Many of our favorite nonfiction books of the year so far have unique perspectives on current political debates. Francisco Cantu sheds new light on the immigration debate by diving into the details of his time serving as a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Stephen Greenblatt examines tyranny through close readings of Shakespeare’s greatest despots. Jennifer Palmieri interrogates sexism in American culture by looking back at Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign. All the titles on our list discuss freedom — what stands in its way and how to find it.
The release of a never-before-published work by literary icon Zora Neale Hurston would be news on its own, but that’s not the only reason to take note of Barracoon. The book chronicles Hurston’s interactions with the last-known survivor of the last ship to bring enslaved Africans to the U.S. Hurston was an anthropologist by training and that’s the skill on display here, but there’s no hiding her literary talent in this long-awaited early work. With its historically valuable first-hand account of slavery and freedom, Barracoon speaks straight to the 21st-century world into which it has emerged — almost a century after it was written. — Lily Rothman