“Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage,” by Jeff Guinn
Thirty years after the standoff between federal agents and a small religious group, the Branch Davidians, just outside Waco, Tex., Guinn recaptures the drama of the 51-day siege for contemporary readers. He details the botched mechanics of the government’s handling of the crisis and delves into the origins of the Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh. The fumes of conspiracy and paranoia that swirled around Waco influenced Timothy McVeigh, Alex Jones and many of those present at the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
“This Other Eden,” by Paul Harding
Harding’s brooding and beautiful third novel was inspired by Malaga, a real island just off the coast of Maine that, beginning in the 18th century, was home to a small mixed-race community. In this fictional telling, set early in the 20th century, Apple Island has attracted the attention of a mainland relief society. Tragedy follows, but Harding’s finely wrought prose (he won a Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel, “Tinkers”) shows us a community that refuses to see itself through the judgmental eyes of others.
“The World and All That It Holds,” by Aleksandar Hemon
Hemon’s latest novel starts in the grim days of World War I, but its voice is irrepressible, gliding along with poignancy and wry humor. It follows the picaresque journey of a deeply endearing, often frustrating man named Rafael Pinto, a Jewish apothecary serving in the Bosnian army who falls in love with a Muslim soldier. The plot’s inexhaustible invention is just one of this novel’s wonders. Another is Hemon’s mysterious narrator, who speaks from the future but resides incarnate in these characters.
“Age of Vice,” by Deepti Kapoor
This lush thriller swings from the hovels to the palaces of contemporary India. On the first page, a Mercedes speeding through Delhi careens off the street and slaughters five people, including a pregnant woman who had just arrived in the city. That deadly accident ricochets through one of India’s most powerful crime families — and from there, the intrigue never pauses to take a breath, moving back and forth through time and up and down the social ladder.
“And Finally: Matters of Life and Death,” by Henry Marsh
When he learns of his diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer at age 71, Marsh, a neurosurgeon in London, is shocked. In one moment, he has crossed the line from doctor to patient. Marsh is beset by fears and concerns, and he also reflects on his own shortcomings as a caregiver to others. As in his earlier memoirs, “Do No Harm” and “Admissions,” Marsh’s exploration is intimate, insightful, witty and deeply moving.
“Shubeik Lubeik,” by Deena Mohamed
This graphic novel, set in Cairo, is an ambitious feat of storytelling and a historic accomplishment for Arab comic artists. In this fantastical but politically shrewd story, genies really do come in bottles — but only for those rich enough to afford them. The panels move briskly, full of big movement, emotional pacing and storytelling that zoom in and out of modern Egyptian history.
“The Terraformers,” by Annalee Newitz
Readers of Newitz’s third novel, which begins 60,000 years from now, will walk away stunned and bedazzled. This generously overstuffed tale has enough ideas and incidents to populate half a dozen lesser science fiction books. Its action takes place on a once-dead orb that has been engineered over millennia with vast amounts of high-tech human, robotic and organic effort.
“Endless Flight: The Life of Joseph Roth,” by Keiron Pim
Whether in Berlin, Paris or Vienna, Joseph Roth, born in 1894, reported from and responded to the chaos and uncertainty of the changing world around him. He was an acclaimed journalist before he became the novelist who perhaps best captured the era between the world wars, including in his masterpiece, “The Radetzky March.” Pim is a sensitive and perceptive guide to Roth’s life and his writing.
“I Saw Death Coming: A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction,” by Kidada E. Williams
“Black Reconstruction didn’t ‘fail,’ as so many are taught,” Williams writes in this unflinching and deeply compassionate account. “White southerners overthrew it, and the rest of the nation let them.” Drawing on testimonies in the historical record, Williams offers a riveting picture of the hopefulness and energy of freed people as they began their lives after slavery; the strides they made toward family security and independence; and then the tsunami of violence that came at them as unrepentant enslavers turned into bitter defeated Confederates.
“Small World,” by Laura Zigman
The deepest and most dramatic of Zigman’s six novels, “Small World” draws on the story of her own upbringing. Zigman’s oldest sister, born with a rare bone disease, died at age 7. In this novel, a girl dies at 10, triggering an estrangement between her two surviving sisters. After 30 years on opposite coasts, the two women, both newly divorced, find themselves living in the same apartment, each hoping the other will heal her childhood wounds.