"Race-Baiter," by Eric Deggans and "Invisible Armies," by Max Boot.
By Eric Deggans (Palgrave MacMillan, 275 pages, $28)
Talking about racial issues in the United States can be a tricky endeavor, but Eric Deggans, the thoughtful, often provocative media critic, steps boldly through this land-mine field with scholarly knowledge, direct challenges and pertinent anecdotes. Deggans’ clinical approach occasionally feels a bit dry, but he peppers the book with enough pop-culture references — the stereotypical characters on “2 Broke Girls,” the season when “Survivor” split up teams by race, the short-lived influence of “The Cosby Show” — that you never feel like you’re reading a thesis paper. Readers will soon realize that Deggans isn’t interested in a war; he’s interested in a discusson. This book is a good place to start.
NEAL JUSTIN, media critic
By Max Boot (Liveright, 750 pages, $35)
The subtitle of this prodigious work tells you what to expect: “An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare From Ancient Times to the Present.” It’s that, and much more. What you probably won’t expect is exceptional writing that is absolutely captivating, no mean feat for a book this size or a topic so complex. There isn’t a dry page here, and the author’s descriptive powers bring an astonishingly diverse cast of characters — and cultures — vividly to life. The work is divided into eight “books,” or time frames, beginning with the Jewish struggle against the invading Romans in 66 A.D., and culminating with “God’s Killers,” which examines the depredations of radical Islam. The text is by no means episodic, however; the author provides seamless transitions from one era to another, demonstrating how one inevitably interconnected with another. To cap it off, a user-friendly appendix provides a comprehensive database, detailed notes and a truly impressive bibliography. If Max Boot’s name seems familiar, it should be. He is one of the nation’s important military analysts, a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page, and the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
MICHAEL J. BONAFIELD, night copy editor