by Robert H. Patton (Pantheon, $26)
You would never catch John Paul Jones mooning his British pursuers, said Evan Thomas in The Washington Post. But privateers of the era might have, and the 10 ships of the early U.S. Navy were outnumbered 50-to-one by private warships licensed to raid and embarrass enemy vessels however they pleased. Author Robert Patton “has dug deep into Revolutionary War–era records” and he “writes with verve” about the founding bandits he discovered there.
by Deanne Stillman (Houghton Mifflin, $25)
“There is no happily ever after” in Deanne Stillman’s new history of America’s mustang herds, said Fritz Thompson in the Albuquerque Journal. Though the breed served with honor in the Civil War and for the Pony Express, the nation’s wild mustang population has fallen to 25,000 from a 19th-century high of perhaps 2 million. Stillman’s “fascinating” narrative ends with the wistful thought that the herds may not long outlive our utilitarian need for them.
All for a Few Perfect Waves
by David Rensin (HarperEntertainment, $26)
Only surfers could complain about David Rensin’s new biography of the bad-boy Malibu legend once referred to as “Kerouac in board shorts,” said Steven Kotler in the Los Angeles Times. That’s because so many tall tales surround the legend of Miki “Da Cat” Dora that facts tend to get in the way. Rensin’s oral biography delivers both “the most complete portrait of Dora ever painted” and “a solid recounting of surfing’s original boom years.”
Accidentally on Purpose
by Mary F. Pols (Ecco, $25)
It’s “easy to like” first-time author Mary Pols, said Adelle Waldman in The New York Observer. As the accomplished California-based film critic recounts how a one-night stand led to an unexpected pregnancy and a decision to embrace single motherhood at age 39, her voice is “wryly self-critical.” Even when casting judgment on the child’s 29-year-old father, she’s “taking herself to task for being judgmental.”
The Legend of Colton T. Bryant
by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin Press, $24)
Alexandra Fuller “strings together sentences that are as beautiful as anything you’ll read in contemporary fiction,” in this slim book about an ill-fated Wyoming oil-rig worker, said Bryan Burrough in The New York Times. The problem is, she’s presenting the story as factual. “The more I read” her detailed accounts of conversations she couldn’t have heard, the more “one question kept nagging at me: Can this really be called nonfiction?”