5 Hot Books: Young Radicals in the 1910's, a Vietnam War Turning Point, and More

These are five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:

1. Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals by Jeremy McCarter (Random House)

McCarter tells the fascinating story of a constellation of five young radicals in the 1910's, a time when American hope for the future surged, and then was flattened by the violence and repression that accompanied entry into World War I. McCarter, the co-author (with Lin-Manuel Miranda) of Hamilton: The Revolution, has chosen a stellar cast of activist-intellectuals for his narrative: Max Eastman, the Greenwich Village-based wordsmith and editor of The Masses; Walter Lippmann, the esteemed newspaper columnist; Alice Paul, the history-making suffrigist; and John Reed, the radical journalist and eyewitness to the Russian Revolution. In McCarter’s riveting telling, this ensemble battled for a better world -- and, occasionally, with each other -- in ways that resonate powerfully with today's difficult times.

2. Hue 1968: A Turning Point in the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden (Atlantic)

In this engrossing book about one of the bloodiest single actions in Vietnam, Bowden delivers a definitive account of the 1968 battle that changed the dynamic of the war. Bowden, former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and author of the bestselling Black Hawk Down, has a gripping story to tell: the 24-day period in which 10,000 lives – combatant and civilian – were lost in South Vietnam’s third-largest city. Bowden masterfully captures both the drama of an epic military engagement and the role it played in turning American hearts and minds against the war.

3.  The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman (The Dial Press)

In Goodman’s inventive and moving new novel, an interlocking set of characters raise provocative questions about art and relationships. An artist who destroys his creations and a principled young high school English teacher, whose father happens to be a video game mogul, become romantically involved, and much ensues – including a whole set of complications that begin when the teacher gets her boyfriend a job with her father’s company. The Chalk Artist deftly contends with the commodification of art, the transformations being wrought by technology, and the ephemeral nature of human bonds.

4. Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umrigar (Harper)

In Everybody’s Son, bestselling author Umrigar delivers a powerful fusillade about race, class, and identity.  The story follows a neglected biracial 9-year-old boy who ends up in foster care; his crack-addicted mother, who goes to prison; and an affluent and powerful white couple, who engineer to adopt him. In this sensitive and compelling novel, Umrigar, a professor of English at Case Western Reserve, traces her young protagonist’s privileged rise in a highly charged political family as questions about his past threaten to pull him back down.

5. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown)

Alexie, winner of the National Book Award for his semi-autobiographical young-adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has written an extraordinary memoir following the 2015 death of his mother. Alexie writes of growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington, in this untraditionally structured work, which combines poetry and prose.  He recalls his erratic, often cruel mother and their years of battle, complicated by problems of life on the reservation: alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and isolation from white society.  Alexie blends a warmth for Native American culture with bittersweet feelings about a complicated parent, whom he presents as a source of great disappointment, even as he recognizes that her fortitude kept him alive.