10 new books we recommend this week



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WHAT IT NEEDS TO WIN: A History of the Democratic Party by Michael Kazin. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35.) Kazin’s shrewd, captivating book looks at the 200-year history of the “world’s oldest mass party,” which has seen its political apparatus become a shadow of what it was in the 20th-century heyday of the Democrats. “The founder of this political apparatus is widely regarded as Thomas Jefferson, but the party, Kazin explains, was in reality the work of Martin Van Buren, a largely forgotten figure whose one-time presidency turned out to be the least interesting thing about him. Timothy Noah writes in his review, adding that as a U.S. Senator in 1827, Van Buren united poor Northerners and Southern landowners who “shared an aversion to Northern industrialists, high tariffs, financiers — and abolitionists.”

BACK LEFT: The Democrats’ Failed Attempt to Fix Inequality by Lily Geismer. (PublicAffairs, $30.) In the years after the Democrats lost the Solid South, Geismer argued, the party pursued a failed policy of abandoning the labor movement to pursue middle-class urban dwellers through the efforts of the Democratic Leadership Council, a nonprofit organization. who was in favor of cutting government waste and applying market-oriented solutions to social problems. “Geismer’s book is a wonderfully detailed history of a now-extinct faith; the DLC closed its doors in 2011,’ wrote Timothy Noah, reviewing the book along with Kazin’s history (above). “The Democrats’ biggest problem, both Kazin and Geismer admit, is that they lost power and purpose by drifting away from labor.”

THE BALD EAGLE: The improbable journey of America’s bird, by Jack E. Davis. (Liveright, $29.95.) Taking a broad look at the decline and recent revival of his title subject, Davis offers not only a natural history of the bald eagle, but a cultural and political history that encompasses everyone from Benjamin Franklin to Dolly Parton (who founded an eagle hospital ). “Along with the famous, Davis never neglects the birds themselves,” writes Vicki Constantine Croke in her review. ‘He writes of their long-lasting bonds, their huge nests, ‘strong as an old warship’ to which they return year after year, and of their eclectic appetites. … Davis excels in everything in this exuberantly comprehensive book, but especially in highlighting individual birds.”

SOUNDS WILD AND BROKEN: Sonic Marvels, Evolution’s Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction, by David George Haskell. (Viking, $29.) Man-made cacophony threatens to drown out birdsong, insect crescendos and frogs’ choirs—and that’s a problem, writes Haskell in this glorious guide to nature’s sounds. Haskell is a deeply nuanced, meditative writer who finds beauty amid the noise of exploitation. The book “confirms Haskell as an Earth Laureate, his finely tuned scientific observations made more powerful by his deep love for the wildlife he hopes to save,” Cynthia Barnett writes in her review. “He helped us hear. Shall we listen? Shall we heed the alarm calls of our fellow travelers?”

THE CASES, by Sarah Moss. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Moss’s silent, intense pandemic novel is a masterful exploration of claustrophobia by a writer who has always been fascinated by isolation. Moss’ characters – four people in England’s Peak District – are limited not only by lockdown, but also by their own thoughts and loneliness. “Considered an investigation into repression and displacement,” writes Lidija Haas in her review, “Moss defiantly dull novel becomes a psychological thriller.”

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