Breach of Peace

In the foreword to Breach of Peace, Diane McWhorter observes that the victories of the civil rights movement have "an inevitability bestowed by hindsight." Eric Etheridge's stunning book collects the mug shots of the several hundred Freedom Riders arrested in 1961 while attempting to integrate bus and train terminals in Jackson, Mississippi, and it is an immediate, gripping reminder of both the risks that were taken in the civil rights struggle and of who took them. The group, half black and half white (a quarter were women), was remarkably young; in their faces we see strength, courage, defiance, dignity, and, occasionally, fear. The mug shots, which were only recently made public, have been compiled by Etheridge, who juxtaposes them with present-day photographs of the Riders and their recollections about the experience. "We were not afraid to die," says one. "I was scared witless," recalls another. With the Jackson jails quickly filled to capacity, Freedom Riders were sent to the maximum-security state penitentiary, where those who refused bail could languish for weeks and months. Many, looking back, speak of the brutal conditions at the prison, but quite a few now view their incarceration as a formative period of growth and learning, with Communists and pastors debating political strategy and with black and white activists, in segregated cells, communicating (and infuriating the guards) by singing freedom songs to each other across the divide.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.