The summer reading season is upon us. Please enjoy these 10 engaging books of nonfiction that are perfect for beachside, poolside, or bedside; here’s what our reviewers have to say about them.
Pig Years by Ellyn Gaydos (Knopf, June 14): “A writer and transient farmer chronicles multiple seasons of work and life.…Lyrical and cleareyed insight into farming from a writer devoted to both crafts.”
Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise by Jack Parlett (Hanover Square Press, June 14): “Parlett first ventured to the island in 2017 while furthering his doctoral research on American poetry and cruising. His experiences during this visit, as a curious researcher who was also actively engaged in the gay party scene, serve as the launching point for this uniquely insightful and colorful cultural history.”
Explorer: The Quest for Adventure and the Great Unknown by Benedict Allen (Canongate, June 28): “Allen discusses what being an explorer means to him and attempts to set the record straight about the 2017 headlines that reported him missing in Papua New Guinea.…A compelling story about the need to satisfy one’s yearnings at all costs.”
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday, June 28): “In this gathering of his New Yorker articles, the author covers subjects ranging from the counterfeit wine business to Swiss banking to the illegal arms trade.…Thought-provoking examinations of human motivation, choices, follies, and morality.”
The Last Resort: A Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach by Sarah Stodola (Ecco/HarperCollins, June 28): “Stodola organizes her book according to locations she has visited, detailing both the similarities of beach vacations across the globe as well as regional differences. She acknowledges the Western gaze that has informed much of what constitutes the traveler’s ideal, but she also emphasizes that the international traveler base is growing and changing.…A thorough and appropriately alarming analysis of how we made paradise and how it might be saved.” (See our recent interview with the author.)
The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bull Durham by Ron Shelton (Knopf, July 5): “Shelton’s book is not simply a jaunty recollection of his directing debut.…The author, who displays sheer, unadulterated love for his subject, also delivers a savvy, unusually informative tutorial on how to take a motion picture from the concept stage to script development, casting, production, and post-production.”
Illuminated by Water: Fly Fishing and the Allure of the Natural World by Malachy Tallack (Pegasus, July 5): “Even for those who have never picked up a fishing rod, this poetic book has a lot to say about the process of finding the things that are truly important.…The author alternates between his ruminations about fishing and his experiences of visiting streams and lakes around the world.”
Imagine a City: A Pilot’s Journey Across the Urban World by Mark Vanhoenacker (Knopf, July 5): “Philosophically rich without being ponderous, belonging on the same shelf as books by Saint-Exupéry, Markham, and Langewiesche, Vanhoenacker’s book is unfailingly interesting, full of empathetic details on faraway places and lives. It’s an absolute pleasure for any world citizen and a trove for any traveler.”
Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings by Chrysta Bilton (Little, Brown, July 12): “Bilton tells two remarkable stories. One is the chronicle of her wildly unconventional childhood as the daughter of a woman described by a friend, without much exaggeration, as ‘one of the great characters of the Western world.’…The second story is the tale of Donor 150, who was by far the most popular option for those purchasing sperm at the California Cryobank in Century City.…In 2005…Jeffrey [the author’s father] saw a headline on the front page of the New York Times: ‘HELLO, I’M YOUR SISTER. OUR FATHER IS DONOR 150.’ The author was a sophomore in college at the time, and it would be another two years before she became aware of the situation.…A wholly absorbing page-turner that everyone will want to read.”
Split Decision: Life Stories by Ice-T & Spike with Douglas Century (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, July 19): “A joint memoir from rapper and actor Ice-T and his former partner in crime.…This well-crafted memoir is a bracing reminder of how a few choices can separate success from a troubled life.”
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.