Books: True crime, Terrance Hayes and more book news

Books Editor

Welcome to the Books newsletter from the L.A. Times! I’m Carolyn Kellogg, Books editor, with the latest.


Bestselling novelist Megan Abbott, known for her psychological thrillers like “Dare Me,” explores the allure of true crime, books like Michelle McNamara’s “I”ll Be Gone in the Dark” about the Golden State Killer. Women, who are often these crimes’ victims, are also the books’ most avid readers. “Perhaps because it’s long been a ‘suspect’ genre — at best a ‘guilty pleasure,’ at worst a genre for ghouls, for rubberneckers — these exchanges often have a furtive, heated quality. A slightly dirty secret we keep,” Abbott writes.

Joseph James DeAngelo, the accused Golden State Killer, in a Sacramento courtroom on June 1.
(José Luis Villegas / AP )


The poet Terrance Hayes has been awarded a National Book Award and a MacArthur fellowship for work that is both steeped in poetic tradition and accessible in innovative ways. “His writing demonstrates a serious commitment to revising, extending and advancing American poetry while recording, celebrating and mourning black American life,” writes Walton Muyumba in our review of Hayes’ new collection, “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin.”


The No. 1 bestseller in fiction this week is “The Outsider” by Stephen King. King has now written so many books that publisher Simon & Schuster has partnered with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant to create “the first voice-activated book recommendation tool” dedicated to a single writer. It even comes with a free sampler of King’s work.


The No. 1 bestseller in nonfiction this week is “Calypso” by David Sedaris. It’s the humorist’s latest collection and deals with his vacation house and other misadventures, billed by publisher Little, Brown & Co. as “beach reading for people who detest beaches.”

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


In her new novel “The Great Believers,” Rebecca Makkai connects the AIDS crisis of the 1980s with the art scene of 1920s Paris and a contemporary search for an estranged family member. Makkai, who will be reading at Vroman’s on Thursday, talks to Michael Schaub about why her book is set in Chicago and what it meant talking to people who’ve been HIV positive for years, and what they’ve lost.

In nonfiction, Kate Tuttle reviews “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna,” a book that closely examines the history of the psychiatrist Hans Asperger, who has been a hero to neurodiversity advocates but who, author Edith Sheffer contends, also sent children to die during the Nazi era.

And investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has a new book, “Reporter: A Memoir.” He’s been talking about it quite a bit, but my favorite interview is the one with Brooke Gladstone for the NPR show “On the Media”: listen here.

Thanks for reading!