In his new novel, Them, Nathan McCall, best known as a memoirist, has tried his hand at fiction with a timely tale of gentrification and its attendant misunderstandings. Set in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward, Them traces the gradual yuppification of a historically black neighborhood and the explosive racial tensions that follow suit. At its center is the tentative relationship -- never quite the friendship the novel would have you believe -- that develops between resident paranoiac Barlowe Reed and the white armchair liberal who moves in next door.

McCall, to his credit, gives voice to a whole slew of viewpoints, whether the characters are nostalgic '60s civil rights activists struggling to adapt their tactics to a new plight or eager gentrifiers who are blind to why their gestures of civic pride fall short. Though the foundations are in place for a story full of messy realizations and even messier politics, the characters never quite manage to be as complex as the story line in which they are confined. Too often, McCall falls prey to the temptation of exposition: jabs that cross racial lines come with italics ("You never could be too sure with them," Barlowe warily sums up the newcomer Sandy Gilmore) and the dialogue has a way of lining up difficult questions a little too neatly. Still, Them meets its subject matter head on and gives a nervy glimpse of a community under siege. -

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…

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.