Journalism is a tribe, no doubt. But I swear it’s just a coincidence that six of the nine books we recommend this week are by our esteemed peers at other outlets. There’s “What Were We Thinking,” an intellectual history of the Trump era, by the book critic Carlos Lozada of The Washington Post; and “Money,” a history of (yes) money, by the NPR host Jacob Goldstein. There’s “Who Gets In and Why,” about the grubby secrets of college admissions, by Jeffrey Selingo, the former editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education; and the Jimmy Carter biography “His Very Best,” by the longtime Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter. And there are two memoirs by Latina journalists, the Univision anchor Ilia Calderón (“My Time to Speak”) and the NPR anchor Maria Hinojosa (“Once I Was You”).
We also suggest a look at the development of Western culture by an evolutionary biologist (“The Weirdest People in the World,” by Joseph Henrich) and, in fiction, new novels by old favorites: Tana French’s “The Searcher” and Marilynne Robinson’s “Jack.”
Senior Editor, Books
THE SEARCHER, by Tana French. (Viking, $27.) Cal, who spent 25 years with the Chicago Police Department, retires and moves to Ireland to restart his life. He finds an old house in a small town full of busybodies and expects to live peacefully there. Then he meets a 13-year-old boy who badly needs a father figure — as well as help finding his beloved older brother, who has gone missing. The novel, which French, best known for her psychologically rich police procedurals, has described as a western, is an “audacious departure for this immensely talented author,” our reviewer Janet Maslin writes. “Where does ‘The Searcher’ stand in the lineup of French’s books? It’s an outlier: not her most accessible but not to be missed. It’s unusually contemplative and visual, as if she literally needed this breath of fresh air.”
WHAT WERE WE THINKING: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, by Carlos Lozada. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) Lozada, The Washington Post’s Pulitzer-winning nonfiction book critic, set out to read everything he could about the Trump era, and concluded that the books that matter most right now are the ones ennobling a national re-examination. His own book is crisp, engaging and very smart. “Lozada is a book critic, not a policy wonk,” Joe Klein writes in his review. “He doesn’t propose specific solutions to our current state of disgrace, but he does offer a vision of American stability being eviscerated by the public’s need to be entertained.”
THE WEIRDEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous, by Joseph Henrich. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $35.) Henrich combines evidence from his own lab with the work of dozens of collaborators across multiple fields to make an ambitious case for the distinctiveness of what he calls WEIRD psychology: Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. “Many of the WEIRD ways of thinking, Henrich shows, are the result of cultural differences, not genetic differences,” Daniel C. Dennett writes in his review. “And that is another lesson that the book drives home: Biology is not just genes. Language, for instance, was not invented; it evolved. So did religion, music, art, ways of hunting and farming, norms of behavior and attitudes about kinship that leave measurable differences on our psychology and even on our brains.”
JACK, by Marilynne Robinson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) This uplifting addition to Robinson’s Gilead series centers on an interracial romance in postwar St. Louis that was hinted at but not amplified in the three books that preceded it. The lovers, Jack and Della, find hope and truth in each other, even as the world conspires to keep them apart. “Robinson is acclaimed for her numinous accounts of faith, forgiveness and hope,” Elaine Showalter writes in her review, “but read in this electrifying year of national crisis, the Gilead books are unified as well by her unsparing indictment of the American history of racism and inequality, and Christianity’s uneven will to fight them. … Loneliness and love, race and grace; the romance of Jack and Della seems hopeful, courageous and moving.”
HIS VERY BEST: Jimmy Carter, a Life, by Jonathan Alter. (Simon & Schuster, $37.50.) Turned out of office after one term amid a cratering economy and a shambles of a foreign policy, deemed too conservative by liberals and too liberal by conservatives, Carter has been orphaned by biographers. In this generous and analytically rigorous work, Alter looks to change that. “Carter simply couldn’t catch a break,” David Greenberg writes in his review. Yet “in the lives of even those presidents who falter, after all there is drama and significance, pathos and inspiration — and a welter of experiences that are worth understanding if for no other reason than that they altered the course of our nation.”
MY TIME TO SPEAK: Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race, by Ilia Calderón. (Atria, $27.) Beginning with an interview with a Ku Klux Klan leader who threatened her life, the Colombian-born Univision anchor turns the camera on herself. Race is a central theme in her inspiring memoir of breaking barriers and refusing to be silenced. Fernanda Santos, reviewing it, writes that the book “shines when Calderón takes us to her family’s hometown of Istmina, where ‘being Black wasn’t out of this world.’ She brings adventure to the act of crossing a river by canoe, and depicts the aftermath of a machete attack on her grandfather as an act of shared love” once neighbors started arriving to donate blood.
ONCE I WAS YOU: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America, by Maria Hinojosa. (Atria, $28.) In telling her life story, the Mexican-American anchor of NPR’s “Latino USA” delivers both a memoir and a manifesto. The narrative is chiseled by points of convergence between her own story and the history of immigration in this country. “Her message is clear: Pedigrees don’t matter much when you’re brown,” Fernanda Santos writes, reviewing the book alongside Calderón’s (above). “As a result, Hinojosa has made it her mission to shed light on the lives and stories that others refuse or aren’t equipped to see. She has earned distinction after distinction in nearly 30 years as a journalist, working at public radio stations and for public, network and cable television news channels, often as the only Latina in the newsroom.”
MONEY: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing, by Jacob Goldstein. (Hachette, $28.) With shrewd observations and snappy anecdotes, Goldstein, a host of NPR’s “Planet Money,” shows how currency may be humanity’s most successful fiction: an i.o.u. that promises the holder nothing but more paper money. “‘Money’ should be required reading for every financial regulator,” Richard Davies writes in his review. “Goldstein’s emphasis on the social side of currency — on belief and behavior — gives him an interesting lens. … Since currency is partly a social compact, the biggest damage to an economy comes when expectations are violated, confidence drains and people begin to fear holding money.” The book, he adds, is “great preparation for turbulent times: a vibrant and accessible grounding in how the evolution of cash — organic, random and social — really works.”
WHO GETS IN AND WHY: A Year Inside College Admissions, by Jeffrey Selingo. (Scribner, $28.) Selingo challenges the facade of meritocracy in his absorbing examination of America’s obsession with getting into college. Schools, he argues persuasively, are looking out for their own interests, not yours. “Selingo has a bone to pick,” Anthony Abraham Jack writes in his review, “with all families who believe college admissions is about elite institutions or bust. ‘In your college search,’ he counsels, ‘worry less about specific name brands and even majors and worry more about acquiring skills and experiences.’ Using his own story of going to Ithaca College, Selingo argues that the economic payoff of a top-tier school might not be worth the stress, time or exorbitant price tag.”
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