The New York Times Book Review: April 16, 2017

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Friday, April 14, 2017

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Prisoners at prayer at Gadsden County Jail, Quincy, Fla.
Prisoners at prayer at Gadsden County Jail, Quincy, Fla. Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times
Dear Reader…
Our cover this week features two important books about law enforcement and race: “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” by James Forman Jr., and “A Colony in a Nation,” by Chris Hayes. Both look at the disparate ways Americans conceive of punishment, accountability and victimhood, with huge repercussions for Americans of all races. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, until recently the head of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and now a professor of history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, reviews. Muhammad is also the author of “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.”
On a very different note, Tom Carson, one of the best critics on movies and television, gives a rave review to Jason Zinoman’s new biography of David Letterman. Zinoman, the comedy columnist for The Times, was also my guest on this week’s podcast (along with Chris Hayes). Zinoman argues that the TV host was a major force in American pop culture in a late-night landscape very different from our current one, in which more people encounter short, digestible clips online (think James Corden's Carpool Karaoke) from late-night programs than watch the hourlong episodes on TV. Another TV star in this week’s issue is the impressive Lesley Stahl, longtime correspondent on CBS's “60 Minutes.” She tells us what she’s reading in By the Book.
Want to fall in love with your next book? This week marks the debut of Match Book! Read the first column here, and send in your questions. Our literary advice columnist awaits your letters: matchbook@nytimes.com
Please stay in touch and let us know what you think – whether it’s about this newsletter, our reviews, our podcast or what you’re reading. We read and ponder all of it. I even write back, albeit belatedly. You can email me at books@nytimes.com
Pamela Paul
Editor of The New York Times Book Review
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THE BOOK REVIEW PODCAST

On this week’s podcast, Chris Hayes talks about “A Colony in a Nation”; Jason Zinoman discusses “Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night”; Jennifer Schuessler has news from the literary world; and Parul Sehgal and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Listen here.

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Nonfiction
Prisoners at prayer at Gadsden County Jail, Quincy, Fla.
Nonfiction

Power and Punishment: Two New Books About Race and Crime

By KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD

James Forman Jr.’s “Locking Up Our Own” and Chris Hayes’s “A Colony in a Nation” compel readers to wrestle with very tough questions about racism, inequality and punishment.

The 19th-century potato blight in Ireland.
Nonfiction

Have a Banana. On Second Thought, Don’t.

By RAJ PATEL

In “Never Out of Season,” Robert Dunn looks at how modern societies make themselves vulnerable to crop devastation.

Joan Didion with her Corvette, 1971.
Nonfiction

The South (and the West) through Joan Didion’s Eyes

By LAILA LALAMI

Through excerpts from her notebooks, Joan Didion recounts a monthlong road trip through the Gulf states during the 1970s in “South and West.”

Luther in a 1523 engraving.
Nonfiction

A New Biography of Martin Luther Reveals the Life Beyond the Theses

By ANDREW PETTEGREE

In “Martin Luther,” Lyndal Roper explores the theologian’s life and improbable career.

David Letterman on the set of
Nonfiction

The Legacy of David Letterman, Icon of the Grizzled Generation

By TOM CARSON

In “Letterman,” Jason Zinoman shows how a Midwestern wiseacre changed late-night television.

Starter marriage: One of several paintings of the original couple by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
Nonfiction

The Enduring Power of Adam and Eve (Minus the Sin and Sexism)

By RICH COHEN

Bruce Feiler makes a case for the contemporary relevance of Adam and Eve in “The First Love Story.”

A protester watches the riot police in Kiev, December 2013.
Nonfiction

How the Tumultuous ’90s Paved the Way for Putin’s Russia

By RAJAN MENON

Peter Conradi, in “Who Lost Russia?,” asks what went wrong in U.S.-Russia relations.

Anne-Marie Slaughter
Nonfiction

A New Rule Book for the Great Game

By SERGE SCHMEMANN

In “The Chessboard and the Web,” Anne-Marie Slaughter calls on foreign-policy makers to radically update their vision of global order.

Fiction
Fiction

A Heroine Comes of Age With Her Pistol-Packing Father

By PETE HAMILL

Hannah Tinti’s new novel, “The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley,” centers on the close relationship between a girl and her outlaw father.

Robert Louis Stevenson at work.
Fiction

Robert Louis Stevenson Never Wrote This Novel. So Brian Doyle Did It for Him.

By JENNY DAVIDSON

Brian Doyle’s “The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World” is an affectionate homage to the author of “Treasure Island” anchored in the months he spent living in San Francisco.

Fiction

In This Tale of Online Intimacy, the Only Wise Characters Are Luddites

By KAITLIN PHILLIPS

“Sympathy,” Olivia Sudjic’s debut novel about social media obsession and digital heartbreak, tracks the dark side of online companionship.

Fiction

A Debut Novel Follows a Financial Scandal to a Gossipy Kibbutz

By ALANA NEWHOUSE

Bethany Ball’s comic first novel, “What to Do About the Solomons,” follows a Jewish family through the 20th century and a financial scandal.

Fiction

Gilded Cage: A Wealthy White Family in East Africa Faces an Islamist Uprising

By MELANIE FINN

In Jean McNeil’s novel “The Dhow House,” East Africa’s violent unrest threatens a privileged white family.

Young Adult

New Y.A. Novels Tackle Crime and Its Consequences

By JEN DOLL

A roundup of new young adult fiction includes stories of a thief seeking justice, a skeleton revealing a city’s shameful past and a gorilla spinning tales.

Features
Lesley Stahl
By the Book

Lesley Stahl: By the Book The journalist and author of “Becoming Grandma” says Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” reminded her of Gabriel García Márquez, a high compliment: “My all-time favorite book . . . is ‘Love in the Time of Cholera.'”

Crime

Silos, Sulfur and Stolen Identities: The Best of New Crime Fiction

By MARILYN STASIO

This week’s crime column features two familiar sleuths, V.I. Warshawski and Lincoln Rhyme, as well as a disgraced reporter and a Victorian detective.

The Shortlist

Food Marks Milestones in These Culinary Collections

By MAX WATMAN

Three food-oriented memoirs take readers as far as the Pacific Northwest and Iran, and as near as a New York matriarch’s kitchen.

Bookends

Which Force is More Harmful to the Arts: Elitism or Populism?

By ADAM KIRSCH AND LIESL SCHILLINGER

Adam Kirsch and Liesl Schillinger discuss the art yielded by populist and elite mind-sets.

 
Open Book

Murder, He Wrote

By JOHN WILLIAMS

The recently reissued “Killings” collects pieces of Calvin Trillin’s true-crime writing for The New Yorker.

Letters to the Editor Readers respond to Fran Lebowitz, Angus Deaton’s review “The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution” and more.
11 New Books We Recommend This Week Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.
Match Book

Dear Reader, Meet Your Match: An Advice Column for Book Lovers

By NICOLE LAMY

In our new column connecting readers with books, a busy dad seeks the new Updike and a grandmother hunts for heroines for her 7-year-old twin granddaughters.

Paperback Row

By JOUMANA KHATIB

Six new paperbacks to check out this week.

Alec Baldwin Settles Scores in New Memoir

By PARUL SEHGAL

“Nevertheless” debuts at No. 5 on the hardcover nonfiction best-seller list.

James Baldwin’s Archive, Long Hidden, Comes (Mostly) Into View

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER

The Schomburg Center in Harlem has bought this author’s rich archive. But the private letters admirers have longed to read will largely remain under seal.

2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners

By THE NEW YORK TIMES

The prizes included reporting on the presidential election; a fatal fire in Oakland, Calif.; and the attempts by the Russian government to assert its power.

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