1. The Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency by Joshua Green (Penguin Press)
“This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America: Steve Bannon runs the new vast right-wing conspiracy—and he wants to take down both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.” That was the headline for Green’s Oct. 2015 Bloomberg Businessweek cover story on Trump’s dark mastermind. Green, who is the magazine's senior national correspondent, has followed Bannon since 2015. Today, he is out with a new book drawing on that extensive reporting, which sheds light on how Bannon emerged from Wall Street, Hollywood, and the extremist world of Breitbart News to forge a relationship with a reality TV star – and how that unlikely duo captured the most powerful post in the free world.
2. Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Gidla, born an “untouchable,” the lowest level of India’s caste system, tells her family’s story in this powerful personal history. At the very bottom of a harshly stratified society, the untouchables survived by doing the work too unclean for those above them in the Hindu hierarchy. Gidla, who left India behind and now works as a subway conductor in New York City, relates stories of her resilient family, determined to be educated and politically engaged as India evolved, into the era when Mahatma Gandhi advanced the untouchables’ status by calling them “the children of God,” and up through modern times.
3. The Stars in Our Eyes: The Famous, The Infamous, and Why We Care Way Too Much About Them by Julie Klam (Riverhead Books)
“Watching them, reading about them, is a way to take us out of our doldrums and into another place; it doesn’t cost much and it can be less than five minutes, but we are out of here,” writes Klam about the value of celebrity culture as escapism. In in her warm, conversational tone, Klam packs The Stars in Our Eyes with anecdotes about stars and starwatchers, and she includes some intriguing science along the way, notably psychological studies showing how monkeys are enthralled by looking at high-status monkeys. At the end of each cleverly titled chapter, Klam draws on her wide circle of friends to recount brushes with celebrity – like 8-year-old Rich Cohen, now a writer, being hoisted and carried by Muhammad Ali at O’Hare Airport, to the disbelief of his father waiting in baggage claim.
4. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking)
Thandi is an “in-betweener,” not a “real” black person. An American, but rooted in South Africa. An outsider in suburban Philadelphia, where her parents are affluent, but the other children of color around her are not. When Thandi’s mother is struck with breast cancer, their relationship becomes more vexed, and Thandi becomes semi-adrift, free in her new-found independence yet weighted down by her need for mothering. Told in exquisite vignettes, and punctuated by bits of drawings and blog posts, this beautifully written debut novel speaks powerfully of those who travel through the world to some degree unmoored.
5. Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Lee Boudreaux/Little Brown)
A mid-list, middle-aged writer (sly named, Arthur Less) accepts every middling international invitation extended to him and sets forth around the globe. His much younger former boyfriend is about to be married, and Less thinks he’s probably the “first homosexual ever to grow old.” From Paris to Berlin, to Morocco, India and Japan, Less takes his anxious self around the world – and Greer elevates his picaresque journey into a wise and witty novel. This is no Eat, Pray Love story of touristic uplift, but rather a grand travelogue of foibles, humiliations and self-deprecation, ending in joy, and a dollop of self-knowledge.