INTIMATIONS: Six Essays, by Zadie Smith. (Penguin Books, $10.95.) In her slender new collection (less than 100 pages) of ultra-timely essays (several written in the past few momentous months), Zadie Smith speaks clearly and forcefully about the murder of George Floyd, the legacy of slavery and the systemic sins revealed by Covid-19. The book also showcases her trademark levelheadedness on a variety of other subjects. “This is a work of minor dimensions at — and about — a major time,” our reviewer John Williams writes.
TRUE STORY, by Kate Reed Petty. (Viking, $26.) In her spellbinding debut novel — about the rippling impact of a sexual assault — Petty uses shifting genres to show the way trauma works on us, how it shapes our lived experience and the way we frame that experience for others. “After a day or two, the book continued to work on me,” Megan Abbott writes in her review, “spurring me to question my own expectations of genre, and even story itself, and their capacity to get at stickier truths about trauma and its reverberations and what we expect from narratives dealing with sexual assault.”
THE KING OF CONFIDENCE: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch, by Miles Harvey. (Little, Brown, $29.) Harvey’s entertaining history of James Jesse Strang, a 19th-century con man who led a breakaway Mormon colony on an island in Lake Michigan, chronicles a manic, anxious, gullible time, not unlike our own. “Rather than a probing biography of a single man,” Chris Jennings writes in his review, “Harvey offers a vivid portrait of the time and place in which a character like Strang could thrive, an era when ‘reality was porous’ and an anxious population cast about for something exciting to believe in and someone confident to follow.”
THE GOLDEN CAGE, by Camilla Lackberg. Translated by Neil Smith. (Knopf, $26.95.) Faye Adelheim appears to have an enviable life — a wealthy husband, a perfect child, a sumptuous Stockholm apartment — until it all falls away. That’s when this stylish thriller gathers steam, taking readers on a whirlwind tour of retribution and revenge. The moral: Never underestimate a spurned wife … or her friends. “It would be remiss not to mention the theme of sisterhood in this smart, unflinching novel,” our reviewer, Mary Kubica, writes. “Women in it are rarely pitted against one another, but are instead united by common experience. Their friendships are empowering in and of themselves, and the dispensability of the opposite sex — except perhaps for sexual pleasure — speaks volumes.”
BLACKTOP WASTELAND, by S. A. Cosby. (Flatiron, $26.99.) In this gritty thriller, set in rural Virginia, Beauregard “Bug” Montage — the owner of a struggling auto shop — is drifting back into his old life of crime. Cosby has a talent for well-tuned action, raising our heart rates and filling our nostrils with odors of gun smoke and burned rubber. Daniel Nieh, reviewing it, calls the book a “thrilling reminder that small-town America has an underbelly, too. … Cosby’s voice is distinctive, and he plays a sharp-tongued Virgil as we descend into the Hades of bucolic poverty.”