1. Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao (Spiegel & Grau)
She may have lost her gender discrimination case against the high-powered venture capital firm that employed her, but Pao shook up Silicon Valley. A high-achieving, Ivy-educated daughter of Chinese immigrants, Pao, who believed in meritocracy, writes about being degraded and harassed at work, and then marginalized for being a whistleblower. In this bracing memoir, Pao details her own mistreatment and how she teamed up with several other women tech leaders to found Project Include, a non-profit, to track diversity results and hold companies and executives accountable.
2. One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps by Andrea Pitzer (Little, Brown)
This absorbing, panoramic history takes its title from the late Elie Wiesel, but extends beyond the horrors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust. With a keen, discerning eye, Pitzer begins her chronicle of concentration camps a century ago with Spanish generals rounding up Cuban peasants and ends with contemporary Guantanamo Bay. She rigorously blends deep archival research, eyewitness accounts and memoirs with on-site reporting from six continents, and tracks how mass civilian detention has evolved over time.
3. Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum (Doubleday)
On the eve of his deployment to Iraq as part of an elite Army Ranger battalion, Blum’s “squeaky-clean, patriotic, rule-respecting” cousin Alex joined three other soldiers, donned ski masks, and committed armed robbery of a bank in Tacoma, Washington. In this engrossing true-crime drama, Blum investigates why. Was his cousin brainwashed, under the control of a high-ranking Ranger, or was he so detached from reality after training that he thought that the robbery was a training exercise? Blum elevates this extraordinary book beyond a true-crime saga and contends with masculine madness, the war on terror, and one family’s pathology.
4. Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder (W.W. Norton)
They call themselves “workampers,” and they are not homeless, but rather “houseless.” Unable to afford retirement, they live in their converted vans and RVs, moving like nomads as they search for seasonal, short-term employment in the underbelly of the American economy. Journalist Bruder expands on her fascinating Harper’s magazine cover story and provides an intimate portrait of older Americans performing the low-pay, arduous work of harvesting sugar beets and working in Amazon order-fulfillment centers during the holiday rush. Bruder renders these people with a keen sensitivity, depicting them neither as victims or adventurers, but rather as a closely-knit tribe of resilient survivors.
5. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Mullholland)
An African-American Texas Ranger has ambivalent feelings about his roots in rural East Texas, but reluctantly returns home to investigate the murders of a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman. Racial tensions explode over what seems to be a hate crime. Locke, a writer and producer on the Fox drama Empire and a Texas native with an instinctive feel for the region’s rugged terrain and legacy of slavery, expertly builds tension in this gripping thriller which speaks unmistakable to issues of our own time.