FROM SARAH TO SYDNEY: The Woman Behind All-of-a-Kind Family, by June Cummins with Alexandra Dunietz. (Yale University, $35.) Sydney Taylor (born Sarah Brenner) wrote the popular All-of-a-Kind Family children’s books, published between the 1950s and the 1970s. This biography traces her difficult youth, her unlikely path to publication and her commitment to showing Jewish life in America. “Although she’s never been acknowledged as a great American novelist, or even an especially important one, she’s now the subject of a thoughtful, timely and comprehensive biography,” Jennifer Weiner writes in her review, that “gives this significant writer her due.”
THE SWEETNESS OF WATER, by Nathan Harris. (Little, Brown, $28.) After the Civil War, a Georgia landowner and his wife forge a surprisingly companionable relationship with a pair of formerly enslaved brothers, until a taboo love affair and a startling act of violence threaten their bond. Harris’s tender debut novel captures the yearning for human connection and the risks of departing from social norms. “Almost every time you expect a scene of horror,” our reviewer Martha Southgate writes, “you get a scene of kinship instead.”
FORGET THE ALAMO: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford. (Penguin Press, $32.) Three Texan writers demolish the myth surrounding the 1836 battle of the Alamo. “Much of the fun of the book,” our reviewer Christopher Knowlton writes, “derives from how deftly it strips that varnish off and demolishes the prevailing (white) racist shibboleths — in particular, what the authors call the Heroic Anglo Narrative of Texas history.” The authors show how the event’s racist underpinnings have done so much to establish and distort the identity of their home state.
THE PROFESSION: A Memoir of Community, Race and the Arc of Policing in America, by Bill Bratton and Peter Knobler. (Penguin Press, $30.) This book recounts a career through half a century of law enforcement, providing not only an insider’s perspective on one of the most contentious issues in American life but also suggestions for reform. “‘The Profession’ is a sometimes dense but consistently engaging account,” Alan Ehrenhalt writes in his review. It’s “a remarkably candid account of one man’s journey, but it is also a veritable encyclopedia of police tactics and culture.”
SEEING SERENA, by Gerald Marzorati. (Scribner, $26.) Serena Williams evokes so many emotions and symbolizes so many ideas that she, more than any other modern athlete, deserves a book-length meditation. Marzorati, a veteran tennis writer and former editor of The New York Times Magazine, offers a thoughtful tour through her 2019 season, highlighting her desire to win a Grand Slam title as a mother. The result is “a deep, satisfying meditation on Serena’s path through an unsatisfying year,” Touré writes in his review.