5 HOT BOOKS: Piracy and Murder on the High Seas, Renegade Anthropologists, and More


1. A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century by Jason DeParle (Viking)

From a shantytown in Manila in the 1980s to a family reunited in Texas, DeParle’s book spans three generations of a Filipino family whose lives have been profoundly shaped by migration over three decades. In a convoluted story of family separations, from jobs in Bahrain to cruise ships around the world, DeParle humanizes the politics of migration and the powerful forces of assimilation, as he focuses on Rosalie, both a mother and daughter, whose determination to become a nurse takes her through Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and finally to Galveston, Texas. Immigration may be a hot button issue today, but in his profoundly wise, insightful, and eloquent book, DeParle goes behind sloganeering and conveys the vast and tangled obstacle course navigated by those who dream of lifting their families out of poverty.

2. The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina (Knopf)

Building on his award-winning New York Times series, Urbina expands his investigation into the lawlessness of the high seas. In a book that is truly global in scope, he crosses the world’s oceans, touching Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East, roaming from port to port to reveal the violence and crime in international waters. The Outlaw Ocean is enriched by Urbina’s gifted storytelling about the destruction of marine life and the murder, crime, and piracy that make the seas so dangerous for those who make their living on them.

3. Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century by Charles King (Doubleday)

When President Donald Trump declares war on an “invasion” of immigrants, he draws from the so-called racial science of the turn of the 20th century that was debunked by a crusading anthropologist, German immigrant Franz Boas, and his researchers at Columbia University. In his fascinating account, King vividly depicts this cohort of iconoclasts – described by the university president as “misfits and dissenters” – who together challenged conventional tenets of the time that all human beings could be grouped into fixed races. King’s marvelous group biography captures the dynamics of Boas’ illustrious team of researchers, which included such luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston and Margaret Mead.

4. The Trojan War Museum: And Other Stories by Ayse Papatya Bucak (W.W. Norton)

Bucak’s debut is an original, alluringly mythical, off-kilter collection of 10 stories reflecting her own Americanized Turkishness enriched by history and cultural conflict. One especially smart story, “Good Fortune,” is set in a Florida hotel in which the birth tourism industry flourishes amid ghosts and contradictory clues to a mystery, and another, “An Ottoman’s Arabesque,” is a hallucinatory hall of mirrors featuring a diplomat who negotiated the end of the Crimean War and was a liberal reformer and collector of erotic art. In the title story, the Greek god Apollo visits Trojan War museums around the world, acknowledging past traumas of battle in a “story we already know and need never tell again.”

5. The Cold Way Home by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)

While so many novel series seem to flag as author and protagonist grow weary, it is a testament to Keller’s talent and imagination that the eighth in her Acker’s Gap mysteries retains the momentum of her inaugural A Killing in the Hills. At the center of them all is fierce, sharp-edged lawyer Bell Elkins, tied to her hardscrabble West Virginia and holding an abiding passion for justice. Keller, a Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing, has not protected Bell from setbacks, but has let her evolve from county prosecutor to detective in a small agency that takes on cases neglected by or inconvenient for law enforcement. In the The Cold Way Home, Bell’s investigation into a disappearance leads her to a hollow where the state mental institution burned to the ground, and as in the other books in the series, it is enriched by an ever-widening set of richly drawn characters including, this time, Bell’s winsome new puppy.