1. The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (Little, Brown and Alfred A. Knopf)
Book trailers just can’t compete with movie trailers, unless of course the authors are a charismatic former American president and the world’s best-selling brand-name writer whose sales exceed those of J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, and John Grisham combined. Clinton and Patterson’s thriller involves the White House, impossible decisions, stress, cyberterror, espionage, and a possible traitor in the Cabinet. In their brief video, Patterson promises that The President Is Missing “is full of twists and turns, kind of like being president.” Clinton responds, “Jim, you have no idea.”
2. Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else) by Ken Auletta (Penguin Press)
In his earlier books such as Googled: The End of the World as We Know It and Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way and his New Yorker essays under the rubric “The Annals of Communication,” Auletta considered advertising as an aspect of the stories he was telling, but now, with Frenemies, he makes it the main story. “Trying to understand the media without understanding advertising and marketing, its fuel supply,” he writes, “is like trying to understand the auto industry without regard to fuel costs.” In Frenemies, Auletta focuses his laser-sharp attention on the ad industry’s response to the convulsions wrought by technological change – why publishers push native advertising, how Big Tech collects marketing data and wields extraordinary influence, and ultimately how advertising sustains the information ecosystem.
3. Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler (Liveright)
A deadly attack at a gay nightclub brings the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, Fla., to mind, but as Fieseler’s remarkable Tinderbox reveals, it was preceded by a similar disaster more than 40 years earlier when the Up Stairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans, went up in flames. The book is a remarkable feat of reporting, with Fieseler adeptly piecing together how the 32 men and women who died that night had lived in hiding but found refuge and freedom in the club decades before homosexuality was decriminalized in Louisiana. It is also an impressive work of history, placing the tragedy at the Up Stairs Lounge in the context of its era. Finally, it is an important work of memory, showing how powerful institutions – media, legislators, and city authorities – shared an interest in suppressing the tragedy, and giving the story its rightful place in America's national story.
4. True by Karl Taro Greenfeld (Little A)
In True – short for Trudy – Greenfeld has created a compelling teenage antiheroine, whose rage and passion elevate the novel beyond a traditional coming-of-age story. Her mother dead and her disengaged father a gambler, True feels responsible for her younger sister, who has severe autism. She escapes her family’s dysfunction by immersing herself in what Greenfeld depicts as the weirdly fascinating and highly demanding world of elite soccer. Athletically gifted and wildly competitive, True contends with her fury on the field and off, and as Greenfeld traces her trajectory to become one of the world’s best soccer players, he keys into her disappointments, fears, and anxiety in ways that are profound and universal.
5. Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Pittard’s 2011 debut novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, centered on a tragedy that shadows a town, and that theme has played out in her later books. But with the captivating Visible Empire, she brings her kaleidoscopic perspective to a catastrophe on an epic scale. She draws from the 1962 Air France crash that killed more than 100 of Atlanta’s most elite citizens, art patrons on a tour of Europe, during a summer of Camelot with the civil rights movement gearing up in the South. With her keen eye for social markers and a deft weave of intersecting storylines, Pittard exposes social fissures and tensions over race and class, and how power and privilege play out in the shadows of grief.