Fall books: 19 smart nonfiction picks

From military history to Bach, from urban design to China, here are 19 fall 2012 nonfiction titles worth checking out.

1.'Joseph Anton: A Memoir,' by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie tells the story of the decade he spent on the run – living under the pseudonym Joseph Anton – after he was placed under a fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. (Sept.) 

'Inventing the Enemy: Essays,' by Umberto Eco

Italian author and academic Umberto Eco offers a collection of 14 essays written over the past decade, including the title piece which postulates that every country needs an enemy. (Sept.) 

'Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World,' by Evan Thomas

Veteran journalist (Time and Newsweek) Evan Thomas argues that the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower was largely grounded in Eisenhower’s quiet, behind-the-scenes efforts at international peacekeeping. (Sept.) 

'Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country – and Why They Can’t Make Peace,' by Patrick Tyler

New York Times correspondent Patrick Tyler takes a tough look at Israel’s military elite – a group that he says is very reluctant to give peace a chance. (Sept.)

'Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land,' edited by E. Angilee Shah and Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Fifteen essays by different authors tackle the subject of today’s China and the speed with which its citizens are adjusting to modernization, touching on everything from the rise of the middle class to the prevalence of migrant labor to the arrival of rock guitar and rental cars. (Sept.) 

'Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis,' by Timothy Egan

Pulitzer Prize-winner Timothy Egan tells the poignant story of the life of Edward Curtis, the controversial 19th-century photographer of native Americans. (Oct.) 

'A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi,' by Aman Sethi

Through his friendship with a group of day laborers, journalist Aman Sethi is allowed an insider’s look at life on the mean streets of Delhi, India. (Oct.) 

'The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today,' by Thomas E. Ricks

Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Ricks traces what he says is a long, slow decline in US military leadership, dating from the close of World War II. (Sept.) 

'Reinventing Bach,' by Paul Elie

Editor and author Paul Elie offers a deeply-felt appreciation of the music of Bach in its many interpretations over the years. (Sept.) 

'Mao: The Real Story,' by Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine

Relying on access to access to recently opened Soviet and Chinese archives, historian Alexander Pantsov and Chinese specialist Steven I. Levine offer up a detailed new look at the complex and controversial life of China’s “Great Helmsman.” (Oct.)

'Elsewhere: The Real Story,' by Richard Russo

Richard Russo is known today as an award-winning novelist, but he spent his childhood in a struggling blue-collar town with a mother who dreamed of helping to get him out. In his memoir he tells that story. (Oct.)

'From Germany to Germany: Diary 1990,' by Gunter Grass

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nobel Prize-winner Gunter Grass traveled through Germany for 13 months, recording his impressions of the newly reunited country and observing the reactions of the sometimes bewildered citizens of the former East Germany. (Nov.) 

'In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir,' by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

This second volume of the memoirs of Kenyan novelist, poet, playwright, and literary critic Ngugi wa Thiong’o – covering his high school years and the Mau Mau uprising that brought an end to British colonial rule – will be of particular interest should wa Thiong’o emerge as a potential 2012 Nobel Prize candidate. (Nov.) 

'Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time,' by Jeff Speck

City planner and architectural designer Jeff Speck advocates for lively downtowns in mid-size cities that will allow America’s next generation to do more of their working, shopping, and living at the pace of a brisk walk. (Nov.) 

'The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster,' by Tim Crothers

Sportswriter Tim Crothers tells the inspiring true story of Phiona Mutesi, a teenage chess prodigy from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. (Oct.) 

'When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail,' by Eric Jay Dolin

The first American ship set sail to China in 1784. Popular historian Eric Jay Dolin (“Fur, Fortune, and Empire”) offers a lively examination of the relationship that developed and how it impacted both countries. (Sept.) 

'Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time,' by Ed Stafford

Ed Stafford tells the story of the grueling 860-day, 4,000-plus mile journey he undertook in his effort to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon. (Sept.) 

'On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson,' by William Souder

Arriving on the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Silent Spring” comes this sensitive, comprehensive biography of groundbreaking environmentalist Rachel Carson. (Sept.) 

'The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America,' by Christian Walmar

British writer and broadcaster Christian Walmar takes a broad look a the railroad in America: how it rose, how it fell, and how it impacted the country’s development. (Sept.)