Technically speaking, this is a space to recommend books and not book reviews, but indulge me for a moment while I sing the praises of our critic Molly Young and her smart take on Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, “Demon Copperhead” — a book that adapts Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield” for a contemporary Appalachian setting. Molly may be the most devout Dickens reader I know, and in her review she zeros in on the ways Kingsolver and Dickens overlap: both of them exuberant writers of sprawling social novels with a strong political message and concern for the lower classes. “Exhuming him is a way for her to make a claim of inheritance explicit at a time when teeming, boisterous, activist novels are unfashionable,” Molly writes. “It is an argument that this loss of prestige is unwarranted, impermanent, even benighted, and it is a rebuttal of the notion that ideologues can’t make great novelists, or that novels are no longer plausible vehicles for social change.”
In the end, Molly is unconvinced that Kingsolver’s take on “David Copperfield” entirely works, but we’re recommending it anyway: partly because the book sweeps you along just as powerfully as the original does, and partly because Molly’s review will give you so much to chew on while you’re reading.
Also up this week: new novels from Lydia Millet, Veronica Roth, Ainslie Hogarth and the Korean writer Kim Hye-jin, along with an exposé of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, a look at the social impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, a history of a Massachusetts witch hunt that predates the famous Salem trials, and the story of a Jazz Age murder that doubles as a study of America’s fascination with true crime. Happy reading.
Kingsolver’s new novel offers a close retelling of Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield,” set in contemporary Appalachia and galloping through issues including poverty, addiction and rural dispossession even as its larger focus remains squarely on the question of how an artist’s consciousness is formed.
Harper/HarperCollins | $32.50
The First Reconstruction ended slavery, and the Second ended Jim Crow. Joseph, a prominent expert on the Black Power movement, makes the provocative argument that Black Lives Matter jump-started the Third.
In this gruesome, blackly funny, utterly original feminist horror story, a woman grappling with the suicide of her evil mother-in-law discovers the woman is more bothersome dead than alive. “My mother is back,” her husband tells her. “She’s in the basement.”
Vintage | Paperback, $17
Gaskill, a British historian expert in 16th- and 17th-century witchcraft trials, brings erudition and novelistic flair to this riveting account of Springfield, Mass., in the mid-1600s, when the town became consumed with allegations of witchcraft.
Knopf | $30
In his colorful account of the lurid Hall-Mills double murder of 1922, Pompeo delves into not only the facts of the case but also our enduring fascination with true crime.
Morrow | $32.50
McKinsey & Company has built a global reputation for professionalism, smarts and ethics. But this damning exposé by two Times reporters shows how its work for dictators and opioid drug makers, among others, suggests a willingness to put profits ahead of values.
Doubleday | $32.50
The author’s 13th novel begins after a “disgustingly rich” 45-year-old bachelor — heir to a fossil fuel fortune — has walked from New York to Arizona, where he makes a new home next door to a seemingly nuclear family, in the “alien beauty” of the desert.
In this stressful, high-stakes dystopian tale, the former poster child of a debauched government agrees to help find a missing girl in exchange for her own freedom. Welcome to a perfect storm of technology and morality in a surveillance state.
Morrow | $26.99
The best-selling Korean author’s first novel to be translated into English (in a deft rendering by Jamie Chang) is an admirably nuanced portrait of prejudice, following a guarded and judgmental middle-aged mother whose 30-year-old lesbian daughter asks to move back in with her.
Restless | Paperback, $18