1. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff (Henry Holt)
Book-lovers can take pride that for the past week, the national news agenda has been set not by a movie or a blog post or a tweet but by an old-fashioned hardcover book. There have been plenty of people cheering loudly for Wolff's almost-beyond-belief Trump White House expose, and also a growing number of people pointing out that it may have some accuracy issues. There can be no question, though, that there is a large and hungry audience. The Guardian reported last week that 250,000 copies had been shipped, but good luck finding it. Even Amazon is alerting buyers of a weeks-long wait.
2. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (Twelve)
After Timothy Leary – the guru of “turn on, tune in, drop out” – was sentenced to prison for possession of two marijuana cigarettes and then escaped, the Nixon administration launched a 28-month manhunt for the ex-Harvard researcher and crusader for LSD. Uncovering new evidence in archives and interviews, Minutaglio and Davis chronicle the fascinating cat-and-mouse relationship between Leary and Richard Nixon, who regarded Leary as an imminent cultural threat. Minutaglio and Davis's engrossing narrative follows Nixon’s determined effort to snag Leary, who lands in Algiers and then Switzerland, and becomes involved with Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panthers, and international arms dealers.
3. Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro (Grove)
Quatro follows her dazzling 2013 short fiction collection with a debut novel that updates the familiar infidelity story. Vivid and intense, Fire Sermon can be read in a single afternoon, its velocity propelled by the extraordinary voice of its narrator, Maggie, whose religious faith and love for her husband clash with her obsession with another man, a poet who responds to her fan letter. Quatro eschews a traditional, linear chronicle of marriage for a structure that more closely mirrors a questioning mind: a series of flashbacks juxtaposed with flashes forward; bits of dialogue, poetry, theology, and philosophy; and Maggie arguing with herself in a way that is intimate, raw, and psychologically fascinating.
4. King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
In New Orleans in the wake of World War I, three storylines intersect in Rich’s wildly imaginative novel: an Army veteran and detective on the track of a serial killer, a Mafia matriarch determined to reform her business, and Izzy Zeno, a jazz horn player trying to make ends meet. Stealing the show, though, is the Big Easy, with its distinctive mix of music, race, and history, at a moment when the Spanish Flu and a series of ax murders terrified residents. With an artful blend of humor suspense, and noir, Rich folds facts into a work of fiction that evokes the historical novels of E. L. Doctorow.
5. Bad Jobs and Poor Decisions: Dispatches from the Working Class by J. R. Helton (Liveright)
Helton spent the Reagan years in Texas, stuck in an endless loop of menial, dead-end jobs, a shaky marriage, and a life dulled by marijuana and other recreational drugs. While hauling firewood, selling pumpkins by the side of the road, and working with sad Vietnam War veterans, Helton banged out fiction on his portable Smith Corona manual typewriter -- and dreamed of success as a writer. After success with one short story, nothing worked out, and Helton re-enrolled at the University of Texas, threw himself into term papers and exams, quit drinking and smoking, and gained a perspective that makes this memoir about life in the trenches of the working poor particularly poignant and -- given our current state of affairs -- timely.