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Trade wars, such as the one between the US and China, are usually presented as international conflicts. Not so, argues a provocative new book reviewed by the FT’s formidable commentator Martin Wolf — rather, they are waged between ‘the very rich and everyone else’. Conflict within nations is also the touchstone of The Vanishing Half, a timely novel about skin colour in America. And as concerns about Covid-19 resurface, we also review Wuhan Diary.

Next week, our Summer Books special will turn its spotlight on the best reads of 2020. But we also want to hear from you, our readers — please tell us about your favourite books and we’ll publish a selection on FT.com

Trade Wars Are Class Wars — the threat of both conflict and inequality

MATTHEW C KLEIN & MICHAEL PETTIS

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visit the container terminal of China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), in Piraeus, Greece November 11, 2019. Orestis Panagiotou/Pool via REUTERS - RC249D9ECNG2
Chinese president Xi Jinping (centre) and Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (right) in the Greek port of Piraeus last year © Reuters

Martin Wolf praises a book that exposes ‘domestic pathologies in leading economies’, with severe global imbalances, unsustainable debt and financial crises. A story that matters for everybody.

The Vanishing Half — painful truths about race and skin colour in America

BRIT BENNETT

Racial Segregation In The United States: A Family Of White Race For The Integration Of An Afro-American In The Public High School 'William Frantz' In New Orleans. Aux Etats-Unis, en Louisiane, entre le 14 novembre et le 14 décembre 1960. Dans le cadre du programme d'école intégrée mélangeant enfants noirs et blancs décidé par le juge fédéral J. Skelly Wright, Daisy GABRIELLE, une mère de famille de race blanche a été la seule mère à accepter qu'une petite afro-américaine Ruby BRIDGES rejoigne l'école public « William Frantz » de la Nouvelle-Orléans. Devant la pression des familles blanches ségrégationnistes, la famille GABRIELLE a dû déménager. Ruby BRIDGES, 6 ans, un noeud blanc dans les cheveux assise sur le perron de sa maison avec une petite copine. (Photo by Paul Slade/Paris Match via Getty Images)
© Paris Match via Getty Images

Laying bare the racial inequalities born of shade, Brit Bennett’s moving saga follows black twin sisters whose fates diverge when one of them passes for white

Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City

FANG FANG

WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 22: Police patrol a neighborhood on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, China. The cause of the person's illness is as of yet unknown. A new infectious coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" was discovered in Wuhan as the number of cases rose to over 400 in mainland China. Health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. Cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. (Photo by Getty Images)
© Getty

Born of social media posts, this go-to unofficial account of how Covid-19 took hold in Wuhan has a simple, powerful message for both China and the west

Ernest Bevin: Labour’s Churchill — an overlooked colossus of UK politics

ANDREW ADONIS

Mandatory Credit: Photo by AP/REX/Shutterstock (7420081a) Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill, right, photographed with members of his newly constructed War Cabinet, in Downing Street, London, on . Left to right are: Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labor and a new addition to the war cabinet, Clement Attlee, Lord Privy Seal, Arthur Greenwood, Minister without portfolio, and Winston Churchill WWII London Winston Churchill, London
Ernest Bevin (left) with Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill in Downing Street after joining Churchill's wartime coalition © AP/REX/Shutterstock

Too often confused with his near-namesake Nye Bevan, Bevin was, as Andrew Adonis argues, a figure crucial to Labour’s wartime role and postwar election landslide under Clement Attlee

The New Long Life — a call to reinvent retirement

ANDREW J SCOTT & LYNDA GRATTON

Two multi-ethnic senior women sitting outdoors at easels painting pictures on canvases. The focus is on the African American woman who is holding a paintbrush and looking up at her artwork as she laughs.
Education needs to be a lifelong process as we prepare for longer lives in good health © Getty

This manifesto for later years urges governments, employers and individuals to embrace lifelong learning and multigenerational living and avoid ageist labels

Genre round-up — the best new crime thrillers

Gripping yarns from John Grisham, Jeffery Deaver and Stephen King as they venture into new territory — plus a chilly serving of Nordic noir from Iceland

The Chiffon Trenches — a fashion-world memoir of life at Vogue

ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock (10471487o) Designer Diane Von Furstenberg and Andre Leon Talley Diane Von Furstenberg Fall 1977 Ready to Wear Runway - 20 Apr 1977
Designer Diane Von Furstenberg and Andre Leon Talley on the Ready to Wear Runway, April 1977 © Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock

A tell-all account of a life in the inner sanctums of high fashion — including friendship with Karl Lagerfeld and what happened when the author was frozen out by Vogue’s Anna Wintour

The Blind Light — a story of friendship and nuclear paranoia

STUART EVERS

Detonation of the nuclear device Ivy Mike during Operation Ivy in the Marshall Islands.
© Bettmann Archive

Two men from very different social classes are at the core of a family saga spanning 60 years of life lived with the paranoia of apocalypse and threat of atomic conflagration

Enemy of All Mankind — Piracy, Power and History’s First Global Manhunt

STEVEN JOHNSON

CWB1P9 Henry Every (c. 1653-c. 1712), Notorious English pirate whose ship, the "Fancy" is shown capturing a treasure ship of the Great
English pirate Henry Every, notorious for the violent capture of the Indian treasure ship the Ganj-i-Sawai in 1695 © Everett Collection/Alamy

This true story of pirate Henry Every and his pursuit by the East India Company explores the fear and adulation of pirates — and the fine line between plunder and colonialism

The Garden of Monsters — tangled lives under the Tuscan sun

LORENZA PIERI

A jetty juts out from a rocky shoreline in Porto Ercole, Tuscany, August 1980. (Photo by Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
© Getty

A story of art, social class and hypocrisy, the Italian writer’s first novel translated into English succeeds as both family saga and coming-of-age tale

For the best books of 2019 across all genres, including critics’ choices and readers’ favourites, go to ft.com/booksof2019

If you want to browse all of this week’s book reviews in one place, bookmark this page. It is updated every Friday lunchtime

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