Nonfiction

Strong Men Keep Coming: The Book of African American Men. By Tonya Bolden (Wiley, $24.95). Tanya Bolden, who has authored or edited several notable books (including Rites of Passage and The Book of African-American Women) has assembled an eccentric, eclectic and highly readable collection of portraits of black male achievers. Bolden, choosing among the men who have "tickled, baffled, intrigued, inspired, mystified, encouraged, and warmed" her, has written brief, information-packed profiles that blend heartfelt tributes with humorous anecdotes. Her subjects include the notable (e.g., Martin Luther King, Amiri Baraka); the little-known (Lorenzo Dow Turner, George Moses Horton); and even the fictional (John Henry and Stagolee). Of the latter -- whose entry bears the simple notation "Ba-ad dude" -- Bolden quotes folklorist Julius Lester, who wrote that Stagolee was "so bad that the flies wouldn't even fly around his head in summertime, and snow wouldn't fall on his house in winter."

Jazz Seen. Photographs and Writings by William Claxton (Taschen, $39.99) William Claxton has been photographing jazz musicians since the 1950s. Jazz Seen is the most comprehensive collection of his work yet published. Acknowledged as a soulmate by many of the famous musicians whom he's photographed, Claxton traces his spiritual kinship to an early, significant encounter with Charlie "Bird" Parker when he was a teen: "I don't know where I got the nerve, but when I went to hear him, I asked if he wanted to come out to my house in Pasadena to relax after the show. And I was amazed when he said, `Okay.' So I guess you can say I was one of the few, if not the only, white kid who ever brought Charlie Parker home to visit." A similar, fateful encounter with Richard Avedon led Avedon to give Claxton his first camera. Jazz Seen is filled with shots of top musicians in casual, unguarded moments, from a pensive Miles Davis in 1959 to Diana Krall pausing before the mike in 1998.

My Father's Gun: One Family, Three Badges, One Hundred Years in the NYPD. By Brian McDonald (Dutton, $24.95). Brian McDonald describes this book, his first, as a "researched social history of the New York City police department and the eras and events surrounding each of the cop members of my family." Those family members were his grandfather, a patrolman and traffic cop at the turn of the century; his father, a detective-lieutenant who spent 23 years on the force; and his brother, an undercover specialist who retired after 20 years of service. The author took the entrance exam to the NYPD in the mid-1970s but never joined the force. Nonetheless, he writes, each time he sees a cop he's "haunted by thoughts of how things might have been." McDonald includes himself in his narrative, candidly confessing to a misspent youth, and also devotes considerable discussion to the roles of mothers, wives and daughters in his relatives' careers.

The Age of the Bachelor: Creating an American Subculture. By Howard P. Chudacoff (Princeton Univ., $29.95). The bachelor has long been an anomalous figure in American culture, argues Howard P. Chudacoff, a professor at Brown University. "On the one hand, individualism and the independence that inheres in it form the cornerstone of Americans' belief in their exceptionalism. The media and the educational system have always lauded self-reliance and independent action. Who, then, could could be more individualistic and self-reliant than the unattached, unencumbered bachelor? On the other hand, the norms of mutuality and conformity pervade American culture." This study focuses on the things that used to sustain bachelor culture -- saloons, pool halls, rooming houses, the YMCA and similar institutions -- and looks at the effects of the sexual revolution on bachelorhood: In different way, the rise of the Playboy mentality and gay liberation have changed our conception of the single male.

CAPTION: Miles Davis in 1957