American theater isn’t what it was in the 1940s and ’50s. Symphonic music after Stravinsky went downhill. Postmodern art? (My 10-yr-old, observing a specimen at the National Gallery of Art, said, “Mom, it’s a black canvas with a piece of toast. A piece of toast.”) But great books are still written every year, more than you can read and still remain gainfully employed.

Here are a few of the most absorbing books I read in the past year (a couple were published at the end of 2010 and one in 2006, although I didn’t get around to it until this year). These sorts of books keep you up way too late reading and leave you with a sense of loss when you’re done and there are no more pages to turn:

Crazy U by Andrew Ferguson

Bloody Crimes by James L. Swanson

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

Rawhide Down by Del Quentin Wilber

1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart

The Neoconservative Persuasion: Selected Essays, 1942-2009 by Irving Kristol

Decision Points by George W. Bush

The Few by Alex Kershaw