Nonfiction to read this summer

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women – by Kate Moore

Recommended for anyone who wants to better understand the sacrifices made by American women at home during World War I.

From the publisher:
As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

Fancy a good spy story? Then you won’t want to miss Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Alliances as a KGB Spy in America – by Jack Barsky

From the publisher:
On October 8, 1978, a Canadian national by the name of William Dyson stepped off a plane at O’Hare International Airport and proceeded toward Customs and Immigration.

Two days later, William Dyson ceased to exist.

The identity was a KGB forgery, used to get one of their own—a young, ambitious East German agent—into the United States.

The plan succeeded, and the spy’s new identity was born: Jack Barsky. He would work undercover for the next decade, carrying out secret operations during the Cold War years . . . until a surprising shift in his allegiance challenged everything he thought he believed.

Deep Undercover will reveal the secret life of this man without a country and tell the story no one ever expected him to tell.

 The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death by John Bateson

We’ve all seen plenty of coroners on TV. The Education of a Coroner offers a more accurate account of what the life and work of a coroner is really like. Bateson profiles veteran Marin County coroner Ken Holmes, who pursued the work after his grandfather told him that coroners got to work with human anatomy and science without having to go through a lengthy college program. While the structure of the book at times felt haphazard, and stories of specific deaths and investigations occasionally end abruptly, the anecdotes of Holmes’s cases, his affinity for his work, and his ability to merge compassion with scientific inquiry will give you new respect for the position.

From the publisher: 

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—which is different from what is depicted on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, preparing testimony for court to notifying families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena such as autoeroticism.

Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coroner provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

Also published on Medium.