New & Noteworthy, From Isabel Allende to Robert Walser

Recent titles of interest:

THE SPYMASTER OF BAGHDAD: A True Story of Bravery, Family, and Patriotism in the Battle Against ISIS, by Margaret Coker. (Dey Street, $28.99.) Coker, a former Baghdad bureau chief for The Times, details how an elite Iraqi intelligence unit worked together to combat ISIS there.

THE REMOVED, by Brandon Hobson. (Ecco, $26.99.) This mythic, sweeping novel by a 2018 finalist for the National Book Award in fiction (for “Where the Dead Sit Talking”) tells the story of a fractured Cherokee family still haunted by their son’s death in a police shooting 15 years earlier.

THE SOUL OF A WOMAN, by Isabel Allende. (Ballantine, $22.99.) Raised by a single mother after her father abandoned the family, Allende grew up a proud and determined feminist. In this nonfiction meditation, the novelist reflects on what it means to be a woman: spiritually, sexually, socially.

GUILTY ADMISSIONS: The Bribes, Favors, and Phonies Behind the College Cheating Scandal, by Nicole LaPorte. (Twelve, $28.) LaPorte’s account of the Varsity Blues college admissions case sheds lurid light on the measures some families will take to protect their privilege, and the ways one unscrupulous counselor bent the system.

LITTLE SNOW LANDSCAPE, by Robert Walser. Translated by Tom Whalen. (NYRB Classics, paper, $15.95.) These brief, limpid essays and stories range widely in approach and subject, but cohere through avid curiosity and delight.

What we’re reading:

Being a reporter is great fun, but comes with a few drawbacks: We tend to be intensely competitive, while also being harsh self-critics. So it’s an odd relief to read nonfiction light-years better than my own. As I’ve worked my way through MOVE YOUR SHADOW: South Africa, Black and White, by Joseph Lelyveld, I’ve found myself pausing every few pages to marvel at the depth and texture of the reporting, and the clarity of the prose. It is deeply satisfying to read something so thoroughly excellent.

The book is a sweeping, unflinching account of the atrocities of apartheid-era South Africa, which Lelyveld observed over several decades during two postings there for The Times. It is told largely through small, sometimes absurd details, like the “demiapartheid” rule at one Johannesburg bar that Black patrons could eat and drink with white ones — but were forbidden to dance.

—Eliza Shapiro, Metro reporter

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