THE TRUMP BEAT: Journalists, even on TV, tend to favor a sort of invisibility cloak, protected by the traditional veneer of impartiality and remove. They — or we, if book columnists count here — would probably agree with Karl Ove Knausgaard, who writes in Book 1 of “My Struggle” that “understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it.” But that’s not always possible, as the NBC reporter Katy Tur learned when she covered Donald Trump’s run for the presidency. In “Unbelievable,” new on the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 2, Tur looks back on the highs and lows of that campaign and describes how Trump frequently singled her out for attacks.
“It was difficult,” Tur told me in a recent phone interview. “It could be confusing. How do I take myself out of the story and just continue doing my job? In the end I decided the best way was to ignore it. If somebody asked me directly about it, I would address it. Otherwise I just ignored it. I’m very good at compartmentalizing.”
Despite the personal insults, Tur added, the Trump phenomenon has been good for the news media as a whole. “We’re seeing something of a renaissance in political journalism and investigative journalism,” she said. “Reporters are re-examining what our role is in a democracy, and how we go about doing our jobs. In pushing boundaries and testing them, Trump has really revitalized the fourth estate. He’s so bombastic, so demeaning and dismissive and outright hostile — but his behavior toward the press reflects his behavior toward the system in general, and once you recognize that, you’re able to take it less personally and regain the distance you need to do your job.”
WHOSE BABY? Another book well timed to the political moment is Celeste Ng’s second novel, “Little Fires Everywhere” (reviewed on Page 9 by Eleanor Henderson), which hits the hardcover fiction list at No. 7 and centers on a lawsuit over an interracial adoption in Shaker Heights, Ohio, after the birth mother changes her mind. Ng started thinking about the story back in 2009, she told me, in a very different social climate. But she recognizes the timeliness of its concerns — “in particular,” she said, “issues of privilege, of good intentions versus lived behavior, and the ways we put our ideals into action (or don’t) based on our own personal discomfort. … These issues have been…