Paperback Picks

Lots of good nonfiction coming out in paperback this month! Here’s a roundup of books with colons in their titles, all of which sound very armchair-worthy:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou (Vintage, $16.95). This bestselling, stranger-than-fiction tale of corporate fraud describes the rise and fall of Theranos, the much-ballyhooed startup that looked ready to revolutionize the medical industry, except for a secret at its core: its central product didn’t work. Bill Gates — who knows a thing or two about startups — named it as one of his five favorite books of 2018. The book “tackles some serious ethical questions,” Gates wrote on his blog, “but it is ultimately a thriller with a tragic ending. It’s a fun read full of bizarre details that will make you gasp out loud.”

“Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive” by Stephanie Land (Hachette, $15.99). Unfolding against a Pacific Northwest landscape, Land’s book movingly depicts her years as a young single mother, in which she extricated herself from an abusive relationship and supported her daughter by cleaning houses — physically demanding work that paid minimum wage without benefits — and struggling against a system seemingly stacked against the working poor. Reading it last year, I was struck by the richness of its details (you feel as if you’re scrubbing those kitchen counters, sticky with grease) and by Land’s clearheaded determination to make a world for her child.

“Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?” by Bill McKibben (Holt, $17). McKibben, who offered an early warning about climate change 30 years ago in “The End of Nature,” returns with an examination of what’s happening to the planet and to humanity itself — and how we might save ourselves. “It’s a direct, attention-grabbing sprint through what we’ve done to the planet and ourselves, why we haven’t stopped it and what we can do about it,” wrote a Washington Post reviewer, concluding, “Despite the book’s bleakness, its most stirring take-away is perhaps McKibben’s soulful insistence that choices remain.”

The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations” by Toni Morrison (Vintage, $16.95). Published a few months before Morrison’s death last August, this final book — containing speeches and essays on topics ranging from 9/11 to James Baldwin and her own work (“The Bluest Eye,” “Beloved,” “Sula”) — is an eloquent reminder of the power of this author’s voice. “This book demonstrates once again that Morrison is more than the standard-bearer of American literature,” wrote the author James McBride in The New York Times. “She is our greatest singer. And this book is perhaps her most important song.”

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love” by Dani Shapiro (Knopf, $16.95). Shapiro, author of four previous memoirs and five novels, stumbled onto the road to this book when, on a whim, she sent off her DNA to be tested — and found out her beloved father was not her biological parent. “The discovery sets in motion a troubling reassessment of the early days of in vitro fertilization and Shapiro’s own life, and a meditation on the shifting nature of identity,” wrote my colleague Mary Ann Gwinn in The Seattle Times, listing this “deeply absorbing” book among her nonfiction favorites last summer.

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf” by Katharine Smyth (Broadway Books, $17). I have no idea why I haven’t read this book yet; somehow the hardcover release last year slipped by me. Smyth writes of her relationship with Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse,” a book that helped her find solace after the death of her father. A Washington Post reviewer called it “an extraordinary debut … a memoir enlarged and illuminated by Woolf’s insights, but mediated by Smyth’s trenchant observations and wit.” I think something just zoomed to the top of my to-read list.