2019 Reviewed: Non-Fiction Novels To Look Forward To

Interested to see which non-fiction novels are making me wish time would go faster? Keep on reading for my thoughts and opinions.

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Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime that Wasn’t by Edward Humes

Publisher: Dutton (January 8, 2019)

Print Length: 320 pages

On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. Their mother, Joann Parks, couldn’t save them but did manage to escape with her own life. She was of course bereft. With emotions exploding her husband accused her of abandoning the children at the scene of the fire when he arrived. It was soon determined that a worn extension cord was the cause of the tragedy. But then doubts arose. As firefighters investigated further, they came to believe that the fire was the result of arson, a heinous crime committed by a wicked young woman who, they argued, had never really wanted to be a mother. Joann Parks was tried and convicted and has languished in prison for the last twenty-five years. But now, as certain investigative methods from that era have been debunked, a pair of young lawyers from the Innocence Project have come to believe that Joann was wrongfully convicted, and that the fire might not have even been caused by arson at all.

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy

Publisher: Doubleday Books (May 7, 2019)

Print Length: 384 pages


Until now. For nearly ninety years, Hollywood’s brightest stars have favored the Chateau Marmont as a home away from home. An apartment house-turned-hotel, it has hosted generations of gossip and folklore: 1930s bombshell Jean Harlow took lovers during her third honeymoon there; director Nicholas Ray slept with his sixteen-year-old Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood; Anthony Perkins and Tab Hunter met poolside and began a secret affair; Jim Morrison swung from the balconies, once falling nearly to his death; John Belushi suffered a fatal overdose in a private bungalow; Lindsay Lohan got the boot after racking up nearly $50,000 in charges in less than two months.

Perched above the Sunset Strip like a fairytale castle, the Chateau seems to come from another world entirely. Its singular appearance houses an equally singular history. While a city, an industry, and a culture have changed around it, Chateau Marmont has welcomed the most iconic and iconoclastic personalities in film, music, and media. It appeals to the rich and famous not just for its European ambiance but for its seclusion: Much of what’s happened inside the Chateau’s walls has eluded the public eye.

Until now.

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo

Publisher: Beacon Press (January 15, 2019)

Print Length: 280 pages

Around noon on January 15, 1919, a group of firefighters was playing cards in Boston’s North End when they heard a tremendous crash. It was like roaring surf, one of them said later. Like a runaway two-horse team smashing through a fence, said another. A third firefighter jumped up from his chair to look out a window-“Oh my God!” he shouted to the other men, “Run!”

A 50-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses had just collapsed on Boston’s waterfront, disgorging its contents as a 15-foot-high wave of molasses that at its outset traveled at 35 miles an hour. It demolished wooden homes, even the brick fire station. The number of dead wasn’t known for days. It would be years before a landmark court battle determined who was responsible for the disaster.

Louisa on the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War by Samantha Seiple

Publisher: Seal Press (February 26, 2019)

Print Length: 256 pages

Louisa on the Frontlines is the first narrative nonfiction book focusing on the least-known aspect of Louisa May Alcott’s career – her time spent as a nurse during the Civil War. Though her service was brief, the dramatic experience was one that she considered pivotal in helping her write the beloved classic Little Women. It also deeply affected her tenuous relationship with her father, and inspired her commitment to abolitionism. Through it all, she kept a journal and wrote letters to her family and friends. These letters were published in the newspaper, and her subsequent book, Hospital Sketches spotlighted the dire conditions of the military hospitals and the suffering endured by the wounded soldiers she cared for. To this day, her work is considered a pioneering account of military nursing. 

Alcott’s time as an Army nurse in the Civil War helped her find her authentic voice–and cemented her foundational belief system. Louisa on the Frontlines reveals the emergence of this prominent feminist and abolitionist–a woman whose life and work has inspired millions and continues to do so today.

Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials by Lucinda Herring, David Spangler (Foreword)

Publisher: North Atlantic Books (January 8, 2019)

Print Length: 296 pages

More natural after-death care options are transforming the paradigm of the existing funeral industry, helping families and communities recover their instinctive capacity to care for a loved one after death and do so in creative, nourishing, and healing ways. In reclaiming these practices and creating new, innovative options, we are greening the gateway of death and returning home to ourselves, our bodies, and the earth. Lucinda Herring reminds us of the sacredness of death itself; her compelling stories, poetry, and guidance come from years of experience as a home funeral/green burial consultant and licensed funeral director dedicated to more natural and healing death practices. In Reimagining Death she shares with readers her experience caring for her own mother after death. Through storytelling and resources Herring also reveals to families the gifts of partnering with nature, home funeral vigils, sacred care at death, conscious dying (through the story of a Death with Dignity with accompanying photos of one man’s planned death and after-death care), bringing laughter and a greater lightness of being to death, natural burials, and emerging eco-conscous dispositions. A valuable resource in planning for all deaths in all circumstances (with a chapter on what to do when a death occurs outside of the home), this book also guides readers on how to create an advance after-death care directive.

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And those are my picks for five non-fiction books I’m looking forward to being published in 2019. Have a non-fiction release that you’ve been anticipating? Let me know in the comments below!

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