10 New Books We Recommend This Week

10 New Books We Recommend This Week

SHAKESPEARE IN A DIVIDED AMERICA: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future, by James Shapiro. (Penguin Press, $27.) Shapiro has long created Shakespeare treats for the common reader, but this time he outdoes himself. From John Quincy Adams’s racist attacks on “Othello” to the notorious Trump-as-Julius-Caesar Central Park production in 2017, he reminds us how divided we’ve been since our very beginnings, with the historical-tragical constantly muscling out the pastoral-comical. “As he bounces back and forth between 1833 or 1916 and today, the similarities between Then and Now overwhelm the differences and Shapiro’s title resonates anew,” David Ives writes in his review. “Ultimately there rises the familiar suspicion that, for a country in love with the future, it’s always yesterday in America.”

THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, by Louise Erdrich. (Harper/HarperCollins, $28.99.) The title character of Erdrich’s moving new novel was modeled after her grandfather, who sent voluminous letters to Washington in an effort to save his tribe from being erased by the stroke of a bureaucratic pen. Our reviewer, Luis Alberto Urrea, says that Erdrich “delivers a magisterial epic that brings her power of witness to every page. High drama, low comedy, ghost stories, mystical visions, family and tribal lore — wed to a surprising outbreak of enthusiasm for boxing matches — mix with political fervor and a terrifying undercurrent of predation and violence against women. For 450 pages, we are grateful to be allowed into this world.”

ACTRESS, by Anne Enright. (Norton, $26.95.) This novel about that most fraught of all familial relationships, mother and daughter, follows an actress from rural Irish theater to silver-screen fame to madness and obscurity. When she falls apart, her daughter — who is her nurse, sidekick and most ardent fan — is there to pick up the pieces. Reviewing it, Mary Gordon calls the novel an “intoxicating” and “steaming brew” that “evokes the intellectual and political worlds of Ireland” in the 20th century. “Whatever else there may be between mother and daughter, there is love,” Gordon writes. “Even while laughing at Enright’s wicked mockery, I was moved by the tenderness of her evocation of difficult love, two lives on different tracks, one on the express to possibility, the other on the local to irrelevance, illness and self-destruction.”

DOROTHY DAY: Dissenting Voice of the American Century, by John Loughery and Blythe Randolph. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) Day, the activist and co-founder of The Catholic Worker, is under consideration for sainthood; this timely biography wrestles with how to reconcile her religious conservatism with her radical politics. “Day’s life highlights tensions that are currently of concern to both Catholics and Americans,” Karen Armstrong writes in her review. “The authors render their subject in precise and meticulous detail, generating a vivid account of her political and religious development.”

OBIT: Poems, by Victoria Chang. (Copper Canyon, paper, $17.) Chang’s new collection explores her father’s illness and her mother’s death, treating the end of life as a constantly shifting enigma. “A serene acceptance of the grief that comes with mortality emerges from these poems,” Sandra Simonds writes, reviewing the book alongside three other recent poetry collections, “ultimately forging a path ahead for both herself and her children.”


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