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What to read: 9 new books we recommend this week

High fashion, high society and high altitudes are all in the spotlight this week, thanks to two histories (“The Husband Hunters,” by Anne de Courcy, and “Fly Girls,” by Keith O’Brien) and a posthumous memoir from the legendary Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who died in 2016 at the age of 87. For those who prefer their reading matter a little more grounded, we also offer an account of America’s recent military activities, a novelist’s memoir of life as an extreme latchkey kid, and a couple of takes on winners and losers in the current economy. In fiction, you’ll find a debut story collection from Neel Patel and a political allegory from the great Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare.

Gregory Cowles
Senior Editor, Books

FASHION CLIMBING: A Memoir With Photographs, by Bill Cunningham. (Penguin Press, $27.) This posthumous memoir by Cunningham, who was for many years the fashion and society photographer for The New York Times, begins when its author was 4 and his middle-class Catholic family lived in a suburb of Boston. But it is mostly about the fashion world of the late 1940s through the early ’60s, when Cunningham was a hat designer and party crasher in Manhattan. “There is much to learn in this memoir about hat making,” our critic Dwight Garner writes. “On that topic, and on the topic of style in general, it is a shy little primer, a Strunk and White of chic.”

TEMP: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary, by Louis Hyman. (Viking, $28.) Slow and steady growth used to be a cardinal virtue for the big American corporation. Now leanness and flexibility are prized, and nobody is spared. An astounding 94 percent of American jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were for “alternative work.” “Temp” examines the underlying cultural shift that made that possible. Our critic Jennifer Szalai calls the book “illuminating and often surprising.”

WINNERS TAKE ALL: The Elite Charade of Changing the Worldby Anand Giridharadas. (Knopf, $26.95.) Giridharadas examines the worlds of Davos and Aspen, where an elite intent on “changing the world” hang out, emerging with a quietly scathing report on how little they actually do to make a difference when it comes to the big structural problems. “Very rich people will always use money to maintain their political and economic power,” the Nobel-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz writes in his review. “But now we have another group: the unwitting enablers. Despite believing they are working for a better world, they are at most chipping away at the margins, making slight course corrections, while the system goes on as it is, uninterrupted.”

THE HUSBAND HUNTERS: American Heiresses Who Married Into the British Aristocracy, by Anne de Courcy. (St. Martin’s, $27.99.) Between 1870 and 1914, hundreds of cosseted young American women moved to Europe and turned control of their fortunes over to the impoverished British aristocrats they married. But why? “De Courcy’s diverting new study of this phenomenon,” Tina Brown writes in her review, “makes a persuasive case that a prime driver in the American heiress exodus was escape from the savage competitiveness of Gilded Age society in the capital of status, New York.”

THE FIGHTERS: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, by C.J. Chivers. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) In this forceful narrative of America’s recent wars, by a senior writer for The New York Times, soldiers who began their military service in a blaze of patriotism after 9/11 end up cynical, betrayed and often disfigured or dead. “Because of the way the stories and characters spool into one another with mathematical intensity, and the second-by-second in-your-face descriptions of prolonged battles from a sergeant’s eye view,” Robert D. Kaplan writes in his review, the book “could be the most powerful indictment yet of America’s recent Middle East wars.”

THE TRAITOR’S NICHE, by Ismail Kadare. Translated by John Hodgson. (Counterpoint, $25.) The quest for a rebel pasha’s severed head serves as a darkly satirical symbol in this sly Albanian novel originally published in 1978, an allegorical fable about 20th-century authoritarianism. “As this riveting novel unfolds — in brilliant, laconic, grimly comic fashion — it becomes apparent that the state is, in its own way, a frightful head,” our reviewer, Jason Goodwin, writes. “A Medusa, perhaps, with the capacity to destroy.”

IF YOU SEE ME, DON’T SAY HI, by Neel Patel. (Flatiron, $24.99.) The Indian-Americans in this debut story collection are less troubled by cultural clashes than they are by the unraveling of emotions. As friendships fester, marriages combust and families fall into civilized distemper, all the ties in Patel’s world unravel according to their own precise logic: none at all. “These stories,” Shaj Mathew writes in his review, “grieve not for individuals but for the idea that they can ever really be known.”

FLY GIRLS: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, by Keith O’Brien. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28.) The title honors the female aviators who were hindered by the deep gender inequities of the golden age of flying. These are women few of us have heard of before; as O’Brien explains of their forgotten histories, each woman “went missing in her own way.” Reviewing the book, Nathalia Holt writes that “O’Brien’s prose reverberates with fiery crashes, then stings with the tragedy of lives lost in the cockpit and sometimes, equally heartbreakingly, on the ground.”

I WILL BE COMPLETE, by Glen David Gold. (Knopf, $29.95.) In Gold’s ambitious and brave memoir (which takes us only to his early 30s), just about all of the unanticipated ramifications emanate from the complex, mysterious and manipulative mother who puts her own quest for happiness ahead of her son’s stability and well-being. “In retrospect,” Michael Hainey writes in his review, “Gold attempts to explain his neo-Dickensian upbringing by summarizing his ‘mom’s need to maneuver her way past some obstacles toward the bright and confusing future she wanted. The immediate obstacle in her path? That would be me.’”

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