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The Revenant, The Modern Savage, Ghettoside 

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The Revenant

Michael Punke

Picador, $26, hardcover

Already in the pipeline for a Leonardo DiCaprio film, Michael Punke's The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge is what you'd get from mixing Quentin Tarantino and John Wayne: an apparently unkillable hero with a heavy jones for shedding blood. Based on a historical incident, Punke's novel focuses on the life of adventurer Hugh Glass, who survives capture by the Pawnee and a grizzly attack, only to be abandoned by famous mountain man Jim Bridger and another man as he's dying. But Glass is cut from some Duke-ishly stern stuff. Surviving against impossible odds, he sets off to have his revenge on the two men who left him to die alone. With gruesome descriptions of the worst of frontier survival — is it better to be scalped by a grizzly or a warrior? — this fictionalized retelling of Glass' life is a shot in the arm for American Westerns. Glass was definitely made of iron. — Kel Munger

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The Modern Savage

James McWilliams

Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99, hardcover

Call this the "talk-back" to Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman and similar foodies who argue that eating small quantities of locally and humanely raised meat can be sustainable and healthy. In The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, James McWilliams, a historian, makes a philosophical and emotional case for not eating meat at all, and he calls out the locavore movement as built on thoughtless and disingenuous claims. For example, the concept of small-scale, humane livestock farming suggests happy lives and a painless death; McWilliams argues that slaughter cannot be humane by its very nature, and that small operations may suffer from other issues surrounding animals' health and well-being. This book relies too much on secondary sources; nonetheless, it's hard to argue with the author's points. When it comes to burgers, there are no happy cows. — Kel Munger

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Ghettoside

Jill Leovy

Spiegel & Grau, $28, hardcover

It doesn't get more timely than this. In Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, Los Angeles Times reporter Jill Leovy reports on the murder of 18-year-old Bryant Tennelle in South Central L.A. She shadows the detectives working the case, but during the course of her reporting leads readers to understand that it is the very lack of effective law enforcement and justice in the black community that leads to the "black on black crime" so often waved as evidence that African Americans are more violent. Leovy makes the case that, instead, it is the very lack of equal justice in these neighborhoods that leads to the "rough justice" meted out by gang members. And she draws parallels to other places — Ghana, Northern Ireland — where separate systems evolve to fill the vacuum left by institutions that abandon citizens. Insightful and troubling, Ghettoside is crime reporting at its best. — Kel Munger

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