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9 New Books We Recommend This Week

Category: Art & Culture,Books

NINTH STREET WOMEN: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, by Mary Gabriel. (Little, Brown, $35.) This history of the midcentury art scene focuses on five women who each represented an important chapter in the development of Abstract Expressionism. “‘Ninth Street Women’ is supremely gratifying, generous and lush but also tough and precise — in other words, as complicated and capacious as the lives it depicts,” our critic Jennifer Szalai writes. “The story of New York’s postwar art world has been told many times over, but by wresting the perspective from the boozy, macho brawlers who tended to fixate on themselves and one another, Gabriel has found a way to newly illuminate the milieu and upend its clich├ęs.”

MY STRUGGLE: Book 6, by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Translated by Don Bartlett and Martin Aitken. (Archipelago, $33.) This hefty volume concludes the Norwegian author’s mammoth autobiographical novel with lengthy exegeses on art, literature, poetry and Hitler (whose “Mein Kampf” gives Knausgaard his title). “The great technical ambition of this work is the attempt to reconstruct the rich inconsequentiality of our quotidian experience in prose stripped of the usual novelistic devices,” Daniel Mendelsohn writes in his review. “Questions about precisely what fiction is and how it relates to reality, and the extent to which traditional narrative can be a delivery vehicle for saying something true about life … lie at the intellectual and aesthetic heart of Knausgaard’s huge undertaking.”

THE FIELD OF BLOOD: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War, by Joanne B. Freeman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) A noted historian uncovers the scores of brawls, stabbings, pummelings and duel threats that occurred among congressmen between 1830 and 1860. The mayhem was part of the ever-escalating tensions over slavery. Our reviewer, David S. Reynolds, calls it an “absorbing, scrupulously researched book” that “casts fresh light on the period it examines while leading us to think about our own time.”

OHIO, by Stephen Markley. (Simon & Schuster, $27.) This debut novel, set at a class reunion, churns with such ambitious social statements and insights — on hot-button issues of the past dozen years — that at times it feels like a kind of fiction/op-ed hybrid as it shifts perspective from one character to the next. “There’s a real pleasure in this hopscotching narrative,” according to Dan Chaon’s review: “With each new point of view, a clearer sense of the hidden story emerges as the reader slowly pieces together some shocking revelations.”

HIS FAVORITES, by Kate Walbert. (Scribner, $22.) A middle-aged woman recalls, haltingly, how she was groomed by a charismatic high school English teacher in this powerful novel of trauma and survival that couldn’t be more timely. The looping narrative amounts to a cathartic experiment in taking control of one’s own story. “Walbert is a masterly and rich purveyor of female characters,” Sophie Gilbert writes in her review, and this book is “a reckoning not just with the reality of abuse, but with the pernicious ways it can shape and inform everything, even the stories you tell yourself.”

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