By STEPH AUTERI
For Montclair Local
All Write Now” reflects the writing life. Steph Auteri is a full-time freelance writer and editor who has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE and other publications. Her memoir, “A Dirty Word,” came out in October 2018. She is a member of Montclair’s The Write Group. For more, visit stephauteri.com.
Just before the new year, my personal writing hero, Susan Orlean, tweeted out a question to her followers: “Would you folks read a book about writing if I wrote it?”
Still stuck in a post-book slump, my own personal reaction was, “Oh dear god yes, and please let it exist right now.” After all, who better to learn from than the queen of narrative nonfiction?
In lieu of a book that may or may not someday exist, however, I’m going to do what I always do — turn to the brilliant nonfiction works of others in order to feel inspired again. So, what is there to look forward to in 2019?
Here are just a few of the books on my radar, some of which have received early buzz among industry professionals, and others that are coming to us courtesy of authors who have already proven their awesome writerly capabilities.
- “How to Date Men When You Hate Men” by Blythe Roberson. (Flatiron Books, Jan. 8) Back when I finally admitted to myself that poetry was not my calling (college), I turned to humor essays. So I’m intrigued by this forthcoming collection from comedian Blythe Roberson, who also writes for The New Yorker and The Onion. What does it mean to date men in this day and age? This book purports to have all of the answers.
- “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee “ by David Treuer. (Riverhead Books, Jan. 22) The past several years have seen incredible Native narratives from the likes of Tommy Orange and Terese Marie Mailhot. The new year brings us this sweeping mix of history and memoir that takes off where previous historical accounts have left off.
- “The Collected Schizophrenias” by Esmé Weijun Wang. (Graywolf Press, Feb. 5) Wang enraptured everyone with her 2016 book debut “The Border of Paradise.” Here, she turns to nonfiction in this collection of essays about schizophrenia that meld the personal with the reported.
- “No Beast So Fierce” by Dane Huckelbridge. (William Morrow, Feb. 5) This work of narrative journalism presents the story of the deadliest animal of all time — a Champawat tiger that began stalking humans, eventually taking 436 lives — and the man who made it his mission to hunt him down. It’s a true-life adventure that also happens to delve into colonialism, conservationism, and more.
- “Parkland” by Dave Cullen. (Harper, Feb. 12) The author behind the unforgettable “Columbine” vowed never to return to the scene of a tragedy like the one he’d covered so expertly in 2009. Inspired by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, however, he has unspooled yet another tragic story, told from the point of view of many of its key players. I am in awe of the unique way in which he uses his reportage to shape a narrative.
- “Shout” by Laurie Halse Anderson. (Viking Books for Young Readers, March 12) In 1999, Anderson blew us away with her YA novel “Speak,” about sexual assault and depression. Now, in this lyrical memoir, she shares her own experiences with sexual violence.
- “Black Death at the Golden Gate” by David K. Randall. (W.W. Norton & Company, May 7) This particular work of narrative journalism comes from a Montclair native. It is about a federal health officer who struggles to understand the bubonic plague in order to prevent its spread across the country, and tackles everything from the insidiousness of racism to scientific progress.
- “God Land” by Lyz Lenz. (Indiana University Press, Aug. 1) Full disclosure: The author of this book is my writing partner. But her bona fides (Columbia Journalism Review, New York Times, the Guardian, etc.) should more than convince you that her exploration of faith in middle America is well worth reading.
Of course, if you’re looking for a more practical guide on how to write nonfiction and don’t want to wait for a possible how-to from Orlean, 2019 also brings us John Warner’s “The Writer’s Practice,” a book that — according to the subtitle — is meant to build confidence in one’s nonfiction writing.
I think we could all use some more of that.
Here’s to a good writing (and reading) year!