What is going on in America? Some mornings you look at the news and immediately have to look away again, as if current events were the sun, so incendiary they could melt your eyeballs. A friend at work jokes that we on the Books desk have two basic coping strategies: (1) Things are terrible. Read all about it! (2) Things are terrible. Escape! This week our recommended titles draw from both playbooks, along with a sense of historical perspective. On the “read all about it” side, there’s Tim Alberta’s “American Carnage,” an eyes-wide-open analysis of right-wing populism and its tactics, and Michael Bennet’s “The Land of Flickering Lights,” a campaign manifesto by the Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate. On the escape side, there’s the biography of an elite running coach (written by The Times’s Matthew Futterman) and the graphic novel “Clyde Fans,” Seth’s multigenerational epic about a family of Toronto salespeople. For history, there’s a family memoir of the Red scare; a study of Turkey’s attacks on its Christian populations; and an autobiography by the former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who died this week at the age of 99. Those books join fiction and poetry from Jennifer Weiner, Nicole Dennis-Benn and Ilya Kaminsky, along with Colson Whitehead’s much-anticipated new novel, “The Nickel Boys,” about a brutal reform school based on a true-life institution. Is that escapism? History? Cold, hard reality? It’s complicated — which is to say, it’s literature — and it’s well worth your time.
CLYDE FANS: A Picture Novel, by Seth. (Drawn & Quarterly, $54.95.) Twenty years in the making, this substantial graphic novel tells a multigenerational story of a family-owned electrical fan business in Toronto — the ups and downs of livelihoods tied to sales and fathers and sons who grapple with changing times. Brian Selznick, reviewing it, calls the book “a brilliant trip that also plays tricks on you, slowing down, speeding up, going backward, creating endless loops. … It’s as if ‘Clyde Fans’ itself is a monument to passing time.”