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Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America

…a dynamic and discriminating cultural history that speaks to both readers who know something about the project and those who don’t. Like the American Guides these Depression-era writers worked on, Borchert’s book teems with colorful characters, scenic byways and telling anecdotes; his own writing style is full of “verve” — the much prized quality that so many of the guides themselves possessed. Read more

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Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze

To the growing genre of drug-riddled fiction—Irvine Welsh, Denis Johnson, Joel Mowdy, Nico Walker—Krauze adds a flourish, a kind of harsh music, with his use of gang argot … A gritty read for its gore, drugs, and profanity, but possessed of a raw and honest eloquence. Read more

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Is Poe the most influential American writer? A new book offers evidence.

Is Poe really the most influential American writer? Note that I didn’t say “greatest,” for which there must be at least a dozen viable candidates. But consider his radiant originality. Before his death in 1849 at age 40, Poe largely created the modern short story, while also inventing or perfecting half the genres represented on the bestseller list, including the mystery (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Gold-Bug”), science fiction (“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion”), psychological suspense (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado”) and, of course, gothic horror (“The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” the incomparable “Ligeia”). Read more

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Debut novel gives revenge Western a Chinese American perspective

“In Tom Lin’s novel, the atmosphere of Cormac McCarthy’s West, or that of the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, gives way to the phantasmagorical shades of Ray Bradbury, Charles Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao, and Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. Yet The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu has a velocity and perspective all its own, and is a fierce new version of the Westward Dream. This is a superb novel that declares the arrival of an astonishing new voice.” —Jonathan Lethem

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Sentenced by Algorithm

Is it fair for a judge to increase a defendant’s prison time on the basis of an algorithmic score that predicts the likelihood that he will commit future crimes? Many states now say yes, even when the algorithms they use for this purpose have a high error rate, a secret design, and a demonstrable racial bias. The former federal judge Katherine Forrest, in her short but incisive When Machines Can Be Judge, Jury, and Executioner, says this is both unfair and irrational. Read more

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His book helped expose Tulsa’s massacre of Black citizens. Now he’s helping find their graves

“The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice” recounts the events that began May 31, 1921, but its main focus is on the century that followed: the long-lasting trauma; efforts to rebuild and to finally confront the past; and most recently the fight for reparations and the search for bodies. Read more

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How Humans Gained an ‘Extra Life’

Starting in the second half of the 19th century, the average life span began to climb rapidly, giving humans not just extra life, but an extra life. In rich countries, life expectancy at birth hit 40 by 1880, 50 by 1900, 60 by 1930, 70 by 1960, and 80 by 2010. The rest of the world is catching up. Global life expectancy in 2019 was 72.6 years, higher than that of any country, rich or poor, in 1950. People in the shortest-lived countries today will, on average, outlive those of your grandparents’ generation. Read more

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Goblin by Josh Malerman

Malerman (Bird Box) tantalizes readers with this enigmatic linked collection of horror novellas. . . . The dark, fantastic tone will put readers in mind of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. This is must-read horror. Read more

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