5 HOT BOOKS: Why We Dream, Why the News is Broken, and More


1. Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now by Alan Rusbridger (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

The editor of Guardian News and Media for two decades, Rusbridger judiciously relates how the fairly small, progressive British daily newspaper The Guardian evolved into an internationally successful English-language website. He recounts contending with the shifting technological and cultural landscape and considers practical questions such as whether to charge for online content and how to reach readers. Rusbridger reflects on some of the big stories of the recent past, including WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden; and the implications of Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and the rallying cry of “fake news.”

2. I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux (Crown/Duggan)

“Become what you are.” “Man is a bridge, not a goal.” German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is known for his plentiful aphorisms, and in this rich biography, Prideaux digs deeper than those pithy sayings to illuminate his nihilistic philosophy. She recognizes his close relationship with his bullying, anti-Semitic sister, Elisabeth, who reworked her brother’s works to appeal to Nazis. With insight and wit, Prideaux captures the arc of Nietzsche’s life as he wrestled with ideas, before becoming the master of bromides like “God is dead! ... And we have killed him.”

3. Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The True Story behind Degas’s Masterpiece by Camille Laurens, translated by Willard Wood (Other Press)

In this amalgam of art history, biography, and memoir, Laurens evokes the world of Edward Degas’ famous sculpture and the young woman, Marie van Goethem, who posed for him. Laurens vividly re-creates the 1881 debut exhibition of Little Dancer cast in wax, displayed under glass and dressed in clothes and shoes, but also describes the working conditions for impoverished girls like Marie, who, like their mothers, found extra work at the Paris Opera. French novelist and essayist Laurens paints a compelling portrait of Marie and animates this fascinating book by drawing on her capacious imagination, her own love of ballet, and her curiosity about the fate of Degas’ model.

4. Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey by Alice Robb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Fitbits and phone apps can track our minutes of exercise and work, and even calories consumed during our active hours, but New York Magazine columnist Robb argues for considering the flip side of wakefulness: sleep and dreams. Capitalizing on her deep knowledge of psychology and dream analysis, she compellingly contends that in ignoring dreams we squander opportunities to gain insight, experience adventure, and enhance our mental health. We dream to work through anxieties, confront fears, deal with trauma, and navigate the mazes of life. To maximize the benefits of dreams, Robb makes the case for maintaining a dream journal and learning to dream lucidly.

5. Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco)

Toggling between past and future, Oates’ mysterious and chilling dystopian novel is narrated by a New Jersey high school valedictorian in 2039 who is found guilty of “Treason and Questioning of Authority” by Homeland Security and teleported eight decades into the past to a re-education camp in Wainscotia, Wisconsin. Punished for speaking out and excelling in school in the “True Democracy” of the “North American States (NAS”), Adrian is sentenced to a women’s college where she is in culture shock and under constant surveillance. Past and future are eerily similar in this keenly observant and ingeniously suspenseful novel linking authoritarianism and apartheid.