The Best Nonfiction of April

Jon Foro on April 18, 2019
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In this month's picks for the best true tales: We catch up with the "comma queen" and her adventures in everything Greek; a gripping, decades-old cold case investigation; a thrilling look back at the Space Race and Apollo Moon landings; a deep dive into our inherent biases (and what we can do about them); and a last (?) collection from a beloved scientist and storyteller.


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Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris

If you think grammar isn't fun, you haven't read Mary Norris. In her first book, Between You and Me, Norris regaled us (for real) with from tales from The New Yorker’s copy department, punctuated with humor and style (sorry not sorry). Greek to Me is a paean (somebody stop me) to Greece—its thousands of years of history, culture, and most importantly, it's language alphabet, which so deeply influenced our own. Even if it does have two Os.


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The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation by Mark Bowden

In 1975, Bowden (Black Hawk Down, among others) was a young Baltimore reporter covering the disappearance of two sisters, 11 and 13. The investigation dead-ended until 2013, when a cold case detective chanced upon a curious statement given by a man named Lloyd Welch, who was serving time for a series of unrelated but similar crimes. Welch is also a compulsive liar, but not a skilled one—and as five detectives untangle his ever-changing stories, they get closer to solving an unspeakable crime. The outcome might not be a total surprise, but the ride-along is well worth the time.



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American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley

July 20 will mark 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin set the Eagle on the surface of the moon, while Michael Collins orbited above. And as you might expect, there is no shortage of books commemorating the event. It can be hard to choose, but you won't go wrong the American Moonshot. Brinkley—the author of two excellent biographies of Roosevelts Teddy and Franklin—builds on previous histories with new material and interviews with surviving principals, while examining the program through the contexts of geopolitics and the political and cultural upheavals of the 1960s. 


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Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt PhD

Through research in courtrooms, in prisons, on the street, and in coffee shops, Eberhard - a Stanford professor of psychology and MacArthur genius grant-recipient - shows us the subtle, sometimes dramatic, repercussions of bias in how each of us interacts with the world around us. The good news? We're not hopelessly doomed by our innate prejudices. Biased reminds us that racial bias is a human problem—one all people can play a role in solving.


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Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales by Oliver Sacks

Sacks, scientist and storyteller, is beloved by readers for his neurological case histories and his fascination and familiarity with human behavior at its most unexpected and unfamiliar. Everything in Its Place is a final volume of essays celebrating Sacks's interests and passions, from ferns, swimming, and horsetails to his final case histories exploring schizophrenia, dementia, and Alzheimer's.


More of the best nonfiction of April:


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