(Simone Massoni for The Washington Post)

Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen

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.

Ali: A Life

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.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

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.

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back

By Elisabeth Rosenthal (Penguin Press)

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

The Blood of Emmett Till

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.

Chester B. Himes: A Biography

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.

Chokehold: Policing Black Men

By Paul Butler (The New Press)

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

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

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)

“The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” by Brandy X. Lee (Thomas Dunne )

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.

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.

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

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.

Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

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.

Ernest Hemingway: A Biography

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.

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

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.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life

By Robert Dallek (Viking)

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

From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon

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.

Gorbachev: His Life and Times

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.

He Calls Me by Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty

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.

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic

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 )

“Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” by Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly)

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

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.

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

By Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly)

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

Janesville: An American Story

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.

Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty

By John B. Boles (Basic)

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

Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel

By John Stubbs (Norton)

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

Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights

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.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

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.

Leonardo da Vinci

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)

“The Letters of Sylvia Plath: Volume 1: 1940-1956,” by Sylvia Plath (Harper )

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night

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.

The Letters of Sylvia Plath: Volume 1: 1940-1956

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.

Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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.

No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America

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.

One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported

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.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

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.

The Perils of ‘Privilege’: Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage

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.

The Poetry of Pop

By Adam Bradley (Yale)

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

Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan

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.”

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

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.

The Retreat of Western Liberalism

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)

“Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character,” by Kay Redfield Jamison (Knopf)

Richard Nixon: The Life

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.

Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character

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.

The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home

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.

Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

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.

The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II

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.

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease

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.

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

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.

What Happened

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.

What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

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.

Why Poetry

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.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

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.

You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships

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.

You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn

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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