(Simone Massoni for The Washington Post)

By James Suzman (Bloomsbury)

Meet and learn from the Ju/’hoansi of southern Africa, a dwindling group of hunter-gatherers who live much as all humans did until 12,000 years ago.

By Jonathan Eig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Eig’s comprehensive biography reflects the charm and the rage, the grace and the greed, the pride and the ego of Muhammad Ali.

By Monica Hesse (Liveright)

An expertly crafted account of a string of 86 arsons on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and the pair of lovers who set the fires.

By Elisabeth Rosenthal (Penguin Press)

An authoritative account of the distorted financial incentives that drive medical care in the United States.

By Timothy B. Tyson (Simon & Schuster)

Tyson clears away the myths that have accumulated over the decades and restores the immediacy of this quintessentially American tragedy.

By Lawrence P. Jackson (Norton)

The definitive biography of an African American writer whose depictions of sexuality, racism and social injustice were often more sensational than revered.

By Paul Butler (The New Press)

A former federal prosecutor makes a powerful case that the judicial system works against blacks, particularly black men.

By Liza Mundy (Hachette)

Because they were sworn to secrecy, the women recruited to decipher German and Japanese codes were barely known after World War II. Mundy tells their story.


“Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.” by Danielle Allen (Liveright)

By Danielle Allen (Liveright)

At 15, Allen’s cousin Michael was sentenced to 12 years in prison. At 29, he was dead — a casualty of the “parastate” created when the global drug trade met American street gangs.

By Bandy X. Lee (ed.) (Thomas Dunne)

More than two dozen essays assess President Trump’s perceived traits, which the contributors find consistent with symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy and other maladies.

By Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Previously unavailable materials reveal aspects of Bishop’s romantic life, whose messy difficulty was not reflected in her precise and elegant poems.

By Mary V. Dearborn (Knopf)

This thorough reexamination of Hemingway shows the writer to be a more troubled, complex and tragic figure than most previous biographies have allowed.

By Frances FitzGerald (Simon & Schuster)

How a movement that began in reaction to New England’s Calvinist establishment shaped American identity in the first decades of the 19th century.

By Robert Dallek (Viking)

This well-researched, cradle-to-grave study reminds readers that FDR constantly governed on whims, hunches and Hail Mary passes.

By Mattias Bostrom. Translated from the Swedish by Michael Gallagher (The Mysterious Press)

It took a host of artists, critics, imitators, filmmakers, reimaginers and avaricious heirs to construct the Baker Street legend.

By William Taubman (Norton)

A biography of the peasant who grew to supreme Soviet power, then shattered the system and brought the Cold War to an end.

By S. Jonathan Bass (Liveright)

A black teenager found guilty of killing a white policeman in 1957 Alabama endures years in prison and 13 stays of execution before his conviction is overturned.

By Glenn Frankel (Bloomsbury)

This extensively researched mash-up of politics, personalities and showbiz recounts the creation of a film that has become a metaphor for the showdown between good and evil.


“Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,” by Yuval Noah Harari (Harper )

By Yuval Noah Harari (Harper)

Harari presents three possible futures: In one, humans are expendable. In a second, the elite upgrade themselves, becoming a species that sees everyone else as expendable. In a third, we all join the hive mind.

By Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly)

An engrossing, fair-minded, up-close account of one of the great battles in the long struggle for Vietnam.

By Amy Goldstein (Simon & Schuster)

A poignant account of how the people of Janesville, Wis., reacted to the closure of their local General Motors plant.

By John B. Boles (Basic)

Perhaps the finest one-volume biography of an American president.

By John Stubbs (Norton)

Often described as a misanthrope, Swift appears in this enormous work as a more complicated figure — endearing, repellent, formidable.

By Steven Levingston (Hachette)

Grounded in diligent research and detail, this book follows two towering leaders through the pivotal years of the early civil rights movement.

By David Grann (Doubleday)

For present-day Osage communities, the events related here are not last century’s news but yesterday’s. Many members of the tribe still wonder what exactly happened to their relatives.

By Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)

Isaacson gathers an array of experts in art, history and medicine to arrive at a vigorous, insightful portrait of da Vinci in all his remarkable brilliance and oddity.


“Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night,” by Jason Zinoman (Harper)

By Jason Zinoman (Harper)

A definitive and enjoyable biography of the talk show legend and why he was better at his job than Jay Leno.

By Sylvia Plath. Edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (Harper)

This massive collection, the first of two planned volumes, offers a window on Plath’s early successes, her first thoughts of suicide and her marriage to Ted Hughes.

By Helene Cooper (Simon & Schuster)

A penetrating history of Liberia and the story of Sirleaf, who became the first woman elected president of an African nation.

By Ron Powers (Hachette)

Powers argues that the future of mental health in the United States is being shaped along two trajectories: a flourishing research enterprise juxtaposed with a chaotic system of delivering care.

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann (St. Martin's)

President Trump is not forever — and the people in the best position to take advantage of the moment he’s out of office will be those already thinking about it.

By Timothy Snyder (Tim Duggan)

Steeped in the history of interwar Germany, Snyder writes with bracing immediacy about how to prevent, or at least forestall, the repression of lives and minds.

By Phoebe Maltz Bovy (St. Martin's)

A look at why so much of the debate about privilege tends to be contradictory, embarrassing, superficial and self-defeating.

By Adam Bradley (Yale)

Are pop music lyrics poetry? A tour of musical history that gets to the bottom of this age-old question.

By Elaine M. Hayes (Ecco)

Don’t be misled by the title: This long-deserved biography explores Vaughan’s range beyond her trademark bebop and her success as a “symphonic diva.”

By David Yaffe (Sarah Crichton)

How a lonely girl with polio survived to become a great musical artist, and the glory, gloom and lovers she acquired and shed along the way.

By Edward Luce (Atlantic Monthly)

Rising income inequality, vanishing economic mobility and a distant technocracy are forcing Western liberal democracy to confront its gravest challenge since World War II.


“Richard Nixon: The Life,” by John A. Farrell (Doubleday)

By John A. Farrell (Doubleday)

Employing recently released government documents and oral histories, Farrell has written the best one-volume biography that we could expect about such a famously elusive subject.

By Kay Redfield Jamison (Knopf)

There are no half measures to Jamison’s medico-biographical study of poet Lowell. It is impassioned, intellectually thrilling and often beautifully written.

By Abigail Williams (Yale)

How reading aloud became popular entertainment, flourishing alongside rising rates of literacy, a nascent publishing industry and the emergence of professional writers.

By Zeynep Tufekci (Yale)

This unusual book shows how the technology that helps modern movements organize high-profile protests may also keep them from achieving long-term goals.

By Svetlana Alexievich. Translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Random House)

The Nobel Prize winner’s harrowing and moving account of female Soviet soldiers’ efforts and indignities during World War II.

By Meredith Wadman (Viking)

Scientific anecdotes, historical detail and quirky characters enliven this tale of how researchers developed vaccines against polio, rubella, rabies and more.

By Jeff Goodell (Little, Brown)

An assessment of the relentless toll that water will take on our cities and our psyches in the years to come — and possible solutions.

By Hillary Rodham Clinton (Simon & Schuster)

The defeated presidential candidate offers a guide to the contemporary political arena and directly addresses how she was treated because she is a woman.

By Laura Shapiro (Viking)

Everyday meals give insights into lives including poet Dorothy Wordsworth; Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun; and Cosmopolitan’s Helen Gurley Brown.

By Matthew Zapruder (Ecco)

This surprising work shows novices how to navigate poetry while reeducating anyone who was taught to dissect a poem as if it were a dead frog.

By Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown)

Novelist and poet Alexie recounts his troubled life with his mercurial mother in his first full-length work of nonfiction.

By Deborah Tannen (Ballantine)

Tannen interviewed 80 girls and women, from ages 9 to 97 and from different ethnic, economic, religious and gender identity perspectives, to understand how women talk to one another.

By Wendy Lesser (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

With detailed and sympathetic reporting, Lesser illuminates the complexity of the brilliant architect’s affairs and families.

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