by Philip Hoare
The most recent winner of Britain’s top nonfiction prize offers an “enjoyable trawl” through the history, literature, and lore of the world’s largest mammals, said Ian Pindar in the London Guardian. Before revealing this obsession with whales, Philip Hoare was an acclaimed biographer. He stuffs this thick volume with “prose of great beauty” and plenty of fascinating facts. It is, for instance, possible to survive being swallowed by a whale. But the gastric acids will absolutely wreck your complexion.
Coyote at the Kitchen Door
by Stephen DeStefano
The rise of coyote populations across suburban America gives hope to wildlife biologist Stephen DeStefano, said The New Yorker. In this “pithy” examination of how human activity affects various species, DeStefano “cites some alarming facts”: A single paved road, for example, “alters the ecosystem for 300 feet on either side of it.” Sprawl has a negative effect on mountain lions, but actually has helped the coyote thrive. Maybe, he suggests, we can all just learn to cohabitate.
The Strong Horse
by Lee Smith
This bold new study of the Arab-speaking Middle East “calls into question even the most conventional” of Western beliefs about the region, said Jackson Holahan in The Christian Science Monitor. Author Lee Smith argues that 9/11 was less a rebellion against U.S. hegemony than Osama bin Laden’s attempt to establish his Islamist movement as “the strong horse” in an inter-Arab struggle. Smith’s arguments may anger many, but his succinct, nuanced work is “an important read.”
The Ticking Is the Bomb
by Nick Flynn
This “disquieting masterpiece” from memoirist Nick Flynn seems to
pose a simple question, said Steve Almond in the Los Angeles Times. While approaching fatherhood for the first time, the 45-year-old poet becomes obsessed with how Americans came to find torture acceptable. Flynn “writes with fearless precision about the terror and deprivation of his own childhood” and winds up ensnaring the inchoate fears expressed by our decade-long war on terror.