Odenkirk’s memoir could also have been titled “Obscurity Obscurity Obscurity Fame”. He was a cult favorite of comedy fans in the late 1990s for his work on the sketch comedy series “Mr. Show,” but his supporting role in “Breaking Bad” and his starring role in the show’s prequel, “Better Call Saul,” made him a household name. His memoir charts his tenacious and unlikely path from Chicago comedy clubs to leading man.
Random House, now available
Brand is perhaps best known for his countercultural magazine Whole Earth Catalog, which was first published in 1968. During that same decade, Brand took part in the exploits of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Now 83, he went on to live a long and varied life of thinking and activism in the fields of environmentalism, Native American rights, and personal computing. Markoff, a former technology reporter for DailyExpertNews, wraps his arms around the whole story in this new biography.
Penguin Press, now available
In her first book, Newton, a critic and essayist, digs deep into her family’s past, from Depression-era Texas to the Massachusetts witch-hunt, without flinching at what she sees. Closer to the present, she struggles with her father’s racism and her family’s religious extremism. Rooted in the personal, Newton’s book opens up an investigation into a culture fond of Ancestry.com and 23andme.com, asking what we’re really looking for in the past.
Random House, March 29
The poet Keats died in 1821 at the age of 25, and his short life and brilliant work have inspired a vast body of literature. In her new book, Miller says that literature often overlooks just how rowdy and subversive Keats really was. She wants to shed light on aspects of his life and work “that haven’t always caught the popular imagination, still making him look more ethereal than he really was.”
Knopf, April 19
A fixture on television and movie screens, the winner of an Oscar (for “Fences”) and an Emmy (for “How to Get Away With Murder”), Davis found steady employment and then rose to fame as an actor after growing up in incredibly difficult circumstances. In her memoir, she writes about the poverty and food insecurity her family suffered in Rhode Island when she was a child, and how acting changed her life, leading to a college scholarship, Juilliard, and the theater and Hollywood success that followed.
HarperOne, April 26
In 2013, at the age of 50, Goetsch’s life began to collapse. Her success as a writer and public school teacher masked a decades-long depression. In a blog for The American Scholar in 2015, Goetsch wrote of how she “daily longed to be a woman,” a desire she had suppressed since childhood. Her new memoir is about her own transition and the story of the trans community over the course of her life.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 24 May
Less than a month after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, Alexander published an essay in The New Yorker entitled “The Trayvon Generation,” in which she wrote about the young people who had grown up over the past 25 years, repeatedly looking at stories that “teached them that anti-black hatred and violence never go far were gone.” Her concern for that generation, including her own sons, was intertwined with a consideration of the “creative emergence” in black communities.This book builds on that widely held essay.
Grand Central Publishing, April 5
Amy Gajda, a law professor at Tulane, examines the history of privacy in America, from the concerns of the Founding Fathers to the concerns of those who carry an increasing wealth of personal data in our pockets every day. Recounting the long history of privacy debates, Gajda distinguishes between ordinary citizens and the press, explaining the dangers of both too little privacy and too much privacy.
Viking, April 12
‘A Brief History of Equality’ by Thomas Piketty. Translated by Steven Rendall
Piketty, an economist and the author of perhaps the most surprising bestseller in recent history (the 800-plus-page “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”), here summarizes his ideas about the perpetuation of economic inequality in a shorter form. But as the “equality” in the title suggests, he also highlights the ways in which progress has been made. “In the long run, the move towards equality is very clear,” he said recently. “I really want to push for that.”
Belknap Press, April 19
Floyd’s name and face traveled the world shortly after he was murdered on May 25, 2020. Building on a six-part series in The Post, this book by two Washington Post reporters fills the life behind the tragedy. It traces Floyd’s family roots to slavery and sharecropping, recounts his segregated youth academy in Houston, and links his adult life to crises in American housing, criminal justice and the police.
Viking, May 17
“The Empire was not just a few threads in the British national dress,” writes Elkins, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. “It was the fabric from which the modern British nation is made.” She examines how cruelty was inextricably linked to Britain’s colonial project – and was, in fact, a central part of its “civilizing” mission – and focused on a few historical episodes, including the Morant Bay Rebellion, the Irish War of Independence, the Second Boer War and others.
Knopf, March 29
Heydrich, the powerful SS chief, was the main architect of the Holocaust, nicknamed the ‘Executioner of the Gestapo’ and ‘The Butcher of Prague’. Dougherty died in 2013, before she finished this book, so Christopher Lehmann-Haupt – a longtime literary critic for The Times – completed it. Lehmann-Haupt died in 2018.
Knopf, May 24
In this comprehensive investigation, Kelly reveals the stories of the people – farm workers, domestic workers, factory workers – behind some of the labor movement’s greatest successes.
Atria/One Signal, April 26
In the 1800s, British explorers Richard Burton and John Speke set out in search of the River Nile, a years-long process that led Speke to what he eventually called Lake Victoria. But Millard shows that the men “discovered” nothing—the locals knew full well where the headwaters of the Nile were—and their journey was greatly aided by Sidi Mubarak Bombay, an East African man who was sold into slavery and sent to India before making his way back to the continent.
Double day, May 17
De Waal—whose vibrant, intelligent, deeply engaging studies of bonobos and chimpanzees have covered topics of empathy, grief, and compassion—is here about gender and sex. “While it’s true that gender goes beyond biology, it’s not out of the blue,” he writes. “There is therefore every reason to see what we can learn about ourselves through comparisons with other primates.”
Norton, April 5
“Writing about Hong Kong has become an exercise in jerking off,” said Lim, a journalist and author who grew up there. She references her efforts to protect her resources by removing identifying details that could endanger them, but the point has a greater resonance in the story of a place whose history has often been overtaken by a colonial point of view. With this book, Lim wanted to put Hong Kongers at the center of the story, interweaving portraits of citizens with important historical moments – the British takeover in 1842, the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997, the pro-democracy protests in recent years.
Riverhead, April 19
What are those ominous visions that people sometimes have? Are they real? This is the fascinating story of psychiatrist John Barker, who invited fellow Brits to share their premonitions with him after becoming convinced that the 1966 Aberfan disaster – in which an avalanche of coal sludge buried a school in Wales and other buildings – by supernatural signs.
Penguin Press, May 3