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Best nonfiction of 2010

These fiction and nonfiction works resonated with our reviewers.

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PEARL BUCK IN CHINA: Journey to "The Good Earth," by Hilary Spurling (Simon & Schuster, $27). This elegant, richly researched work is a portrait of a remarkable woman ahead of her time, an evocation of China between the wars, and a meditation on how the secrets and griefs of childhood can shape a writer. -Leslie T. Chang

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POISONING THE PRESS: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington's Scandal Culture, by Mark Feldstein (Farrar Straus Giroux, $30). An entertaining and well-researched account of Nixon's obsession with investigative reporter Anderson and Anderson's sometimes dubious tactics in digging up dirt on the president. -Evan Thomas

A ROPE AND A PRAYER: A Kidnapping From Two Sid, by David Rohde and Kristen Mulvihill (Viking, $26.95). Rohde and his wife, Mulvihill, alternate chapters in this harrowing account of his kidnapping by the Taliban, delivering an important and valuable story of love, faith and courage. - Philip Caputo

SHOWTIME: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater, by Larry Stempel (Norton, $39.95). Stempel ingeniously separates the threads that were woven into the modern musical theater. -Lloyd Rose

STORYTELLER: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock (Simon & Schuster, $30). Enriches the now familiar outline of an eventful life with much new information, peels away the layers of myth that Dahl promulgated about himself, and makes clear the man's immense charm as well as his cold self-possession and emotional callousness. -M.D.

TOCQUEVILLE'S DISCOVERY OF AMERICA, by Leo Damrosch (Farrar Straus Giroux, $27). Damrosch deftly depicts that fateful encounter between young Tocqueville and adolescent America. The best book on this subject in 70 years. -H.W. Brands

TRAVELS IN SIBERIA, by Ian Frazier (Farrar Straus Giroux, $30). Frazier uses his oversized powers of observation and description to produce a travelogue that is charmingly off the deep end in its infatuation with everything about Russia, good and bad. -Alan Cooperman

THE TWILIGHT OF THE BOMBS: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons, by Richard Rhodes (Knopf, $27.95). No one writes better about nuclear history than Rhodes does, ably combining a scholar's attention to detail with a novelist's devotion to character and pacing. -George Perkovich

UNBROKEN: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, $27). Rarely has a single man had to endure such an extraordinary array of woes, from long weeks of battling sharks and hunger on a flimsy life raft to the mind-boggling brutalities of incarceration in a Japanese POW camp. -Gary Krist

VOYAGER: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery, by Stephen J. Pyne (Viking, $29.95). This unique combination of history and philosophy reflects on the role of exploration in society. -Marcia Bartusiak

WAR, by Sebastian Junger (Twelve, $26.99). What elevates "War" out of its particular time and place is the author's meditations on the minds and emotions of the soldiers with whom he has shared hardships in Afghanistan. -Philip Caputo

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, $30). As becomes clear in this extraordinary and evocative work, the refusal of African American migrants to remain in the South may have saved their lives. - Paula J. Giddings

WHEN THEY COME FOR US, WE'LL BE GONE: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, by Gal Beckerman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30). This fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched book tells the stories of the Soviet Jews who made their religion and their desire to immigrate to Israel into a protest movement, and of the American Jews who championed their cause. -Anne Applebaum

WILLIAM GOLDING, by John Carey (Free Press, $32.50). This intelligent, elegantly written and deeply empathetic biography of the author of "Lord of the Flies" reminds us that the factual basis of a writer's neuroses is less important than the imaginative use he makes of them. -Wendy Smith


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