1. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister (Simon & Schuster)
In a perfect book for this moment, Traister feels the pulse of American women and with her laser focus zooms in on the “specific nexus of women’s anger and American politics” and how throughout history women have harnessed their dissatisfactions and ignited movements for social change and justice. History has erased the angry women who fought to abolish slavery and ensure safety in the workplace, sanitizing figures like Rosa Parks by depicting them as patient and demure rather than as fiery activists. Change is slow and circular, and Traister argues that anger must fortify women as it has been at the heart of fighting injustice. “Being mad is correct; being mad is American; being mad can be joyful and productive and connective,” she writes in her radiant book. “Don’t ever let them talk you out of being mad again.”
2. The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton)
In classics such as Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, Lewis ingeniously created engrossing narratives from the most abstruse material; now he dives inside bland federal office buildings to deliver a devastating story of government bureaucracy in the Trump administration. Lewis begins with a post-election tweet from @realDonaldTrump: “Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!” Lewis has juicy stories about characters such as Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Trump himself, but most terrifying is his reporting on how the inept Trump presidential transition emptied the federal government of midcareer experts. Hiring, for example, people like his loyal cabana attendant for the Department of Agriculture, Trump has created a federal government ill-prepared to do basic work like the census or plan for weightier challenges like protecting against nuclear threats.
3. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug (Scribner)
In her stunning scrapbook-style memoir, graphic artist Krug documents the excavation of her German family history, particularly the question of whether her grandparents and extended family had ties to the Nazis. Krug’s exquisite handwritten reports and impressions are nestled on pages with photographs, images of found objects and 1930s and ’40s German phone books, Google street views, and illustrations, provide a kaleidoscopic quality to her inquiry. She discovers that one grandfather had served with the Nazis and that an uncle had died as a teenage Nazi soldier, and learns how parts of the family were estranged from others. As Krug wrestles with uncovering her family’s past, she contends with her own sense of guilt and dislocation, which helped to form her identity.
4. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (Catapult)
Growing up in a small Oregon town, isolated from other Asian faces, Chung staked her identity on the legend that her selfless, loving Korean parents had relinquished their severely premature baby to a loving white family with the resources to raise her. In her insightful memoir, she reflects on giving birth to her own daughter and the bond she developed with her biological sister. Catapult magazine’s editor-in-chief and the former managing editor of The Toast, Chung brings a light touch to her “messy family history and shifting Korean and American identities.”
5. Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III (W.W. Norton)
As in his acclaimed House of Sand and Fog, Dubus has a gift for writing fiction that inspires empathy with characters who initially seem detestable. In his new novel, we are introduced to one of these: a man who murdered his wife in front of their 3-year-old child. Raised by her grandmother, this daughter decades later is a happily married college professor writing her memoirs, which Dubus includes in the novel so that it becomes a sort of book inside a book. He brings a light touch to questions of morality and justice and moves delicately between seaside New England and swampy Florida, infusing life into the characters in this heartbreaking novel.