THE WEIRDEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous, by Joseph Henrich. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $35.) Henrich combines evidence from his own lab with the work of dozens of collaborators across multiple fields to make an ambitious case for the distinctiveness of what he calls WEIRD psychology: Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. “Many of the WEIRD ways of thinking, Henrich shows, are the result of cultural differences, not genetic differences,” Daniel C. Dennett writes in his review. “And that is another lesson that the book drives home: Biology is not just genes. Language, for instance, was not invented; it evolved. So did religion, music, art, ways of hunting and farming, norms of behavior and attitudes about kinship that leave measurable differences on our psychology and even on our brains.”
JACK, by Marilynne Robinson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) This uplifting addition to Robinson’s Gilead series centers on an interracial romance in postwar St. Louis that was hinted at but not amplified in the three books that preceded it. The lovers, Jack and Della, find hope and truth in each other, even as the world conspires to keep them apart. “Robinson is acclaimed for her numinous accounts of faith, forgiveness and hope,” Elaine Showalter writes in her review, “but read in this electrifying year of national crisis, the Gilead books are unified as well by her unsparing indictment of the American history of racism and inequality, and Christianity’s uneven will to fight them. … Loneliness and love, race and grace; the romance of Jack and Della seems hopeful, courageous and moving.”
HIS VERY BEST: Jimmy Carter, a Life, by Jonathan Alter. (Simon & Schuster, $37.50.) Turned out of office after one term amid a cratering economy and a shambles of a foreign policy, deemed too conservative by liberals and too liberal by conservatives, Carter has been orphaned by biographers. In this generous and analytically rigorous work, Alter looks to change that. “Carter simply couldn’t catch a break,” David Greenberg writes in his review. Yet “in the lives of even those presidents who falter, after all there is drama and significance, pathos and inspiration — and a welter of experiences that are worth understanding if for no other reason than that they altered the course of our nation.”
MY TIME TO SPEAK: Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race, by Ilia Calderón. (Atria, $27.) Beginning with an interview with a Ku Klux Klan leader who threatened her life, the Colombian-born Univision anchor turns the camera on herself. Race is a central theme in her inspiring memoir of breaking barriers and refusing to be silenced. Fernanda Santos, reviewing it, writes that the book “shines when Calderón takes us to her family’s hometown of Istmina, where ‘being Black wasn’t out of this world.’ She brings adventure to the act of crossing a river by canoe, and depicts the aftermath of a machete attack on her grandfather as an act of shared love” once neighbors started arriving to donate blood.
ONCE I WAS YOU: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America, by Maria Hinojosa. (Atria, $28.) In telling her life story, the Mexican-American anchor of NPR’s “Latino USA” delivers both a memoir and a manifesto. The narrative is chiseled by points of convergence between her own story and the history of immigration in this country. “Her message is clear: Pedigrees don’t matter much when you’re brown,” Fernanda Santos writes, reviewing the book alongside Calderón’s (above). “As a result, Hinojosa has made it her mission to shed light on the lives and stories that others refuse or aren’t equipped to see. She has earned distinction after distinction in nearly 30 years as a journalist, working at public radio stations and for public, network and cable television news channels, often as the only Latina in the newsroom.”