New & Noteworthy, From Horse Girls to an E.R. Doctor’s View of Covid

Recent titles of note:

YEAR OF PLAGUES: A Memoir of 2020, by Fred D’Aguiar. (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.99.) In a year of public health crises and widespread social unrest, the British Guyanese author of this memoir faced a private reckoning when he learned he had Stage 4 cancer.

HORSE GIRLS: Recovering, Aspiring, and Devoted Riders Redefine the Iconic Bond, edited by Halimah Marcus. (Harper Perennial, paper, $17.) Essays by writers including Jane Smiley, Carmen Maria Machado, T Kira Madden and more, in which they reclaim a girlhood love of horses from stereotype.

SONGBIRDS, by Christy Lefteri. (Ballantine, $27.) In this heartfelt novel by the author of “The Beekeeper of Aleppo,” a Sri Lankan domestic worker goes missing from her employer’s home in Cyprus, and the widowed homeowner herself sets out to find her after the police show no interest.

EVERY MINUTE IS A DAY: A Doctor, an Emergency Room, and a City Under Siege, by Robert Meyer and Dan Koeppel. (Crown, $28.) As an E.R. doctor in the Bronx, Meyer saw the harrowing toll of Covid firsthand and conveyed it to Koeppel, his cousin.

THE DIRECTOR: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover, by Paul Letersky with Gordon L. Dillow. (Scribner, $28.) An F.B.I. memoir focusing on the author’s early career as an assistant to the legendary Hoover.

What we’re reading:

In my days as a classics graduate student, I was intrigued by the Sacred Band, an elite body of fighters who helped make the city of Thebes the dominant power in Greece for much of the fourth century B.C. Remarkably, as we students all knew, the Band was composed of 150 pairs of male lovers who fought side by side on the battlefield. But I never heard anybody elaborate on these men, or single them out for cultural analysis. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that my friend James Romm’s new book, THE SACRED BAND: Three Hundred Theban Lovers Fighting to Save Greek Freedom, is the first to focus on the subject, making the Band a kind of leitmotif for the wider history of a particularly complex period. Romm, a Bard College professor, has an unusual knack for writing about ancient history for general readers. But I was most stirred by a parallel narrative examining how the story of the Sacred Band both inspired the beginnings of the struggle for gay acceptance in the 19th century and was also long a source of discomfort for many professional classicists.

—Steve Coates, senior staff editor, Features

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