Long-distance swimming has never enjoyed the cultural cachet of the more lucrative or national-identity-building sports like soccer and baseball, but through the heroism and tenacity—and deeply attuned teamwork—that defines her sport, the now-legendary world champion athlete Diana Nyad has found her way, after four decades and countless painful wounds from ocean salt, skin chafing, sunburn, and jellyfish stings (a more consistent threat than shark bites) into the cultural awareness and worldwide admiration that she has so richly earned. Not that fame was ever her motive: far from it. As Nyad states in her new memoir, “The opportunity to inspire is a privilege.” Although Find a Way (Knopf, $26.95) will surely become a classic in sports literature—its stunning full-color plates documenting the stages of her historic 2013 swim from Havana to Key West at age 63 are as affecting as the prose—it is also a moving testament to the finest qualities of the human spirit.
Even the title, Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill (Viking, $30), refuses to bill Clementine Churchill behind her husband. Sonia Purnell’s portrait reintroduces a woman who was honored by three British monarchs and the Soviet Union and whose “extramarital achievements would put present-day government ministers, speechwriters, charity chiefs, ambassadors, activists, spins doctors, MPs and hospital managers to shame.” Backed by extensive research and interviews, Purnell (a journalist who has written for The Economist, The Telegraph, and The Daily Mail) throws a spotlight on the formidable, opinionated, and intelligent Clementine, her private life and public marriage, her relationships, including a crucial connection with the Roosevelts, and her role in many of Winston Churchill’s key decisions, including his actions during the Second World War. Lynne Olson, bestselling author in her own right of Citizens of London, may have put it best: “Sonia Purnell has at long last given Clementine Churchill the biography she deserves . . . [And] succeeds at an almost impossible task: providing fresh and thought-provoking insights into Winston Churchill in the course of examining his complicated marriage.”
When Anne-Marie Slaughter published an article in The Atlantic in 2012 titled “Why Women Can’t Have it All”—an unfortunate title not of her choosing—she could not have envisioned the passionate commentary that would follow. The piece generated nearly three million views following its publication. It became—and remains today—the most widely read piece in the 150-year history of The Atlantic. Slaughter spent the last couple of years turning the article into a book, Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family (Random House, $28), that expands on and refines some of her original ideas. The first woman to serve as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, a former Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, an expert on foreign policy, and now head of New America, Slaughter has also become a leading voice on the structure and values of the American workplace and its impact on women, men, and families. Drawing on her own experiences meeting the demands of work and family, Slaughter explores the pitfalls for a society that is failing to the realities of the 21st century. She takes issue with Sheryl Sandberg’s reliance on leaning in as a solution for women’s progress in the workplace, calling for more systemic change to ensure that women at all levels—and men—can be better workers and better parents to their children. It is a thoughtful, highly engaging, and important book.