Books: Nelson Mandela and more

Books Editor

Hi, I’m Books Editor Carolyn Kellogg with highlights from this week in our books pages.


“For 13 years I have slept naked on a cement floor that becomes damp and cold during the rainy season,” wrote Nelson Mandela in 1976. He was advocating for black South African prisoners to be issued the pajamas their white counterparts were. That’s just a tiny window into what he endured during the 27 years that he was imprisoned, and it appears in the new, moving and revealing book, “The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela.” The book, reviewed this week by The Times’ Bob Drogin, who was bureau chief in South Africa from 1993-97, provides a portrait of the intimate Mandela, who was not always evident when he gave interviews to journalists or speeches before crowds.


Nelson Mandela in 1996, when he was president of South Africa, after the adoption of a new constitution guaranteeing equal rights.
(Sasa Kralj / AP)


With a hunger for detachment, the characters in Ottessa Moshfegh’s fictions are searching for new sites of being, writes Walton Muyumba in his review of her new novel “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” The unnamed main character hopes, with the help of drugs and a negligent doctor, to come up with a cocktail that can allow her to disappear into sleep for a year, a project that takes on a life of its own.


The No. 1 bestseller in fiction this week is “The President Is Missing” by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, now in its fourth week at the top of the list. Returning to the fiction list this week, after a long absence, is “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. The YA novel about a teen who becomes a #blacklivesmatter activist after a shooting has been adapted into a film slated for release in October.

The No. 1 bestseller in nonfiction this week is “Calypso” by David Sedaris, now in its fifth week on the list.

You can find all the books on our bestseller lists here.

"The Hate U Give" author Angie Thomas, center, with, from left, actors Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall and director George Tillman Jr.
(Ryan Theriot / Getty Images for 20th Century Fox Pictures)


Michael Ondaatje has won the Golden Booker for his novel “The English Patient,” voted as the best novel to win the Man Booker Prize in its history.

Victoria Patterson is a writer at the top of her game, writes Michael Schaub in our review of her short story collection “The Secret Habit of Sorrow.”

Michiko Kakutani left her job as chief book critic at the N.Y. Times to write about politics. Donald Trump and fake news — with a literary lens — are the focus of her first book, “The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump.” I took the book on; I wish it was a bit better.

Thanks for reading.