THE MEMORY MONSTER , by Yishai Sarid. (Restless Books, $20.) This brilliant short novel serves as a brave, sharp-toothed brief against ...
THE MEMORY MONSTER, by Yishai Sarid. (Restless Books, $20.) This brilliant short novel serves as a brave, sharp-toothed brief against letting the past devour the present. Sarid tells the story of a tour guide to the Nazi death camps and how his mind begins to slowly unravel as his knowledge of the mechanics of genocide becomes an obsession. “Sarid is clearly very scared for Israel,” Gal Beckerman writes in his review. “Other writers have described well the reverberations of trauma … but few have taken this further step, to wonder out loud about the ways the Holocaust may have warped the collective conscience of a nation, making every moment existential, a constant panic not to become victims again.”
RED PILL, by Hari Kunzru. (Knopf, $27.95.) A fellowship at a study center in Germany turns sinister and sets a writer on a possibly paranoid quest to expose a political evil he believes is loose in the world. This wonderfully weird novel traces a lineage from German Romanticism to National Socialism to the alt-right, and is rich with insights on surveillance and power. Our reviewer, Michael Gorra, writes that Kunzru’s fiction uses “the machinery of the thriller, with its secrets and hidden identities, as a way to explore the contemporary sense of the self.” The book, he adds, “depends on Kunzru’s skilled use of a seemingly unreliable narrator. We have to believe that maybe he really is being watched; at the same time, we want to shake him into sense.”
THE SPYMASTERS: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future, by Chris Whipple. (Scribner, $30.) This engaging portrait of the men and one woman who have led the C.I.A. over the past six decades shows them to be, contrary to common impressions, beleaguered more often than omnipotent, stumbling more often than swaggering. “Whipple’s book should offer a reminder that the difficulties faced by intelligence officials under Trump are not entirely new,” Daniel Kurtz-Phelan writes in his review. “And even under a future president who does not tweet charges of treason or rant about the deep state, they will not vanish entirely.”
THE QUIET AMERICANS: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War — a Tragedy in Three Acts, by Scott Anderson. (Doubleday, $30.) Covering the years 1944 to 1956, Anderson’s enthralling history of the early years of the Cold War follows four C.I.A. operatives as their initial idealism eventually turns into betrayal and disillusionment, fueled by creeping right-wing hysteria at home and cynical maneuvering abroad. “It is impossible not to be a little swept up in the spectacle of this bygone era when intrepid individuals actually shaped history, even if it was often for the worse,” Kevin Peraino writes in his review. “Lying and stealing and invading, it should be said, make for captivating reading, especially in the hands of a storyteller as skilled as Anderson.”
JUST US: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine. (Graywolf, $30.) As she did in her acclaimed 2014 collection “Citizen,” Rankine here combines essays, poetry and visual art to interrogate the ways race haunts her imagination, and America’s. “Fantasies cost lives,” she writes. Reviewing it, Maya Phillips says that “the book, fittingly, feels utterly of the mind, with its anxious inquiries and connections and diversions, not to mention all of Rankine’s brilliance.”