Looking Ahead: Graywolf Nonfiction 2015




In 2014, Graywolf’s nonfiction list raised the bar for us to an imposing height. How are we going to top a year that saw the publication of Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams and Eula Biss’s On Immunity, as well as books that ran the gamut from the history of computing to the history of the classroom, from the art of surfing to the art of daring? In 2015, we’ll plunge even deeper into the wilds of the contemporary essay with exciting work by Graywolf veterans as well as by notable writers new to our list. These forthcoming books aren’t shy: they address subjects like time, religion, mortality, sex, marriage, and the challenge of living an engaged life in the digital age. They’ll take you to the library and they’ll even take you out to space. We’re excited to share these great books with you in the year to come. —Ethan Nosowsky, Editorial Director







Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries by Ander Monson

Ander Monson’s Neck Deep and Other Predicaments was an early winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, and it catapulted him into the busy and vital R & D wing of contemporary essayists. Letter to a Future Lover is Monson’s most accessible and warmest collection to date, taking the form of an inventive catalog of encounters with the traces people leave behind in the books they check out (and sometimes deface) in libraries. These brief pieces, usually no more than a couple of pages, are at once chatty and mysterious, wise and intimate. Monson finds new ways to explore his perennial interests in cataloging, labyrinths, and technology, and in doing so he shows how we are shaped by what and how we read.



Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso 

Sarah Manguso joins the Graywolf list with this brilliant and emotionally resonant account of a diary she kept compulsively for twenty-five years that has grown to the rather daunting extent of 800,000 words. For decades, at the end of every day, Manguso would record what had happened to her. Her obsessive need to document herself often got in the way of the life she was documenting. Until, that is, the haze of pregnancy and motherhood generated a kind of amnesia that put her into a different, calmer relationship with her graphomania. The book’s spare and ruthlessly pared down quality is a provocative (and witty) rejoinder to the diary’s excesses. As haunted as Ongoingness is by mortality and impermanence, it is also extraordinarily life affirming. This one is going to hit you hard.


All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen 

Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to visit a place that seems radically foreign. In this intense and relentlessly questioning memoir, Shulem Deen describes his life among the Skverer Hasidim, less than an hour away from New York City. The Skverer are considered extreme in their religious beliefs even by other Hasidim, and in this world, simply tuning into a local radio station can border on the heretical. But it was precisely such an act—dramatically rendered here by Deen—that set in motion a transformation that ended with his exile from his family and community. The story of Deen’s ultimate estrangement can be sad, but his determined quest to follow spiritual and intellectual inquiry wherever it might lead is truly inspiring.




The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Like Sarah Manguso, Maggie Nelson is new to Graywolf, but is a writer whom many of us on the editorial staff have been reading devotedly for years. We’re thrilled to be publishing her new book, The Argonauts. It’s a memoir, yes, but Nelson’s goals are essayistic: to think through and beyond the language we use to speak about gender, marriage, sexuality, and difference. In pondering the significance of queer family-making, Nelson makes you rethink the meaning of family entirely. Combining the personal and lyric quality that won over so many readers in Bluets with the intellectual firepower of The Art of Cruelty, which helped establish Nelson as one of our most provocative thinkers, The Argonauts will leave you changed. This is an exciting, urgent book, and the strongest expression yet of the breadth and depth of Nelson’s talent.


Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of the American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean

Leaving Orbit is the most recent winner of Graywolf’s Nonfiction Prize, and it has charmed us all. Like many others (cough) whose youth coincided with the rise of the space shuttle program, Margaret Lazarus Dean grew up believing that NASA’s work could expand our understanding of the world we live in. But, with the Challenger explosion in 1986, the space shuttle program, and all its promise, began to unravel. In 2011, Dean traveled several times to Cape Canaveral to watch the final shuttle flights. In Leaving Orbit, these trips are opportunities for Dean to revisit the heroic era of American space flight, as well as the swaggering writing and writers that now seem inextricably bound to it: Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer. Dean’s book is a vivid and irresistibly moving elegy to a time when we seemed to be dreaming bigger.



On Immunity: An Inoculation (paperback) by Eula Biss

As I write this, On Immunity has just been named one of the New York Times Book Review’s Top Ten Books of the year, and it’s been appearing on an impressive number of year-end lists. Eula Biss has been universally praised for her ability to peel back the layers of fraught talk about vaccination in order to confront the nature of our anxiety about purity and impurity. Biss’s ability to move from personal experience to scientific research, from myth to metaphor, is masterful, and On Immunity is an urgent call for us to be responsible to one another. We’re looking forward to bringing a paperback edition to an even wider audience.



Changing the Subject: Essays on the Mediated Self by Sven Birkerts

Twenty years ago, in The Gutenberg Elegies, Sven Birkerts tried to warn us about the threat new technologies posed to the way we read, and by extension to the way we experience our own selfhood. Well, we didn’t listen. Changing the Subject  is something of a companion piece to that earlier book, as Birkerts here takes stock of the radical changes we’ve witnessed since then. He is no Luddite—he has embraced certain kinds of online reading, and you should follow him on Twitter to see his wonderfully witty self-portraits—but he argues compellingly that focused attention and the artistic imagination are powerfully linked, and that the former is under assault. Birkerts is one of the best, most admired critics writing today, and this is an important collection that will generate a lot of urgent conversations.