Books help us decipher our accelerated, ever-changing world, in which many aspects of American life are in flux. All of the titles below, whether they offer clarifying facts or imaginative interpretations, are sure to spark avid discussions.
These thought-provoking works of narrative nonfiction, memoir, and a graphic novel in essays portray places in decline or busy reinventing themselves; ask where we are and where we might be heading in terms of jobs and the economy; and reveal what its like to immigrate to twenty-first-century America. Annie Bostrom
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
by Monica Hesse
Hesse investigated a six-month arson spree in 2012 and 2013 in Accomack County, Virginia, uncovering motives both personal and universal as well as how these fires relate to the anxieties triggered by a rapidly changing nation.
2017. Norton/Liveright, $26.95 (9781631490514).
Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis
by Mark Binelli
Binelli presents a primer on Detroit, his native city, as both a symbol of urban decay and a place where he sees renewal and hope.
2012. Holt/Metropolitan, $28 (9780805092295).
The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America
by Rick Wartzman
Wartzman explores what could be the defining questions about jobs and the nature of corporate America in the twenty-first century in this well-researched, evenhanded chronicle long on significance and short on partisanship.
2017. PublicAffairs, $30 (9781586489144).
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
by Matthew Desmond
In his Carnegie Medal winner, Desmond tells the stories of two landlords and eight tenant families in Milwaukee, revealing how eviction sets people up to fail.
2016. Crown, $28 (9780553447439).
by Beth Macy
Macy profiles a Virginia factory owner who fought to save his company and employees livelihoods from foreign competition and shares other personal stories from the front lines of American manufacturing.
2014. Little, Brown, $28 (9780316231435).
Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town
by Brian Alexander
Alexanders in-depth examination of Lancaster, Ohio, contrasts his hometowns remarkable industrial history with its current status as a poverty-stricken community. An emotionally intense account of social and economic realities found across the U.S.
Read the full Booklist review.
2017. St. Martins, $26.99 (9781250085801).
Imagine Wanting Only This
by Kristen Radtke
In this graphic novel in essays, Radtke explores her fascination with ruins, both in the U.S. and abroad. What do ruins mean in America and in countries with a longer history?
2017. Pantheon, $29.95 (9781101870839).
Threading My Prayer Rug: One Womans Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim
by Sabeeha Rehman
Rehman recounts how she navigated American society as an immigrant, retaining her identity while modifying some traditions and manufacturing new ones on her way to becoming a business executive.
2016. Arcade, $25.99 (9781628726633).
The authors of these provocative, ripe-for-discussion novels use incisive humor as a mode for addressing complex questions about the enormous impact social media and other online phenomena have on every aspect of our lives, offering unprecedented access to and connection with the world while also blurring the distinction between facts and lies, eroding privacy, undermining trust, and impacting livelihoods. Donna Seaman
The Boat Rocker
by Ha Jin
Ha Jins droll and suspenseful tale of Feng Danlin, a newly naturalized American citizen and boldly idealistic journalist in New York, raises urgent questions about the role of the press, fake news, censorship, and corruption in the Internet age.
2016. Vintage, $16 (9780804170376).
by Dave Eggers
Mae is thrilled to be working at the Circle, a Bay Area tech company, until she discovers that its a short step from social media to relentless surveillance. Eggers novel is eerily plausible.
2013. Vintage, $16 (9780345807298).
Goodbye for Now
by Laurie Frankel
In Frankels emotionally rich tale of love and loss in the digital realm, software engineer Sam develops an algorithm to find not just a date but a soul mate, then moves on to enable electronic communication with DLOs (dead loves ones).
2012. Anchor, $15 (9780307951274).
John Henry Days
by Colson Whitehead
Whitehead contrasts the African American folk hero John Henry, the steel-driving man, with a struggling African American journalist in this funny, inventive, and bittersweet novel contrasting the industrial and information ages.
2001. Anchor, $15.95 (9780385498203).
by Alex Shakar
Twin brothers created a virtual-world venture now owned by a rapacious corporation within the Military-Entertainment Complex. With George in a coma, Fred embarks on a strange, techno-spiritual quest that juxtaposes prayers and algorithms, e-mails and metaphysics.
2011. Soho, $15 (9781616951832).
Super Sad True Love Story
by Gary Shteyngart
In this devilishly hilarious satire, Shteyngart sets the love story of Lenny Abramov and Eunice Park within a digital dystopia where books are taboo and diabolical devices broadcast everyones finances, biochemistry, and sex appeal as America collapses into ineptness, chaos, and tyranny.
2010. Random, $17 (9780812977868).
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
by Joshua Ferris
Ferris introduces Paul, a Manhattan dentist who dislikes religion, other people, and modern technology as he discovers that impostors have stolen his professional identity and set up a fake website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.
2014. Back Bay, $16 (9780316033992).
by Courtney Maum
In Maums charming and funny mix of romantic comedy and acid social critique, trend-forecaster Sloane accepts a job at a showy tech firm, but instead of initiating luxury electronics, she finds herself advocating for less screen time and more human-to-human contact.
2017. Putnam, $26 (9780735212121).