Some readers are waiting for the next installment in Robert Caro’s multivolume Lyndon Johnson biography as avidly as George R. R. Martin fans eager for “The Winds of Winter” to arrive at last. (Some, I suppose, are at the edge of their seats waiting for both.) If you are among them, why not bide your time with Julia Sweig’s substantial new biography of Johnson’s wife, “Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight”? Our reviewer, Mimi Swartz, calls it “a book in the Caro mold,” telling the story of America through its subject. That’s one of a passel of new biographies we recommend this week, including Blake Bailey’s long-awaited life of Philip Roth, Edward White’s tessellated study of Alfred Hitchcock and Dorothy Wickenden’s group biography of Frances Seward, Martha Coffin Wright and Harriet Tubman.
There’s also Rachel Kushner’s first collection of nonfiction, “The Hard Crowd,” and a couple of timely journalistic investigations: “Empire of Pain,” Patrick Radden Keefe’s exposé of the Sackler family’s role in the opioid crisis, and “Children Under Fire,” John Woodrow Cox’s account of gun violence’s impact. In poetry we like Alex Dimitrov’s new collection, “Love and Other Poems,” and in fiction we recommend a Bosnian novel and a debut about a bookseller on a quest.
Senior Editor, Books
THE HARD CROWD: Essays 2000-2020, by Rachel Kushner. (Scribner. $26.) In her first essay collection, the celebrated novelist writes about pet topics including motorcycles and antique muscle cars, Italian film and that country’s radical politics, American prison reform and Palestinian refugees, as well as writers and artists she has admired. “This book’s title comes from ‘White Room,’ the Cream song,” our critic Dwight Garner writes. “’At the party,’ the lyric goes, ‘she was kindness in the hard crowd.’ It’s a good line, Kushner observes. The author spends time in hard crowds: with bikers, truckers, tattoo artists, the members of punk bands. This book has a real gallery of souls. One of Kushner’s crucial realizations comes near the end, when she admits that she is, herself, not so hard as she might have thought or wanted.”
THE TWELVE LIVES OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK: An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense, by Edward White. (Norton, $28.95.) It’s said that more books have been written about Hitchcock than any other filmmaker. White’s sleek and modest contribution presents the reader with portraits of Hitchcock from 12 different angles: “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up,” “The Voyeur,” “The Family Man,” etc. “His selves clash and coexist,” our critic Parul Sehgal writes, “as they did in a life that spanned the emergence of feminism, psychoanalysis and mass advertising, and a career that mapped onto the history of film itself, from the silent era to the rise of television. Strangely, through these refractions, we receive a smoother, more cohesive sense of a man so adept at toying with his audience, on and off the screen.”