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12 New Books We Recommend This Week

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

HEAVY: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon. (Scribner, $26.) In a memoir addressed to his mother, Laymon writes about growing up in Mississippi, and reckons with racism and childhood abuse, as well as his struggles with addiction — to gambling and to food. “Heavy” is a “gorgeous, gutting book that’s fueled by candor yet freighted with ambivalence. It’s full of devotion and betrayal, euphoria and anguish, tender embraces and rough abuse,” our critic Jennifer Szalai writes.

FRIDAY BLACK, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, paper, $14.99.) “Friday Black” announces a new and necessary voice. Adjei-Brenyah has written a powerful and important and strange and beautiful collection of stories meant to be read right now; this is a dystopian book as full of violence as it is of heart. “Throughout ‘Friday Black’ we are aware that the violence is crucially related to both what is happening in America now, and what happened in its bloody and brutal history,” Tommy Orange writes in his review. Adjei-Brenyah’s “many truths, insights and beautifully crafted sentences just sing on the page.”

PAST TENSE, by Lee Child. (Delacorte, $28.99.) The latest Jack Reacher thriller takes this wandering hero to the New Hampshire town where his father was born, and where something suspicious is going on at the local motel. “Child’s writing seems unusually expressive in this novel, possibly because of its intimate subject matter,” according to our crime columnist, Marilyn Stasio. Its imagery is often “startlingly sweet-tempered,” she adds, “and a reminder that Child is one writer who should never be taken for granted.”

ON SUNSET: A Memoir, by Kathryn Harrison. (Doubleday, $27.) Harrison’s previous memoirs delved into her parents’ traumatic influence. Now she introduces the beloved Old World grandparents who raised her. Penelope Green’s review calls the book “Harrison’s gentlest inquiry into the particular foreign country that is her past,” and concludes that the author’s worldly, eccentric, iconoclastic forebears provided “the glittering riches of Harrison’s childhood, her most precious inheritance.”

AMERICAN DIALOGUE: The Founders and Us, by Joseph J. Ellis. (Knopf, $27.95.) Ellis’s subject is not only the founding era but our own, and the “ongoing conversation between past and present.” The author of many books on the early United States, Ellis draws connections with an authority few others can muster. “Here, the dispassionate historian calmly takes the gloves off,” Jeff Shesol writes, reviewing the book. “Ellis, clearly, has reached the limit of his tolerance for the mythical, indeed farcical, notion that the anti-Federalists won the argument in the late 18th century, or that the founders, to a man, stood for small and weak government, unrestrained market capitalism, unfettered gun ownership and the unlimited infusion of money into the political sphere.”


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