American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment

By Shane Bauer. (Penguin, $18.) Bauer, a Mother Jones journalist, worked undercover as a guard at a private prison in rural Louisiana for months before he was discovered. This book, one of the Book Review’s 10 best of 2018, is an expansion of an article detailing the abuses he witnessed, damning an industry in which inmates are commodities.


By Nico Walker. (Vintage, $16.95.) An Iraq War medic begins robbing banks to finance his drug habit. This debut novel offers a sobering portrait of the opioid crisis in the United States and the absence of adequate support for veterans, which Walker renders in lyric, vivid prose: His descriptions of dope-sickness, heartbreak and grisly attacks are arresting, and his dialogue inventive.

Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity

By Arlene Stein. (Vintage, $16.95.) For a year Stein, a sociologist, followed four patients at a Florida clinic known for its gender affirmation procedures. Stein goes to great lengths to explore the psychological, emotional and social aspects of transitioning, and is frank about her own preconceptions. The resulting book is earnest and optimistic.

The Traitor’s Niche

By Ismail Kadare. Translated by John Hodgson. (Counterpoint, $16.95.) First published in 1978, this allegorical novel recalls Ottoman-era Albania. In Istanbul, the imperial capital, the severed head of a former pasha sits in a dish of honey, guarded by an impotent man; the head soon becomes the anchor of the story. Meanwhile, the province of Albania is clamoring for independence. Times reviewer Jason Goodwin praised “this riveting novel,” which unfolds “in brilliant, laconic, grimly comic fashion.”

The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic

By Benjamin Carter Hett. (St. Martin’s Griffin, $17.99.) A timely book explains the moral collapse that allowed Hitler to ascend to power, with implications for present times. “We take for granted that the Germans of the 1930s were quite different from ourselves,” Times reviewer Timothy Snyder wrote. “The opposite is the case.”

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

By Ottessa Moshfegh. (Penguin, $16.) The beautiful central character of this novel hopes that a long period of self-induced sleep will bring about a transformation. Moshfegh’s writing is darkly comic, tracing how the heroine uses a stupefying combination of medications to overcome her grief and alienation from the world around her.

New York Times

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