5 New Books We Recommend This Week

It’s Independence Day, when Americans traditionally gather to grill meat and blow things up while they celebrate the nation’s founding — but in our recommended books this week, we’re casting an eye on more recent history: Tom McGrath’s “Triumph of the Yuppies” looks back to the “greed is good” era of the 1980s and shows how it marched unimpeded to the present day, while John Ganz’s “When the Clock Broke” finds the roots of today’s culture wars and ascendant right wing in the seemingly quieter politics of the early 1990s. Also up: the biography of an influential book editor, a novel set on a small Welsh island in the 1930s, and a graphic novel that explores themes of independence and self-invention. Happy reading, and Happy Fourth. — Gregory Cowles

In this breezy history, McGrath sets out to explain why the United States suddenly fell in love with finance while inequality skyrocketed in the 1980s. He follows a series of colorful figures in their pursuit of crass materialism, including the junk bond king Michael Milken and the former yippie activist Jerry Rubin.

The 1990s marked the end of the Cold War and the beginning of Clintonian “triangulation,” giving the impression of a bland consensus coalescing around a political middle. But as Ganz shows, the early part of the decade was also a time of social unrest and roiling resentments. His vibrant narrative account captures an emerging “politics of despair” that would eventually benefit the far right.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $30

Brief but complete, blunt but exquisite, Connor’s debut is set in the fall of 1938 on an unnamed Welsh island with a population of 47, including the bright and restless 18-year-old Manod, her mysterious younger sister and her lobster fisherman father. Unsettling disruptions to the landscape include a whale corpse washed up on the beach and English ethnographers who enlist Manod’s help but woefully distort island life in their work.

This essential if adulatory biography argues that Jones has been given short shrift, credited mostly as the culinary editor who championed Julia Child, but who did much more to burnish Knopf’s exalted reputation in the book business.

Atria | $29.99

In this graphic novel debut, Burwash transports the reader to Nova Scotia by exploring the lives of a nonbinary protagonist named Drew and their alter-ego, Vera Bushwack (a chainsaw-wielding, chaps-wearing nonbinary hero of sorts), as they work to clear land in order to build a cabin in the woods, exploring gender, independence and several other big themes along the way.

Drawn & Quarterly | $29.95

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