Oct 11, 2023
The Best Books of 2022
Each week, our editors and critics recommend the most captivating, notable,
Each week, our editors and critics recommend the most captivating, notable, brilliant, thought-provoking, and talked-about books. Find our essential reads of 2022 below, or check out our latest reviews.
The Nobel Prize winner's most recent novel is a sweeping origin story of modern Tanzania, and a love story between two young runaways. Their search for a place in the world unfolds against the monumental absurdities of empire, focussing on the East African campaign of 1914-18 and the societies it violently remade. Afiya is an orphan, whose brother leaves her with abusive caregivers to fight for Germany's Schutztruppe. Hamza, an escaped servant, also joins troops serving the German Empire, entering a brutal brawl for the continent at a time when "every bit of it belonged to Europeans, at least on a map: British East Africa, Deutsch-Ostafrika, África Oriental Portuguesa, Congo Belge." The book interrogates the costs and rewards of the war's circumstantial solidarities. For everyone, a longing for closeness is bedevilled by old shames and secrets.
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This book is filled with strange creatures and strange experiments; Yong is interested in what animals perceive, what they might communicate to us if they could. Humans see the world one way. Other species see it through very different eyes, and many don't see it at all. Attempting to exchange one world view—or, to use the term Yong favors, Umwelt—for another may be frustrating, but, he argues, that's what makes the effort worthwhile. It reminds us that, "for all our vaunted intelligence," our Umwelt is just one among millions. Some species of scallop, for instance, have dozens of eyes; others have hundreds. We can learn a lot from the methods that animals use to sense their surroundings. And doing so can be, for us, mind-expanding.
The nickname malos Mexicanos, translated in the title of this captivating history, is what the Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz called the followers of the radical Ricardo Flores Magón, who, in 1911, helped depose him. The author, a U.C.L.A. historian and a MacArthur Fellow, writes that Magón and his band of magonistas "changed the course of history both north and south of the border." She shows how their revolution fundamentally transformed the United States, as more than a million Mexicans migrated north. Although few Americans know about the event or the people behind it, Lytle Hernández argues powerfully that "you cannot understand U.S. history without Mexico and Mexicans."
This novel dissects the intense friendship between two thirteen-year-olds, Agnès and Fabienne, in postwar rural France. Believing themselves "old enough for everything," they stave off boredom with increasingly elaborate schemes. Fabienne begins dictating morbid tales to Agnès, and then engineers their publication under Agnès's name. Agnès is celebrated as a child prodigy and her life assumes a new trajectory. The story unfolds in retrospect, after Agnès, now twenty-seven and living in Pennsylvania, learns of Fabienne's death. Her recollections of their friendship and her brush with unearned fame have an ethereal tone, punctuated with sharp descriptions of adolescent convictions.
The Nobel Prize winner Tokarczuk's epic novel follows the exploits of an eighteenth-century messianic religious leader as he travels through the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, continually reinventing himself. The novel was excerpted in the magazine.
A coming-of-age story in which no one comes of age, this novel is deliberate in its construction and yet aggressively resistant to definition. Dissected, it yields a conventional enough story: that of an intelligent working-class girl, in southwest England, who is encouraged to write by one of her teachers. For good and for ill, she both clings to and disowns her life. But Bennett is interested not in the shape of a life but in its substance: the prized darkness at the center of the human mind, the place where whatever is really real about us resides.
This charming novel follows Gonzalo, an aspiring poet, from his teen-age sonnets and sexual escapades to his relationship with a girlfriend, Carla, and her son, whom Gonzalo adopts as his stepson. (Gonzalo notes the unfortunate resonance between the Spanish for stepfather, padrastro, and poetastro, bad poet.) The stepson, Vicente, also wants to be a poet, and the second half of the novel sends up the Chilean literary scene as he guides a gringa journalist through a country where poetry is a national passion. As one character says, "Being a Chilean poet is like being a Peruvian chef or a Brazilian soccer player or a Venezuelan model."
In this follow-up to "Negroland," Jefferson merges memoir and criticism. Drawing on material as disparate as Henry James, "The Wire," "Othello," and Black spirituals, she narrates moments of her life as they unfold in relation to "avatars," models against which she conducts an "identity experiment." "I must break myself into pieces," she explains, "then rebuild." Thus Ella Fitzgerald's stage presence gestures toward a "black female destiny" of "scrutiny and our pity," which a young Jefferson works to avoid; that of Josephine Baker demonstrates a way of embodying the influences of her predecessors. "Great soloists never perform entirely alone," Jefferson writes, and the same is true of her.
Book recommendations, fiction, poetry, and dispatches from the world of literature, twice a week.
This final collection by the great Australian poet, who died in 2019, encompasses archness, reserve, lament, and tenderness. Murray's reflections on political and social subjects, including Brexit, bushfires, and his country's neglect of literature, swing from the charmingly reserved to the jarringly detached. His nature poetry is more charged: there are poems about pippies, green catbirds, Australian pelicans, and a weebill caught in the grille of Murray's car. The earth's physical landscape—especially that of rural Australia, one of Murray's lifelong preoccupations—is rendered with extraordinary, often strange, beauty. Swallows in flight are "whipping over glass"; a willow tree is "jammed / with soft white pearl-shell // a cascade of faces / down tiers and staircases / becoming a shatter."
Sharif was born in Turkey to Iranian parents, and the title of this collection evokes the extended "if" of someone enmeshed in the sadistic bureaucracy of American immigration. Facing a customs officer, the writer finds redress in knowing that her enemy "will be in a poem / where the argument will be // anti-American"—an insurrection that occurs only in the mind. Sharif's collection imagines how a poet's well-chosen lines might reject the arbitrary lines set by someone else's customs. In these poems, the ostensible clarity of borders and checkpoints gives way to a terrain of fundamental uncertainty, a geography of elusive thresholds.
In this crisply written, prodigiously researched, and frequently astonishing new biography, Gage explains how Hoover maintained his image as an old-school embodiment of law and order for most of his long tenure as director of the F.B.I. Hoover was born on January 1, 1895, in Washington, D.C., the city in which he would always live. Hired at the Department of Justice in 1917, he hunkered down and never left. For a very long time, most Americans admired Hoover. But from the Palmer Raids to COINTELPRO, he was never able to understand movements aimed at expanding social or racial or gender equality as anything other than criminal conspiracies. "Hoover did as much as any individual in government to contain and cripple movements seeking social justice," Gage writes, "and thus to limit the forms of democracy and governance that might have been possible."
Ernaux's 1991 best-seller "Simple Passion," a short narrative of her affair with A., as she calls her lover, conveyed the force with which desire can render the rest of life—the rest of the self—instantly void. A decade later, Ernaux did something surprising and published excerpts of the diary she had kept during the affair, which was released in the U.S. in September. Here is the sex and the torture of the waiting, unspooled in all its real-time wretchedness. Now called by his true initial, S., her lover turns out to be a thirty-five-year-old Soviet apparatchik whom the forty-eight-year-old Ernaux met on a writer's junket to the U.S.S.R. The diary depicts the friction between her finely developed mind and the tyrannical demands of her body, and the gulf between her devotion to her lover and her awareness of his obvious mediocrity.
Short-listed for the National Book Award, Kochai's inventive début story collection details the toll that decades of war and the struggles of immigration have taken on Afghans and the Afghan diaspora in the United States. Several entries, including the title story, first appeared in the magazine.
Delicately weaving her research on chronic illness with her personal experience of navigating an autoimmune disease, O’Rourke probes our understanding of what it means to be sick, asking us to reëxamine our tidy narratives of disease and reimagine our approaches to treatment. The book grew out of O’Rourke's piece "What's Wrong with Me?," which ran in the magazine in 2013.
In Hamid's fifth novel, a white man wakes one morning to find that his skin has turned dark overnight, forcing him to question his sense of identity and his place in his family and city. The novel was excerpted in the magazine.
McEwan's latest novel tracks one man's search for meaning in his relationships and in art, as his path intersects with historical events from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel was excerpted in the magazine.
A buoyant work of intellectual history, Wulf's chronicle of the early Romantics—which includes figures like the Schlegel brothers (August Wilhelm and Friedrich), and their partners, Caroline and Dorothea—is written as what was once termed the "higher gossip." It concerns a period, in the late seventeen-nineties and early eighteen hundreds, when Jena, a small university town in Saxony, became home to a literary cenacle of men and women who "placed the self at the centre stage of their thinking." They believed in free love and self-expression—although the women's contributions were typically credited to the men in their lives. A steady and ominous undertone to all the cogitation and copulation is the rise of Napoleon from the ashes of the 1789 revolution in France to a conclusive military blow against the Germans that was also centered in the town: the Battle of Jena.
Although there are actual rabbits in this ambitious novel, the "Hutch" of the title is the name given to an affordable-housing complex by its residents, in a post-industrial Indiana town. Gunty zooms in and out of the apartments, pushing the lives inside toward a forceful and violent climax; her central character is a gifted though troubled teen who grew up with foster families, has dropped out of high school, and calls herself Blandine. (Obsessed with female medieval mystics, she takes the name of a French martyr.) Despite offering a dissection of contemporary urban blight, the novel doesn't let social concerns crowd out the individuality of its characters, and Blandine's off-kilter brilliance is central to the achievement.
Born in 1722, the son of a Boston businessman, Samuel Adams studied at Harvard, worked for a while in the family malt business, and came into his own when, in the late seventeen-forties, he began to stand for local office. In detailing how Adams went on to shape every significant event in New England's run-up to war, this biography weaves a pleasing tapestry of incident and inference. Schiff notes Adams's uncanny ability to use the media for catalyzing public opinion and depicts him as a virtuoso of the eighteenth-century version of viral memes and fake news. The result is a wildly entertaining exploration of the roots of American political theatre.
In an account that's both lyrical and capacious, Mukherjee takes us through an evolution of human understanding: from the seventeenth-century discovery that humans are made up of cells to our cutting-edge technologies for manipulating and deploying cells for therapeutic purposes. The book draws from "The Promise and Price of Cellular Therapies," which originally appeared in the magazine in 2019.
In this intricate and heart-rending memoir, Hsu, a staff writer, tells the story of his college friendship with Ken. Both Asian American but from different backgrounds, they formed a bond that was cut short when Ken was murdered. Hsu describes his struggle to accept Ken's death and also his friend's lasting influence on his thinking. The book was excerpted in the magazine.
Aviv, a staff writer, offers a groundbreaking exploration of mental illness and the mind, through a series of portraits that illuminate the connections between identity and diagnosis. Aviv's original reporting, about the challenges of taking psychiatric drugs, first appeared in the magazine, in 2019.
This novel in four parts opens with a narrative about a mysterious Wall Street tycoon and his wife: "Because he had enjoyed almost every advantage since birth, one of the few privileges denied to Benjamin Rask was that of a heroic rise." Ending abruptly, this tale is followed by a fragmentary memoir of the same narrative events, but it contains important, disorienting factual differences. In the third section, the pieces start to connect, thanks to a new narrator—a plucky Brooklyn woman hired as a ghostwriter by the memoir's author. Diaz cleverly weaves the disparate strands together while showing how our shifting perception of the story relates to wealth's ability to "bend and align reality" to its own motives.
This personal history of modern Ireland shows that history is a critical process in which eras helplessly recruit the agents of their own undoing. O’Toole's book beautifully recounts the private story of his childhood and youth, while analyzing Ireland's shameful, sometimes surreal postwar history. It pulses with righteous anticlericalism, and at its heart lies an eloquent outrage at what amounted to a vast religious penal colony. (In the mother-and-baby homes run by Catholic nuns, for instance, the newborn children of unmarried women were put up for adoption or neglected unto death.) O’Toole's great gift is his extremely intelligent, mortally relentless critical examination, and here he details the past and the present of his own nation with episodes so pungent that reading the book is like reading a great tragicomic Irish novel.
Zwolinski, a philosopher at the University of San Diego, and Tomasi, a political theorist at Brown, are committed libertarians who are appalled at the movement's turn toward a harder-edged conservatism. Their book is a deep plunge into the ideology's archives, in search of a "primordial libertarianism" that preceded the Cold War. They contend that the profound skepticism toward government and the political absolutism that characterize libertarians have animated movements across the political spectrum, and have, in the past, sometimes led adherents in progressive directions rather than conservative ones. As they see it, libertarianism once had a left-of-center valence—one that could still be reclaimed.
When three adolescent sisters in an Indian immigrant family in England lose their mother unexpectedly, in this début novel, their father, unable to process his grief, hopes that playing squash will provide his daughters with structure. "What he saw was the days stretching ahead of him without Ma, with us," Gopi, the youngest, and the most talented player, observes. "All I could do was serve and volley or disappoint him." The family is isolated, but a tournament provides a means for Gopi to connect with her father and transcend limitations. "A clean hit can stop time," Gopi says. "Sometimes it can feel like the only peace there is."
This lively group biography offers an intimate glimpse of the Bright Young Things, the artistic coterie that emerged in the nineteen-twenties as successors to the prewar Bloomsburyites. Members included Eddy Sackville-West, a novelist and cousin of Virginia Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West, and John Strachey, a journalist and cousin of Lytton Strachey. The author, herself a member of the Strachey clan, sees "transgressive sociability" as a hallmark of this generation, whose members were proto-"social influencers" and moved "seamlessly between gallery, studio, and nightclub." She applauds the group's embrace of sexual freedom, which gave queer members a sense of "life-affirming normality in a generally hostile adult world" and fostered "an inclusive way of living not seen again for another century."
Opening in 1866 in New York with the arrival from Germany of Lazarus Morgenthau, a Bavarian Jew who’d lost a cigar empire to American tariffs, this book traces the ups and downs (but mostly ups) of the family's fortunes over four generations, providing a window on a century and a half of the city's history. Lazarus's son Henry was a lawyer, a real-estate baron, and a diplomat, whose son Henry, Jr., served Franklin Roosevelt as Treasury Secretary; his son, Robert, was the city's longest-serving District Attorney, who oversaw some three million cases. There's enough here for four separate biographies, but Meier ably synthesizes the various strands, finding family likenesses among his disparate subjects.
This short, savage novel depicts the sins of inadequate mothers and fathers with vengeful clarity. Bridget, the narrator, is a young, bookish woman who's living in London and struggling to gain independence from her long-separated parents. Her father is a cruel boor, her mother is a damaged fool. Riley's prose is confidently exact; with a few words, she can paint a dreary English January, a cramped Glasgow flat, or some breathtaking desolation. "I didn't, as a rule, talk to her about anything that mattered to me," Bridget says of her mother. "Why upset her by talking about things she couldn't understand or enjoy?" With a quick eye for details, Riley renders a middle England full of petit-bourgeois anxieties and wounded people desperate to be normal, laying bare the dynamics of damage and survival.
McGarr, a historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, weighs the performance of the Washington press corps during the first decades of the Cold War, employing a close examination of archived correspondence to show that reporters in the nation's capital knew perfectly well that officials were misleading them about national-security matters. McGarr believes that the press kept mum because they believed in what they saw as the central mission of Cold War policy: the defense of the North Atlantic community of nations. Even though newspapers were nominally in competition with one another, she writes, reporters and editors were subject to what she calls "horizontal pressure"—pressure to remain on good terms with their sources and their fellow-newsmen. The work of a thoughtful historian, "City of Newsmen" contemplates the relationship between government officials and the media by considering their societal role against the backdrop of a historical moment.
The ten disquieting, bloody tales in this collection conjure a pitiless, almost folkloric world. A bunny-shaped lamp acts as a "cursed fetish" that extinguishes generations of a family and their misbegotten liquor empire; a woman who cannot find a father for her suddenly growing fetus is condemned to birth a "slightly iron-smelling, enormous blood clot." In Chung's universe of inventive horrors, brutality is endemic, and yet lyricism finds its place—in, for instance, a woman who is "transformed into thousands of water droplets and scattered into thin air," or in the eye of a slain monster which is "shockingly deep and clear, and cruel."
Marine biology, cultural criticism, and memoir blend in this agile collection of essays, which brims with illuminating connections: between a potentially immortal jellyfish that is "always reinventing itself" and Imbler's own sense of metamorphosis as a queer, biracial person; between the sand striker, an "ambush predator," and a man who took advantage of Imbler during adolescence; between Imbler's mother and an octopus species that starves to death while brooding eggs. Like the cuttlefish, which can change appearance "in a fraction of a second," the book has a protean quality, and the way Imbler pays attention to animals living "an alternative way of life" without excessively anthropomorphizing them starts to seem like an ethical act.
A British American scholar of inequality and social mobility, Reeves argues that the rapid liberation of women and the labor-market shift toward brains and away from brawn have left men bereft of what one sociologist has called ""ontological security."" In Reeves’' view, men's struggles are not reducible to a masculinity that is too toxic or too enfeebled but, rather, reflect the workings of the same structural forces that apply to every other group. A self-described "conscientious objector in the culture wars," he aims to skip past moralizing and analyze men in the state that he finds them: beset by bewildering changes that they cannot adapt to. "Suddenly, working for gender equality means focusing on boys rather than girls," he contends.
Quilter's memoir of conceiving a child through I.V.F. provides a history of the treatment and a sharp interrogation of her experiences. Recalling that she came to I.V.F. "driven by grief and fear and desire to take a course of action that is hard enough to endure, let alone question at the same time," she asks how much of the yearning for a child is personal and how much is historically and culturally conditioned. How do we rethink reproductive technologies so that they don't reproduce conservative ideas of motherhood, class, and race? Quilter notes that I.V.F. "anticipates the general tone of motherhood before you are even pregnant because it anticipates, even mimics, the notion of justified pain."
Centering on the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, which sparked the Ottoman Empire's vast expansion in the sixteenth century, this tightly woven history depicts a Machiavellian world in which Ottoman and European leaders bargained ruthlessly over land, ships, and people. With cinematic sweep and a dash of humor, de Bellaigue tracks fast-flowing shifts of power among the ambitious: illegitimate sons become diplomats, foreign consorts are crowned queens, pirates turn pashas, and slaves are promoted to grand viziers. De Bellaigue is alert to a fragility inherent in empires, where even the most influential ministers have "power to enact the will of God or violate it" only while royal favor lasts.
In this volume of selected and uncollected poems, Stallings's formal ingenuity lends a music to her philosophically and narratively compelling verse. She draws inspiration from daily domestic life and from the mythology and history of Greece, where she resides, crafting clever yet profound meditations on love, motherhood, language, and time. A particular pleasure is seeing certain personae—Persephone, Daphne, and Alice (of Wonderland)—recur throughout, accompanied by ever-deepening resonances. "Song for the Women Poets" ends, "And part of you leaves Tartarus, / But part stays there to dwell— / You who are both Orpheus / And She he left in Hell."
In a new volume of his letters gathered by his son Tim Cornwell, the novelist John le Carré writes to an eclectic array of recipients: John Cheever, Ralph Fiennes, the president of an English book club in Siberia, the host of Desert Island Discs, and the former London station chief of the K.G.B. The correspondence that makes up "A Private Spy" is capacious in theme, but a steady through line is work. These are, for all intents and purposes, business letters. Even the personal ones are mostly to do with his career. That le Carré held the concept of vocation—of a job that could become a container for the self—with a certain degree of sacredness is suggested in the considered and empathetic way he doles out job advice. A career in fiction writing enabled him to avoid many of the moral compromises that plagued his characters, but he did not flaunt his good fortune. His letters reveal that he knew what he had achieved was unlikely and that such lifeboats are in short supply.
Set in Corona, Queens, in the nineteen-eighties, this novel is an ode to adolescence in the vein of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"—a book that young Razia, a first-generation Pakistani American, reads early in the story. As Razia strains against the restrictions imposed by her Muslim family, Rehman ably evokes the period—the AIDS epidemic, the deficiencies of the 7 train—and the texture of life in a jumble of immigrant communities. Once Razia's peers start being married off, she comes to question her faith: "We were groomed like Christmas trees, thinking we were in the beautiful woods, thinking we were growing, but we were just being readied to be cut down."
This quartet of novels, three of them previously untranslated, are a classic of Spanish postwar literature often compared to the works of Proust and Joyce. The first three parts form a Künstelerroman whose protagonist, Raúl, emerges as the ostensible author of the fourth part. As he urges himself to go "from literal transposition to the displacement and transmutation of narrative material," we see him fictionalize events from the preceding volumes. In pages-long sentences, Goytisolo's characters expound on the book's true subjects: Barcelona and the tumult of the Franco years. The city's streets, Goytisolo writes, "had not found and perhaps would never find a faithful chronicler for their grandeur and their misery."
From the seventeen-seventies until 1809, Johnson, a London publisher and bookseller, held a weekly dinner above his shop. Guests, many of whom he published, included such luminaries as Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Paine, William Cowper, and Joseph Priestley. As this history shows, Johnson supported his writers in myriad invaluable ways: he gave houseroom to Wollstonecraft when she had nowhere else to go, and he may have secured Paine's release when he was jailed following the publication of "Rights of Man." But Johnson's greatest service to literature may have been the community he forged—"connected by a web that spun outwards from Johnson's house through the medium of paper."
In the near future, at a touristy dive spot off the coast of Con Dao, in Vietnam, a species of extra-intelligent octopuses captures a young diver. The event piques the interest of an ambitious researcher, and soon it becomes clear that the cephalopods, who have a culture and a language of their own, are a violent spawn of the Anthropocene. Nayler moves through his packed plot briskly and often lyrically, pausing on images of animals sparring like children and drones with thoraxes resembling those of dragonflies. He punctuates scenes with the researcher's philosophical insights about interspecies meaning-making and the risks and rewards of cross-cultural communication.
This joint biography of the modernist linocut artists Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power is a riveting tale of art and love between the wars. The two first met in Suffolk, England, around 1919, when he was a married father of four and she was an aspiring watercolorist. Their relationship endured for decades, taking them to London, where their experiments with linocutting—a technique Uglow praises for its "radical simplicity"—commenced. What began as a sideline would prove to be the medium through which they realized their shared goal of creating an "art of to-day" that communicated the ethos of modernity. Power's stark, surreal images of London life, Uglow writes, captured the era's "unease," while Andrews's visceral prints of the human form in motion marked a "rebellion" against Victorian prettiness.
In March, 1977, a Black Muslim organization, the Hanafis, seized three buildings in Washington, D.C., taking more than a hundred hostages. Their leader, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, had two demands: that he be allowed to "carry out Allah's justice" on Nation of Islam members who killed his family, and that a bio-pic of the Prophet Muhammad be banned. This history adeptly weaves together narratives of the hostage negotiations, of feuding American Islamic groups, and of Khaalis's life, which was shaped by race, theology, and the faulty "machinery of American justice." Mufti observes, "Khaalis may have been acting under the Islamic title ‘khalifa,’ but he, and his actions, were, above all, American."
This economic history takes up the period from 1870 to 2010—what its author calls the "long twentieth century"—and examines why, despite the vast wealth generated during that time, problems such as climate change and inequality persist. DeLong, an economics professor, searches for explanations in the work of the period's major political and economic theorists, such as Karl Polanyi and John Maynard Keynes, tracing their ideas’ intellectual and practical legacies. If our ancestors could see this era, he imagines, they might marvel at humanity's "technological and organizational powers," but they’d also wonder why we have "done so little to build a truly human world, to approach within sight of any of our utopias."
For decades, Grandin has built a career describing her experience as a thinker on the autism spectrum and advocating for the importance of putting unique perceptual gifts to good use. "Visual Thinking" makes a further case for the value of neurodiversity, contending that word-centric people have taken over the world, dominating boardrooms, newsrooms, legislatures and schools, resulting in a crisis in American ingenuity. "Imagine a world with no artists, industrial designers, or inventors," Grandin writes. "No electricians, mechanics, architects, plumbers, or builders. These are our visual thinkers, many hiding in plain sight." She builds upon her previous work, proposing the existence of a continuum of thought styles, each with its own advantages. "Most people don't fully comprehend the way their mind works," Grandin writes. But with striking concreteness, the author describes what appears to be going on in her head, and, quite possibly, yours.
The Times reporter Maggie Haberman has been one of the most shrewd and consistent chroniclers of Donald Trump's political career. In her journalism, she has honed a stable interpretation of Trump, evoking not a strongman but a showman, an egomaniac with shrewd instincts and bad opinions. In "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America," she mounts a similar argument. The book presents Trump as a bullshit artist whose grand theme is his own greatness. "Confidence Man," which synthesizes years of reporting on Trump and his milieu, is among the first accounts of Trump's Presidency to seriously consider its subject's backstory, how he sprang from the overlapping scenes of New York real estate, city government, and media celebrity. The book's thesis—Trump's gonna Trump—is pointedly unglamorous, in keeping with Haberman's deflationary assessments of Trump's character.
"La Vie Tranquille" (1944), Duras's second novel—translated into English as "The Easy Life"—is a coming-of-age story that dwells on what a young woman must relinquish to the activity of tidying up life. Here, Duras's sentences assume a voluptuousness that Olivia Baes and Emma Ramadan do a remarkable job of translating. In a style differing from the bald obliquity that characterizes Duras's more famous books and films, feelings and adjectives stick together like plums that have fallen from a tree and formed a putrid mass. The book sold out on its first printing, but its critical reception was lukewarm. "Despite the obvious talents of its author," one reviewer wrote, the over-all effect was "a bit thin." And yet "The Easy Life" is constructed with the same torqued intensity as all her fiction, seeding the problems that will eventually become Durassian preoccupations: the anguish of poverty, the vertigo of young love, the pull of biological conformity, and the struggle of women to reconcile the requirements of feminine competence with the disorganizing effects of sexual desire.
In this novel, set in 1993, a bassist in his early twenties sporting the stage name Jack Shit investigates the disappearance of his drug-addled bandmate and his stolen Fender. As he pursues the mystery, Lipsyte takes the reader on a journey through the East Village at the height of the post-punk era, filled, in the bassist's words, with "all of us kids who moved to New York years too late." Though his cohort primarily frequents establishments in Alphabet City, they occasionally venture farther afield. "By the time you find what you’ve been seeking," Jack observes, "you’re a different seeker."
Professor Wala Kitu (Tagalog and Swahili for "Nothing Nothing") is a specialist in nothing. At the outset of this waggish novel, he has been hired by a billionaire with the "idiotic" goal of becoming a Bond villain, who needs help breaking into Fort Knox—not for the gold, but to steal an empty box. Everett's riffs on the maximalism of Ian Fleming's franchise include inexplicable location changes, double crosses—one courtesy of the priest from "The Exorcist"—a shark pool as a murder weapon, and the casual extermination of large civilian populations. Throughout, he mines the concept of nothing not just for comedy but also for the rich conundrums it presents in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and life.
This richly detailed autobiography by the renowned architect weaves together memoir, a tour of select projects, and philosophical meditations. Born in Haifa in 1938, Safdie moved to Canada with his family when he was a teen-ager, and attained success at a young age: his master's thesis, a system of modular housing units, was realized as Montreal's Habitat 67 residential complex. It brought together many of his lasting preoccupations, including access to nature and high urban density. Safdie's reflections on his other projects, which range from Jerusalem's Holocaust History Museum—a structure built into a mountain, "cutting through like a spike"—to Singapore's Marina Bay Sands, combine intellectual convictions with intuitions about the effects of space, light, sound, earth, and water, illuminating the impulses that have shaped his revolutionary works.
In this saga of a fractured family, Phoebe Oppenheimer, the titular "latecomer," narrates the inception, dissolution, and reconstitution of her clan. Cryopreserved as an embryo and born seventeen years after her in-vitro-fertilized siblings—triplets who "had been in full flight from one another as far back as their ancestral petri dish"—Phoebe corrals a stupendous array of subjects into her chronicle, among them art collecting, real-estate buying, chicken husbandry, intractable rivalries, hoarders, a secret child, and Mormon pageants. Turning on a disastrous clambake in Martha's Vineyard on September 10, 2001, which transforms the family utterly, the novel unfolds at a thriller's pace, with Korelitz leaving no loose threads in her complex tapestry of generational wealth and woes across the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Between 1940 and 1945, as Great Britain warded off a Nazi invasion, it imposed a cruel irony at home: fearing domestic German sympathizers, authorities imprisoned thousands of "enemy aliens"—many of them Jewish refugees who had fled Hitler's persecution. Parkin, a New Yorker contributing writer, focusses on a camp on the Isle of Man, where the internees included scholars, engineers, and artists who forged a miniature society, with lectures, soccer matches, theatre performances, and even a debate society. Parkin's account, with its well-chosen central figures and attention to the trauma that some of the imprisoned carried for decades, is testimony to human fortitude despite callous, hypocritical injustice.
McCarthy's first novel since "The Road" tells the story of Bobby Western, the son of a Jewish physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. Bobby is a Caltech dropout who went to Europe to race cars until a crash in 1972 landed him in a coma. The novel takes place in 1980. Bobby is working as a salvage diver, wakened to a world of grief; his brilliant and tortured sister, Alicia, has killed herself. He searches for a passenger missing from the wreckage of a private jet and is followed by strange men who may or may not work for the F.B.I. Officially, Bobby is pursued by the government, but really he's pursued by the grief he feels at the loss of his sister, by the dubious legacy of his father's work, and by the theological wounds shared by so many McCarthy heroes.
"Stella Maris," named for a psychiatric institution in Wisconsin that the twenty-year-old mathematician Alicia Western has checked herself into, is an addendum to "The Passenger" consisting of transcribed therapeutic conversations between Western and her psychiatrist, Dr. Cohen. These exchanges take place in 1972, with Western's brother Bobby still unconscious in Italy, and Alicia contemplating her eventual suicide. Just as Alicia has left mathematics, she believes that the world has been abandoned by God, or that at best humankind is caught in a terrible struggle with some cruel deity. Together and apart, "The Passenger" and "Stella Maris" explore the diabolical potential of mathematics and the possibility that history is but a "rehearsal for its own extinction."
In this fearless account, Alterman, a journalist and a historian, sets out to describe the complex relationship between Israel and the U.S., at a moment when the former, having just elected the most conservative government in its history, is a distinctly red state, while, in the latter, Jews make up one of the bluest constituencies. He provides a scrupulous history of the crucial debates over Zionism, anti-Zionism, Palestine, the role of memory and the Holocaust, and America's interactions with Israel. Alterman's aim is not to flatter readers, no matter their ideological camp, but, rather, to scrutinize mythologies and fairy tales in order to make greater sense of why Israeli and American Jews, particularly in non-Orthodox communities, appear to be drifting farther apart.
As one of the premier portraitists of the Belle Époque, John Singer Sargent lived a life befitting his status: garnering praise at the Paris Salon, painting such figures as Isabella Stewart Gardner and Teddy Roosevelt, and socializing with luminaries like Henry James and Oscar Wilde. But, as this sensitive biography makes clear, Sargent also pursued less socially acceptable interests; he had an abiding fascination with the male nude and was involved in intimate, somewhat ambiguous relationships with same-sex friends and models. Fisher wisely avoids making sweeping claims about Sargent's sexuality, choosing instead to examine how "the protected and sanctioned camaraderie of the studio" enabled the painter's art and social life to take on quietly unconventional forms.
In this compact, minutely observed novel, the fate of a house in Florida—in which the three adult children of a recently deceased woman were raised—becomes the subject of delicate debate. Taking place in the lead-up to the first Christmas after the mother's death, the story centers on her gathered offspring, their spouses, and their own children, employing a roving perspective to tease out each character's response to loss and kinship. One of the sons considers his tribe "a small good gift," whereas his wife is bewildered by the use of the word "family" in a way that "didn't necessarily portend some sort of altercation."
Set in South Africa in 1927, this powerful novel chronicles the unravelling of a biracial family in the wake of the Immorality Act, which outlawed sexual relations between white and Black people. A winemaker of Dutch and English heritage; his wife, who was born to formerly enslaved parents in Jamaica; and their two daughters are "tumbled into chaos" by the new law. In despair, the mother makes a decision that costs two family members their lives; the surviving pair flee the country. Manenzhe situates this tragic tale within the broader context of the displacement and abuse of Africans caused by colonialism and the slave trade, but her achievement is to humanize the victims of that legacy, in a story that feels like an act of restoration.
"What I did was forgivable," the narrator of this ruminative novel insists. Her offense, which brought about a rupture with her father years ago, is not immediately revealed. Now a former dancer trying to make it as a choreographer, she grapples with her father's impending death by recalling wide-eyed adolescent visits to the Greenwich Village brownstone where he and his boyfriend nurtured gay artists at the height of the AIDS crisis. A lifelong sense that she is "no one's best" has resulted in a string of arm's-length adult relationships, she realizes, but her careful arrangement of the final farewell produces a late drive toward love and reconciliation.
This multilayered history follows branches of a family of Southern slaveholders. On one side, there are the abolitionist sisters Angelina Grimke Weld and Sarah Grimke; on the other, stemming from their brother's relationship with an enslaved woman named Nancy Weston, are Archibald Grimke, a co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P., and his daughter, the writer Angelina Weld Grimke. The story opens in the eighteen-twenties, with the sisters quitting South Carolina for Philadelphia, where they encountered a vibrant Black-led abolitionist movement; only much later did they acknowledge their Black relatives. Greenidge faithfully documents the sisters’ activism, but her real concern is exploring the limits of white sympathy, a story vividly animated by her nuanced biographical portraits.
Born to an American Mennonite mother and a Somali-born father, the author of this "palimpsestic quest" through Central Asia follows a group of nineteenth-century Mennonites who travelled from Ukraine to Uzbekistan to await the return of Jesus. Samatar blends travelogue with a larger meditation on faith, community, and colonization. She details the sense of alienation felt by many non-white Mennonites, including her own experiences dealing with racist gibes at school, and the patronizing attitudes that can underpin charitable efforts in the developing world. But she also acknowledges the sense of "tradition, community, mutual aid" that the faith offers. As a fellow-traveller reminds her, "You can’ t be a Mennonite alone."
Ostensibly a collection of found documents assembled by a would-be biographer, this novel revolves around the nineteen-sixties fame and subsequent eclipse of an English therapist, Arthur Collins Braithwaite, who hoped to "bring down the ‘jerry-built edifice’ of psychiatry." The novel switches between a documentary examination of Braithwaite's life (including a retinue of historical figures, such as R. D. Laing) and the extravagant suspicions of a woman who, blaming him for her sister's suicide, enrolls as his patient, under the alias Rebecca Smyth, to investigate. With its layers of imposture and unreliability, the novel suggests that our personhood is far more malleable than we believe.
Shortly after Delaney's son Henry turned one, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He spent much of his life in hospitals, and died before he turned three. "A Heart That Works" tells the story of Henry's life and Delaney's grief. Alongside the recounting of panicked hospital visits, scary infections, and breathing-tube struggles, there are comic riffs and asides that wouldn't be out of place in a Delaney standup set, or on his Twitter feed. Then Delaney yanks you back to grief. The pain comes less from horrifying details than from the way he lures us into contact with the very aspects of our lives that are easiest to ignore: our fragilities, our constant proximity to calamity, our powerlessness to control what life brings, or when. All the while, the jokes keep coming. It's not hard to imagine some readers being repelled by the marriage of Delaney's comic style with talk of grief. But cancer knows nothing of propriety, and neither does grief, and so Delaney—never terribly interested in propriety to begin with—doesn't want to know, either.
"It took Brian less than a week to decide that the ‘long goodbye’ of Alzheimer's was not for him and less than a week for me to find Dignitas, at the end of several long Google paths," recounts Amy Bloom in her lyrical, recursive memoir about her husband's decision to end his life, at the Swiss nonprofit that offers assisted—or what it calls "accompanied"—suicide. The signs of Brian's memory loss accrete gradually, then suddenly: he slowly loses interest in his many hobbies; a boss reprimands him for being "too slow" at work; he misplaces his car keys at a Stop & Shop. As clouds of disagreement linger longer between Bloom and her husband, she writes with unswerving honesty about the feeling of becoming newly estranged from him. Looping back and forth in the progression of Brian's illness, the book is a work of remembering that is an intimate account both of a life shared with a man who was, for Bloom, "the sunrise and the sunset and all of the light in between," and of putting back together the jagged pieces of one's self in the wake of shattering loss.
Lucy Ives, in her dizzying novel, attempts the impossible task of building a set in which every emotional and physical detail is noted and accounted for. "Life Is Everywhere" holds out the hope that the novel might be a home to which everything belongs. At the same time, it illuminates the ways in which such novels operate like families unto themselves, absorbing so much apparent dysfunction while maintaining the illusion that all of their parts constitute a happy—or at least a believable—whole. Its books-within-books conceit is twisty and treacherous, and taken together its many stories read like an encyclopedia whose every entry is at its heart a story of intimate betrayal. The true pièce de résistance is the protagonist novel-within-a-novel by the protagonist, Erin, which contains "Life Is Everywhere"'s most fully realized, compelling, and suffocating adultery plot. Long after Erin writes her novel, she becomes aware of her own husband's infidelity. We cannot protect ourselves from our fictions, Ives seems to say, not even those devised by our own hand, since we so utterly belong to them, too.
The special virtue of Basinger and Wasson's work is its seamlessly sequential organization, so that talk about cinematographers flows neatly into talk about writers, which flows then into talk about actors, almost all of it magically mucilaged part to part. The net is cast wide; many glimmering fish are drawn up. Nobody who loves old movies won't be tickled to discover that Clark Gable's jackets in "Gone with the Wind" had padded shoulders, in an anachronistic, nineteen-thirties style, which differentiated him from all those other nineteenth-century Southern gents. The book also makes clear that cinema is a craft art, with an artisan foundation. That's why it makes sense to have a many-voiced chorus tell this many-handed story: everyone's voice counted.
Four characters embark on journeys that bring them into close communion with nature, in this philosophical novel. A young Indian woman finds a sense of purpose in her country's rural east. In the Edwardian era, an English botanist journeys to the same remote area, searching for a mythical tree. Carl Linnaeus, the father of biological classification, travels through Lapland, and Goethe develops his framework for perceiving the unity of a natural world in which "all is leaf." Goethe's rejection of the scientific wish to define nature and the mercantile one to extract value from it provides the book's intellectual core. As one character muses, "How much harder to see things, in continuity, in extension, in expansion, as uninterruptedness."
This book uses a seemingly simple question—How did our units of measurement originate?—to deliver a profound reflection on how we experience and describe the world. The author's inquiry takes him from Cairo, where he visits a thousand-year-old device for measuring the Nile's floodwaters, to an iron cabinet in Paris that houses the standard metre and kilogram produced after the French Revolution. If measurement constitutes, as Vincent believes, "a mirror to society itself," then it is perhaps no surprise that its history is one of both ingenuity and oppression. Ultimately, Vincent writes, our "frameworks of order that seem inviolable because of their deep roots in tradition and authority are as changeable as anything else in life."
In this book, Mustill delves into the latest research on animal communication. "Is it too much of a leap to think we might someday decode the sperm whale click for ‘mother’?" Mustill writes. "For ‘pain’? For ‘hello’? The answer is, of course, that we cannot know until we try." The book is borne along by his faith that whales have something intelligible to tell us and his hope that one day soon we’ll figure out what that is. It spurs one to imagine how transformative it would be if we could chat with whales about their love lives or their sorrows or their thoughts on the philosophy of language.** **"The more we learn about other animals and discover evidence of their manifold capacities, the more we care, and this alters how we treat them," Mustill writes.
This biography of a cult writer and pioneer of queer fiction tries to reconcile mainstream neglect of his work with the acclaim he received from authors including Tennessee Williams and Susan Sontag. Purdy, who once insisted that "all of my work is a criticism of the United States," specialized in a kind of "outlaw fiction." His treatment of "passing" and his use of Black vernacular made Langston Hughes assume that he was Black. Snyder takes us from Purdy's childhood on an Ohio farm to his final years in New York, in a tantalizing portrait of a man with a talent for alienating colleagues, but also for conveying "a tragic sense of life couched in dark laughter."
In this multilayered novel about the sins and traumas of China's past, two childhood friends reunite in their provincial home town after years apart. In the course of a winter night, their alternating monologues sift through their family histories, circling a fateful moment during the Cultural Revolution which left one man's grandfather comatose and set the other's up for an eminent medical career. As the two friends’ fortunes become increasingly intertwined, they also trade stories of their childhoods in the eighties, and the historical weight shouldered by their generation. "Blood ties are a form of violence, the way they yoke together people who feel nothing for each other," Zhang writes.
In a collection of profiles and essays originally written for The New Yorker, Thurman explores the mysterious intersection of the sensual life and the life of the mind. As she considers the triumphs and failures of our culture—literature, politics, fashion, art, sex—Thurman is both fiercely intelligent and disarmingly human.
A sense of promise lost and regained imbues this biography of a figure whose long career encompassed the ascendancy of liberalism, its decline under Reagan, and the country's descent into today's partisanship. Kennedy continually reached across the aisle even as he saw the era of coalition-building come to an end. Hobbled by his struggle to measure up to his brothers, and by the grim shadow of the Chappaquiddick incident, he was nonetheless a standard-bearer of the left who, in his last years, helped seed a newly resilient and forward-looking strain of liberalism. By tracing this life of tragedy, tenacity, and service, Farrell draws a complex portrait of a man who, like his family—and perhaps his nation—was "always running to keep ahead of the darkness."
The book opens as Conover sets off to meet—and ultimately live with—the off-gridders of the San Luis Valley, in the south-central part of the state. The largest alpine valley in the world, it has an average elevation of more than seven and a half thousand feet. The cheap land can be found in a region known as "the flats," where there is almost no infrastructure: no electricity, no sewer system, no pavement. Conover has a good eye for the particularity of life on the flats, in this valley that has become a magnet for the dispossessed, and the book is bursting with dreamers and druggies, drifters and grifters, the deluded, the dangerous, the salt of the earth.
Tracing the development of the banjo, "a uniquely American instrument, crafted by people of African descent," this meticulous history also illuminates the difficulties of unearthing a story rooted in the experiences of the enslaved. Gaddy close-reads every early depiction of the banjo she can find—a priest observing a calinda dance in Martinique in 1694, a 1785 watercolor from a plantation in South Carolina—while remaining critically alert to the overwhelmingly white (and usually pro-slavery) perspectives that document the instrument's existence prior to the Civil War. Decoupling the banjo from the crude secular associations of nineteenth-century minstrelsy, she emphasizes in particular its significance in religious music.
The narrator of this dark, existential novel—a startling literary document of urban alienation—is an Uyghur man roaming Ürümqi in search of a room to rent. As he wanders, he encounters menacing strangers, disembodied screams, trash. At work, he is revolted by the falsity of his colleagues and fixates on a sheet of random numbers, searching for combinations that might make sense of his predicament. "I don't know anyone in this strange city, so it's impossible for me to be friends or enemies with anyone," he says, but enemies clearly exist. The author disappeared in 2018, presumably into one of China's Xinjiang detention centers.
Harley Mann, the son of "educated White Northerners with an affection for abstract thought," and the narrator of this slow-build tragic novel, recounts his youth and lovestruck early adulthood at New Bethany, the South Florida Shaker settlement where he moved with his siblings and widowed mother in 1902. (The book takes its inspiration from audio recordings made by the real Mann in 1971.) Like the plaster-of-Paris model of New Bethany that the adult Mann, having left Shaker life, painstakingly constructed, the novel presents "a specific moment plucked from the stream of time and memory and fixed like a butterfly pinned in a glass-fronted case."
Who are we? What is our place in nature? In this history of evolution, Bashford moves across the generations of the Huxley family, tracing how a gifted brood of illustrious scholars and writers struggled to answer these questions, in the process shaping the outlooks we hold on the past and future of our species. Bashford focusses her chronicle on the two most evolutionarily minded Huxleys: Thomas Henry and his grandson Julian. Thomas Henry died in 1895, days after Julian turned eight. But, as an adult, Julian took after his grandfather. They were so alike that Bashford says they can even be thought of as "one very long-lived man, 1825–1975." Yet the book is more than an account of how two writer-scientists fashioned and sold evolution. It is also about the implications that the men discerned in activities ranging from religion to conservation.
In this magic-realist satire, the title character—a self-described "photographer, gambler, slut"—wakes up in the afterworld and has a week to discover who killed him. Set during the civil war in Sri Lanka in 1989, the novel follows Almeida as he attempts to find his murderer and help two friends obtain a cache of photographs incriminating those on all sides of the conflict, before they are purloined by others searching for them. The group includes government officials, separatist Tamil Tigers, communist rebels, Indian peacekeepers, and arms dealers, all of whom are willing to kill to accomplish their mission. When Almeida tracks down his murderer, he realizes that "every death is significant, even when every life appears not to be."
Several years ago, Steven Sondheim accepted D. T. Max's invitation to be profiled in this magazine—then decided against it. Then he reconsidered, and reconsidered again. But the bard of ambivalence kept talking through it all, and Max's book places those autumnal conversations—some of which appeared, in edited form, on our Web site—center stage.
In 1944, the Auschwitz escapee Rudolf Vrba, intent on piercing the "veil of ignorance" surrounding the Nazis’ crimes, related his and others’ experiences of the camp in the Vrba-Wetzler Report. Disseminated in the midst of the war, the report catalyzed an international response that would ultimately spare two hundred thousand Hungarian Jews. With the propulsion of a historical thriller, Freedland, a journalist, tracks Vrba's work collecting the "data of the dead" even while imprisoned, driven by his conviction that facts could perhaps derail the Nazi extermination plan. As Freedland depicts world leaders’ failure to act expeditiously, he observes, "A horror is especially hard to comprehend if no one has ever witnessed anything like it before."
This biography of an acclaimed novelist follows Hazzard from her early years in Australia and postwar Hong Kong through her adulthood among storied literary circles in New York City and Italy. Olubas traces the development of Hazzard's longtime preoccupations with "mobile protagonists and their shifting worlds," and with questions of truth, goodness, knowledge, and perspective. Carefully crafted—a page could be revised as many as thirty times—and signalling a "deep investment in destiny," Hazzard's richly layered novel "The Transit of Venus" led her husband, the biographer and Flaubert scholar Francis Steegmuller, to remark, "No one should have to read it for the first time."
In 1882, an Austro-Hungarian art collector purchased a set of drawings by Sandro Botticelli that had been languishing in private collections in France and England for centuries. In this wide-ranging history, Luzzi considers why the drawings, which illustrated eighty-eight cantos of Dante's Divine Comedy, had fallen into oblivion, and charts both Dante's and Botticelli's reputations across the ages. Many early critics found Botticelli's drawings out of step with Dante's text, arguing that the Renaissance artist's sensual, full-bodied humans undermined the medieval poet's "visceral yearning for God." Luzzi, by contrast, reads Botticelli's drawings as "a ‘poem’ in their own regard," and as a crucial link in the "mapping of the human spirit's transition" from one era to the next.
In 2012, after a wildly successful and hectic period during which he worked almost exclusively as a playwright, the Norwegian author and dramatist Jon Fosse converted to Catholicism, quit drinking, and remarried. He then started composing "Septology," a seven-volume novel written in a single sentence and exemplifying what he has described as his turn to "slow prose." (The book was translated, by Damion Searls, for Fitzcarraldo Editions, in the U.K.; a U.S. edition is out this month, from Transit Books.) The novel's narrator is a painter named Asle, a convert to Catholicism who's grieving the death of his wife. The night before Christmas Eve, he finds his friend, also a painter named Asle, unconscious in an alley in Bergen, dying of alcohol poisoning. Their memories double, repeat, and gradually blur into a single voice, a diffuse consciousness capable of existing in many times and places at once. Though lacking a particularly doctrinal or dogmatic sense of religion, the novel raises the possibility of belief in the reality of the divine, as the fourteenth-century theologian Meister Eckhart, whom Fosse has read intently, describes it: "It is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us."
Brutality and tenderness intertwine in this collection, which illuminates the inner life of a young gay Black man navigating desire, depression, family, and faith. Although the poems are haunted by historical and contemporary violence, they are also often rapturous, revelling in the pleasures of nature and of the body. Hughes's primary mode is almost Romantic, aware of death's ubiquitous presence, yet alive with feeling; allusions to Dickinson, Emerson, and Poe abound. For all there is to mourn, kinship provides a kind of compass. "I have wanted / nothing / to do with blackness / or laughter / or my life," Hughes writes. "But, about love, / who owns the right, / really?"
Hotta, a Tokyo-born historian, takes on the life story and legacy of Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the Suzuki method. Born in 1898 in the Japanese city of Nagoya, he was the son of a violin-maker, and, when young Suzuki became captivated by the singing tone of the violinist Mischa Elman, he persuaded his father to send him to Berlin, where he spent several formative years. The book explores the evolution of Suzuki's conviction that the ability to play an instrument was not an inborn gift but a specific, learnable skill. He came to believe children could learn music the way that children learn language: naturally, through early and abundant exposure. But reducing his method to a system of music instruction, the biography argues, misses its larger point about education as a means of awakening human potential.
In the opening pages of this book, Hämäläinen, a historian at Oxford, maintains that the America we know was—in its borders, shape, and culture—far from inevitable. Throughout the work, which details the rise and fall of early empires and Native responses to European colonial forays, Hämäläinen stresses the kinetic nature of Indigenous power. Even after the so-called colonial era, tribal nations often played a determining role in American history. Instead of a foreordained story of decline and victimization, Hämäläinen wants us to see a parade of contingencies, with tribal nations regularly giving as good as they got, or even better.
Ovid's masterpiece contains nearly two hundred and fifty mythic tales of corporeal transformation, many of which have become central in art and culture. But Stephanie McCarter's revisionist translation shows how often translators have obscured the sexual violence of these stories with euphemism. In an introduction, she argues that the prevalance of rape in the poem suggests that "Ovid felt such violence was worthy of critical interrogation," and that we should read him "with an eye toward his full complexity—his beauty and his brutality." Ultimately, she writes, "to wrestle with the unsavory aspects of ancient literature is to do the hard work of self-examination."
Silicon chips undergird all of modern digital technology, yet only a handful of companies are capable of producing them or the nanometre-scale precision instruments required for their manufacture—making the industry "a triumph of efficiency," Miller writes, but also creating "a staggering vulnerability." This history traces the chips’ development, from their invention, in America, in the nineteen-fifties, to the establishment of a global supply chain concentrated in East Asia. Today, nearly all advanced processor chips are produced in Taiwan, and Miller mounts a convincing argument that shifting control of the industry could dramatically reshape the world's economic and political orders.
In the second book by the comedian Steve Martin and the cartoonist Harry Bliss, the actor wittily details his film career alongside his frequent collaborator's humorous illustrations. This book was excerpted on newyorker.com
This absorbing seven-hundred-page opus on the rise and fall of General Electric contains a particularly compelling portrayal of the tenure of its fabled C.E.O., Jack Welch, who turned G.E. into a lean and disciplined profit machine. During the nineteen-seventies, the company was run by a modest, austere man named Reginald Jones, who believed that G.E. culture was best exemplified through mutual concern for one another. Welch, a homespun dynamo with blue-collar origins, did not view G.E. as one big, warm family. When he took over from Jones as C.E.O., he imposed his own sense of excellence on the company, through a series of principles that captivated his peers: your duty is always to enrich your shareholders. Shed any business that isn't first or second in its market category. Fire nonperformers without regret. Cohan gives us a lot of alpha-male straight talk, and the book enables one to see how Welch emerged as a ruthless businessman who saw every interaction as a potential shakedown.
A young Muslim American woman named Kausar narrates this hard-bitten but glimmering début novel, which chronicles her negotiation of the thorny path from childhood to adulthood. The story begins in Philadelphia, with the murder of Kausar's widowed father, after which she and her sisters are relocated to New Jersey to live with an uncle who meets their practical needs, and nothing more. Asghar parses the confusion and hysteria surrounding female sexuality—especially calamitous for Kausar, whose body is "pretending to be a girl, even though I’m not." The narrative is most affecting when Kausar turns to her faith, as when she prays, "Allah, forgive me for being janky."
For Amanda Parrish Morgan, strollers aren't just tools we use, or products we buy; they’re dense symbols, with no single or settled meaning, of our relationships to parenting. They tell us things: about what we want, what we can't have, what we fear. The central strength of "Stroller," a slim work of memoiristic cultural criticism, is not comprehensiveness but the way the stroller, and Morgan's experience of her own strollering years, become an omnidirectional magnet, pulling disparate material into friendly proximity. Her own stroller years are almost over, and the closing pages of "Stroller" evoke the experience of looking at newly obsolete pieces of parenting gear in the garage or basement, feeling time and memory leak out as they transmogrify back into mere plastic and rubber.
In the early twentieth century, Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes revitalized ballet, and the company remained at the forefront of the international avant-garde for decades. In this rich account, Christiansen, a critic and a self-described "incurable balletomane," narrates its rise and fall under Diaghilev, a charismatic impresario whose creative orbit encompassed not only dancers, choreographers, and composers—among them Nijinsky, Balanchine, and Stravinsky—but also painters and writers, including Picasso and Cocteau. The professional achievements of these artists are evoked vividly, as are the personalities, romances, and rivalries whose tempestuous ebbs and flows shaped their work. Though little of the Ballets Russes repertoire survives today, Christiansen makes a convincing case for its indelible influence.
This book, by one of Romania's leading avant-garde writers, presents itself as the diary of an unnamed failed poet who has become a schoolteacher. He relates memories of his sickly childhood and of his walks around Bucharest ("a museum of melancholy and the ruin of all things"), where, in front of a morgue, he encounters so-called anti-death protesters holding signs that read "NO to Being Buried Alive!" The novel's title refers to a mysterious object on top of which his home is built, which causes levitation and rearranges rooms. As in the work of Kafka, whose diaries the narrator adores, the book's horror and humor are born from examining "the tragic anomaly of the spirit dressed in flesh."
McCracken's latest novel straddles the line between fiction and memoir, though she rejects the term "autofiction" as sounding "like it might be written by a robot, or a kiosk, or a European." It is August, 2019, and the unnamed narrator, sightseeing in London, is haunted by the presence of her late mother, who grew up "disabled and Jewish in small-town Iowa," was stubborn and bad with money, and was also brilliant and effervescent and a great appreciator of life. "Once somebody is dead, the world reveals all the things they might have enjoyed if they weren't," the narrator laments. McCracken delivers a searing meditation on loss and the impossibility of depicting, in art, the entirety of a person.
Set around the time of Pearl Harbor, this poignant saga centers on the town of Lone Pine, in California's Owens Valley, where Rocky Rhodes has built a beautiful home for his wife, a doctor and a cook of some renown. After she dies, of polio, he struggles to raise their son and daughter while trying to protect the area from the Los Angeles water authorities. The son, joyful and reckless, moves out at thirteen and joins the Navy at nineteen. When the government establishes a Japanese American internment camp on the land across from Rocky's, the newcomers become enmeshed in the locals’ lives. The novel's resounding theme, "You can't save what you don't love," applies to people and landscapes alike.
An earlier version of this review misidentified the location of Lone Pine.
From 2006 to 2009, Dylan hosted "Theme Time Radio Hour," a weekly program on satellite radio. The programs were hilarious, campy nostalgia. Most important, you got to hear the often forgotten music that helped form him in some way. Dylan has published a kind of extension of the radio show, this rich, riffy, funny, and completely engaging book of essays. It's immediately clear what you’re in for: Dylan wandering through the enormous record bin of his mind. In order to stave off creative exhaustion and intimations of mortality, he has, over and over again, returned to what fed him in the first place—the vast tradition of American song. What he tries to get across in this book is the feel of these songs, their atmosphere and internal life.
The longtime New Yorker theatre critic John Lahr explores the life and work of Arthur Miller, connecting the dots between the playwright's personal and psychological development and the evolution of his plays. The book draws on Lahr's piece in the magazine about the making of Willy Loman, the protagonist of Miller's "Death of a Salesman."
The first major biography of Balanchine draws on a decade of research in Russian and American archives and interviews with his dancers. Homans, the dance critic at The New Yorker, charts the choreographer's journey from Tsarist Russia to interwar Europe and, finally, New York, where he remade classical ballet. The book's account of Balanchine's return to his homeland, in 1962, first ran in the magazine.
The result of eight years of reporting, this deft chronicle delves into the story of Bobby Johnson, a sixteen-year-old from New Haven, who, in 2006, was coerced into confessing to a brutal murder he didn't commit. Dawidoff presents portraits of the individuals involved, juxtaposed with research on segregation, the Great Migration, and mass incarceration. Bobby, though widely considered innocent, was convicted because he "fit a false stereotype about how things worked in poor neighborhoods." The book details his childhood, his time in prison, and—after a single-minded lawyer secures his release, in 2015—the challenges and the disorientation Bobby experiences upon reëntering society.
This musical study charts the rise of Romanticism, in the nineteenth century, as composers came to see individual voice as the key to emotional expression, and began to assert their "existential being through a recognizable, even idiosyncratic musical language." Walsh provides biographical sketches of composers and assessments of their work, and weaves in subplots across decades and geography—the impact of nationalism, the development of program music, the ubiquitous spectre of Beethoven. Observing that "obsolescence is always the lurking fate of music not quite of the front rank," Walsh explores the influence of relatively obscure composers, such as Louise Farrenc and Heinrich Marschner, with generous, contagious curiosity.
The Nobel laureate's latest novel opens like a starry romantic chronicle: a steamer is making its way at night to a gemlike island, the fictional Mingheria, in the Mediterranean. It is 1901. On board are three medical scientists, one accompanied by his wife, a princess, who spends much of the novel writing letters to her sister; the tale is supposedly constructed, by her great-granddaughter, from these letters. The group comes to Mingheria because of an outbreak of bubonic plague, and they have to deal with a shifting political landscape—one all too familiar to us in 2022. Yet what is most vital in this book is Pamuk's lovingly obsessive creation of the island itself, a world so detailed that it shimmers like a memory palace. He places his humans in this "three-dimensional fairy tale" and observes what happens to the state when an epidemic tests its tolerances.
The cartoonist Jeremy Nguyen illustrates this waggish guide to petting dogs (that don't belong to you). This book was excerpted on newyorker.com
The four years of American history from 1917 to 1921 are underexamined, but, in this account, they emerge as pivotal. "Just as the war in Europe was being fought on several fronts, so was the war at home," Hochschild writes. Vigilante groups and the government itself targeted labor unionists, socialists, immigrants, Blacks, Jews, and others perceived to be insufficiently patriotic. While narrating raids, arrests, lynchings, deportations, and instances of censorship, spying, and torture, Hochschild periodically checks in on an achingly conflicted Woodrow Wilson. When a member of his Administration suggested pardoning those who had been punished for opposing conscription, the President replied that, while the idea "appeals to me not a little, . . . I don't feel that I can follow my heart just now."
Kiki de Montparnasse was born Alice Prin, in a village far from the cosmopolitan Parisian enclave whose name she later adopted. One of the most popular artists’ models of the nineteen-twenties—as well as a cabaret star, painter, memoirist, and bon vivant—Kiki posed for artists including Soutine, Foujita, and, perhaps most fruitfully, the surrealist Man Ray. Braude's biography argues that the pair's long love affair was mutually galvanizing, and that Kiki was not just a muse but an artist in her own right. If she has largely faded from view, he writes, it is because "you can't sell a dance at auction. You can't sell a pose."
In this novel of religious discovery, set in the seventh century, three Irish monks make a fraught journey from their monastery to Great Skellig, a craggy rock formation in the Atlantic that resembles "the most gigantic of cathedrals." Switching perspectives among the monks, the narrative tracks their escalating discord as they endeavor to construct a new monastic settlement there. Donoghue evokes their devotional seriousness with a descriptive texture that is equally alert to a flock of cormorants taking flight "by some collusion," or to the whittling of a makeshift pipe. As the men maintain routines of worship in the face of futility, the novel asks whether they should be answerable to God or to one another.
This striking novel takes a formally inventive approach to a woman's terminal-cancer diagnosis. Lia is a successful illustrator with a loving husband and preteen daughter, but their contentment is disrupted by the resurgence of her breast cancer. In Mortimer's rendering, the cancer has its own voice and graphic style, and it guides readers through Lia's most visceral life experiences: a strict religious upbringing; a destructive love affair; her treatments and her sense of the changes they wreak upon her body. Although Lia's fate is telegraphed from the start, sadness is not allowed to crowd out wit and joy, and Mortimer asks readers to think about death as something that "does not happen in the first or third person, but in the second."
Roberts's autobiographical comics illustrate day-to-day life, incorporating humorous details from the author's experiences raising her daughter and being in the workplace. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
This collection of cartoons and essays explores the broad range of experiences, and the many ups and downs, one encounters while living in N.Y.C. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
In this activity book for adults, the cartoonist Sarah Kempa invites readers to solve the humorous complexities of adulthood—like finding lost items in an apartment, figuring out how to split a check, and creating the perfect dating profile. This book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
With the plush scenery of a travelogue, the misshapen soul of a noir, and the anarchic spirit of a trickster tale, this novel revolves around three Black American expatriates. The narrator, Amanda, is a divorced travel writer invited to the island of Ibiza by her friend Catherine, a prize-winning sculptor, who "sometimes tries to kill her husband." ("He puts her into an asylum, thinks she's well, takes her out again, and she tries to kill him.") Catherine is suspicious of Amanda's intentions toward her husband, but, in Jones's fearsome, fractured narrative, her potential for violence seems no more alarming than anything else that might befall these social outsiders.
In this lyrical memoir, Geter, a poet, sets down a powerful vision of Black life in the United States by intertwining dual origin stories: her own (she is the daughter of an African American man and a Muslim Nigerian woman) and the nation's, with its history of Native genocide and African enslavement. Recounting the lives of her forebears (enslaved people, sharecroppers, artists), she expresses grief and rage, but she also sees the potential for liberation, which she terms "the Black Period," a time both prospective and realized, "where, if not our bodies, then our minds could be free." Again and again, she asks, "What would it look like to emerge from erasure?" Her father's oil paintings and charcoal drawings, scattered throughout the book, provide one response.
This biography of the self-taught painter Morris Hirshfield (1872-1946) is also a study of the vagaries of artistic reputation. Hirshfield, a Russian Polish immigrant, worked as a tailor and a slipper-maker in Brooklyn before turning to art, in his mid-sixties. Championed by avant-garde luminaries including André Breton and Alfred Barr for his "primitive" approach to pattern and figuration, he enjoyed brief renown—with a solo show at moma, in 1943, and much press coverage—before being largely forgotten. Meyer situates Hirshfield's idiosyncratic output in the popular imagery and fine art of the period, suggesting that he was savvier than his early admirers knew.
A man gets a phone call from a dead uncle, another finds his life transformed into a mutating, inexplicable dreamscape: in this collection of short fiction, Rabe explores the people and the memories that haunt us. Three of the stories, including "Uncle Jim Called," first appeared in the magazine.
A new collection from the wildly imaginative Saunders examines American life as we know it—and as we don't—in a series of stories about characters grappling with sometimes nefarious political, social, and cultural forces. Several stories, including "Ghoul," first appeared in the magazine.
This slip of a book, the Nobel-winning poet's first work of narrative prose, consists of the thoughts of twin baby girls, each named after a flower. Marigold is small, quiet, inward; Rose, born first, is loud, forgiving, and protective. Alongside an exploration of the dichotomies that bind the girls together are meditations on many of Glück's familiar preoccupations: halves and wholes, familial inheritance, time's passage, the psychic power of words. The innocence of the girls’ observations, bearing an infant clarity, pare many of the book's subjects down to a revealing frankness. "Infinite possibility," they think as they learn to walk. "Then an absence or loss. Safety, which had disappeared."
The narrator of this novel is a British former soldier and recovering alcoholic, who becomes unhinged after a letter summons him to Belfast to give evidence to a commission investigating a tragic incident that occurred in 1982, during the Troubles. Taking the form of a confession to his estranged daughter, the book works its way toward the life-altering event, which took place when he was a twenty-one-year-old recruit. Along the way, he recalls military training in Germany, his journey through rehab, and his current employment, at a rural garden center. His apologia represents a sincere redemptive attempt at "having a go at living."
The long-overlooked role of Japanese Americans who fought against their ancestral land during the Second World War receives its due in this authoritative history. Many were recruited from internment camps, and worked variously as interpreters, translators, and interrogators. America's ability to understand Japanese communications was "among the best kept secrets of the war," Henderson writes. He skillfully refracts the conflict through the experiences of several veterans, including Kazuo Komoto, who received the Purple Heart after fighting in Guadalcanal and New Georgia, and Tom Sakamoto, who was part of a select cadre of Japanese Americans entrusted with top-secret information, and who witnessed Japan's formal surrender. The book ends with a roster of the more than three thousand Japanese Americans who served.
"The very structure of social media encourages polarization," the author contends in this sobering investigation into the effects of platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Tracking political movements that spread over social media, both in America and worldwide, Fisher describes how algorithms designed to "maximize our time on site" systematically promote extreme content that sparks moral outrage and forges group identities united by a sense of threat. "The effect, multiplied across billions of users, has been to change society itself," he writes. Fisher speaks to researchers and industry insiders, who all seem to arrive at the same proposal: turn off the algorithms that reward engagement above all else.
The female protagonists who appear in Scodellaro's kinetic début collection of stories find themselves in absurdist and fantastical scenarios that interrogate the nature of subjectivity. "A Triangle" appeared in The New Yorker.
This collection brings together some of the many cartoons published by McPhail in The New Yorker, as well as a number of new cartoons and comics. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
For the writer Millet, novels, like people, tend to suffer from a blinkered, human-centric perspective. Instead of focussing on the "arc of the private individual," as she puts it, Millet writes books that churn up atmosphere: something happens, and then something else happens; the cloudy design melts and shifts. More often than not, they also mourn our collapsing environment, the cost of our ill-gotten gains. In her latest novel, "Dinosaurs," a man named Gil has just moved to Phoenix after breaking up with his girlfriend of fifteen years. He is handsome, embarrassingly wealthy, and desperate to be of use. He befriends a neighbor's kid, who's being bullied at school; takes up the cause of hawks and quail against a mystery poacher; and volunteers at a local women's shelter. The story has a muted quality—Millet writes in the simple, enigmatic prose of books for children. But it's also sharp and implacably funny, and, after one of Gil's friends dies, it becomes a study in the nature of loss. For Millet, at least, there's solace in the idea that we are infinitely bigger than ourselves.
In Italy, Manzoni's grand historical novel is considered a literary treasure almost on a par with Dante, but its reputation elsewhere has faded. In this new translation, the first in fifty years, it emerges as a work that anyone who cares about nineteenth-century fiction should want to read. Manzoni, the child of a genteel Lombard family, lived from 1785 to 1873, through the political turmoil stretching from the French Revolution to the great political cause of the Risorgimento—by which the peninsula became a united, independent nation. "The Betrothed" was written in service of that ideal, but it is set in the seventeenth century—the period of the Thirty Years’ War and of resurgent bubonic plague. It follows a young couple, Renzo and Lucia, whose engagement is thwarted by the fact that Lucia has caught the eye of a local Spanish lord, who is protected by a corrupt legal system. Separated, the couple are basically on the lam for most of the novel, sometimes helped and sometimes hurt by people they meet along the way. The book is a great pleasure to read, thanks to its romanticism, its sweep and danger and excitement, and the fullness of its ever-ramifying plot.
This début novel, formed of interlocking short stories, follows the lives of four Nigerian women who meet at boarding school in the nineteen-eighties and whose futures are drastically altered by a protest that they organize. The stories move backward and forward in time: we excavate nineteenth-century family roots and leap to 2050, when one character sacrifices herself for her son. Through the years, the four friends face various challenges. One encounters racism in Kraków; another, unhappy as a banker in New York, contemplates the "scalp-searing sun" and the bean pudding of home. Ogunyemi shows how early friendships can shape entangled alliances that define women's lives.
During the Cultural Revolution, minimally trained "barefoot doctors" were sent to the Chinese countryside, providing basic medical services and folk remedies. The author of this novel was one of them, and she draws on her experiences in the story of Mrs. Yi, a village herbalist who gathers her remedies on a nearby mountain. She struggles to find a successor—either the flighty but kindhearted Gray, who loves herbs but fears patients, or Mia, from nearby Deserted Village—and events become increasingly surreal. As the mountain changes shape and ghosts visit the living, mysterious connections between the body and nature emerge.
Little is known about the Dutch painter Frans Hals: no letters or diaries survive, and the only contemporary documents are unrevealing. But Nadler manages to construct a satisfying quasi-biography by using the milieu of seventeenth-century Haarlem. The city, Protestant and republican, had neither church nor monarchy to commission art, so artists relied on the patronage of private citizens—an advantage for Hals, who excelled at capturing the spirit of locals. His rough brushwork lent an air of improvisation to his boisterous depictions of soldiers, musicians, and tavern-goers. Though Hals has long been overshadowed by his contemporary Rembrandt, Nadler demonstrates why his peers held him to be "the modern painter par excellence."
This history of Jim Crow explores "slavery's afterlife in law" from the nineteen-twenties to the sixties through the fates of Black Americans whose stories "were not meant to leave the South." Some were "abducted from their homes, churches, fields, and other workplaces," others murdered after flouting bus segregation. Burnham illuminates a continuum of white supremacy, dating back to slavery, that depended on the blurring of "formal and mob law" and on an often complicit federal government. "Law needed terror, and terror needed law," she writes. She also examines Black Americans’ long-standing "practices of dissent and resistance" and describes reparations as an ethical imperative.
Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern, constructs a history of libertarianism, making a case that it has degraded from a pro-market economism to a blinkered worship of individual rights. The economist Friedrich Hayek, whom the author admires, wrote in favor of a "social minimum," which, though bare, made room for a welfare state. But, as an economist, Hayek had "no clear account of rights," Koppleman says. As a result, Hayek's approach was displaced by an uncompromising rights-based liberalism. Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Robert Nozick, figureheads of the characteristic late-twentieth-century form of libertarianism, had a different goal than their predecessors, Koppelman maintains, shrinking government not to advance economic efficiency but to protect the rights of property owners. This critical distinction—seeing each economic question as a matter of fundamental rights—obliterated the possibility of compromise, Koppelman writes; his book seeks a "middle way" in earnest.
In this book of stories and ideas, the philosopher Kieran Setiya argues that certain fundamental challenges—loneliness, injustice, failure, ill health, grief, and so on—are essentially unavoidable; even though a redemptive impulse "urges us to focus on the best in life," it's actually a mistake to turn away from the experiences that wound us. Drawing on a variety of thinkers and on his own experiences, Setiya shows that, instead of glossing over our own disappointments, it's best to think about them in detail, discovering how they can help us grow tougher, kinder, wiser, more compassionate, and more realistic. The book, he writes, aims to offer "guidance in adversity," showing us how we can remain hopeful without deluding ourselves or downplaying life's difficulties.
How did we end up with the C.I.A., which marks its seventy-fifth anniversary this year? This account of the rise of American intelligence shows that the agency's predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, was only one element in a dramatic expansion of operations at the start of the Second World War. As Reynolds recounts, it was Army and Navy cryptography and reconnaissance units that handled most of the actual code-breaking and spying. The problem became the volume of raw intelligence, which gave rise to a need for an entity that could make sense of it and turn it into something that policymakers could use. Various intelligence agencies took up this responsibility during and after the war, and Reynolds, by engaging fully with the various contenders, manages to avoid retrofitting the history of U.S. intelligence around the assumption that the C.I.A. would inevitably emerge as the lead postwar organization.
Rundell, an Oxford scholar whose previous books have mostly been novels for children, titles her new biography of John Donne "Super-Infinite"—a word that would be equally at home in a mathematical theorem and a comic book. In fact, it was one of the poet's many neologisms, used to describe the world that waits for us after death: "an infinite, a super-infinite, an unimaginable space." For Rundell, it is a perfect example of Donne's "absurd, grandiloquent, courageous, hungry" style, the way he dislocated language in pursuit of extremes. Born in 1572, Donne was most widely known in his lifetime as a priest. He served as the dean of St. Paul's Cathedral from 1621 until his death, where his celebrated sermons—many of them pondering sickness and death—drew thousands. As a poet, Donne made a very different impression, seducing and mocking. In her attempt to fit these two faces together, Rundell writes with both the knowledge of an expert and the friendly passion of a proselytizer. Donne, she promises, "is protection against those who would tell you to narrow yourself, to follow fashion in your mode of thought." His writing expresses "what he knew with such precision and flair that we can seize hold of it, and carry it with us."
An urgent plea opens this nuanced exploration, by a veteran writer on religion, of our relationship to nature: if ecological disaster is to be avoided, Armstrong writes, "we need to recover the veneration of nature that human beings carefully cultivated for millennia." What follows is a tour of how various spiritual traditions conceive of nature, with a focus on a common thread: an understanding of the natural world as a unified whole shot through by "an immanent sacred force." This concept, prominent in Eastern thought, was also a feature of Western monotheist traditions before we began treating nature as "a mere resource." "While it is essential to cut carbon emissions," Armstrong writes, we also need to overhaul "our whole belief system."
This collection's title poem, which describes itself as "An Essay About Indigenous Hair Dos and Don'ts," mixes mythological and pop-cultural references with ruminations on female beauty, power, and inheritance: Medusa makes an appearance, as does Disney's "Pocahontas." Elsewhere, the poet, a Māori New Zealander, uses the film "Twilight" as a lens through which to examine racialized and gendered tensions of adolescence. Tibble's smart, sexy, slang-studded verse is fanciful and dramatic, revelling in the pains and the pleasures of contemporary young womanhood yet undergirded by an acute sense of history. Her voice remains sure-footed across many registers, and the book, at its best, functions as an atlas for learning to explore the world on one's own terms.
In a richly layered set of profiles, a noted legal correspondent chronicles efforts by female lawyers to bolster democracy during the Trump Presidency. Some figures are familiar (the voting-rights champion Stacey Abrams), others less so (a co-founder of an organization that helps refugees seeking asylum). For all these women—and for Lithwick, who writes about her own sexual harassment by a former federal judge—law isn't an "unassailable cathedral" but a "fragile arrangement of norms, suggestions, and rules." Constitutional progress often takes a slow, zigzagging path rather than a linear one, and it is this, Lithwick muses, that "allows it to preserve histories that might otherwise be erased."
Proulx's masterly exploration of the ecology and history of wetlands—and of humankind's seemingly unstoppable desire to drain them—makes a powerful case for their protection. Her account of her love of swamps was excerpted in the magazine.
In 1968, three years after T. S. Eliot's death, his drafts of "The Waste Land," long thought lost, were unearthed in the New York Public Library. First published in 1971, edited by Eliot's widow, they revolutionized the understanding of the poem's creation, by making apparent Ezra Pound's outsized editorial role, including many ruthless cuts, and also the input of Eliot's troubled first wife, Vivienne. These pages—some handwritten, some typewritten, with wordless loops and slashes scrawled across the text and brusque observations at the side—have become famous in their own right, and, for the hundredth anniversary of the poem's publication, the edition has been reissued, with extra material. If you badly wish to know how much Eliot spent on breakfast at the Albemarle Hotel, Margate, on the north coast of Kent, in October, 1921, your craving can now be satisfied, because his hotel bills are shown in all their glory. Few Eliot fans will be able to resist.
The first thorough Mondrian biography since the nineteen-fifties to be published in English, this book is audacious in structure. Janssen drew on his profound knowledge to dispense with strict chronology and to write not only about his subject's prodigious mind and eye but also from within them. Mondrian was born in the province of Utrecht in 1872 and came into his own during his first sojourn in Paris, beginning in 1911. Style, for Mondrian, served a quest to manifest soul-deep spirituality as a demonstrable fact of life. His aim, he said, was "to find things out." He hit by accident on the potency of diamond formats—square or squarish canvases rotated forty-five degrees—to hint at the extension, invisibly, of rectilinear layouts beyond their material bounds, perhaps to infinity. He needn't portray the complete universe. He could imply it.
The work camps in the Albertan oil sands are cut off from the outside world; their inhabitants are a shadow population, at home neither in the barracks where they sleep nor among the families they have left behind. The Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton spent two years in the oil sands, working at three different mines, in order to pay off her student loans. Beaton's remarkable account of this time, her first stand-alone book for adults, is both a graphic memoir and a work of reportage. "Ducks" is anchored by Beaton's own story, but it seeks to show her as typical of a much larger swath of workers who are lured to the oil sands at the cost of their health, their dignity, and sometimes their lives. As a comic artist, Beaton is distinguished by the attention that she brings to the spaces between the panels of her drawings. In "Ducks," she calls attention to a different kind of invisible space, and to the people who perform the punishing and lonely labor of the petroleum industry.
In this history of the Trump Presidency, Glasser, a staff writer, and Baker, a Times journalist, take us inside the White House to describe the fantastical degree of instability during Trump's time in office, and the growing gulf between his values and those of the officials that surrounded him. The book was excerpted in the magazine.
It's natural when trying to understand a reversal in reputation as spectacular as Rudy Giuliani's to wonder whether he was all that great to begin with, and Kirtzman's lively biography reviews Giuliani's entire career in that revisionist spirit. He details how Giuliani became regarded as a paragon of leadership because of his exemplary comportment in the aftermath of September 11th; and then how he quickly realized that his "reputation for integrity could be squeezed like a washcloth for all types of moneymaking ventures." By 2007, Giuliani's worth was estimated to be thirty million dollars. Yet his work for Donald Trump has reportedly brought him to the brink of bankruptcy. What happened? Giuliani was seduced by Mammon, Kirtzman suggests, and righteousness morphed into self-righteousness.
First published in German in 1963, and now reissued in a lucid translation, Haushofer's cult classic details the eerie experience of a woman who, on vacation in the Alps, wakes one morning to find she is entirely alone in the world, confined to a parcel of land by an invisible barrier. The narrator, alone with a few animals, establishes a kind of separatist commune deep in the woods. She spends much of the book shedding her old self. The novel is a dystopian one that gradually becomes a utopian one: our narrator makes a new community, creating a new life so fulfilling and engrossing that it is not clear she would wish to rejoin the old, ordinary, damaged society, even if she could. Haushofer's inhabitation of animality is remarkably tender.
In a travelogue exploring the cultural and historical richness of Naples, Kociejowski emerges as a great questioner. He professes to be shy, but something about his enthusiasm ("the engine that drives the universe," he notes) evidently elicits answers. Perhaps it's because he asks the right people, the kind of people you would glimpse in a foreign city and wish to get to know. His new book takes on some of the largest questions that come with searching for the soul of this stupendous city: Has paganism survived Christianity in subtle or not so subtle ways? Do people think differently about death when living in immediate reach of a large volcano? For all the book's exalted aims, though, the tone remains light, the content varied, the sense of mission wholly personal. The experience is more of an intellectual joyride than a standard history.
The apocalypse is a many-faced phenomenon in this collection, several poems from which were published in The New Yorker. Jones creates a kaleidoscope of shared and private grief—mass shootings, American racism, a mother's death—which also celebrates the ingenuity that it takes to survive.
Boyle, in his twelfth short-story collection, finds so much humor in the casual twists and turns of fate that you may forget that the stories address such serious subjects as alcoholism, COVID-19, and animal research. Several entries, including the title story, first appeared in the magazine.
The follow-up to Ma's début novel, "Severance," is a surreal and unnerving collection of stories that explores the nature of connection and autonomy. The story "Peking Duck" first appeared in the magazine's annual Fiction Issue.
In his virtuoso sixth collection, Means explores the ways in which we attempt to make sense of the past in order to achieve some kind of equilibrium in the present. The title story, among others, first appeared in the magazine.
In 2020, Mogelson, a staff writer known for his dispatches from war zones overseas, returned home to document a year of tumult in America. The pieces he filed from across the country climaxed in a remarkable first-person account of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol. Drawing on this work, his book searingly captures a country being torn apart both by phantom grievances and by genuine social injustice.
Like all of Strout's novels, this one has an anecdotal surface that belies a firm underlying structure. It begins with William, Lucy's first husband, from whom she is long divorced, plucking her from her mournfully comfortable existence in New York City when the pandemic begins. They relocate to a house perched on a cliff over a rocky shore in Maine. Holed up together, they start getting on each other's nerves, and revisit the tensions of their marriage. He tires of hearing her talk about the depressing plight of her brother; Lucy finds herself hating William every evening after dinner, because he doesn't really listen to her. Strout skillfully builds her fiction out of the little slights and kindnesses that make up the architecture of human relationships.
Picking up the plot nine months after his Pulitzer-winning "Less" left off, Greer's sequel sends Less, a gay middle-aged novelist, on another roving adventure, this one across the continental United States; the novel advances by way of a series of road-trip encounters with characters who are mostly also "characters." Less spends a great deal of time in R.V. parks, where he nervously tries to camouflage his sexuality by purchasing "a red bandanna, wraparound sunglasses, a hoot ’n’ holler T-shirt, flip-flops, a baseball cap, a cowboy hat, a bolo tie, and six miniature American flags." His countrymen often mistake him for a foreigner, a fair confusion when it comes to a member of that dreaded coastal caste, the publishing world. To a globe-trotting "Minor American Novelist," nowhere could be more exotic than America itself.
Serpell's second novel batters against the fixities of language like a moth at a windowpane. The main narrator recounts the story of how, when she was twelve, her seven-year-old brother Wayne disappeared beneath the ocean's waves, "the great grooves in the water" like furrows in a field. That story is, it turns out, a story, one account of how Wayne went away; whether or not the going away was a death cleaves the family. But, though the novel's story lines turn and twist, the precision of Serpell's language remains under exquisite control—while reminding us on every page that every story is necessarily an act of falsification.
Compiling four of Graham's recent poetry collections—"Sea Change," "Place," "Fast," and "Runaway"—this volume is a monumental exploration of consciousness in an age of ecological, political, and existential crisis. Several poems, including "I Won't Live Long," were originally published in The New Yorker.
Perched ambiguously between novel and oral history, this work of fiction is based on interviews that Scanlan conducted with an Iowa-born horse trainer named Sonia. She narrates Sonia's life in a series of vignettes that play out across the gritty, intoxicating fever dream of the horse-racing world, as Sonia travels from race to race, living in trailers and motels. Her life is bound by the constant, gruelling rhythm of her work—"Four o’clock feed, seven days a week"—but whenever she is talking about horses, tenderness cuts through her stoicism like vinegar through oil. The work is structured by recurring themes: the violence and pleasures of intimacy, the balm and exhaustion of hard work, our bonds with animals and with our own animal natures—those surges of desire and aggression that unseat and rearrange us.
The good news is that your son, Arkady, is home from university; the not-so-good news is that he's brought his dear friend Bazarov, a revolutionary who despises everything you wishy-washy liberals represent and has persuaded your son to join him in his "nihilist" creed. First published in 1862, in Russian, the book caused a furor upon its release. Young radicals felt targeted by the portrayal of the radical Bazarov (brilliant, intemperate, unaccountably rude); liberals felt that the book gave the radicals too much credit. Through the tensions between the ideological orientation of Arkady and Bazarov and that of their fathers, Turgenev probes the point at which belief tips over into fanaticism, and captures the inevitable rupture among parents and their children. This new English translation can be workmanlike and literal (starting with its title) but has inspired moments, and provides a worthy occasion to return to Turgenev's masterpiece.
The eight linked stories in this ravishing début largely concern three men living in Miami: an older man who fled Jamaica in the nineteen-seventies with his wife, Sanya; their elder son, a budding guitarist who's prone to wise-stoner tautologies ("We all have to be what we have to be"); and the younger son, bookish and ironic, and the most frequent narrator. Escoffery's fiction is marked by ingenuity. One tale unfolds in Jamaican patois; another dips in and out of Black American idioms. The book, about an immigrant family struggling to make ends meet, delights in mocking the trope of an immigrant family struggling to make ends meet. It feels thrillingly free.
Each panel in Jim Woodring's huge new graphic novel is drawn in a style that looks like an eccentric woodcut. The effect is something like Doré meets Dalí: stories of pure dream logic rendered as reverently as an etching of the infant Christ. Woodring has published four book-length comics and an enormous collection of short stories that follow the distressing adventures of his hero, a woodland creature called Frank, who lives in a dreamlike world filled with deserts, forests, minareted castles, hot-air balloons, a devil, and the occasional cylindrical chicken. The Frank stories are both foreign and lucid, a set of gnomic parables that always end in a puff of irony or ambiguity. They leave behind not broad moral lessons but the harsh laws and uncrossable boundaries that apply only in a fictional world unlike any other.
The gambit of Emi Yagi's début novel is seductive enough to prop up a more ordinary book: a woman in her mid-thirties, sick of being treated like dirt at her office job, pretends to be pregnant, causing her colleagues to shower her with accommodations. "Diary of a Void," translated into a rinsed, clear English by David Boyd and Lucy North, begins as a standard-issue workplace novel and turns into something deeper and weirder. Yagi wants to press on broad assumptions about life, vitality, and spirit, and where these qualities can be found. Blurring the lines between fertility and barrenness, the animate and the inanimate, "Diary of a Void" advances a passionate case for female interiority, for women's creative pulse and rich inner life. Why, the novel seems to ask, is it necessary to sequester life within certain borders, and to guard those borders so obsessively?
This timely book is an excellent, if gloomy, guide to the abuse (or maybe just the use) of an apparently mundane feature of our system of elections: districting. "The only traditional districting principle that has been ubiquitous in America since before the founding," Seabrook writes, "is the gerrymander itself." That's the way the system was set up: there was partisan gerrymandering even in the colonies. Seabrook goes on to detail, among other things, the way that New York's districting was solidified under a handshake agreement that gave each party control of the process for one legislative chamber; and how the gridlock, backroom dealing, and inequitable distribution of resources of what Seabrook calls New York's "criminal oligarchy" are a result of parties trying to create as many safe districts for their candidates as possible.
Grumbach is a quantitative political scientist, and his data suggest that, although some state governments have moved to the extremes, public opinion in those states has remained fairly stable. He therefore describes the country as "under entrenched minority rule." What explains the political shift, he thinks, is that all politics has become national. National groups, he maintains, have exploited low-information environments to increasingly dominate the state level of politics and freeze out the opposition. "Antidemocratic interests need only to take control of a state government for a short period of time," Grumbach points out, "to implement changes that make it harder for their opponents to participate in politics at all levels."
This latest offering from Simic, a longtime New Yorker contributor, features his signature impish, uncanny take on metaphysics. As he contemplates memory, death, and the detritus of daily life, Simic makes the world itself his interlocutor, projecting his imagination onto the inanimate and in-between.
A dancer, a singer, and the most celebrated night-club entertainer of her era, Josephine Baker might have been the smoothest operator of the twentieth century. She first captivated Parisians in 1925, when she appeared on the stage of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, nude save for her feathers. Had Baker's career been restricted to her role as an entertainer, it would have had the allure of a thriller. But, during the war years, she was also—as this book by a British journalist chronicles with much fresh detail—a spy in the most literal sense, using a touring performer's freedom of movement to transport intelligence documents. Later, the French government accorded her the Légion d’Honneur for military service.
This book gives us the writing lifetime of the reclusive, gnarly master of contemporary Australian literature: it reflects on his previous work, fourteen strange and brilliant books, most of them concerned with the twinned acts of reading and of writing about the act of reading. Murnane's supreme conviction as a writer is that the images in our mind may be more real than the objects that surround us, and his writing often gives the act of thinking a shape and a sound. These essays are an extraordinary effort made to retrieve an irretrievable entity: the time of thinking, the time of living, "the book being written continually on one's heart."
Delving into the histories of more than twenty beachfront locales, from the Jersey shore to Indonesia, this chronicle of corrosive tourism describes a pattern of overdevelopment that, in our current ecological moment, "implies an end to the beach vacation as we know it." The "nautical playgrounds" that Stodola surveys face coastal erosion, rising sea levels, wastewater leakage, and even Atlantis-like submersion. They also tend to segregate tourists from locals. Correctives such as taxing long-haul flights and transplanting man-made coral onto vanishing reefs can help, but Stodola believes that the resorts of the future will be "prohibitively expensive" and pushed back from the shore: the "paradise fantasy" must be reimagined, with the beach in a less central role.
Set amid New York's rare-book trade, this slow-burning début crime novel is also an atmospheric homage to the film "Chinatown." The narrator, a former corporate lawyer who now undertakes quasi-legal freelance work, is hired by a woman to investigate her husband's plans to sell a collection of old books owned by her family. The case leads him to A. M. Byrne, "the best American novelist under the age of fifty," and to Byrne's father, a wealthy businessman who has a scheme to redevelop the Brooklyn waterfront. The book is driven less by its plot than by a conflict between yearning and resignation. "Sometimes a conspiracy is just another word for life carrying on without you noticing it," the narrator says.
In these essays by a poet, arts writer, and self-identified "queer brown butch," encounters in Los Angeles and the Southwest with aging punks, border activists, lesbian legends, and others give rise to explorations of Latinx identity, cultural resistance, and the role of art. In one essay, Gutiérrez recounts a foray into the desert with a group of aid workers supplying water to migrants, and reflects on the "deep and complex matrices" that connect her to immigrants, including her Mexican father and Salvadoran mother. "I have been spared the experience of crossing the desert," she writes. Still, the landscape cannot be separated from its history of violence, and there is no desert vista "that doesn't have the uncanny attached to it."
This prickly-coy novel centers on two women who move to New York in the nineteen-nineties to become writers—or, as one of them, the narrator, puts it, "to be seen as an overpoweringly singular instance of late-twentieth-century womanhood." The women meet and become friends while working at a music magazine, but the narrator opens her account by telling us that she and the other woman no longer speak. What shattered the friendship? Bauer is a crackerjack chronicler of the slide into humility which follows ravenous early adulthood, when "we felt that we owed the books we’d read proof that we were as open and free as they had commanded us to be."
The chief of pediatric neurosurgery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Wellons writes unsparingly of his chosen specialty, and "the nearly unbearable pain that we must at times unleash upon our patients." We see Wellons operate on patients with tumors, blood-vessel malformations, brain swelling, developmental problems, and damage from trauma. The severity of the situations he confronts becomes an opportunity to prevent the direst outcomes, "not always, but most of the time." He tells a number of stories in which he takes responsibility for irreparable mistakes. But he avoids growing isolated by perfectionism and imperiousness, turning to colleagues and mentors who reconcile him to human imperfection.
In this novel of remembrance and regret, Zuhour, an Omani student at a British university, obsessed with the possibility of "regaining or restoring just one moment from the past," reflects on her grandmother, who has recently died. Described by Zuhour as a "mountain" of fortitude, she was born the daughter of a renowned horseman who left the family after the death of her mother. Much of the grandmother's life story takes place in the context of devastating waves of drought, inflation, and famine, and Alharthi marshals these elements to construct a mosaic of history with women's crushing vulnerability at its center.
This ambitious history offers the first unified picture of resistance against Nazi Germany in the many countries it invaded, including Poland, where the Reich's brutality sparked immediate rebellion; the Balkans, where partisan activity devolved into civil war; and France, where collaborationist policies delayed the population's sense of urgency. Kochanski examines clandestine presses, intelligence efforts, sabotage, armed uprisings, and civilian protests, noting that resisters’ motives and methods varied widely, and that some stories have been distorted by nationalist narratives. Dispensing with heroics and highlighting the imperfect, human nature of the underground, she nevertheless depicts a vital defense of dignity, spirit, and the future, mounted against all odds.
During the investigation of a bomb scare on the Paris Métro, the nameless passenger who narrates this novel recounts her journey from postwar Hanoi to twenty-first-century Belleville and reflects on her past marriage to an architect belonging to Vietnam's Han Chinese minority. When border disputes with China sparked Sinophobia in Hanoi, he abandoned her and their son and headed for Saigon's populous Chinatown. Aside from glimpses of a book that the narrator is writing, the novel unfolds in one unbroken paragraph, a virtuosic stream-of-consciousness mapping of the afterlives of diaspora.
One of America's first Black writers to achieve international acclaim, Dunbar was born to former slaves, in 1872. After submitting his writing to newspapers in his mid-teens, he went on to become a literary celebrity, reciting his poems on regional tours. However, his most popular work, dialect poetry, made him feel like "a caged bird," forced to pander to white audiences. In this biography, Jarrett aims to cut through "the myths of his celebrity to the facts of his life." Drawing on Dunbar's sizable correspondence with friends, family, and benefactors, Jarrett illustrates his struggle to reconcile his professional success with a sense of himself as a failure—an errant husband, an alcoholic, and, above all, a Black artist who couldn't liberate his community from racial stereotypes.
Nowhere in the novels of Laxness (1902-1998) is the conflict between the shining ideal of socialism and the dignity of individual people on plainer display than in this one from 1931, and the new translation captures the Icelandic writer's singular dour-droll tone with uncanny grace. Roiling with "unruly vitality," young Salka arrives with her mother one night in a coastal village. Tall and strong, she's determined to buy herself a pair of trousers soon "and stop being a girl." Surviving the predations of a local drunk, Salka falls for a Communist revolutionary—but she's too alive as a character to conform to any ideology.
In this evocative memoir of working as a seasonal farmhand in upstate New York and Vermont, Gaydos offers what, at first, reads like a straightforward catalogue of farm life: how pigs are raised and slaughtered; how radishes are harvested; where farmhands sleep. But the tranquil simplicity belies a deeper purpose. The farms where Gaydos works are independent, their output extremely vulnerable to the whims of nature; she has seen crops fail and "worms rot a flock of sheep from the hooves up." And people are scarcely less vulnerable than livestock: a farmhand contracts Lyme disease; Gaydos has a miscarriage. Our dominion over nature, it becomes clear, is incomplete. The reason Gaydos likes farming, she writes, is that "one simply must accept the outcome."
A random moment of luck sets this novel in motion: Bonnie, a thirtysomething grocery-store worker plagued by a persistent sense of "wrongness" and by memories of a traumatic robbery, wins the lottery and gets the chance to leave her old life behind. She decides to exist in her favorite TV show, "Three's Company"—by moving alone to a rural locale, re-creating all the show's sets, and the characters’ lives, one after another. "So many people wanted to solve their problem of self," she thinks. "I wanted to trash it entirely." When external forces intrude—in the form of storms, urban explorers, an old friend who's determined to save her from herself—Bonnie is forced to reckon with the controlled world she has created.
Kiara, the narrator of this searing novel, is a seventeen-year-old high-school dropout in East Oakland, California, who has to take care of the boys in her life—an immature older brother, an addict-neighbor's young son—despite not having anyone to take care of her. After a man forces himself on her, she reasons that her body will be used with or without her consent and turns to sex work. Her johns range from men as destitute as she is to the local police. Careful not to portray Kiara as a victim, Mottley shows us the pleasures of family, friendship, and love. The result is an intimate portrait of a young Black woman searching for autonomy and fulfillment in a society designed to deny her both.
The Dominica-born British novelist Jean Rhys (1890-1979), whose "Wide Sargasso Sea" (1966) became a key text in feminist and post-colonial literature, lived a tempestuous bohemian life—rich in marriages, affairs, drink-fuelled rows—much of which she mined to create the heroines of her first four novels. This enthralling new biography powerfully evokes the Caribbean world of Rhys's girlhood, whose dynamics of prejudice, abuse, and complicity she never really escaped, and her later life, through which the constant theme of poverty runs like a watermark through a pound note. But, where other biographers have read Rhys's works in a reductive spirit of quasi-psychiatric diagnosis, Seymour shows that Rhys's heroines are not mere alter egos, and, refreshingly, treats the novels as fully autonomous works of art.
Auletta, a contributor since 1977, writes about the life, career, and downfall of the former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, whom he first profiled in 2002. His account of Weinstein's criminal trial in New York was excerpted in the magazine.
The creation of a market for Picasso's work in the United States took almost thirty years, from the first American Picasso show, in 1911, to the MOMA blockbuster ("Picasso: Forty Years of His Art"), in 1939, which, Eakin writes, "electrified the city." His book isn't really about Picasso; rather, it offers a gripping and thorough history of modern American taste-making. Its principals are the dealers, gallery owners, curators, and critics who make up the art world—figures like John Quinn, a collector, and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art. Modern art's journey to American success, we learn, was propelled by transatlantic cultural exchange and the mysterious and ever-shifting elements that combine to create cultural prestige.
When the Internet-culture reporter Kaitlyn Tiffany first encountered One Direction, the summer after her freshman year at college, she was sad and sick of herself. Her first impressions of the British-Irish boy band—bland songs, "too much shiny brown hair"—were overtaken by a weird sense of enchantment. Tiffany's wistful, winning, and unexpectedly funny book sets out to explain why she "and millions of others needed something like One Direction as badly as we did," and "how the things we did in response to that need changed the online world for just about everybody." One of Tiffany's most provocative arguments is that fans have drafted the Internet's operating manual. She also evokes the intimacy of the fan-artist relationship: how your chosen mania can become the lens through which you process the world. The book draws intriguing parallels between fandom and religious experience, teasing out the mystical quality of fans’ devotion, how oddly close we can feel to icons we’ve never met.
Based on chats with real-life couples, de Recat's book ruminates on the nature of love and includes hilarious and poignant details from the relationships that the author surveyed. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
One of America's first champion thoroughbreds, Lexington (1850-75), stands at the center of this deft novel, which moves between the present day and the Civil War era in a polyphonic examination of the fraught racial aspects of horse racing in U.S. history. Theo, a Nigerian American art historian, finds a portrait of a horse in his neighbor's trash, and meets Jess, an Australian scientist who is involved in analyzing the recently discovered skeleton of a powerful stallion. Back in Lexington's lifetime, we meet his young groom, Jarret, living in slavery and torn between his desire for freedom and his devotion to the animal. These narratives and others gradually fit together to create a picture of the artistic, athletic, and scientific passions that horses can inspire in humans.
Afraid of jeopardizing the Vatican's precarious neutrality during the Second World War, Pius XII was so reluctant to upset Mussolini and Hitler that he refused to publicly condemn the slaughter of Europe's Jews. Yet he has retained many defenders, and his legacy has been much debated, in part because his papers were sealed until 2020. Drawing on these newly available documents, this history offers both a masterly character study of a flawed, tormented leader and a cautionary tale about the perils of both-sides-ism. Although the Pope managed to protect the papacy during a tumultuous period, Kertzer definitively concludes that "as a moral leader, Pius XII must be judged a failure."
Ten thousand years of British history are condensed in a book that seeks to explain what led to Brexit. A pattern emerges in which Continental innovations (in agriculture, technology, religion, and governance) have invariably pushed northwestward, with the Isles repeatedly facing encroachment and population replacement. The pattern was disrupted in the imperial age, but this, Morris contends, was a blip, whereas the anxieties that produced Brexit—immigration, identity, ownership—represent the norm. Looking to the future, Morris predicts that, as the globe continues to shrink, "Beijing, not Brussels," will become the focus of Britain's encroachment angst.
In this novel of medieval grotesquerie, Lapvona is a realm where cruelty reigns. Marek, a disfigured boy, and his father, Jude, a shepherd, live a life of squalor until an accident results in Marek's being adopted by Lapvona's slovenly lord, Villiam. While Marek grows fat on the castle's delicacies, Jude and the other villagers go hungry during a drought. Alternating between scenes of idle decadence and of desperate struggle for survival, the novel abounds with violence, cannibalism, and magic, while human compassion flickers only occasionally. Moshfegh's brutal vision can make for grim reading, but it has a coherence that is rare in contemporary fiction.
The primary tension in Rivera Garza's fiction is between the unruly intensities of sexual desire and the political disciplining of the body, and it's at its most concentrated in this latest translation of the Mexican-born writer's work. The book assembles pieces from three collections first published in Spanish, and adds a new collection of flash fiction. In her earliest fiction, we are introduced to a recurrent narrator named Xian, "a slacker and occasional thief and queer liar," who slinks through the world with an attractive insouciance; in another collection, men seeking women from their pasts trip from one metaphysical plane to another—from dream world to waking life, from the harsh present to the glow of memory.
This concluding novel in an epic historical trilogy about Cameroon reimagines a nation by reimagining the novel: ranging back and forth across time, weaving real-world figures amid fictional characters, and shifting among languages to powerful effect. Tanou, a middle-aged professor at an American university, attempts to come to terms with his father's history, one entwined with the birth of the Cameroonian state. Tanou's immense thirst for his father's recognition and approval is the emotional engine that powers the novel, even as his father's far more dramatic history of colonial tragedy unspools around it; ultimately, the two narratives fuse into one, yielding a singularly complex interrogation of the relationship between thought and action, between writing and the world.
In this reissue of a 2013 classic of trans fiction, twenty-nine-year-old Maria Griffiths addresses other trans women in popular blog posts on the early-two-thousands Internet, showing, through her own life, where trans women often go wrong. But Maria can't get her offline life together. The novel brilliantly contrasts the useful things she says with the dumb things she does. A road trip to Nevada, in a car stolen from her ex-girlfriend, is her attempt to find out what she really wants. The book introduces its readers to a trans woman's consciousness from the inside while strenuously resisting what Burt calls the "Trans 101" stance; it does not, as Binnie says in a new afterword, seek "validation from cis people." The tone is defiant, terse, not quite cynical, and sometimes flip. Authenticity, not uplift, is the point.
In this collection of articles that originally appeared in The New Yorker, Keefe, a staff writer, finds artful dodgers lurking across the globe—from Wall Street boardrooms and Amsterdam apartments to West African mines.
Assassinated in 1942 by Czechoslovak resistance fighters, the Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich left few traces of his life, but Dougherty, who died in 2013, spent decades researching this account of his rise, most notably through interviews with Heydrich's widow, Lina. The son of an opera singer, Heydrich was dismissed from the Navy before becoming Heinrich Himmler's deputy and then the head of the Gestapo. Dubbed "the man with the iron heart" by Hitler, he comes across as an opportunist rather than as a true believer. Lina, willfully refusing to accept her husband's role in atrocities, claims that his importance is "always overrated." In photographs, she says, "he's shown where he really belongs, always in the second rank."
Approaching the arch-Romantic poet through "Nine Poems and One Epitaph," this brief biography blends close readings of Keats's output with anecdotes gleaned from his letters and the accounts of contemporaries. Miller draws parallels between art and life—"To Autumn" is linked to political unrest, "The Eve of St. Agnes" to a woman with whom Keats had a relationship—without insisting on perfect correspondences. There are some personal asides, but the focus is on Keats's complex life and style, and the book's deftness and passion make it an excellent introduction to a poet who remains influential for his ambiguities and for language that "resists any final definition."
Expanding on a study published in France in 1984, a noted linguist surveys the history of language invention, an enterprise undertaken by centuries of "lunatic lovers of language," for reasons philosophical, political, artistic, and arcane. Yaguello recounts the utopian impulses behind projects like Esperanto and Volapük; speculative fiction's explorations of linguistic theory; and the search, rooted in Judeo-Christian mythology, for an original, universal tongue. The mind-bending nature of the book's subject, which offers seemingly infinite paths of inquiry, could overwhelm, but Yaguello relates the material with gusto, offering an idiosyncratic, illuminating perspective on the development of Western thought.
This richly textured history of a place "equal parts real and imagined," which has served as a queer summertime mecca for more than a century, unfolds like a pageant, populated by notable figures who have sought sun, sex, and solace on its beaches. Against a backdrop of tea dances, costume parties, and anonymous sexual encounters, we meet W. H. Auden, smoking at daybreak; Patricia Highsmith, brawling in Duffy's Bar; Frank O’Hara, killed by a dune buggy. Parlett captures the giddy excesses, but his real aim is to show how a community sought to define, protect, liberate, and celebrate themselves, realizing "the fantasy of a world away from shame and silence."
In the artist Anne Truitt's final journal, the prose is as unembellished and direct in impact as her sculptures. Truitt remained an evenhanded witness to her own life, the pleasure of visits from grandchildren running alongside her grief at a friend's passing. As in her art, Truitt was constantly making monoliths of memory—including the moment a half century before when she understood what she wanted to do with her life: "And one day . . . it occurred to me that if I made a sculpture it would just stand there and time would roll over its head and the light would come and the light would go and it would be continuously revealed." Her journals offer a model of discipline and open-ended inquiry and a welcome counterweight to the kind of anxieties that so often accompany a creative practice.
The Japanese lieutenant Hiroo Onoda emerged from hiding, in 1974, after fighting the Second World War for twenty-nine years. He’d been deployed to the Philippine island of Lubang in 1944, when he was twenty-two, and had received secret orders to hold his position even as the Imperial Army withdrew from its airfield there. Trained in military intelligence, he dismissed all outside communication as propaganda. The director Werner Herzog has made Onoda the subject of his wondrous first novel. In Herzog's lightly mythologized version of the story, Lubang exists outside of time, and Onoda's war has the eerie gravity of a thought experiment come to life. Herzog, who has made a career studying the emptiness of meaning-making, celebrates his subject's crusade even as he dismisses its abject triviality; it takes a kindred spirit to admire someone who held himself hostage to a lost cause.
Tracy Flick, the teen-age star of "Election," Perrotta's 1998 novel, was ambitious, assertive, a little crazed in her quest to become student-body president. She seemed in the suburbs but not of them: destined for genuine greatness. She could not have known how the world—illness, economic hardship, grief—would crush her, conspiring with sexism to stamp out her hope, her spark. This sequel, set in New Jersey around the end of 2018 and imbued with the author's sense of ironized grace, finds Tracy, now in her mid-forties, grappling with topics that were only nascent in "Election": What does it mean to be special? What is the nature of success, of failure? The book pores over these questions like an honors student before midterms.
Although structured around a retracing of significant walks taken by Henry David Thoreau, this book quickly reveals itself to be less a historical reënactment than a series of meditations on the things that, now as then, fill our lives—breakups and new relationships, family history and its reverberations, nature and our rapidly changing place within it—all informed by Thoreau's luminous, lyrical prose. From the shores of Cape Cod to the heights of Mt. Katahdin, Shattuck finds moments of sublimity (the call of a loon, the comfort of friendship) and disillusionment (health problems, tourists), but his main message is the primacy of love, for both the people around us and the world we inhabit.
Having once been a pupil at the ultra-preppy boarding school where he teaches, Sam Brandt, the protagonist of this novel, is approached by the headmaster to investigate a recent allegation of a decades-old sexual assault by an unspecified faculty member. As Sam starts digging, we are transported back to 1964, where febrile schoolboy crushes abound and students are enraptured by one particularly charismatic teacher. Meanwhile, Sam is forming a sense of his own gay identity, after spending his adulthood closeted and married. The book neatly encompasses much of modern gay history—pre-Stonewall secrecy, AIDS, today's climate of openness—but, as Sam mulls the paths his classmates have taken, it also becomes a sensitive evocation of late middle age.
In postwar Oxford, the four philosophers at the heart of this absorbing history—Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch—came together to give new life to moral philosophy. As Mac Cumhaill and Wiseman write, prewar British philosophy had been dominated by logical positivists who dismissed inquiry into the nature of goodness as "nonsense." But the war presented urgent moral questions, not to mention new opportunities for women in academia. In the following decades, each of this book's subjects produced work that, in seeking to reconnect "human life, action and perception" with morality, remains vitally relevant.
Part travelogue, part geopolitical study, this freewheeling book examines the kaleidoscopic histories and cultures of the countries fringing the Adriatic Sea. Kaplan begins in Italy, contemplating the region's ascendancy under the Venetian Republic, and then enters the "more politically fragile terrain" of Slovenia and Montenegro. His central thesis is that the Adriatic may soon, once again, take on global significance, as the Western maritime terminus of China's Belt and Road Initiative; Trieste will be linked with Hong Kong. Today's Adriatic, Kaplan writes, is a "geographical metaphor for an age that is passing: the modern age itself in Europe."
When Bran, the protagonist of this offbeat bildungsroman, is ten years old, her mother joins a Buddhist colony, abandoning her to the dubious care of her common-law stepfather. His family belongs to a motorcycle gang, evades taxes on principle, houses Bran in a mice-infested lean-to, and compels her to work unpaid in its plant nursery. Yet Bran emerges into her twenties with a cheerfully demented optimism. She sheep-sits for strangers, works as a barista, makes avant-garde student films, and falls in love with a magnetic, disturbed college student, who introduces her to literature. He praises the artless outlook that makes Bran and the novel captivating: "You’re still using your eyes to see the world, instead of adopting the proper skewed perspective of an egomaniac."
Set in London, this quick-footed and absorbing novel begins with Yasmin, a young doctor, newly engaged, fretting about her Indian-born parents’ meeting with the mother of her fiancé, Joe. In front of this woman, a wealthy white feminist activist, Yasmin cringes at her mother's clothes and her sincere father's imperviousness to sarcasm, "a level of Englishness to which he could never aspire." The playful clash of cultures evolves into a subtle exploration of the ways in which both immigrant and nonimmigrant families have shaped their children, transmitting unexplored trauma across generations. As Joe tries to maintain boundaries with his mother, his therapist tells him, "What we do not know controls us."
This history of American labor places today's resurgence of union activity in the context of past struggles, ranging from the textile mills of New England in the eighteen-forties to the emergence of flight attendants, in the nineteen-thirties. Employers, seeking "docility" in marginalized people, have sometimes pitted groups against one another: in response to Chinese-exclusion policies, Hawaiian sugar-plantation owners brought in Japanese workers, who were in turn replaced by Filipinos. Kelly's broad view makes it possible to see resonances across history and locale. Like the New York garment workers who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, in 1911, many of the Bangladeshi workers killed in the Dhaka factory collapse of 2013 made clothes for American companies.
The author of this memoir reckons with her mother's suicide, a decade ago in Grand Canyon National Park, and with the agonizing conviction that she was to blame for it. Not long before, Trujillo had told her mother that her stepfather had sexually abused her for years. In unvarnished prose, she conjures the despair that gripped her in the aftermath of the death: "My grandma blamed me, as did my mom's sister and her brother." Later, Trujillo, a journalist, uses park-service reports to reconstruct a time line of her mother's final journey. Hoping thereby to understand her mother's decision, she instead confronts how, in cases of suicide, "only one person ‘gets’ an ending; the rest of us are left with a story abandoned mid-sentence."
Having a devoted, dependable girlfriend doesn't stop Eve, the narrator of this début novel, from posting nude selfies online or from becoming involved with a couple, Olivia and Nathan, who respond to the pictures. Olivia is a painter with a day job at a family investment firm, where Nathan is her boss. Eve finds herself intoxicated by Nathan's masculinity, which draws her into "a state of grotesque candor," even as she frets over Olivia's well-being and struggles to reconcile her ideas of gender politics with the discovery of pleasure and abandon. Her adventure, she realizes, presents all the issues that preoccupy her—"desire, sex, gender, attention, intimacy, vanity, and power"—in such a way that she can "study them like fruit in a bowl."
In this antic fantasy of European politics, narrated by a fictionalized version of the author, an enigmatic friend of his designs "a clinic of the past," which soothes Alzheimer's patients with environments from a time they can still remember. As the treatment gains prominence, feverish nostalgia grips the continent. People dress up in national costumes, and there is a Brexit-style referendum to return to the past (though the countries disagree on the era). In the East, there are socialist rallies and even a re-assassination of Franz Ferdinand. "History is still news," Gospodinov writes, cunningly drawing attention to the violence that the past wreaks on the present.
From roughly 1910 to 1960, Cape Cod was a yeasty outpost for lefty artists and intellectuals—"Greenwich Village sunburnt," as the editor Floyd Dell said of Provincetown. Mary McCarthy lived and set her barbed novel "A Charmed Life" on the Cape. Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams felt able to do their best work there. Robert Motherwell wrote of "the radiant summer light of Provincetown that rivals the Greek islands." In this admiring chronicle, the author shows how, across half a century of tippling, rabble-rousing, and bed-hopping on the Cape, "a movement that shaped American art, literature, design, and theater rose and fell like the tides on its shores."
In the history of the bicycle, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. As Rosen relates, the Laufmaschine was invented in 1817: it had a wooden frame, a leather saddle, two in-line wheels, and no pedals; you scooted around on it. In England, they_ _were called "swiftwalkers." Lately, posh toddlers, the newest preschool jet set, roll around on modern swiftwalkers, marketed as "wooden balance bikes." If you bike all your life, there's a fair chance you’ll bike the whole history of bicycles—a history that this book examines through a set of quirky and kaleidoscopic stories. To ride a bike is to come as close to flying by your own power as humans ever will, Rosen observes. No part of you touches the ground. You ride on air.
Levin Becker disapproves of those who would insist on "instrumentalizing rap as a vector of sociopolitical insight without also revelling and rejoicing in its vital sense of play." Rhyme is, of course, central to rap, and a key part of Levin Becker's mission is to defend rap's frequent use of imperfect rhymes as a superior form of "slanting" language, responsive to American speech in all its variety. What emerges is an argument that American hip-hop, wrongly characterized as an "authentic" form of expression, a "street" idiom, is both levelling and exalting; it has renewed the language of American song by broadening its resources and sharpening its ear.
Guriev and Treisman offer a social-scientific perspective on the mechanics of new autocrats and their common world view. They draw a yin-and-yang distinction between "fear dictators," the classic kind, and "spin dictators," the contemporary kind. What emerges as the central observation is that the new generation of authoritarians, whether fully fledged or still aspirant, as in the U.S., usually exploit the apparent levers of democratic politics but use more discreet forms of manipulation to extend their rule: rather than cancel elections, they rig them; rather than outlaw opposition media, they marginalize them; sooner than start a gulag, they put constraints on Google.
Gunn's letters are a primer both on literature and on the poet himself, a British expatriate who spent most of his life in San Francisco, and who had a tendency, in his work, to hide in plain sight. In these letters, he relays the aftermath of his mother's suicide and the losses he experienced during the AIDS crisis in tones of measured anguish; the letters are also full of his love for leather and motorcycles, and his sometimes childlike reaching for the ecstatic. If death is the most vivid, indelible thing life offers us, Gunn's writing asks again and again, how do we make the best of both life and death?
As the nation confronts a deepening struggle with inequality, political unrest, and a climate in crisis, McKibben, a longtime contributor, looks back at two events that occurred during his childhood in Lexington, Massachusetts—the birthplace of the revolution—to try to understand how we got here. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
The twilight of careers underpins these kaleidoscopic musings on artistic and sporting endeavors. Dyer considers the late phase of Bob Dylan, the mythology surrounding Nietzsche's decline and death, and the drive of talented people to keep going. Andy Murray, hobbled by injury, "persisted in coming back for more even if more meant less and less"; Willem de Kooning, blind and suffering from dementia, made paintings in which "the obstacle became the path." An irony of endings, Dyer writes, is that "lastness is oddly self-perpetuating. For a while at least, one last thing generates and leads to another."
The sisters from the author's previous novel, "A Girl Returned"—a stoic narrator and her fiery younger sister, Adriana—reappear in this unsettling companion tale. The narrator, now a professor in France, returns to her home town, on the coast of Abruzzo, after Adriana has a mysterious accident. Her renewed immersion in the town's social rhythms, particularly in the gritty fishermen's quarter, brings back powerful memories—of the end of her marriage to a gentle yet duplicitous husband, of Adriana's harried arrival at her house with a baby. "I felt intensely the unease of being her sister," the narrator says of Adriana, as she moves fluidly between the past and the present, sifting years of unarticulated emotions.
This book on the plight of coral reefs spikes the normally glum discourse about ocean conservation with a measure of capitalist techno-optimism, arguing that a combination of marine science and smart business could yet bring salvation. The heroes here are various public-private partnerships: commercial coral farms in Bali; a reef-restoration project in Sulawesi; debt swaps and "blue bonds" for ocean protection in Seychelles; even a geo-engineered "cloud brightening" plan for the Great Barrier Reef. Berwald interweaves the insights of conservationists and entrepreneurs with a parallel narrative of her daughter's struggles with O.C.D., suggesting that complex problems call for radical solutions.
In his engaging new book, the historian Richard White investigates the mysterious death of Jane Stanford, the widow of the railroad tycoon Leland Stanford, in 1905. When a violent spasm threw her from her bed, Stanford had told the doctor who rushed to her care, "I have been poisoned." Authorities insisted that Stanford could not have been murdered, for the kindly widow had no enemies. But as White investigates her murder he finds that Stanford's sanitized public persona masked a reality that was both more scandalous and more strange. The mystery of her death turns out to hinge on the mystery of her life: how a woman at the turn of the twentieth century could amass such power, and how she could disguise that power from the public.
A foreign-policy maven's account of how recent demagogues have come to power and used the tools of our time—social media, the society of spectacle—to promote one-man rule and the suppression of dissent, the book excels in the mordant detailing of its profiles. It contains portrayals of certain second-tier autocrats—less famous than Putin and Erdoğan, but exemplary of the rise of what Naím calls "3P" (populist, polarizing, and post-truth) politicians. He details how these autocrats often follow a similar, and, to Americans, depressingly familiar route: after improbable success as loudmouth entertainers, not taken seriously by the political establishment, they attract a passionate minority and then, suddenly, they’re in power.
Dayle's witty collection of stories provides social commentary with a satirical twist, breaking down American racism and politics. The book was excerpted in the magazine.
This sequel to Batuman's first novel, "The Idiot," takes her protagonist, Selin, through sophomore year of college and a hilarious and poignant series of intellectual and sexual explorations. The novel was excerpted in the magazine.
These three intricate novellas converge on the author's home city, Shenyang, recalling the gritty neighborhoods of his childhood, in the early nineties, which were populated by drunks, gamblers, and laid-off factory workers. In sparse, vernacular prose, Shuang uses fabulist noir to evoke the pace of social change: a hollow-boned inventor dreams of creating a flying machine; children fall into an icy lake and encounter a gigantic fish; a string of violent carjackings dredges up submerged memories. "The past has nothing to do with the present," one character admonishes, and Shuang's multi-voiced narratives both challenge and confirm that maxim, conveying the contested legacies of recent Chinese history.
"Controlling what you wear is a proxy for controlling what you do," Hyland writes in this examination not only of fashion but also of sartorial life more generally. Hyland finds meaning in what we wear, whether in the nineteenth-century vogue for bloomers or in courtroom attire, which is chosen to convey its wearer's respectability. Indeed, even an anti-fashion impulse can yield fashionable results. Hyland shows how normcore, which "annihilated the idea of personal style and its emphasis on individuality," arose as a street look just as online forums for self-expression, such as blogs and Instagram, were becoming coöpted by corporate sponsors.
Ehrman follows up his masterly history of concepts of the afterlife with one about narratives in which a living soul—like Dante led by Virgil—is given a tour of what awaits us after death. Focussing on pre-Christian and early-Christian literature, Ehrman shows how Homer's egalitarian afterlife, where all meet the same fate, gave way to Virgil's version, where an elect few enjoy eternal rewards while the rest suffer torments. Early Christians imagined Hell as a punishment for nonbelievers, but it was gradually cast as an elaborate realm that terrorized even the faithful. As Ehrman notes, in every era, such tales aimed to teach readers "how to live in the here and now."
Queer, young, and finishing her first novel at an artists’ residency, the narrator of this unusual erotic tale is the last person who would expect to find herself in bed with a rich and powerful older man. Even more challenging to her self-conception is that the man, a successful choreographer, is intent on dominating her, in the bedroom and beyond—and that she enjoys submitting to him. Her queer friends are horrified that she would, as her roommate puts it, be "some man's little woman," but the narrator finds this less constrictive than her old life. Songsiridej's sex scenes are notably arresting, both in their urgency and in the way they reveal competing interpretations of the erotic domain.
A mother of two, Angela Garbes spent most of the first year and a half of the pandemic both caring for her children and struggling to write. The experience led her to examine how caregiving "came to be seen as naturally female, which is to say invisible and undervalued," and why it's conceived as "low-wage labor, rather than highly skilled work that is essential, creative, and influential." She began to see her frustrations mirrored all around her, as a larger reckoning with the broken American care structure began emerging in the news. "Essential Labor" is Garbes's attempt to harness the parental desperation and civic potential of the past two years. It's partly a history of caregiving in the United States. It's also a call for a guaranteed decent income for domestic workers and caregivers, parents included. Above all, it is an argument that care should be public and universal—that the grace and affirmation that women are asked to bestow on their children should not be limited to mothers, or to parents, or to the private sphere. As a lived-in argument for radicalized parenting, "Essential Labor" is a landmark and a lightning storm, a gift that will be passed hand to hand for years.
Wittgenstein's surviving notebooks from the first half of the First World War, now available in the first facing-page English translation, contain remarks that are clearly an embryonic form of the "Tractatus," along with personal remarks on religion, masturbation, and the quotidian business of being at war. Taken out of context, Wittgenstein's philosophical remarks can seem perilously close to kitsch, or mere displays of cleverness. But he possessed a virtue rarer than cleverness: that of depth. He rarely doubted his authority to tell people how to live, and, even now, seven decades after his death, his conduct and character continue to invite lively speculation.
With an uncanny grasp of the irrational forces at work in society, this novel navigates a reality riven by violence, race, class, and sex. It vividly depicts an ailing society inured to its own cruelty, and Melchor's supple sentences are alive to the rhythms of speech. The book largely takes place in the gated community of Paradais, but it is firmly situated in the teen-age male psyche: that of Polo, who works in Paradais as a gardener. The milieu is largely one of luxury and wealth, insulated from what happens outside its perimeter. All borders are porous, however, and this porousness, in the shape of the unlikely friendship between Polo and the odious Franco, another teen-ager who lives in the community with his grandparents, will harrow the supposed sanctuary.
An interest in genealogy, for those not drawn to it, can seem "at best, embarrassing, if not a sign of narcissism and pitiable aspiration," Newton acknowledges in this candid account about her own genealogical obsession. But, whatever you think about genealogy, it has profound ramifications for you. Family and citizenship law codifies privileges and exclusions based on lineage. Today's addictive Web sites and sleekly packaged DNA kits rest on deep, if not always acknowledged, assumptions about the fixity of status, race, ethnicity, and nationality. Newton has a keen appreciation for the way ancestry inflects the social, material, legal, and medical conditions of nearly everybody's life, and she illuminates how each way that humans have conceived of ancestry has been layered onto others.
After Friend's erudite, emotionally remote father dies, he comes across a cache of his personal writings and begins to reassess his family history. The result is a memoir that traces generations of crosscurrents of love, ambition, and unresolved yearning. Friend is a staff writer, and an excerpt from the book ran in the magazine.
In the heightened climate crisis imagined in this novel, birds drop en masse from the sky and heat waves cause baseball players to faint mid-game. Willa, the daughter of paranoid survivalists, leaves Boston for the Bahamas in search of a group of eco-warriors, led by a man who propounds a carbon-negative life style calculated to appeal to society's élite, offering "the promise of more, not less." Willa's account of what happens when the leader goes missing is intercut with scenes from her earlier life, involving her influencer-wannabe cousins, dumpster diving, and her infatuation with a Harvard professor. Partly satirical, the book is also an urgent, absorbing story that asks how we are meant to live.
The marginalized residents of Lagos in this début novel—queer lovers, restless spirits, and survivors of sexual violence—rely on increasingly fantastical forms of disguise in order to survive: lies, masks, bodysuits. But true salvation comes from self-revelation and the community that it forges. Village women sharing stories of abuse vanish into thin air, leaving their abusers abandoned. A dominatrix transmutes her clients’ shame until it is "submitted, regulated, rewritten into power." Socialites relate their sorrows to a dressmaker, who then creates outfits to conceal pain. In a world that seeks to consign to the shadows those who don't conform, Osunde's vagabonds act as an illuminating force for one another. "If they say we don't exist," a woman asks her lover, "how come I can see you?"
Taking its title from that of George Balanchine's first American ballet, which premièred in 1934, this personal history by a former New York City Ballet dancer blends various accounts of the work's—and the company's—creation and evolution. In addition to providing a wealth of ballet lore, trivia, and insightful interpretation, Bentley is not afraid to get technical; she describes steps, combinations, entrances, and exits from the perspective of the corps. In endeavoring to conjure the transcendent lyricism of Balanchine's vision and Tchaikovsky's score, the book goes further, touching on deeper, stranger ideas about the symbiosis between life and art.
Alice, the protagonist of Lisa Hsiao Chen's engrossing début novel, has constructed her life around an amorphous "project" that involves learning all she can about Tehching Hsieh, the Taiwanese American artist who engaged in a series of yearlong performance pieces in the late seventies and early eighties. When Alice isn't working on her project, she is tending to her stepfather, who suffers from dementia; his demise is meandering and cruelly slow. Her thoughts often drift back to Hsieh, who provides a model for living slowly, deliberately, and counterproductively. Time is all that Alice and her stepfather have left together, yet it cannot be maximized through the haze of his dementia. Embracing the artist's perspective gives her the license to see life as we know it—the life of bottom lines and optimization—as strange and inhumane.
With dark humor and lyrical expansiveness, Barrett's second collection of stories captures the weirdness and beauty of seemingly ordinary lives in the West of Ireland and Canada. Several of these, including "A Shooting in Rathreedane," first appeared in the magazine.
With a collection of short stories and quizzes, Hogan, a comedian, determines how dateable we really are. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
A remarkable true story of death foretold, Knight's first book originated in the magazine. In it, he recounts how a British psychiatrist set up an office to collect dreams and forebodings from the public, in the hope of preventing disasters.
Long overshadowed by her older brother, the tragic virtuoso Vaslav Nijinsky, Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972) was also an important dancer and choreographer, and this scrupulous biography illuminates the formidable scope of her accomplishments. Nijinska made integral contributions to her brother's legendary dances, staged groundbreaking creations of her own (including "Les Noces" and "Les Biches"), and trained future stars such as Frederick Ashton, Cyd Charisse, and Maria Tallchief. Garafola documents the ways in which a misogynistic establishment undermined Nijinska's achievements and argues that, despite this, her ideas about the relationship between movement and music and her gender-bending experiments in abstraction helped shape the modern art of ballet.
Women's homeownership and its promise of security are at stake in this closely observed story collection. A rancher concocts a peculiar side business to save the property she inherited from her mother; a divorcing woman must decide whether to move to California to claim the glass house her grandmother left her; a matriarch's fear of losing her family home compels her to send her barely adult daughter down a life-altering path. In several stories, climate change looms, but casting darker shadows are the book's many absent or inadequate parents. One character is convinced that her forebears’ missteps are "inside of her, like the rings of a felled tree."
Populated entirely by animals, this novel slyly invokes "Animal Farm" while depicting more recent political struggles. The protagonist is a goat named Destiny, an exile returning to the fictional African nation of Jidada after the ouster of its longtime autocrat, Old Horse (explicitly modelled on Robert Mugabe), by a new authoritarian, called the Savior. Destiny delves into the taboo subject of political disappearances, and her fearlessness catalyzes a citizenry whose most potent act of defiance is to name the dead in public. Bulawayo's chronicle of the new government's corruption and the old one's brutality dramatizes Zimbabwean history while also illuminating the challenges of many developing nations.
Fusing biography and cultural criticism, this consideration of Whitney Houston is also a study of reputation. Houston, born in 1963 in Newark, cultivated her voice in church and under the tutelage of her mother, a gospel singer; she also suffered sexual abuse and began using cocaine at a young age. Such troubles—and an important same-sex relationship—made living in the public eye fraught. Even at her most successful (she remains the only recording artist to have had seven consecutive No. 1 hits), she was dismissed as a "yuppie icon," with some Black radio stations refusing to play her music. Kennedy, however, highlights her "sisterhood" with younger Black singers, including Faith Evans and Monica.
Sergeyich is an eastern Ukrainian Everyman, living in the "grey zone"—the twenty miles or so between the armed camps of Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed troops, three years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. In loving detail, Kurkov, a Kyiv-based novelist, describes Sergeyich's care for his bees, his nighttime preparations, his careful rationing. But when the shelling becomes too much for Sergeyich's bees (and maybe for Sergeyich), he embarks on a journey in his trusty old Lada, travelling through Ukraine proper and eventually to Crimea, where an "inspection" of one of his beehives by the Russian security service leaves his bees in an altered state, looking sickly and gray. Although grounded deeply in the disturbing reality of war, "Grey Bees" sometimes has the feeling of a fable.
Gathering thirty-five years’ worth of Walker's journals, from 1965 to 2000, this volume shows she always sensed—even before a word of hers had been published—that all her writing, including the most diaristic, could well be destined for a public audience. The pages of the journal leave a record of both the pulsing epiphanies and the irritations of daily existence ("risk makes my back ache"), and chart, for a dimly perceived intimate reader, the progress of a literary pilgrim. "It has dawned on me lately that insecurity is one of the biggest killers of art," she writes. Pain, joy, spells of depression, unease, engagement, even disaffection: all are material. Its entries accumulate to tell a story about accumulation—of pages, prizes, lovers, real estate, renown—and its perpetual inadequacy.
In this collection, the constraints of the waka, a Japanese syllabic form, yield highly compressed, surreal meditations on time, desire, and the movements of the mind itself. Chang's poems, some of which have appeared in the magazine, document a practice of sustained observation and imagination.
When we listen to a tale, we need to take into account the teller. This is a supremely entertaining survey of those who craft history, from Herodotus to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., sketching their backgrounds and personalities, summarizing their output, and identifying their agendas. The coverage is epic. As Cohen says, it is a great irony of writing about the past that "any author is the prisoner of their character and circumstances yet often they are the making of him." But a very good thing about this book is that, despite its premise, it is not reductive or debunking. Whatever Cohen writes about he writes about with brio.
Cross's scrupulous new account of Homer's life and work is a pleasure to read, despite the inevitable difficulties of a subject about whom so little is known. Cross calls him "a misfit by nature" or even a "human periscope"—a man who liked to observe others without being seen. Homer, at twenty-six, was a professional artist-reporter, his drawings often reproduced in the illustrated press, but he aspired to be a painter. In the spring of 1862, he observed the sharpshooting soldiers trained to use telescopic rifles while encamped with the Union Army at the Virginia front; "Sharpshooter," completed in 1863, was likely his first oil painting, and Cross details how Homer continued to turn out paintings and drawings with quiet intensity, creating our richest artistic record of the Civil War.
Bénédicte Savoy's revelatory new book charts the course of an all-but-forgotten movement to reclaim African art expropriated under colonial rule. For twenty years, beginning in the nineteen-sixties, Africa's decade of independence, battles over the restitution of stolen cultural property raged at conferences and exhibitions. In the quiet offices of Europe's ethnographic collections, museum professionals mounted a white-gloved resistance, centered on West Germany, where Savoy unearths a coördinated effort to block restitution claims. The bureaucratic counter-revolution extended to sabotaging international committees, ostracizing dissenters, and denigrating African claimants as unfit to conserve their heritage. The most essential tactic was secrecy, particularly the concealment of inventories and provenance information. Savoy's investigation yields a riveting scholarly whodunnit that doubles as a timely warning, in her words, that "museums also lie."
Predicting that technologies for editing and programming DNA will bring a "great transformation" in our conception of life, the authors of this introduction to "synthetic biology" set out a road map for navigating the field's opportunities and perils. If harnessed responsibly, these technologies may help humankind secure its food supply, combat climate change, and eradicate disease. Conversely, what will happen if, say, technology that's intended to study and fight viruses is instead used to unleash them as bioweapons, or if wealthy people begin genetically "enhancing" their offspring? Answering these and other difficult questions will require robust public dialogues, which this book seeks to initiate now.
The chief trait that Lydia, the protagonist of this artful vampire novel, shares with monsters of old is hunger. A "Buffy"-watching, British Japanese Malaysian performance artist interning in London's gallery scene, she is anxious and overwhelmed, torn between vampiric urges and human scruples. Most traditional lore doesn't apply; Lydia won't be destroyed by the sight of a cross or combust in direct sunlight (acute sunburn notwithstanding). But her vampire mother has taught her that their kind are "unnatural, disgusting, and ugly." As Lydia encounters new people, including a pleasant artist turned property manager, and a new boss, a man with more influence than decency, she comes to understand what it is to become something "that is neither demon nor human."
This biography of Stewart Brand, the creator of the "Whole Earth Catalog," explores the varied career of a "quixotic intellectual troubadour." An early techno-utopian—he coined the phrase "information wants to be free" and was the first journalist to use the term "personal computer"—Brand also organized parties for Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and helped spark the environmental movement, befriending such luminaries as Marlon Brando, Brian Eno, and the California governor Jerry Brown along the way. What emerges is a view of an insistently holistic thinker unafraid to pursue idiosyncratic ideas and possessing "an uncanny sixth sense for being in the right place at the right time."
Dedicated "to the one in four" American women who has had an abortion, this novel revolves around a counsellor at an abortion clinic, a protester, and a would-be domestic terrorist who rants that abortion is theft as well as murder, because "there was a second, invisible victim, a man robbed of his progeny." The novel's central figure, the counsellor, is the most fully realized, experiencing her own path to motherhood while remaining devoted to her work. Musing on the way that anti-abortion arguments turn people into vessels for the production of babies, she asks, "What was the point of making yet another person, when the woman herself—a person who already existed—counted for so little?"
In this graphic novel, Finck reimagines the Book of Genesis with God as a woman, and a few other key updates. The book was excerpted in the magazine.
The line between fact and fiction blurs to revelatory effect in this account of ghost hunters, death doulas, six-day creationists, U.F.O. investigators, and others who hold ideas at odds with, as the author judiciously puts it, "more accepted realities." Krasnostein spends years among her subjects, in Australia and the U.S., hoping to reach an intimate understanding of what drives their devotion. Though her approach is journalistic, pure objectivity proves impossible; an attempt to bond with a group of Mennonite women in the Bronx falters because "they believe I am going to Hell and I believe they may already be living in one." Ultimately, it is Krasnostein's dawning awareness of herself as a believer which brings a kind of enlightenment.
The narrator of this timely mystery is a sentient book—a first edition of "Rebellion" by Joseph Roth—that "can tell when history is in danger of repeating itself." Having once belonged to a Jewish professor and having narrowly escaped Nazi book burning while hidden beneath a student's coat, the volume is now in the hands of that student's granddaughter, an artist who has travelled from New York to Berlin in an effort to locate a place depicted in a hand-drawn map on a blank page. The book—variously stolen, returned, defaced by a neo-Nazi, incorporated into an art work—repeatedly bears witness to lovers’ desperate hopes for stability amid political violence.
In Buenos Aires, a young auction-house employee turned art critic narrates her obsessive quest to find and understand a notorious art forger. Her search is propelled by disenchantment with the art world and a "melancholic desire for some intangible thing." The novel considers whether forgery itself can be original—"I sometimes wonder if art fraud wasn't the twentieth century's single greatest piece of art"—and circles themes of truth, falsehood, legend, and virtuosity. According to the narrator, "Reality is perhaps a thing too inherently ruinous for there to be any abiding certainty about it."
In addition to providing succinct assessments of such writers as the Nobel laureate Mo Yan, the dissident Ma Jian, and the science-fiction visionary Liu Cixin, this survey of contemporary Chinese literature considers less prominent figures. We learn about migrant-worker poets who record the dislocations of factory life, writers from the persecuted Uyghur and Tibetan minorities, and the legions of Internet writers who compete for the attention of four hundred and thirty million online readers. Walsh writes, "Modern Chinese fiction is a mixture of staggering invention, bravery, and humanity, as well as soul-crushing submission and pragmatism—a confusing and intricate tapestry that offers a beguiling impression of Chinese society itself."
Crews's memoir, first published in 1978 and now reissued, is one of the finest ever written by an American. The author's childhood unfolds in the thirties and forties, and the place that the memoir brings to life is Bacon County, Georgia, where Crews's parents, Ray and Myrtice, were tenant farmers. Storytelling was something everyone in Bacon County did, and Crews paid attention. Although the tone of his memoir is anything but inspirational, the book itself is inherently so: we know that the little boy grows up to be the writer he always wanted to be. But the beauty of Crews's writing is that it animates nostalgia and then annihilates it.
The second collection of stories from MacLeod explores a series of chance encounters between relatives, strangers, and even people and animals. One of the stories first appeared in the magazine.
In this genre-bending sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "A Visit from the Goon Squad," Egan imagines a technology that allows users to "externalize" their memories and to access a digitized collective unconscious. The book was excerpted in the magazine.
McGrath, a staff writer, explores the life and the disappearance of Dick Conant, a long-distance canoeist, whose boat was found washed up in North Carolina with no one in it. He first reported the story in the magazine, in 2015.
In 2018, Hayden, an Irish journalist, received a Facebook message from an Eritrean man imprisoned in a migrant detention center in Tripoli. His missive afforded her a window into the horrors faced by African refugees seeking a Mediterranean route to Europe. Through interviews with hundreds of migrants, whose remarks punctuate the text, and humanitarian workers, Hayden learns of Libyan warehouses where starving detainees are held in scorching temperatures, raped and beaten, and sold to traffickers. While documenting these cruelties, Hayden also examines how Western institutions like the European Union perpetuate the conditions that allow them to take place.
An examination of "rising India" that casts a critical eye on its self-made men, Mishra's novel follows three college classmates who are bonded by sexual trauma and desperate to escape their "dire lower-middle-class straits." While two of them—a hedge-fund billionaire and a brash public intellectual—struggle with the vertiginous heights to which they have elevated themselves, the narrator, who has retreated to a mountain village to work as a translator, avoids becoming ensnared in similar dilemmas until he begins a romance with a wealthy woman. Written in lucid prose, with a keen sense for sociological detail, the novel is a study of figures "dazzled by their own hard-won freedom."
This electrifying portrait of Charles Lamb is the first full-length biography of the Romantic-era essayist, poet, and satirist to appear since 1905. Perhaps best remembered as the co-author, with his sister, Mary, of "Tales from Shakespeare," and as the interlocutor of Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lamb has long been regarded as a benevolent figure who cared for his sister after she murdered their mother in a psychotic break. This idealized rendering elides the Lamb who confronted drinking problems and depression, and whose urbane first-person essays—identified by Wilson as forerunners of those by Virginia Woolf and David Foster Wallace—exhibited a complicated embrace of city life and of modernity.
This novel, set in a remote Australian town in the nineteen-sixties, centers on an Aborigine woman, Odette, and her granddaughter, whose unusually light complexion draws the interest of a police officer intent on exercising the state's legal guardianship of Indigenous children. As Odette attempts to protect her granddaughter, she finds that bureaucracy can dictate harsh consequences for performing innocuous actions without the prescribed permissions. While dramatizing the legal tightrope that Odette must walk, Birch illustrates how Australia's policies dehumanized not only the Indigenous people they sought to control—often by taking children from their families and placing them in white mission schools—but also the white people who were complicit in enforcing them.
For the past several years, Bullough, a former Russia correspondent, has guided "kleptocracy tours" around London, explaining how dirty money from abroad has transformed the city. His book argues that England actively solicited such corrupting influences, by letting "some of the worst people in existence" know that it was open for business. Here, oligarchs could find access to everything from shopping at Harrods to "reputation managers" for inconvenient backstories. What's most apt about Bullough's butler analogy is the appearance of gray-flannel propriety, and the ways it can impart an aura of respectability to even the most disreputable fortune.
In this impressionistic wisp of a memoir, a well-known novelist reflects on the death of her husband, Eric, from cancer. Davis approaches grief slantways. Her chapters, essay-like, often seem to be about something else—having to get off a train during a snowstorm, a friend's new piano—but then, suddenly, there's Eric, saying something about home or requesting that the pianist friend play at his memorial. Davis's dogged inquisitiveness makes it hard for her to find peace with her loss, but it offers moments of clarity. "The skin held the parts together," she writes, of the brutal mechanics of illness. "Then the corruption set in and the unity of the body was forever destroyed."
Published in Ukraine in 2018, these surreal short stories by a noted photographer probe the experiences of women from the Donbas region, many of whom fled the separatist conflict that erupted in 2014 and now live as refugees in Kyiv. The stories, ethnographic in perspective but Gogolian in register, gravitate toward inexplicable disappearances, repressed memories, and phantasmagoria. Belorusets writes of "the deep penetration of traumatic historical events into the fantasies . . . of everyday life" and richly evokes the fatalistic humor of her marginalized characters, one of whom observes, "If you had the luck to be born here, you take things as they come."
Covering some five hundred and fifty million years, this history of the Earth's ecology proceeds in reverse chronological order. Each chapter focusses on a single place and time, from the relatively familiar vistas of Pleistocene Alaska to the teeming microbial mats of Ediacaran Australia. These accounts touch on some paleontological favorites—mammoths, dinosaurs, trilobites—but the real stars are the fantastical environments that once characterized our planet, including Antarctic rain forests, glass-sponge reefs, and valleys dominated by giant fungi. As alien as such vistas may seem, Halliday shows that contemporary ecosystems are subject to the same evolutionary and climatological forces, in ways that may point to an over-warm, plastic-strewn future.
The historian Deborah Cohen's latest book is a loose group portrait of the legendary American foreign correspondents who came up in the freewheeling period between the two World Wars. "Last Call" is as effervescent, for more than four hundred pages, as its winsome and hyperactive characters, and it blends scholarly attention to topics such as psychoanalysis and Wilsonian liberal internationalism with novelistic renderings of its subjects’ dizzying trajectories abroad. These writers all struck out in a time when American foreign bureaus still had fluid norms and plucky stringers could elbow their way onto almost any beat. By the ends of their careers, they had created the model for writing about world affairs for the decades in which, as Cohen writes, "the United States went from hemispheric power to global hegemon."
For women, good advice about exercise has been particularly hard to separate from the pressure to diet and look hot. This history of women and exercise chronicles the rise of various fitness trends, and their founders, since the fifties, including Lotte Berk, whose family fled to London as Jewish refugees from Nazism, and who opened a dance studio that led to the barre method; and Judi Sheppard Missett, a lanky blonde who developed Jazzercise. But Friedman shows how the trajectories of these various trends converge: though they offer women an outlet for their energy, these pastimes harden into life styles, particular body types get exalted and fetishized, and some of the fun seeps out.
Billed as "a love story, in music lessons," this memoir by a MacArthur-winning pianist began as an article in the magazine. With self-deprecating humor, Denk charts his progress from awkward, precocious boyhood to awkward, precocious adulthood and classical-music eminence via the many teachers he had along the way. He also attempts—in a sequence of interludes examining rhythm, harmony, and so on—to account for music's hold over us.
Exercise is evoked as freedom and play in this charming and idiosyncratic book. A blend of history and memoir, it does not count its steps, Fitbit style, but, quite appealingly, meanders. Hayes, while chronicling his pursuit of boxing, biking, swimming, running, yoga, and lifting, sprinkles in bits of exercise history that happen to capture his genial curiosity: from the late-nineteenth-century career of the circus strongman and bodybuilding impresario Eugen Sandow to the little-known story of an "unassuming British epidemiologist" named Jeremy Morris, who, in the late nineteen-forties, brought quantitative methods to observations of physical activity by studying thousands of London transit workers.
The protagonist of this novel, which riffs gently on the historical Defenestrations of Prague, is a young American woman whose family is dogged by a propensity for falling out of windows. Family lore says that it all started with a Prague forebear who shoved a stonemason out of a window, thinking that the man was having an affair with one of his daughters. The perpetrator fled to America, apparently cursed: his kin are continually falling off or out of things and learn to "keep far back from balcony railings." When the protagonist's beloved brother defenestrates himself, she begins to ask questions about the origin myth she's been told.
This nuanced biography of Constance Baker Motley examines the paradoxes in the remarkable life of a "first": the first Black woman elected to the New York State Senate, the first female Manhattan borough president, the first Black woman appointed to the federal judiciary. Motley gained national fame as a lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund, where she worked on Brown v. Board of Education and fought to desegregate Southern public universities. She forged high-profile connections—including ones with Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr.—but her identity profoundly shaped her career; she was passed over for promotions or was given them by people interested "in anointing an outsider to an important role." That Motley is little known today is "a kind of historical malpractice," Brown-Nagin writes; this book is a convincing corrective.
In 2016, while reporting in Afghanistan, the author of this startling, humane account of the "refugee underground" abandoned his passports in order to pass as an Afghan migrant fleeing war-stricken Kabul. Entrusting his life to smugglers, illegally crossing from Bulgaria into Turkey, and boarding an "overgrown pool toy" of a boat to Lesbos, Aikins logs the often fatal obstacles that refugees face and provides an impassioned critique of cruel border policies. "In liberal democracies, the border has a unique power to transmute ordinary needs into criminal desires," he writes.
Taken from chats with real-life couples,Viti's guide for expectant mothers book ruminates on the nature of love and includes funny and poignant details from the relationships that the author surveys. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
Truman emerges in this biography as the ultimate accidental President, a pipsqueak senator from Independence, Missouri, who had been Vice-President for less than three months when Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Once Truman assumed office, global events seemed to proceed according to their own logic and momentum. Truman's unschooled, salt-of-the-earth pose was not always what the moment called for, but this nuanced biography has sympathy for a man whose Everyman pragmatism often put him at odds with advisers who thought that they were better than he was. Truman's major strength as a chief executive was his ability to comprehend and synthesize the learned views of these many experts, borrowing other men's visions in order to meet the daunting challenges he inherited—above all, preventing the world from descending into a nuclear-armed Third World War.
According to the author and advice columnist Heather Havrilesky, marriage is a cure for misanthropy—not because it erases our aversion to human particularity but because it teaches us to love in spite of our inevitable aggravation. Unlike the many memoirs that double as thinly veiled advertisements for their authors, "Foreverland" ventures occasionally unflattering honesty. Havrilesky is unafraid to admit to nursing unseemly sentiments that most of us would go to great lengths to conceal. Her aim is to remind us that a husband is "only human." Lifelong monogamy is not an idyll, nor is it a casual undertaking. It is, in her words, "the world's most impossible endurance challenge." In its own sardonic and skeptical fashion, "Foreverland" is a tender book, full of touching descriptions of falling and staying in love, even in the face of the profound frustrations that inevitably spring from prolonged interpersonal contact.
The narrator of this novel, Piedmont Livingston Kinsolver III, is a doorman at a fancy apartment building on Central Park West, who, unbeknownst to his colleagues, commutes home to a penthouse on upper Fifth Avenue. The job, he says, affords him "solitude and invisibility," the thrill of "hiding out inside one's own life," and the chance to "keep an eye on things" at the Central Park Reservoir. The reservoir's water, it turns out, originates at a Catskills dam that submerged the Kinsolver ancestral home. When mysterious fossils appear at the reservoir, Kinsolver is forced to confront family secrets, including murder and incest, connected with a paleontological discovery made by one of his forebears at the dam site.
This vivid group biography captures the moment, at the end of the eighteenth century, when Jena, a small university town, suddenly emerged as the "intellectual and cultural center of Germany." Neumann's cast of writers and philosophers includes Fichte, Novalis, Friedrich and Dorothea Schlegel, and Caroline and Wilhelm Schelling, with cameo appearances from such luminaries as Goethe, Schiller, and Hegel. Neumann is adept both at conveying the gossip, feuds, and eccentricities of this tight-knit milieu and at grappling with his subjects’ political and philosophical ideas, which were crucial to the development of German Romanticism.
"How do you begin telling the story of a great love when you know it ended in disaster?" this novel asks. Its answer is to narrate the life of its protagonist, a Florentine ophthalmologist named Marco Carrera, out of sequence. We see him first as a husband and father, and later as a boy and as a grandfather; we learn about the dissolution of his family, his wife's mental instability, and the infidelities of both of them. Letters, e-mails, poetry, and telephone transcripts are interspersed throughout. The temporal leaps, though sometimes disorienting, cunningly mimic the eddying, insistent nature of memory itself.
A new way of looking at the American West emerges in this history of the mixing and marrying of Indigenous people and settlers. Beginning with the fur trade, Hyde shows how marriage and procreation were crucial to integrating newcomers and building alliances. Commerce relied on networks of kin, and, as Native American clans would share knowledge only with those they considered family, mixed-descent children were vital intermediaries. The stories of five families through the nineteenth century illustrate how these intermediaries were also vulnerable to racist and expansionist policies. Though some were forced to hide their heritage, Hyde highlights their acts of agency, and tells "a narrative of our past with shared blood at its heart."
Douglas-Fairhurst's second biography of Charles Dickens takes up a year in his subject's life, 1851, and walks us through it virtually week by week. Dickens gave his full energy and attention to everything he did, and the book consists of closeups of Dickens editing his magazine Household Words; producing a play called "Not So Bad as We Seem"; running a home for "fallen women"; and buying and renovating a large London town house, on Tavistock Square. Yet Douglas-Fairhurst enriches not only our appreciation of Dickens's personal circumstances but also the social, political, and literary circumstances in which the author, that year, began writing his ambitious condition-of-England novel, "Bleak House."
In this memoir, Sipress describes his dreamy but sometimes oppressive childhood on the Upper West Side, and how he defied the expectations of his immigrant, business-man father to become a cartoonist. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
In this humorous survey of love in the animal kingdom, Ramirez illustrates the sometimes "revolting" romantic proclivities of species from flies to meerkats, and suggests that humans aren't necessarily so different. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
Walter F. White, the subject of this urgent, much needed biography, led the N.A.A.C.P. from 1929 until his death, in 1955. He joined in 1918, working undercover in the South—a light-skinned Black man, he could pass as white—to investigate lynchings, identifying perpetrators and sending reports to the press and to state capitols. White's career, beginning three years after "The Birth of a Nation" came out and ending just before the Montgomery bus boycott, allows Baime to portray an entire society struggling and failing to reckon with its legacy of racial terror. None of the killers in the forty-one murders White investigated were convicted. And, though he spent decades campaigning for a federal anti-lynching law, only now does such a bill (named for Emmett Till) look set to pass Congress.
This début spy novel juxtaposes two manuscripts supposedly found in Berlin at the end of the Second World War. One tells the story of Frank Pike, an ex-I.R.A. fighter recruited by the Nazis to fan anti-British sentiment in Ireland, through the fastidious diary of his besotted German handler, Adrian de Groot. The other—dismissed by de Groot as a "puerile espionage potboiler"—narrates the same time line from the perspective of Pike's mythical alter ego, Finn McCool, who embarks on a murder spree targeting Nazi doctors. As the chapters alternate between the manuscripts, two irreconcilable portraits of Pike emerge, while de Groot's love for the Irishman gradually emboldens him to political resistance.
In 1998 and 1999, seven young men, including Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, founded two companies with related but distinct goals: Confinity aimed to facilitate the transmission of money between PalmPilots; X.com sought to unify all the offerings of the financial sector, such as bank accounts, investment funds, and transfers. The story of the companies’ bitter rivalry and eventual merger into the now ubiquitous platform PayPal is the subject of this entertaining history, which draws on interviews with founders and other staff. Soni's account memorably renders the personalities involved and engages with ideas about financial sovereignty, open-source technology, and the place of politics in Silicon Valley.
Phyllis, the protagonist of this novel set in England in 1967, lives a neat suburban life with her husband and their two children until she meets Nicholas, the twentysomething son of family friends. They begin an affair, and Phyllis, frequenting Nicholas's grungy London digs and mixing with artists and counterculture intellectuals, feels a passion she has not experienced before. Hadley brilliantly renders both Phyllis's flight from domesticity and her family's attempts to deal with the social consequences of her absence. The radicalism of the cultural moment is underscored by the emergence of family secrets, once buried in the name of class and decorum and now fuelling raw desires.
The painter and scenic designer Florine Stettheimer (1871-1944) pioneered Pop subjects and Pop manners without Pop strategies. She's a tricky subject: on the one hand, she was a perfect heroine for a feminist-minded art history; on the other, Stettheimer belonged, unashamedly, to a world of privilege. In the first extensive and scholarly biography of the artist, the art historian Barbara Bloemink unravels this contradiction by detailing how Stettheimer's originality lay in how unapologetically she embraced her own condition, how clearly she looked at her world as it was. Stettheimer's big pictures like "Spring Sale at Bendel's" (1921) and "The Cathedrals of Broadway" (1929) kid the absurdities they show, and yet approve of society's investment in the absurdities.
Playful and deeply inventive, Tawada's novel imagines a world in which Japan has disappeared. She applies fairy-tale conventions—mistaken identity, unexpected metamorphosis—to the dilemmas of finding linguistic shelter in a world of rising seas and ceaseless migration, achieving realism through surrealism. Stranded in Denmark, a refugee named Hiruko searches for fellow-survivors, torn between longing for her mother tongue and the desire to fashion a new one. Her odyssey becomes a test of the commonplace idea that, as one character puts it, "the language of a native speaker is perfectly fused with her soul."
Nomi M. Stolzenberg and David N. Myers offer an extraordinary and riveting account, based on fifteen years of research, of perhaps the most triumphant separatist group in American history. They are the Satmars, among the most exacting and most successful of the Hasidic dynasties, who have built, within a daily commute's distance from New York, their own village, Kiryas Joel. One of the running themes of "American Shtetl" is that the Satmars’ success was due to the absorption of American norms, values, and tactics. As the authors write in their prologue, the community's insularity, homogeneity, and political empowerment "are characteristics that have been actively fostered by America's political, legal, and economic institutions." With this insight, Stolzenberg and Myers put their extremely detailed, quasi-ethnographic case study in the service of a broad theoretical end. "American Shtetl" provides an unambiguous historical refutation of the idea that liberalism renders meaningful community impossible. It can also be read as a cautionary tale about how the dynamics of separatist communities unfold.
In his humorous memoir, Odenkirk shares stories about how he went from "Saturday Night Live" and "Mr. Show" to "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul." The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
An eminent historian of India and biographer of Gandhi turns his attention to seven "white-skinned heroes and heroines"—allies in the country's bid to end colonial rule. Among them are the British theosophist Annie Besant, a leading figure in the home-rule movement until she was eclipsed by Gandhi (who’d been inspired by her as a boy); B. G. Horniman, a radical British editor; and Samuel Stokes, a Pennsylvania Quaker who helped eliminate forced labor. Guha notes that his subjects campaigned not only for freedom but also against numerous social ills, such as environmental abuse and caste-based discrimination, laying the groundwork for a movement that, he writes, "may yet be relevant for India's future."
This chronicle of the local relationships between humans and what we eat reveals a pattern with dire implications for the future of food. "Where nature creates diversity, the food system crushes it," Saladino writes. Mass production and globalization are eradicating the small, the wild, and the unique, at a cost to our stomachs and to traditional ways of life. Saladino extolls ancient strains of Anatolian wheat, sees an African pea grown in the American South as an act of culinary resistance, and observes that plants and animals modified for higher yields are often susceptible to disease and reliant on ever-dwindling resources. Ultimately, the most dangerous thing about our appetites is how they threaten to consume our increasingly fragile food system.
Blending fiction, essay, and memoir, this narrative migrates from the Italian American neighborhood of Bensonhurst to rural southern Italy and contemporary London, and encompasses autobiographical episodes, musings on film and music, and current events. At its heart is the story of Durastanti's charismatic parents, both deaf, who came to America from Italy only to return. "The story of a family is more like a map than a novel," Durastanti writes, as the work expands to encompass lovers, teachers, and other relatives. Her inventive approach yields touching portraits of the characters, while respecting their ultimate unknowability.
Among the fifty pieces compiled in the first book-length collection of Zora Neale Hurston's short nonfiction are the well-known essays "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" and "What White Publishers Won't Print." Both are emblematic of the proud, bristling Southern woman with whom we’ve become familiar, as is "Characteristics of Negro Expression," which provides a window into the studious side of Hurston. Yet reading any of those individual texts differs from knowing their author as an essayist. The latter requires letting go of the agonizing business of saving Hurston, who the writer and linguist John McWhorter has called "America's favorite black conservative," from her politics. What emerges from the sum of these writings is a Hurston who cannot be easily construed as a champion of race pride, which she once called "a luxury I cannot afford." "The realization that Negroes are no better nor no worse, and at times just as boring as everybody else, will hardly kill off the population of the nation," she writes in the titular essay. We can trace variations on this point across the collection.
Inspired by real events, Wright Faladé's novel is about Richard Etheridge, the son of an enslaved woman and her master, who joins an all-Black regiment during the American Civil War and takes on the Confederacy. The novel was excerpted in the magazine.
In this engaging study, the humble index emerges as an unexpected site of anxieties and tensions. From its beginnings, in the fifteenth century, it was viewed as both a miraculous time-saver and a threat to depth and concentration. As indexes gained in popularity, appearing in novels, poetry, and political writing, fears about their misuse intensified, sometimes justifiably; in the eighteenth century, the Whigs and the Tories produced mock indexes of each other's literature. Duncan draws rich parallels to anxieties surrounding our own "age of search" and makes an impassioned case for the continued relevance of the human-crafted index, which he calls a "child of the imagination."
The author of this memoir, best known for his role as Logan Roy, on "Succession," offers a bold, funny account of his path from an impoverished boyhood in Scotland to the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and Hollywood. The narrative is punctuated with gossip ("Did I forget to mention that I got touched up by Princess Margaret once?"), frank appraisals of industry bigwigs (Johnny Depp is "so overblown, so overrated"), and reflections on his own shortcomings as a spouse and a father. At its core, though, the book is a meditation on craft and a paean to acting, which is, for Cox, "an almost spiritual experience. . . . about reflecting back to people how we are."
Using hitherto overlooked documents, this novel reconstructs the life of Hannah Elias, who was born in poverty in Philadelphia in 1865 but became, at the turn of the century, one of the wealthiest Black women in the country. In this telling, Elias, confident that she is destined for greatness, joins New York's "sisterhood" of sex workers and meets a rich client whose pillow talk consists of finance lessons. Putting her unorthodox education to use, Elias amasses a real-estate fortune, but the empire teeters after her unexpected connection to the murder, in 1903, of the civic leader Andrew Haswell Green. Chase-Riboud's narrative challenges us to confront the ways in which race, class, and gender inform whose lives are deemed worthy of remembering.
Caleb, the protagonist of this novel of literary-world chicanery, is an aspiring Brooklyn writer who discovers his voice by pinching someone else's story. An acquaintance, Avi, tells him about a torrid affair in Greece, and Caleb, abandoning his own lacklustre project, fashions the material into something that neither of them could have produced alone. This gets him a lucrative book deal, but Avi and others quickly recognize themselves in the story. In the ensuing acrimony, Lipstein gleefully scrutinizes the nature of success in an industry that runs as much on vanity as on financial gain. The book's command of contemporary-hipster details is wincingly precise, and Caleb's voice, initially charming, gradually reveals his incompetent careerism.
This is an explicitly mystical novel about the creation of art and the creation of the universe, about the uses and abuses of doubt. The world in its pages is created by a God who manifests himself within it as three art critics, and their descendants include our protagonist, Mira, who's training to be a critic and cherishes beauty, and the cool and detached Annie, who cherishes justice. Its characters feel constructed out of cobwebs, and the plot is sketched swiftly and faintly—Mira is, for some time, trapped in a leaf; she eventually tumbles out. She wonders if she can cease thinking of herself as someone "who another person could see, evaluate, and finally judge." The novel wants to recast criticism as a form of intimacy.
A mother and daughter meet in Japan for vacation. They take walks, ride trains, visit art galleries, eat in restaurants, and shop for gifts. This is just about all the surface action in the Australian author Jessica Au's slim and sly second novel. Au's narrator keeps prodding her mother to open up; her mother resists. By the last page, the daughter still doesn't have the information she seems to have been searching for. The trip isn't a bust, though, and neither is the book that it yields. The narrator may not have unearthed any secrets from her mother's past, but the two have let their hours intertwine and paid attention to the same things. We can sense their intimacy in the soft, patient warmth of Au's prose. "Cold Enough for Snow" understands the impulse to treat other people—especially our parents—as mysteries to be solved, but makes the quiet case for another approach, one that we might simply call, for lack of any more technical term, being together while we can.
In dramatic yet precise poems like "Bioluminescence," this début collection transforms trauma into a site of self-invention. Tran plumbs myth and history alongside personal experience—as a descendant of Vietnamese refugees, as a rape survivor, and foremost as an artist—to achieve an exquisite lyricism.
The story of how a philosophy of performance pioneered in pre-Revolutionary Russia made its way to New York, took over Hollywood, and changed American acting for good is the subject of this entertaining and illuminating chronicle. Method acting was popularized in large part by Lee Strasberg, a Polish-born American actor, who adopted, redesigned, and implemented the techniques of Konstantin Stanislavski, a Russian theatre director. Strasberg encouraged actors—his students included James Dean and Paul Newman—to comb through their lives for strong emotions they could deploy on stage. When Stella Adler split from him, she denounced his ways as "sick and schizophrenic," while nurturing the likes of Marlon Brando. That people couldn't agree on what the method was, exactly, made it all the more powerful.
Mead's moving memoir, which originated as an essay for this magazine, chronicles her wrenching decision to leave New York, where she lived for decades, and return to her native England—a place that feels at once like home and a foreign land.
The poet and memoirist Sarah Manguso's début novel has a fairy-tale quality, a ring of the nursery rhyme lent by its symmetries, prototypical figures, and brutality. Ruthie, an only child growing up in the fictional town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is sharply attuned to a force that she doesn't understand and that Manguso suggests is some combination of class, whiteness, and the widespread sexual abuse of children. "Very Cold People" is itself a very cold book, with banks of white space piled up around Manguso's short, accretive paragraphs. Ruthie's halting narration and lack of affect suggest a girl caught within a net of pain; the task of the book is to unmask each node in the net, moving suspensefully inward to unearth the threats the town has ushered out of sight. Manguso adds nuance to her story by investigating how substitution and silence can be misguided acts of love, not just symptoms of damage: she knows how loving something so much that you are afraid to love it at all is not the same as not loving it.
In 1948, when the witness to a fatal shooting in a small Georgia town claimed that the attacker "sounded like a Negro," the police arrested a Black sharecropper named Clarence Henderson. This history, by an Atlanta-based investigative reporter, examines the bizarre process by which Henderson was sentenced to death for murder in three separate trials but avoided execution each time. Using a range of archival sources, Joyner illustrates Henderson's vulnerable position as a Black defendant, and shows how external factors—such as the introduction of lie-detection and ballistics analysis and the rivalry between the N.A.A.C.P. and the Communist Party, which were both determined to come to his defense—shaped the legal proceedings in unexpected ways.
This history of endangered languages assesses the political causes of their precariousness. Those in power—whether they speak English, Mandarin, or Hebrew—often hold condescending attitudes toward Indigenous languages and work to marginalize them. For nations undergoing colonial conflicts, such as Hawaii and Wales in the nineteenth century, a drastic decline can happen in the span of a lifetime. Languages are not only repositories of heritages but also a rallying point for self-determination movements, which perhaps explains why the preservation of local languages is sometimes criminalized as an act of separatism.
The protagonist of this hypnotic coming-of-age novel is a young Filipina who becomes obsessed with literature, to the point of illness. Orphaned at age eight, when her parents disappear from an interisland ferry, she continues to grieve into her adolescence, when she is seduced by the work of Dickens and Dostoyevsky alongside that of such Filipino writers as Estrella Alfon and José Rizal. Feeling her passion for books as a "quickening between the thighs and in the points of the breast," she seeks solace in the company of lovers who share her infatuation, among them a typewriter repairman and a politician. At the same time, she becomes a reluctant observer of the country's political transformations, including the 1986 edsa Revolution, with its "confetti" sky filled with Yellow Pages, which led to the expulsion of Ferdinand Marcos.
This début novel takes place in a world where mothers are subject to strict state surveillance. When the protagonist, who is struggling to balance work and child care after her husband abandons her for a younger woman, leaves her daughter, a toddler, home alone for a few hours, she lands in a state-run rehabilitation program. She is told that she’ll get her child back if she's able to "hone her maternal instincts," but she seems destined to fail: the program deems human emotions—flashes of frustration, pangs of desire—incompatible with responsible parenthood.
Every detail of Keaton's life and work is in this immense year-by-year account of Keaton as an artist and a man, starting with his birth, in 1895. (Curtis painstakingly clarifies which of two potential midwives attended to the matter.) Keaton's father raised him to star in a brutal comedy act and instilled a lifelong mastery of the gag; we hear about gags that Keaton helped invent for Abbott and Costello in his later, apparently fallow, years. Keaton seems to have been one of those comic geniuses who, when not working, never felt entirely alive, and Curtis is particularly good on how his early years were key to understanding the core of his art: being anti-sentimental to the point of seeming coldhearted.
Eleven linked stories take on U.S.-China relations during the past fifty years, as seen through the eyes of Chinese nationals and expatriates. Two of the stories, including "Detective Dog," first appeared in the magazine.
This expansive history documents the transformation of clothing manufacture from a handmade practice, rich with personal significance, to a mass-production industry. Thanhauser toggles between scenes of Louis XIV's court, where the fashion season was invented, and Phoenix, Arizona, where Navajo weaving revivalists engage in the recovery of ancestral traditions. Elegantly chronicling how textile production came to be defined by worker exploitation, misogyny, environmental devastation, and colonialism, Thanhauser writes, "Our clothes are never neutral, and cannot be." Yet she also finds space to appreciate sartorial marvels and to celebrate the loom aficionados, "denimheads," and "wool enthusiasts" who aim for a more ethical, analog future.
Set in postwar Cardiff, in the multiethnic docklands of Tiger Bay, this novel retells the life of Mahmood Mattan, a Somali sailor who was executed in 1952, for a murder he did not commit. Arriving in Wales from British Somaliland, he encounters an "army of workers pulled in from all over the world"; he marries, starts an interracial family, and becomes disillusioned as he experiences white men "treating you like you’re the final insult." The novel poignantly imagines Mattan's trial and his time in jail, as his hopes of freedom dwindle. Mohamed underscores Mattan's confidence in his good character—his belief that "the truth kill the lie"—while also showing how, "as each witness takes the stand, his previous estimation of his own power diminishes."
Outwardly self-contained but inwardly often seething, the narrator of this novel, Joan, is a thirty-six-year-old Chinese American I.C.U. doctor. "A female brain is worth nothing," she thinks. "Four lobes of the cerebrum, and I have sometimes imagined one of mine labeled rage." She tends to let others talk—a habit from years of immigration worries—and is surrounded by well-meaning men keen to do the talking. At work, she is exceedingly capable, the kind of doctor with whom, in the worst circumstances, one can expect "a death handled well," but she struggles to handle her father's death. As she grieves, she keeps recalling their last chat—rushed, because Manhattan parking cost $17.99 an hour.
This candid memoir by a self-described "ingenue in Mao's court," who worked in China's Central Film Bureau, gives a personal dimension to the turmoil of the country's recent past. Tracing her life from a childhood in Shanghai to her participation at the heart of the revolution in Beijing and her eventual exile, Chen gives a firsthand account of famine and terror during Mao's long reign. At the book's center is her marriage to a man with family ties to the Party élite, whose members fall prey to purges and counterpurges. Chen frames her remembrance as a bold demand for China "to face its Maoist past bravely and unflinchingly, and especially to restore the humanity of its victims."
Through the fog of dementia, Elle, the narrator of this novel, recounts her life on an island off the coast of Georgia during the Second World War. She, her husband, and a man named Gabriel (with whom she is in love, and who poses as her cousin) have come to mine an enigmatic mineral, Caeruleum, that glows blue in the coastal waters. They hope that its gemlike properties, or perhaps even its pharmaceutical ones, will make them rich. But events surrounding their excavations lead Elle to wonder if "beauty and death are coincident, codependent." As her thoughts move back and forth in time, dual mysteries rise to the surface: what happened to her grasp on reality and what happened to Gabriel?
Structured as a journey, with chapters organized by location, this history of the American South examines its subject from both personal and sociopolitical perspectives. Perry, an Alabama-born Princeton professor, encounters a Confederate reënactor in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and visits the Equal Justice Initiative's museum, in Montgomery, Alabama, which is situated near a parole office. She draws connections between the past and contemporary experience—for instance, she reads Thomas Jefferson's racist observations on Black people in the light of her own Ancestry.com results. Threading her protagonists’ narratives through the book, Perry admits to "a bit of navel-gazing" but observes that, "if you gaze anywhere with a critical eye, you do have to look at your own belly, too."
When the author of this fragmentary memoir was at law school, a teen-age cousin had a psychotic break and killed a young boy. Blake, now a law professor, traces the aftermath of the killing and her attempts to comprehend it, examining Anna Freud's writing on defense mechanisms after a psychotherapist tells her that "a psychotic break is just intense fear." Having kept her distance from her cousin, Blake eventually corresponds with him and visits him in prison. She avoids neat conclusions or a sense of absolution, but her legal background and her insights yield a thought-provoking consideration of the limits of our criminal justice system.
Unfolding amid the 2008 financial crisis, this hypnotic, antic novel revolves around two sisters: Emilie, who works at a drab job in a nondescript town where she has bought an "adorable starter home"; and Adeline, who suffers from mental illness and has gone missing. News arrives that Ad has committed suicide, then that she survived, and Em flies to be with her in Kansas City. Corin conveys a sense that insanity is everywhere: in the sisters’ family history, in a colleague's affair, in news items and the plot of a television documentary. "The mad see the unseen," she writes. "What the collective suspects but can't express, a perpetual frictionless swing from object to subject."
In place of a standard social history of silent comedy, much less a standard biography, Stevens offers a series of pas de deux between Buster Keaton and other personages of his time, who shared one or another of his preoccupations or projects. It includes an illuminating chapter on Keaton and Robert Sherwood, who was early to recognize Keaton's greatness, and argues that Keaton's art was informed by the same social revolutions as the European avant-garde. It is the kind of account that makes more of overlapping horizontal "frames" than of direct chronological history, and Stevens pulls it off dexterously, taking up the big question: What made Keaton's solo work seem so modern?
This memoir of growing up amid Albania's transition to a democracy is bounded by two revolutions: the violent uprisings against the Communist regime in 1990, and those that took place seven years later, against the depredations of the economic "shock therapy" that followed its collapse. Ypi, who was twelve at the time of the first protests, writes with compassion and dry humor of the dismantling of the world view—in which socialism meant that "everyone was already free"—that she internalized in grade school. As the reductive tenets of proletarian struggle give way to the equally facile doctrines of capitalism and privatization, she finds the latter, which has devastated Albania's economy, to be deeply flawed. She ultimately launches a search for a new definition of "freedom" that would tame "the violence of the state" in all its forms.
The characters in this absorbing story collection are bound by loss—of love, of fortune, of the lives they once had, or the ones they’ve missed out on. In one tale, a man discovers a flirtatious e-mail on his girlfriend's computer and, assuming the interlocutor's name, carries on a written affair with her. In another, a model imagines switching places with a sculpture of herself, situated in the home of a well-to-do businessman. Though moody, the collection is tinged with hope, as when a tarot-card reader tells a woman, "I can see how everything will end. What I can't see is what we make of it, what we’ll look back on. And that's what happiness is."
Addiction is variously described as a brain disease, a personal demon, and an epidemic. This compelling history holds that it is simply "part of humanity." Fisher, an addiction physician and a recovering addict, illustrates the "terrifying breakdown of reason" that accompanies the condition by drawing on patients’ anecdotes and on his own experience. He also highlights the ways in which stigmas—such as the "firewater" myth, which held that Native Americans were uniquely vulnerable to alcohol addiction—have provided "ideological cover" for policing certain groups.
This novel, published in Iran in 2008, takes place in Tehran in the course of a day when the city has been flung into chaos by a series of earthquakes. Shadi, the young, disaffected narrator, is less concerned with the disaster than she is with locating her next opium fix. Rather than flee the city with her family, she spends the day traversing it, getting high with various misfit friends and making observations about Tehrani society with her acerbic wit. Her sardonic commentary is interspersed with sensual descriptions of her highs, and of the periodic quakes roiling the ground beneath her. "I wish I could sink, pour into the earth and dance with her," she declares. "Let the tremors crawl through my body. I don't want them to stop."
Attenberg's memoir traces a peripatetic life, as she switches jobs and cities and figures out who she is as a writer—and what it takes to sustain a career. The book was excerpted on newyorker.com.
By bringing the story of her father's death together with the story of how she met her wife, and refracting those experiences through a lifetime of reading, Schulz's memoir intricately upends our ideas about the nature of grief and love. The book grew out of the piece "When Things Go Missing," which Schulz wrote for the magazine in 2017.
In November, 2019, on the day after the London Bridge knife attacks, the author of this experimental work of nonfiction learned that both the killer and one of his victims were people she knew. Usman Khan, the perpetrator, had been her student in a prison education program, and Jack Merritt, whom Khan stabbed to death, was her colleague. Taneja probes her own experience of the tragedy, surveys its public and private aftershocks, and scrutinizes the clichés that populate narratives of terror: stereotypes about young men who become radicalized, impenetrable institutional language that obscures more than it discloses, and the perennial, futile search for causes.
Tracking the evolution of a century's worth of targeted marketing, this history documents the sinister engineering of a Black consumer preference for menthol cigarettes. Wailoo details how Big Tobacco placed billboards in inner-city neighborhoods, strategically funded Black enterprises, and marshalled a vast network of influencers—from Ebony to the N.A.A.C.P.—to yoke ideas of Black authenticity to smoking menthols. His case study concludes with reflections on the resonant presence of menthol cigarettes in the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd, linking the dire plea "I can't breathe" to tobacco's long-term assault on Black lives.
Set from 5 A.M. to 5 P.M. on a single December day in 1982, this novel introduces readers to the boisterous milieu of a siheyuan, one of Beijing's traditional multifamily courtyard residences, via the story of the Xue family's wedding banquet. Guests come and go—opera singers, factory workers, doctors, bureaucrats, literary editors—all of whom have experienced the vicissitudes of the country's tumultuous history. Liu intertwines the stories of these lives with the spectacle of a rapidly changing Beijing, modern telecommunications arriving just as traditional shops and alleys vanish. A lovingly rendered portrait of a city and its inhabitants, the novel is also an act of preservation for the siheyuan, whose "strict proportions contain untold multitudes."
This mordant novel takes the form of a diary, with sections named for the women who have most profoundly shaped the narrator's life: his mistress, his girlfriend, his sister-in-law, his sister, and his mother. The diary's purpose, he claims, is to see if he can describe them without resorting to stereotypes, and if he can wrest himself from the lifelong habits of "a typical Italian" ("Guys like me are incapable of truly being alone and analyzing our own emotions"). As the novel charts the narrator's transformation from an aspiring poet to an editor of frivolous books at a commercial publishing house, he has flashes of insight even as he inadvertently reveals the depths of his misogyny.
By Jordi Graupera
By Joshua Rothman
By Joshua Rothman
By Leslie Jamison