-29852-4) collects a decade’s worth of essays and reportage from Frazier, revealing a gifted chronicler of contemporary America who’s equal parts muckraker, adventurer, and raconteur.
The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner (June 7, trade paper, $12, ISBN 978-0-86547-820-6). Starting from the observation that no art has been denounced as often as poetry—sometimes by poets themselves—Lerner devotes this inventive and lucid book-length essay to a defense of his art.
The Art of History: Unlocking the Past in Fiction and Nonfiction by Christopher Bram, series edited by Charles Baxter (July 5, trade paper, $12, ISBN 978-1-55597-743-6). In this addition to the “Art of” series, acclaimed novelist Bram explores historical fiction and nonfiction, examining writers as disparate as Leo Tolstoy, David McCullough, and Toni Morrison.
The Making of the American Essay by John D’Agata (Mar. 15, trade paper, $25, ISBN 978-1-55597-734-4) concludes a trilogy of anthologies devoted to American essays, ranging from Washington Irving’s satires to Kenneth Goldsmith’s catalogues. D’Agata’s introductions to each selection add up to an extended treatise on the form in America.
Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life by Sayed Kashua (Feb. 2, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-8021-2455-5) selects columns written by Arab-Israeli writer Kashua for Haaretz between 2006 and 2014. Exploring both family life and the Palestinian-Israeli divide, the book captures a sense of straddling two worlds.
City Squares: Eighteen Writers on the Spirit and Significance of Squares Around the World by Catie Marron (Apr. 12, hardcover, $32.50, ISBN 978-0-06-238020-3). In this collection, 18 renowned writers, including David Remnick, Zadie Smith, and Adam Gopnik, evoke the spirit and history of some of the world’s most recognized and significant city squares.
The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison by Mikita Brottman (June 7, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-238433-1) is a riveting account of the two years literary scholar Brottman spent reading literature with inmates in a maximum-security men’s prison outside Baltimore. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Pioneer’s Correspondence by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by William Anderson (Mar. 8, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-241968-2). Available for the first time, the letters collected in this volume cover more than 60 years, from 1894 to 1956, offering a new perspective on the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom by Stanley Fish (July 5, hardcover, $19.99, ISBN 978-0-06-222665-5). Guiding readers through the “greatest hits” of rhetoric, English and law professor Fish devotes this lively and accessible guide to the art of winning debates. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific by Hua Hsu (June 7, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-674-96790-8). Between WWI and WWII, American writers bitterly competed to be known as the country’s leading China expert. Hsu surveys a public conversation about American-Chinese relations that ranged from the bestseller Pearl S. Buck to an eccentric self-published immigrant named H.T. Tsiang.
The One King Lear by Brian Vickers (Apr. 4, hardcover, $45, ISBN 978-0-674-50484-4). The renowned Shakespeare expert Vickers challenges the long-dominant view that the differences between the two extant versions of King Lear, the Quarto and the Folio, are Shakespeare’s own doing. He proposes instead that both texts were cut without Shakespeare’s involvement, and for differing reasons.
Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum (May 2, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-674-41707-6) is the first literary history of word processing. Kirschenbaum examines how the interests and ideals of creative authorship came to coexist with the computer revolution.
(dist. by PGW)
Violation: Collected Essays by Sallie Tisdale (Apr. 12, trade paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-0-9904370-8-6). Tisdale’s debut collection spans three decades. In it, she pursues subjects from the biology of flies to the experience of working in an abortion clinic, the difficulty of playing sports with men, and whether it’s possible for writers to tell the truth.
Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley Blume (June 7, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-544-27600-0) vividly evokes 1920s Paris and Spain and reveals how a raucous trip to Pamplona, Spain, in the summer of 1925 led Hemingway to create one of the masterworks of modern literature. 40,000-copy announced first printing.
Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives by David Denby (Feb. 2, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-8050-9585-2). To find out whether serious reading has a future, New Yorker writer Denby visited three very different public schools. His findings reaffirm the power of great teachers and the importance of great books.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays by Cynthia Ozick (July 5, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-544-70371-1). In this collection, Ozick offers critiques of writers from the mid-20th century to today, including Martin Amis, Saul Bellow, William Gass, and Bernard Malamud—all assembled in provocatively named groups: “Fanatics,” “Monsters,” and others.
Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture by Catherine M. Roach (Mar. 31, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-253-02044-4). The author, alongside her romance-writer alter-ego, Catherine LaRoche, guides the reader deep into Romancelandia, where the smart and witty combine with the sexy and seductive, exploring why this genre has such a grip on readers.
Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore (May 17, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-101-94758-6). New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Lepore traces the story of the discovery of Joe Gould’s long-lost manuscript, The Oral History of Our Time, and of the violence, betrayals, and madness that led to its concealment.
South of Etowah: The View from the Wrong Side of the River by Raymond L. Atkins (Apr. 1, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-0-88146-565-5). In this essay collection, novelist Atkins tackles a diverse range of topics, from William Faulkner to dinner theater, as seen from the porch of his home on the southern bank of northern Georgia’s mighty Etowah River.
Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing and the Power of Their First Celebrity Crush by Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton (Apr. 5, hardcover, $19.99, ISBN 978-0-06-239955-7) collects essays in which acclaimed and bestselling authors and celebrities reflect on early infatuations with pop culture figures. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
The View from the Cheap Seats: A Collection of Introductions, Essays, and Assorted Writings by Neil Gaiman (May 31, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-226226-4) brings together for the first time more than 60 pieces of nonfiction by the bestselling fiction writer. The selections explore topics ranging from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
Little Labors by Rivka Galchen (May 16, hardcover, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-8112-2558-8) is a literary miscellany of pieces that vary in length from just a sentence or paragraph to several-page stories or essays. Throughout, award-winning Galchen dwells on the link between babies and literature.
Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life into Art by David Mikics (May 23, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-393-24687-2) looks at how the Nobel Prize–winning author turned life into art, examining Bellow’s work in terms of his relationships with family members, friends, wives, and lovers.
The Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature: Writings from the Mainland in the Long Twentieth Century, edited by Yunte Huang (Feb. 1, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-393-23948-5). Award-winning literary scholar and poet Huang gathers significant works from nearly 50 Chinese writers, both known and unknown in the West, that together express a search for the soul of modern China.
Love and Ruin: Stories of Obsession, Danger, and Heartbreak from the Atavist Magazine, edited by Evan Ratliff (July 25, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-393-35271-9), shows why the Atavist magazine, since its founding in 2011, has become known as a leader in long-form narrative writing, showcasing such contributors as Leslie Jamison, Matthew Shaer, and James Verini.
Upstairs at the Strand: Writers in Conversation at the Legendary Bookstore, edited by Jessica Strand and Andrea Aguilar (Mar. 21, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-393-35208-5), is based on a series of talks at the famous New York City bookstore that pair leading writers, from long-celebrated figures like Edward Albee and Paul Auster to contemporary stars like Hilton Als and Junot Díaz.
Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book by Emma Smith (June 15, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19-875436-7) is the biography of a book, the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, from its printing in 1623 to its four-century-long lifespan among collectors, booksellers, scholars, actors, forgers, and readers.
(dist. by Norton)
Accidence Will Happen: A Reformed Pedant’s Guide to English Language and Style by Oliver Kamm (July 4, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-68177-147-2) is a witty, authoritative, and often provocative guide to the use and abuse of the English language by the London Times’s lead grammar columnist.
Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth by A.O. Scott (Feb. 9, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-59420-483-8). The New York Times film critic shows why we need criticism more than ever, pointing out that critical thinking informs almost every aspect of artistic creation, civil action, and interpersonal life.
The Golden Condom: And Other Essays on Love Lost and Found by Jeanne Safer (Apr. 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-250-05575-0) recounts stories and observations from a psychotherapist’s years of private practice, all about one of the most universal of topics: love.
How to Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers by Richard Cohen (May 5, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-8129-9830-6) is a guide to writing—what makes good prose and how to create it—and a lively account of the difficult lessons that even the greatest writers have had to learn.
Jackson, 1964 by Calvin Trillin (June 28, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-399-58824-2). The best of New Yorker writer Trillin’s pieces about the American South in the 1960s and the legacy of those years are gathered into one volume for the first time.
True Crimes by Kathryn Harrison (Apr. 4, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-4000-6348-2). From bestselling memoirist and novelist Harrison comes a collection of illuminating essays, written over the course of more than a decade, re-examining commonly held ideas about family, love, loss, and memory.
(dist. by S&S)
The Books That Changed My Life, edited by Bethanne Patrick (Mar. 29, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-941393-65-9). This book allows leading authors, politicians, CEOs, actors, and other notables to share the books that changed their life and describe why they love them, in collaboration with the literary nonprofit 826National.
Creating Nonfiction: Twenty Essays and Interviews with the Writers, edited by Jen Hirt and Erin Murphy (June 1, trade paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-4384-6116-8), collects essays and interviews with the aim of opening readers’ and writers’ eyes to the formal possibilities of creative nonfiction.
Thames & Hudson
Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies by Alexandra Harris (Feb. 15, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0-500-51811-3) takes a lively look at how English writers and artists have responded to their country’s famous weather, from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Turner and Ian McEwan.
A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape: Meditations on Ruin and Redemption by Matt Donovan (Apr. 12, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-59534-760-2). This nonfiction debut from poet Donovan takes on such disparate subjects as the explosion of Mount Vesuvius, the 1983 TV movie The Day After, and the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.
Univ. of Minnesota
The Age of Lovecraft, edited by Carl H. Sederholm and Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock (Apr. 1, trade paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8166-9925-4), brings together thinkers from an array of disciplines to consider Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the American author of “weird tales” who died in 1937 impoverished and relatively unknown yet has become a 21st-century star.
Univ. of New Mexico
Girls in My Town: Essays by Angela Morales (Apr. 1, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-8263-5662-8) presents a series of autobiographical essays that form a portrait of the author’s family and upbringing in Los Angeles, including her grandmother’s childhood, her parents’ divorce, and her own discovery of her voice as a writer.
Culture by Terry Eagleton (May 24, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-300-21879-4). A leading literary and cultural critic offers a sweeping intellectual history that argues for the reclamation of culture’s value, lambasting its current state of commodification and co-option.
The Gift of the Gab: How Eloquence Works by David Crystal (May 17, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-300-21426-0). An expert on the history and usage of the English language probes the intricate workings of spoken eloquence: how it works, how it has evolved, and how to tap its remarkable power.
Life and Work: Writers, Readers, and the Conversations Between Them by Tim Parks (June 28, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-300-21536-6). Long fascinated by the complicated relationship between an author’s life and work, critic and novelist Parks offers case studies that include Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Geoff Dyer, and Philip Roth.
Melancholy by László F. Földényi, trans. by Tim Wilkinson (Apr. 26, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-300-16748-1). Praised by Alberto Manguel as “one of the most brilliant essayists of our time,” the Hungarian writer Földényi comes to English-language readers for the first time with this reflection on the changing concept of melancholy through history.