“Not contagious between people; it’s controllable and preventable.” These eight words—repeated over and over again by official Chinese media sources during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak—are at the heart of Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, writer Fang Fang’s daily account of her time in lockdown in Hubei Province. Catherine Belton’s Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West details another account of corrupt government, this one the “alliance between Putin, his KGB allies and organized crime.” She also explains how Putin continues to get away with it all: “Ultimately, financial interests [of the West] would outweigh concerns about his regime’s abuse of the law and democracy.”
The Russian-American writer Masha Gessen turns her lens on the U.S. with Surviving Autocracy, an expansion of a 2016 essay she wrote for the New York Review of Books. In that article, published shortly after the presidential election, she wrote how the reactions of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and others, “however well-intentioned … assume that Trump is prepared to find common ground with his many opponents, respect the institutions of government, and repudiate almost everything he has stood for during the campaign. In short,” she wrote, they “treat[ed] him like a ‘normal’ politician. There has until now been little evidence that he can be one.” Not much has changed since then, and Surviving Autocracy clearly articulates the frustrating anomaly that is the U.S. president. In Mary Jordan’s The Art of Her Deal, Trump’s wife, Melania—trophy? soulmate? robot?—is explored.