We cast a wide net in our nonfiction recommendations this week, from world history (Nandini Das’s “Courting India,” about the early and ill-fated diplomatic overtures between Britain and the Mughal empire in the 16th century) to American history (Gregory May’s “A Madman’s Will,” about slavery and a contested probate case in Virginia) to biography (Jonathan Eig’s majestic life of Martin Luther King Jr.) to politics (Joan Biskupic’s look at the Supreme Court’s rightward turn). In fiction, we recommend debut novels by the British actor Paterson Joseph and the Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs, along with a western horror novel by Victor LaValle, a crime novel by Dennis Lehane set against the backdrop of Boston’s busing battles in the 1970s and a look at the dark side of motherhood by Szilvia Molnar. Happy reading.
The first comprehensive biography of Martin Luther King Jr. in decades, Eig’s book draws on a landslide of recently released government documents as well as letters and interviews. This is a book worthy of its subject: both an intimate study of a complex and flawed human being and a journalistic account of a civil rights titan.
“I used to be a translator and now I am a milk bar.” So begins Molnar’s brilliant debut novel about a new mother falling apart within the four walls of her apartment. With horror and honesty, this book tackles the total, painful and deeply baffling transformation of a woman into a nurturer.
The year is 1915, and the narrator of LaValle’s horror-tinged western has arrived in Montana to cultivate an unforgiving homestead. She’s looking for a fresh start as a single Black woman in a sparsely populated state, but the locked trunk she has in stow holds a terrifying secret that promises trouble.
Lehane’s novel takes place in South Boston during the tumultuous summer of 1974, after a judge ordered the city to integrate its schools. Amid protests and racial animosity, a white public housing resident searches for her daughter, who went missing the same night a young Black man was found dead.
Biskupic, an accomplished journalist and biographer, knows the Supreme Court as well as anyone covering it today. This group narrative combines close accounts of the court’s public business in the Trump years with a history of its private dramas.
The remarkable life of an 18th-century man who was born on a slave ship and went on to become a writer, composer and merchant (and possibly the first Black man to vote in a British general election) is here reimagined in a novel, alternately harrowing and comic.
In her debut novel, the Bangles frontwoman takes readers to familiar ground: the music world, where a formerly famous singer seeks refuge in England after hitting rock bottom in Vegas.
A Virginia congressman and fiery defender of states’ rights, John Randolph testified on his deathbed in 1833 that he wished to free the hundreds of workers enslaved on his estate — in flat contradiction to his last known will. May delivers a nuanced portrait of this complicated figure.
In this history of the 17th-century Mughal court and Britain’s bumbling efforts to gain trading rights, Das vividly evokes a culture clash between two societies on the brink of change.