1. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (Little, Brown)
Journalist Macy has distinguished herself with her knack for finding overlooked stories in the South – globalization’s destruction of the American furniture industry in Factory Man and the exploitation of African-Americans with albinism during the Jim Crow era in Truevine. With Dopesick, her new book about the opioid epidemic, she has outdone herself, capturing the tragic tales of individual drama and providing them with national resonance. With empathy, she relates the tales of those caught up in poverty, despair, self-medication, and addiction, and with her investigative skills she takes aim at the exploitative pharmaceutical companies. In a bracing call to arms, Macy puts forth a “New Deal for the Drug Addicted” in this extraordinary new book.
2. Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East by David D. Kirkpatrick (Viking)
Dispatched to Egypt from Washington by the New York Times, correspondent Kirkpatrick arrived on the eve of the Arab Spring, and the result is an insightful and important book about upheaval and tragedy on the world stage. Kirkpatrick brings a unique perspective on how this recent history unfolded, reflecting his deep street-level reporting in Egypt and politics through the region combined with his understanding of Washington, particularly the Obama White House and its failure to deter the military ascent in Egypt. This deftly written book captures the arc of a troubled country's heartbreaking failure to deter autocracy.
3. The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris (Hachette)
Horace draws on his own time in uniform and on more than 100 interviews he and co-author Harris conducted in a broad sweep across the country, from community activists and survivors of police shootings to politicians and law enforcement professionals. The authors argue that unequal policing is deeply ingrained into the profession and that episodes in Ferguson and Baltimore were preceded by years of bias and overly-punitive policies of drug laws following unrest in the 1960s. Written with passion and nuance, Horace and Harris’s book explores how police conflicts have played out in different cities, focusing, among other examples, on segregation in Chicago, corruption in New Orleans, and revenue generation in Ferguson, while underscoring the prevalence of bigotry and bias.
4. Horse by Talley English (Knopf)
From National Velvet to Misty of Chincoteague, the girl-equine bond is a literary cliché, but English’s debut novel of an adolescent tomboy and the regal, impulsive thoroughbred horse left by her father after he deserted the family breaks that tradition. Written in short, elegant chapters resembling prose poems, Horse bucks traditional narrative form, shifting between first and third perspectives as the girl spirals downward through adolescence yet is sustained by her bond with the horse and her determination to train him. Insightful yet free of sentimentality, English’s book reaches a surprising and resonant conclusion.
5. If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (William Morrow)
The recent success of Min Jin Lee’s wonderful novel Pachinko suggests that American readers are hungry to imagine the complicated history of Korea and its people in new ways, and Kim’s debut novel is to be savored by those eager for the next installment. A love triangle plays out from five perspectives over a decade, but the novel’s centrifugal force is an ambitious and impulsive 16-year-old girl living with her mother and ill younger brother in a war-time refugee camp. During a time of national upheaval, she chooses to marry for wealth and stability to support her family and is forced to deal with the aftershocks of that decision for years to come.