Summer Vacation Reads (Nonfiction edition)

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Book cover: Botany of Desire

The Botany of Desire : a plant’s eye view of the world / Michael Pollan

Focusing on the human relationship with plants, the author of Second Nature uses botany to explore four basic human desires--sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control--through portraits of four plants that embody them: the apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato. (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: Forty Autumns

Forty Autumns : a family’s story of courage and survival on both sides of the Berlin Wall / Nina Willner.

A former American military intelligence officer traces the experiences of five women in her family who were separated by the Iron Curtain for more than 40 years and who endured terrifying Communist rule before being reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: The girl who smiled beads

The Girl Who Smiled Beads : a story of war and what comes after / Clementine Wamariya, Elizabeth Weil.

Traces the author's harrowing experiences as a young child during the Rwanda massacres and displacements, which separated her from her parents and forced the author and her older sister to endure six years as refugees in seven countries, foraging for survival and encountering unexpected acts of cruelty and kindness before she was granted asylum in a profoundly different America. (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: Influenza

Influenza : the hundred year hunt to cure the deadliest disease in history / Jeremy Brown.

Published on the 100th anniversary of the 1918 pandemic, a veteran ER doctor's exploration of the complex history of the flu virus also discusses modern-day influenza concerns, from flu shots to epidemic preparedness. (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: The Jersey Brothers

The Jersey Brothers : a missing naval officer in the Pacific and his family’s quest to bring him home / Sally Mott Freeman.

Documents the extraordinary story of three brothers in World War II who found themselves at the epicenter of three of the war's most crucial moments, describing the rescue mission launched by the elder two when their youngest brother was declared missing in action in the Philippines. (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: Maid

Maid : hard work, low pay, and a mother’s will to survive / Stephanie Land.

An economic-hardship journalist describes the years she worked in low-pay domestic work under wealthy employers, contrasting the privileges of the upper-middle class to the realities of the overworked laborers supporting them. (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: My Salinger Year

My Salinger Year / Joanna Rakoff.

Traces the author's experiences in 1990s New York as the assistant to the agent of J. D. Salinger, a job that contrasted with her threadbare personal life and was enriched by the famous writer's fan letters. (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors : a memoir / Augusten Burroughs.

The author describes his bizarre coming-of-age years after his adoption by his mother's psychiatrist, during which he witnessed such misadventures as a fake suicide attempt and front-lawn family/patient sleepovers.(Baker & Taylor)

Book cover: The trials of Nina McCall

The Trials of Nina McCall : sex, surveillance, and the decades’ long government plan to imprison “promiscuous” women / Scott W. Stern.

"The nearly forgotten story of the American Plan, one of the largest and longest-lasting mass quarantines in American history, told through the lens of one young woman's story. Nina McCall was one of many women unfairly imprisoned by the United States government throughout the twentieth century. The government imprisoned tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of women and girls—usually without due process—simply because officials suspected these women were prostitutes, infected with STIs, or simply ""promiscuous.""" (Atlas Pub.)

Book cover: True Crime Addict

True Crime Addict : how I lost myself in the mysterious disappearance of Maura Murray / James Renner.

The author of The Serial Killer's Apprentice traces his obsessive quest to solve the 2004 disappearance of University of Massachusetts student Maura Murray, describing the initial fascination with true crime that led to his successful but high-risk career as an investigative journalist. (Atlas Pub.)