Since the publication last summer of his new book, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, $24), Ta-Nehisi Coates has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and the 2015 National Book Award for nonfiction. Toni Morrison has called him “the next James Baldwin.” And, to be sure, few writers have so quickly pricked the conscience of a nation, and done so with such fierce urgency. Written as a letter to his teenage son, the book is part memoir, part polemic, and mostly Coates’s deeply personal attempt to explain the racial divide in America in the context of history, politics, and his own experiences growing up in an African-American family in Baltimore, attending Howard University, and becoming a writer and journalist. Fear as a root of black anger is a major theme of the book, and Coates’s language is both poetic and painful. His anguish over the death of a college friend killed by police after being misidentified as a crime suspect is more than a cautionary tale. And in the end, whether you agree with Coates or not, the book and its message will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.