Politics plays the leading role in this week’s list of recommendations, starting with Joe Biden’s memoir about his son Beau’s death from brain cancer in 2015 — a revealing look at fulfilling the duties of the vice presidency while caring for, and then mourning, a child. Two new biographies re-evaluate major political figures: “Lioness” examines the life of Golda Meir and her role in Zionism and Israel; and “President McKinley” brings an often overlooked president out of the shadows. For those more in the mood for fictitious escapes, an Icelandic mystery or a humorous collection of short stories might do the trick.
Daily Books Editor and Staff Writer
PROMISE ME, DAD: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden. (Flatiron Books, $27.) Biden’s oldest son, Beau, learned he had brain cancer in 2013, and died of the disease two years later, at 46. Biden’s memoir give us a remarkable view of the agony and strangeness of the period when he cared for his son — and then mourned him — while simultaneously fulfilling his duties as vice president. “The book is a backstage drama, honest, raw and rich in detail,” our critic Jennifer Senior writes. “People who have lost someone will genuinely take comfort from what he has to say.”
LIONESS: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, by Francine Klagsbrun. (Schocken, $40.) Meir has often been as reviled in Israel as she is admired in the United States, but perspectives are shifting. Klagsbrun’s thorough and absorbing biography suggests this woman politician made history in more ways than one.
PRESIDENT McKINLEY: Architect of the American Century, by Robert W. Merry. (Simon & Schuster, $35.) McKinley tends to be forgotten among American presidents, overshadowed by his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, but he was largely responsible for America’s 20th-century role in the world. Merry’s measured, insightful biography seeks to set the record straight, arguing that McKinley was shrewd and patient, and wily beneath the bland exterior.
THE SHADOW DISTRICT, by Arnaldur Indridason. (Thomas Dunne/Minotaur, $25.99.) In this moody Icelandic mystery, a retired police officer investigates a present-day murder with apparent links to another crime, committed during the waning days of World War II, when the neutral nation was occupied by Allied troops.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, by Adam Rutherford. (The Experiment, $25.95.) With a heady amalgam of science, history and a bit of anthropology, Rutherford offers a captivating primer on genetics and human evolution as told through our DNA.
THE LAST BALLAD, by Wiley Cash. (Morrow/HarperCollins, $26.99.) Cash’s novel revisits a 1929 textile union strike that turned deadly; his heroine is based on a real-life union organizer and folk singer now mostly lost to history.