I never know what to say about books like Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. They’re devastating. They’re important. They are stellar books—pristine writing, strong emotion, crucial topics. But how can you call them good? How can the stories of institutional failure and human frailty and cruelty and racism and crisis and chaos and poverty be good? Can they be good because they are told well? Can they be good because they also include strength and human kindness and ingenuity and bravery and intimacy? When we recommend these books, what are we recommending, and why? Can they be good, alone in the void, purely as objects, purely as stories? Can they only be good because they are connected to our world with clinging tentacles? Are they good because we need them? Or are they good because we wish we didn’t?