1. Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations by Amy Chua (Penguin Press)
Yale law professor Amy Chua, author of the bestselling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, brilliantly explores one of the critical issues of our time: the destructive force of political tribalism, which has led to disastrous entanglements abroad and divisions at home. Chua simultaneously explicates and argues against the fracturing tribalism that threatens America’s hard-won national identity. “The Left believes that right-wing tribalism – bigotry, racism – is tearing the world apart,” she says. “The Right believes that left-wing tribalism – identity politics, political correctness – is tearing the country apart. They’re both right.” Political Tribes is Chua’s clarion call for a national identity that is powerful and capacious enough to unite an increasingly diverse United States.
2. Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times by Joel Richard Paul (Riverhead)
In his engrossing biography of John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the United States, Paul, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings Law School, makes a compelling case for Marshall’s enduring impact on the Constitution. With the verve that distinguished his previous book, Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution, Paul traces Marshall’s path from unschooled, hardscrabble origins to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served for over three decades and was a “consistent voice for moderation, compromise, and pragmatism.” Paul deftly evokes Marshall as a leader who imagined a dynamic interpretation of the Constitution and with his “gift for illusion transformed not only himself but the Court, the Constitution, and the nation as well.”
3. We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights by Adam Winkler (Liveright)
“Are corporations people?” That’s the provocative question Winkler poses at the outset of his impressive, engaging new book. He argues that long before the Supreme Court’s decisions in the Hobby Lobby and Citizens United cases, “corporations have pushed relentlessly, and with noteworthy success, to gain the same rights as individuals under the Constitution.” Winkler, a UCLA law professor and author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, begins in Colonial America and provides a forceful and highly readable account of what he convincingly describes as a “long, and long overlooked, corporate rights movement.”
4. Educated by Tara Westover (Random House)
This is an exquisite memoir, whose lucidity and wisdom almost defy the reality that it was written by a young woman who was raised on an Idaho mountain by radical Mormon survivalists, erratically home-schooled, and physically and emotionally abused for years. Westover had the tenacity to make her way to Brigham Young University, win a Gates Scholarship, and earn a doctorate from Cambridge University. Written with extraordinary powers of self-knowledge, Westover’s coming-of-age story is a testament to one determined woman’s unrelenting quest for knowledge, independence, and a meaningful place in the world.
5. Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (Houghton Mifflin)
In this wickedly smart novel, narrator Bibi Abbas Abbas Hosseini, the daughter of a multilingual translator, learns Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic, English, Farsi, French, and German – the languages of the oppressed and oppressors alike – because, as her father told her, “the wheels of history are always turning and there is no knowing who will be run over next.” After his death, she renames herself “Zebra” and sets off on a darkly funny picaresque adventure to retrace her family’s journey from Iran after they were exiled. Van der Vliet Oloomi, recipient of a Whiting Award and a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honor, has delivered a slightly screwball novel with a quirky, irrepressible narrator, full of literary theories, boundless curiosity, and biting humor.