Thieves Of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes. (Norton) Greed, cutting across businesses, governments and military organizations, has been a consistent obstacle to establishing stable democracies in a number of countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Union. The author, a former journalist in Afghanistan and later an adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also outlines how corrupt governments can create conditions primed for violent extremism.
Making Nice by Matt Sumell. (Picador) Over the course of this darkly funny debut collection, readers see Alby, an uncouth but tenderhearted anti-hero, turn to self-destruction to grieve his mother’s death: He picks fights (especially with his own family), drinks too much and dips into his mother’s stash of pain pills. But these stories show that the way out of grief is through connection with others.
Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin. (Bloomsbury, $16.) Godwin, the author of 14 novels, reflects on nearly five decades as a writer and “the practices and preoccupations” that go along with the trade. Appearances by John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut and other literary stars lend a nostalgic tone to the memoir, but the book’s driving force is Godwin’s hunger to be published.
The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) After trying to cross the border into the United States, Héctor is trapped inside a broken-down tanker truck with other migrants, abandoned by the smugglers tasked with delivering them. As hope and resources wane, Héctor sends a series of text messages to a contact he’s never met, describing his journey from Oaxaca to the border and trying to ensure his story is heard. These attempts form the framework for Vaillant’s first novel.
Ravensbruck: Life And Death In Hitler’s Concentration Camp For Women by Sarah Helm. (Anchor) Fifty miles north of Berlin, a concentration camp built for female prisoners was the site of executions, horrific medical experiments and beatings. Only a small number of prisoners were Jewish; others included prostitutes, Communists and aristocrats (Fiorello La Guardia’s sister was imprisoned there for a time).
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida. (Ecco/HarperCollins) On a trip to Morocco, an unnamed narrator loses her passport and wallet and is granted the opportunity to step into a new identity. As Fernanda Eberstadt wrote in The New York Times, the novel “portrays with cool wit and suspense the explosive emancipation of a woman” poised “to grab some warmth, drama, magic for herself.”
Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin. (Vintage) Slevin’s thoughtful biography details the first lady’s academic and professional accomplishments and shows the far-reaching effects of her childhood and loving, supportive parents; without their influence, “there might not now be a black first family in the White House,” Amy Chozick said in The Times.
New York Times