Here are five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:
1. Zika: The Emerging Epidemic by Donald G. McNeil (W. W. Norton)
Veteran New York Times science reporter Donald G. McNeil has been investigating deadly global infections for decades and he draws on his experience for this deeply informative book about the Zika virus. McNeil explains in impressive detail how the virus was first seen in a Ugandan monkey and gradually progressed across the world, eventually finding its way to Brazil, where babies were born with microcephaly. This is both a fine scientific narrative and a probing exploration of the politics of a virus whose deadly impact is growing by the day.
2. Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country by Alex Cuadros (Spiegel & Grau)
During the Olympic Games next month, television viewers will see a sanitized version of Rio de Janeiro. Former Bloomberg reporter Cuadros's new book looks beyond the pageantry and shows the real Brazil. In his years on the billionaire beat, Cuadros chronicled the financial exploits and folkways of the Brazillian global elite, and he puts that knowledge to work. His dramatic cast of characters played a major role in building Brazil’s economy — while also helping to entrench corruption and ensure that public funds were directed away from the nation’s neediest.
3. The Unseen World by Liz Moore (W. W. Norton & Company)
A little girl is homeschooled by her genius father, who directs a Boston computer science laboratory, but her world is upended when he loses his memory and ability to communicate. In this intense and original novel, the young protagonist questions all she knows and turns to her father’s artificial intelligence program, where she finds clues to the mysteries of his past and troubling present. Moore renders a young girl's coming of age in a high-tech world, and her struggle to make her world right, with considerable writerly skill and impressive imagination.
4. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith (Nation Books)
Smith, a contributing writer to The Nation magazine, moves deftly between his own story and critical analysis of larger issues, and the result is a powerful consideration of the experience of black men in America. He recounts his family’s exacting demands and high expectations, and his education at an historically black college — and his growing awareness that black women and gay black men have been marginalized, even within the black community. This exploration of racism, sexism, and homophobia is both deeply resonant and ripped-from-the-headlines timely.
5. Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright (Marian Wood Books/G. P. Putnam’s Sons)
Drug lords, grave robbers, and art dealers battle it out in Wright’s action-packed novel, set in the shadowy corners of the Mexican art world. The plot is sparked by the inadvertent discovery by a looter — high on meth — of a priceless, historically significant Aztec funeral mask. The book’s young American heroine is determined to claim the mask and restore the reputation of her father, a discredited art dealer. This is a fast-paced adventure story that has deeper points to make about cross-cultural differences and the possibility of common ground.