1. Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern (Simon & Schuster)
The shock jock is back on the best-seller list with a collection of interviews from the past two decades, and this edition is Howard Stern 2.0. The radio host has evolved and wants his readers to know that he had benefited from psychotherapy, and this mix of interviews shows Stern at his most probing and interesting, and, in the case of Harvey Weinstein, eerily prescient. While his interviews with Donald Trump seem to normalize the reality TV star who became president, Stern reveals that despite his efforts he was unable to land Hillary Clinton. He voted for her anyway.
2. Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art by Michael Shnayerson (PublicAffairs)
This colorful, supercharged history of the postwar art market focuses on dealers who transformed collection into high commerce and another global holding for the 1 percent. Shnayerson has a keen understanding of the dynamics and unwritten codes governing the contemporary art market, which has become “a wildly unpredictable financial roller coaster” with global reach that moves vast fortunes without even the lightest regulatory touch. A longtime writer for Vanity Fair, Shnayerson captures the theatrics in this arena, beginning with the genteel titan Leo Castelli, with his eye for talent like de Kooning, Rauschenberg, and Warhol, and the mega dealers who followed – most notably Larry Gagosian, a Los Angeles high school swimmer who instinctively understood leverage, arbitrage, and how to ride the wave of the 1980s Wall Street boom.
3. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (Riverhead)
Epstein’s thought-provoking, engaging Range could have been titled “Roger vs. Tiger,” the title of the book’s first chapter and its theme. In the Malcolm Gladwell tradition of counterintuitive research into everyday life, Epstein sets up the contrast between Tiger Woods, who trained in golf as a toddler, and Roger Federer, drawn to tennis as a teenager pursuing multiple interests. Woods’ example notwithstanding, Epstein maintains that “hyperspecialization” does not generally prove to be the road to success. Drawing from research, he argues against teaching methods that stress repeated practice in favor of “interleaving,” an approach that develops inductive reasoning, in which students learn to think in abstract ways and make connections. In his “Roger vs. Tiger” theme, Epstein goes beyond “tiger mother” parenting and extends the hyperspecialization problem more broadly, pointing out cultural pressures and educational institutions that don’t allow for grazing.
4. Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World’s Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West by David Wolman and Julian Smith (William Morrow)
The glorious Big Island of Hawaii and iconic Rocky Mountains converge in 1908 when three paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) travel 4,000 miles across the ocean, desert, and mountains to compete at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo, and Wolman and Smith capture this cultural clash with all its color and drama. Half a century before it became the 50th state, Hawaii had only just become a territory, but the authors relate its “cattle culture” that had developed over centuries and contrast it with the very different culture of the American West. Against the historical backdrop, Wolman and Smith convey how the dark-skinned paniolo with their ornate leather chaps and lariats and floral hats were underestimated by their opponents, who considered themselves the best and real cowboys, upending the cowboy-versus-Indian myth and returning as champions to their island, a place in the grip of imperialism.
5. America Was Hard to Find by Kathleen Alcott (Ecco)
An affair between a married test pilot and a young woman who has turned away from her privileged upbringing sparks Alcott’s smart, engrossing novel spanning three decades of American history, from the space race to the AIDS crisis. Both characters become famous: He becomes the first man to walk on the moon; she becomes a political radical, joining a group quite like the Weather Underground, and unbeknownst to him births and raises their son. In sharp prose and a deft, impressionistic style, Alcott not only picks up the cultural undercurrents running through those fraught times, but also keys into the pains and passions of broken people with keen humanity.