1. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey (Flatiron Books)
Even before the release of Comey’s memoir and the media blitz surrounding it, orders vaulted the book onto bestseller lists as morsels dribbled out and Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic of the New York Times, reviewed it. Comey, appointed director of the FBI by President Barack Obama in 2013, oversaw investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails and possible collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia before Trump fired him last year. There are many who say that Comey bears substantial responsibility for the Trump presidency, with his pre-election statements about Clinton, but readers eager for more clarity about the current occupant of the White House have been snapping up the former FBI head's account of a president “untethered to truth” and the “dishonesty infecting our culture.”
2. Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging by Alex Wagner (One World/Random House)
Former MSNBC host Wagner, now co-host of Showtime’s The Circus and contributor to CBS News, turns the lens on herself in this fascinating mix of reporting and memoir about identity in America. Born to a Burmese immigrant mother and a small-town Irish Catholic father, Wagner takes her title from a 1993 Time cover story that heralded a multicultural woman as “The New Face of America.” Unsparing, she reports on her loneliness, vexed family relationships, and DNA tests but also grapples with “immigration as an interior act – becoming something new” and her preoccupation with immigrants, exiles, and refugees as part of solving the mystery of her own identity.
3. The Girl from Kathmandu: Twelve Dead Men and a Woman’s Quest for Justice by Cam Simpson (Harper)
In a decade of reporting that took him from the Himalayas, Iraq, and Jordan to Houston and Washington, D.C., Simpson focuses on the underpinnings of an atrocity and its reverberations to deliver a full-scale global drama that puts a human face on international corruption and the abuse of foreign migrant workers. Soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a dozen Nepalese men thought they were being recruited to work in a Jordanian luxury hotel, but ended up as contractors for the U.S. military and were kidnapped and executed by Islamist militants. In highly readable prose, Simpson, a London-based investigations editor and writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, zeros in on a Nepalese widow who found the strength to fight for answers and justice, allying with human rights lawyers to uncover the military-corporate channel of foreign labor that led to a Texas courtroom.
4. God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright (Knopf)
“Explain Texas,” New Yorker editor David Remnick asked renowned staff writer Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower and other distinguished works of nonfiction. This fine book, a deep look at Wright’s home state, answers Remnick’s question in episodic chapters, many of them in travels and conversation with Stephen Harrigan, a friend who sees Texas as part of the mainstream, a huge state that reflects trends across the country. But Wright, zigzagging through the nation’s second-largest state (in territory and population), is less forgiving and argues that what happens in the Lone Star State disproportionately affects the rest of the country: “I think," he says, "Texas has nurtured an immature political culture that has done terrible damage to the state and to the nation.”
5. Big Guns by Steve Israel (Simon & Schuster)
From a swamp of political tracts and naked bids for higher office, the former congressman from Long Island rises with a brilliantly wicked satirical novel. Big Guns reveals the absurdity of the gun industry, the NRA, and Washington influence peddlers that eviscerate local gun control activists as the media dithers. A local ban on handguns leads to a mayoral recall, right-wing militias, and federal legislation mandating that everyone age 4 and older must carry a gun. It all seems outlandish and unfathomable, until one sees Wayne LaPierre on cable TV and recalls the tragedies in places like Newtown, Charleston and Parkland.