“Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974,” by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian Zelizer. (W.W. Norton)
In their energetic, informative history, Princeton University professors Kruse and Zelizer chronicle the post-Watergate era through the lens of growing divisions on immigration, race and the economy — and add sexuality and class inequality to the mix. The book briskly moves through the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation process, Iran-Contra, Clinton impeachment, Bush v. Gore, the Iraq War and the Affordable Care Act, and examines the tensions that have been ratcheted up and exploited by the internet boom and ultrapartisan media.
“Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t” by Edward Humes. (Dutton)
Humes — winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the military establishment in Southern California and author of books on topics about the G.I. Bill, juvenile court, teaching evolution in schools and true crime — turns here to a case of wrongful conviction. He rebukes the so-called “science” of forensic arson that led to the conviction of a Los Angeles mother of three who was charged with setting her home on fire. Following the lead of the California Innocence Project, Humes digs into the evolving theories about arson and the complexities of investigating fires, including this one, which has led to nearly three decades of imprisonment.
“How to Date Men When You Hate Men” by Blythe Roberson. (Flatiron)
Roberson is a researcher on the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” and her clever take on flirtation, courtship and affairs of the heart is a parody of dating advice manuals. Roberson zigzags from Nora Ephron to Walt Whitman, sustaining a self-deprecating, comic philosophy about what was supposed to be the end of patriarchy. This might be the rare case when a book jacket blub (by Colbert) says it best: “An incredibly funny read that was surely not written when Blythe was supposed to be working for me.”
“The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times” by Jerome Charyn. (Liveright)
Charyn has brilliantly ventriloquized 19th-century figures in first-person novels such as “The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson” and “I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War.” Now he makes an even greater leap with Teddy Roosevelt, crime-fighting police commissioner, environmentalist and Rough Rider. From its smart, dimestore-style cover, featuring handsomely turned out TR on the Badlands holding his leashed pet cougar Josephine, to its finale with a dream in which he imagines himself as an entertainer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s circus, this is a unique, engaging and provocative way to consider our colorful 26th president.
“Old Newgate Road” by Keith Scribner. (Alfred A. Knopf)
After three decades, Cole Callahan returns to his childhood home in Connecticut, where his father killed his mother, only to learn his father has been released from prison and is living in the house. With psychological insight and a layer of suspense, Scribner artfully illuminates his hero balancing fiercely ambivalent feelings about his father with his own domestic problems. This generational dynamic becomes even more fraught when Cole’s adolescent son is dispatched to Connecticut to work in the tobacco fields once tilled by his father, who is now beginning to reckon with his life.
Elizabeth Taylor and Adam Cohen are co-editors of the National Book Review.