, by Conor Dougherty (Penguin Press). Time and again, in this sweeping account of San Francisco’s housing crisis, warring constituencies—tenants, techies, homeowners, builders, and activists—talk past one another, often with loudspeakers. One woman suggests that the groups instead attend their opponents’ meetings: “Just show up, shut up, and sit there for half a year, listening.” To Dougherty, such calls for empathy seem to offer hope both for Bay Area residents being priced out and for city officials facing resistance to building more housing. Although his book focusses on the zoning laws and economic distortions that created the shortage in the first place, at its core lies a subtle appeal against tribalism.
, by Martha Ackmann (Norton). The Emily Dickinson who emerges in this vivid, affectionate chronicle is a complex and warm-blooded individual—as curious, defiant of convention, and passionate in life as in her poems. Ackmann selects ten transformative junctures, portraying the poet as a sociable, self-assured teen-ager; as a student struggling with religious faith; as a prolific artist building a body of work and even beginning to publish. Despite Dickinson’s legendary penchant for solitude, Ackmann sees the intensity of her relationship with the world—a world devastated by the Civil War but illuminated for her by correspondence with mentors and friends—as the ultimate sustenance of her poetry.
, by Gish Jen (Knopf)365体育投注. In this dystopian work of speculative fiction, a young girl named Gwen plays on the coed baseball team of AutoAmerica as it competes against ChinRussia at the Olympics. She has grown up in an authoritarian society divided between the Netted, who are privileged and fair-skinned, and the Surplus, who live in swamps or on water. Her talent at sports offers her a chance to join the Netted class. The novel is narrated by her father, who wants to see his “daughter, in all her giftedness and idiosyncratic humanity, bloom.” As the family struggles in a fractured society, the “hallowed meaning” of baseball “in our American dreams” becomes pivotal: “Was this not the level playing field we envisioned?”
, by Claude McKay (Penguin Classics). A noted figure of the Harlem Renaissance, McKay had an itinerant career—travelling widely in Europe and North Africa, and eventually forsaking the Marxism of his early years for Catholicism. This vibrant satire, begun in 1929, later abandoned, and now published for the first time, follows a West African stowaway on a boat from Marseille to New York. Discovered by the crew and shut in a freezing room, he loses both legs to frostbite, but, in a twist based on real cases, wins a large settlement from the shipping company and is able to return to Marseille a rich man. Encompassing a huge diversity of perspectives—including memorable evocations of Marseille’s black Marxist scene and of its queer subculture—the novel remains radical in its clear-eyed assessment of racism and unsentimental depiction of disability.