1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List

By James Mustich (Workman)

From Jane Austen to H.G. Wells to “Zen in the Art of Archery” to “The 9/11 Commission Report,” this impressive inventory invites rapturous browsing and constant argument.

Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America

By Gregory Pardlo (Knopf)

In powerful, seemingly effortless prose, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet recounts how he struggled with his father’s troubling influence and his own demons.

All You Can Ever Know

By Nicole Chung (Catapult)

Chung’s brave, graceful memoir recalls growing up as the adoptive child of white parents and searching for her Korean birth family’s roots.

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America

By Eliza Griswold (Farrar Straus Giroux)

A single mother in rural Pennsylvania tries to find out what is poisoning her family and farm in a real-life environmental thriller with a poignant outcome.

The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy

By Greg Miller (Custom House)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter puts the big, complicated story of Russian election interference and the Trump presidency in a comprehensible historical and political context.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

By John Carreyrou (Knopf)

The tech company Theranos promises to revolutionize blood testing but sinks to the edge of bankruptcy in this chronicle of jaw-dropping falsehoods and immense greed.

Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought

By Lily Bailey (Harper)

A powerful memoir depicts obsessive-compulsive disorder not as the almost-charming hang-up seen in popular culture but as a hellscape of tortured routines, phobias and guilt.


By Michelle Obama (Crown)

The former first lady gets uncommonly candid with a memoir that includes her true feelings about Donald Trump and the pain that came with living under intense scrutiny.

Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found

By Gilbert King (Riverhead)

It’s 1957 in Jim Crow Florida, and a white woman says she’s been raped by a black man. Injustice follows, but not quite in the way you’d expect.

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis

By Sam Anderson (Crown)

Anderson takes a city almost universally overlooked and turns it into a metaphor for, well, everything.


By David Sedaris (Little, Brown)

The wry essayist publishes a new collection, and his life, his writing and the world around him all seem a little crueler and more shocking than before.

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year With the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island

By Earl Swift (Dey Street)

Finally, a writer has learned to understand life on this tiny island in the Chesapeake Bay — just in time, perhaps, to memorialize the rapidly sinking Tangier.

The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right

By Max Boot (Liveright)

The Washington Post columnist looks back at his ideological shift from lifelong Republican to GOP critic following the election of Donald Trump.

Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Steve Coll (Penguin Press)

The dean of Columbia Journalism School unspools a slow-motion military and policy disaster, and his solid, unadorned facts bring on bafflement and despair.

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America

By Beth Macy (Little, Brown)

What a Roanoke-based reporter learned as she chronicled the pain pill epidemic’s march through western Virginia.

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter

By Ben Goldfarb (Chelsea Green)

Can those paddle-tailed, buck-toothed dam builders offer humans some help in restoring our ailing environment?

Educated: A Memoir

By Tara Westover (Random House)

Raised off the grid by Mormon survivalist parents, Westover landed at Harvard and Cambridge despite her lack of formal education.

Fear: Trump in the White House

By Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster)

Woodward’s meticulous reporting for The Washington Post in the Nixon era is even more valuable today. He is utterly devoted to “just the facts” digging and compulsively thorough interviews.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

By Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil (Crown)

Made famous by her reunion with her parents on “Oprah,” a survivor of the Rwandan massacre claims control of her story in service of a greater cause.

Heavy: An American Memoir

By Kiese Laymon (Scribner)

An overweight black boy grows up in an intellectual, loving but sometimes violent Mississippi household — and becomes an award-winning writer and university professor.

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership

By James Comey (Flatiron)

The ousted FBI director delivers a big-think story about values and institutions clashing with tribalism and self-interest in Washington.

How Democracies Die

By Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (Crown)

Two of the most respected scholars in the field of democracy offer up a sober, dispassionate look at the current state of affairs — and arrive at some disturbing conclusions.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

By Michael Pollan (Penguin Press)

Extensive personal and journalistic research went into this survey of the history and uses of psychoactive drugs.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

By Alexander Chee (Mariner)

A collection of essays by a gay Korean American fiction writer explores his experiences as a young man in San Francisco.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

By Michelle McNamara (Harper)

McNamara’s long, painstaking investigation into the serial rapist and killer was published two years after her death — and two months before a suspect was arrested.

The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America

By Sarah E. Igo (Harvard)

Americans may believe in a right to privacy, the author argues, but they have come to accept extreme surveillance and self-disclosure as a way of understanding and sharing society.

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

By Kwame Anthony Appiah (Liveright)

A professor of philosophy and law brings insightful realism to the task of reexamining our restrictive and therefore divisive notions of who we are.

A Life of My Own

By Claire Tomalin (Penguin Press)

Now 85, a notable literary biographer turns her critical eye on herself, and the result is an elegant profile in courage and fortitude.

Look Alive Out There: Essays

By Sloane Crosley (MCD)

The comic essayist leads us on a variety of personal adventures, including climbing an active volcano and freezing her eggs.

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce

By Colm Tóibín (Scribner)

Tóibín examines the devotion, rebellion, dependent estrangement — and inspiration — that three fellow Irish writers experienced with their fathers.

The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles

By Gary Krist (Crown)

William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith and Aimee Semple McPherson are familiar characters in Los Angeles histories, but Krist weaves them into a fresh narrative.

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret

By Craig Brown (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Beautiful, indolent and arrogant, Margaret seems fictional, too imperious to be true; amazingly, Brown makes the reader sympathize.

Presidents of War

By Michael Beschloss (Crown)

A celebrated presidential historian portrays eight chief executives who led America into major conflicts and one — Thomas Jefferson — who refused to do so.

The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy

By Anna Clark (Metropolitan)

Clark paints a bleak portrait of a government marked by opacity, greed and willful negligence in a city where most residents are black and poor.

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

By Amy Chua (Penguin Press)

Examining the reemergence of tribalism in America, which upends the ideal of an Americanness that transcends race and ethnicity.

Questioning Minds: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner

Edited by Edward M. Burns (Counterpoint)

Two of the great literary polymaths of the 20th century converse about art, literature, scholarship and the life of the mind. Also, they gossip.

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

By Sarah Weinman (Ecco)

Was Vladi­mir Nabokov’s brilliant, infamous novel inspired by the real-life abduction and rape of an 11-year-old New Jersey girl?

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist

By Eli Saslow (Doubleday)

A national correspondent for The Post describes the complicated evolution of a born-and-bred racist who changed his views.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump

By Michael Isikoff and David Corn (Twelve)

Versed in the Washington threads of the Trump-Russia tale, the authors are sympathetic to former FBI director James B. Comey and merciless toward shortcomings of the Obama White House.

The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind

By Justin Driver (Pantheon)

A former Supreme Court law clerk delivers a masterful analysis of the court’s rulings on students’ rights, drawing as well on his own school years.

Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance

By Mark Whitaker (Simon & Schuster)

The town in question was Pittsburgh, and the 20th-century renaissance there sprawled from music to journalism to sports to the numbers racket.

The Souls of Yellow Folk: Essays

By Wesley Yang (Norton)

A piercing essay collection, packed with a fierce and refreshing ambivalence, about being an Asian man in America.

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

By Ben MacIntyre (Crown)

A thrilling true story reverses the famous Kim Philby case: From 1974 to 1985, the KGB was duped by a British mole (who is still alive).

These Truths: A History of the United States

By Jill Lepore (Norton)

Drawing on her notable books and magazine articles, Lepore provides a way to help Americans come to an honest reckoning with their past.

Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing

By Wil Haygood (Knopf)

At the height of civil rights tensions, an all-black high school in Columbus, Ohio, wins unprecedented dual state championships in basketball and baseball.

We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights

By Adam Winkler (Liveright)

Going beyond a liberal critique of Citizens United, this engaging narrative takes readers inside courtrooms, judges’ chambers and corporate offices to reconstruct 200 years of case law.

What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America

By Michael Eric Dyson (St. Martin’s)

A key 1963 meeting between Bobby Kennedy and black leaders is the springboard for a provocative look at the black struggle today.

Why Baseball Matters

By Susan Jacoby (Yale)

Why? Because its possibilities are bounded not by a clock but by performance. Because it demands concentration and time in an age of distraction. Because anything can happen.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

By Anand Giridharadas (Knopf)

Meet — and learn to despise — the denizens of “MarketWorld,” elitists who believe that they are changing the world while profiting from the status quo.

The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World

By Charles C. Mann (Knopf)

Mann unpacks opposing views of Earth’s future through two compelling advocates: doomsaying ornithologist William Vogt and Green Revolution guru Norman Borlaug.