1. So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley by Roger Steffens, Introduction by Linton Kwesi Johnson (W.W. Norton)
In this kaleidoscopic oral history, Steffens draws on four decades of interviews to tell the life story of Bob Marley, who brought reggae from Jamaica to the world, beginning with his origins in Trenchtown, the poor Kingston ghetto. Steffens, founding chairman of the Reggae Grammy Committee, features his own candid photographs taken over the years and delves deeply into Marley’s music and influences, including his politics and spirituality. Steffens’ book is enriched by a wide range of voices, from family members to acquaintances, some of whom offer contradictory accounts about song credits, royalties, the break-up of “The Wailers,” and Marley’s death from cancer at the age of 36.
2. Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam (Random House)
Klam was once among the The New Yorker’s “20 under 40,” along with novelists like Michael Chabon, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen, who went on to win Pulitzer Prizes. He had just published Sam the Cat, a widely praised short story collection. Now, 17 years later, his debut novel, Who Is Rich? Has finally arrived, and the very good news is that it’s crazy brilliant – imagine a satirical, ruthlessly funny Richard Ford or a Philip Roth novel with bite -- in the form of a once-precocious graphic novelist, turned frustrated, short-on-money, middle-aged magazine illustrator. “Illustration is to cartooning as prison sodomy is to pansexual orgy,” thinks protagonist Rich. “Not the same thing at all.” What’s a man to do? Should he ditch his wife and their soul-sapping children for the wife of a billionaire banker and funder of right-wing causes, and return to the artistry of cartoons?
3. Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment, edited and with an Introduction by Angela J. Davis (Pantheon)
This powerful collection of essays explores how racial injustice informs the black male experience, beginning in childhood with discrimination and racial profiling. Davis, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, has assembled 12 essays by notable legal scholars and criminal justice experts, including Bryan Stevenson (author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative) and Sherrilyn Ifill (president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund). Together, they make a hard-hitting argument for a broad definition of the word “policing” to reflect the reality of how the justice system treats black males from childhood through adulthood, and too frequently into incarceration.
4. The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick (Harper)
This new novel from the author of Silver Linings Playbook spotlights an unlikely hero, and a father-son relationship, with wry warmth and humor. At the center is a widowed Vietnam Veteran who spent time in a Kansas “military loony bin.” Years later, after surgery for a brain tumor he believes was caused by Agent Orange, he is compelled to deal with a Native American infantryman, a former nemesis he once mistreated. His military bravado puts him at odds with his son, an art dealer he has trouble taking seriously. It’s hard not to visualize Silver Linings Playbook star Robert De Niro as the father, especially knowing that this latest Quick novel is headed for the big screen.
5. The Darkening Web: The War for Cyberspace by Alexander Klimburg (Penguin Press)
In this important book, respected cybersecurity thinker Klimburg explains how hacking and cyber operations have ushered in a new era of political and ideological conflict. The director of cyber policy at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies in the Netherlands, Klimburg sees supporters of the “free Internet” -- believers in the flow of free information, regardless of national borders – as being at odds with forces like China and Russia, which insist on the censorship and control of “cybersovereignty.” This high-stakes battle for control of the Internet takes on added resonance with each new revelation about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.