ACID TEST

LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

By Tom Shroder (Blue Rider)

A former Washington Post Magazine editor recounts how advocates of treating PTSD with banned psychoactive drugs have fought for approval from government and scientific authorities and makes a convincing case for prescribing such drugs. — Gregory Crouch

AGE OF AMBITION

Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

By Evan Osnos (Farrar Straus Giroux)

In this National Book Award winner, New Yorker writer Osnos illuminates what he calls China’s Gilded Age and its appetites, challenges and dilemmas. — John Pomfret

BEYOND THE UNIVERSITY

Why Liberal Education Matters

By Michael S. Roth (Yale)

The president of Wesleyan University describes two distinct traditions of a liberal education — one, philosophical and “skeptical,” the other, rhetorical and “reverential” — and argues that both are necessary for educating autonomous individuals who can also participate with others. — Christopher B. Nelson

THE BILL OF THE CENTURY

The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act

By Clay Risen (Bloomsbury)

Risen follows the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s journey through rough congressional waters, highlighting the prime navigators — the lesser-known Democrats and Republicans who overcame mutual mistrust to change the social fabric of the nation. — Eric Arnesen

THE BIRTH OF THE PILL

How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution

By Jonathan Eig (Norton)

Eig evokes the imagination, perseverance and daring it took to create and deploy the birth control pill. — Kate Manning

CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

By Thomas Piketty, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (Belknap/Harvard)

Piketty’s intellectual tour de force sees a future of slow growth and Gilded Age disparities in which the owners of capital capture a steadily larger share of global wealth. — Steven Pearlstein

CONGO

The Epic History of a People

By David Van Reybrouck, translated by Sam Garrett (Ecco)

Van Reybrouck chronicles the slave labor, murder, mutilation and exploitation of Congo’s copper, diamond and uranium riches under Belgium’s empire, and the repeated plundering of Congo since independence. — Martin Meredith

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO DAY

Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon

By Kim Zetter (Crown)

Zetter reveals how analysts from Belarus to California collaborated to piece together who created and launched the world’s first digital weapon, turning a complicated and technical story into an engrossing whodunit. — Dina Temple-Raston

THE DIVIDE

American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

By Matt Taibbi (Spiegel & Grau)

Investigative reporter Taibbi argues that America’s wealth gap fosters a “legal schizophrenia” in which courts are harshly “putting the smallest of small fry on the rack for negligible offenses” while “letting major systemic offenders walk” on Wall Street. — Hedrick Smith

DUTY

Memoirs of a Secretary at War

By Robert M. Gates (Knopf)

Gates sorts through the anger, frustration, sadness and guilt he held inside during his tenure. He slams Congress for gridlock and Obama for adopting an Afghanistan strategy the president himself expected to fail. — Greg Jaffe

FORCING THE SPRING

Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality

By Jo Becker (Penguin Press)

Becker shows how the campaign for same-sex marriage was reinvigorated when advocates’ plodding state-by-state strategy was replaced by a federal lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8. — Connie Schultz

THE GOOD SPY

The Life and Death of Robert Ames

By Kai Bird (Crown)

Recounting Ames’s career as the CIA’s leading Arabist, Bird focuses largely on the agent’s relationship with Palestine Liberation Organization intelligence officer Ali Hassan Salameh. — James Mann

HARD CHOICES

By Hillary Rodham Clinton (Simon & Schuster)

Clinton gives a clear and at times riveting account of her years as secretary of state. But the memoir includes very few agreements signed or policies brought to fruition. — David Ignatius

HOW NOT TO BE WRONG

The Power of Mathematical Thinking

By Jordan Ellenberg (Penguin Press)

Ellenberg flaunts amazing feats of logic to present a series of real-life problems, unencumbered by jargon and filled with analytical insight. — Manil Suri

HOW WE GOT TO NOW

Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

By Steven Johnson (Riverhead)

Weird and amusing examples fill this chronicle of six kinds of innovation — glass, cold, sound, cleanliness, time and light. Fred Vogelstein

THE INNOVATORS

How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

By Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)

This sprawling book weaves together the rise of computing and the Internet from the 1830s to today through the life stories of more than 60 individuals, partnerships and teams. Isaacson emphasizes that innovation requires teamwork and an understanding of complexity. — Matthew Wisnioski

IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE

The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

By Hampton Sides (Doubleday)

After the USS Jeannette got stuck in ice in 1879, the crew set off on a 1,000-mile journey to the Siberian mainland — and that’s where the real trouble began. — Gary Krist

THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE

The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

By Rick Perlstein (Simon & Schuster)

Perlstein touches on just about everything interesting that happened in the United States between 1973 and 1976. — H.W. Brands

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

American Visionary

By Fred Kaplan (Harper)

Kaplan draws a sympathetic but unromanticized portrait of the sadly underrated sixth president as an erudite, intelligent, modest, hard-working man stifled until he was in his 70s by the legacy of his father, the second president. — Carol Berkin

JUST MERCY

A Story of Justice and Redemption

By Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau)

In this memoir, Stevenson, the visionary founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, recounts how he won relief for scores of condemned prisoners, fought to end the death penalty and life sentences without parole for juveniles, and confronted abuse of the mentally ill and children in prison. — Rob Warden

LIMONOV

The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia

By Emmanuel Carrère, t ranslated by John Lambert (Farrar Straus Giroux)

Carrère tracks the amazing, improbable life of Ukrainian writer, adventurer and would-be revolutionary Eduard Limonov.— Michaei Dirda

LINCOLN AND THE POWER OF THE PRESS

The War for Public Opinion

By Harold Holzer (Simon & Schuster)

Holzer has produced three books in one: a political biography of Lincoln, a portrayal of the American press during a crucial moment in history and an account of how Lincoln and the press each helped redefine the other. — James McGrath Morris

LITTLE DEMON IN THE CITY OF LIGHT

A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris

By Steven Levingston (Doubleday)

Levingston — The Post’s nonfiction book editor— explores an 1889 murder in which a young female accomplice claimed she was hypnotized into committing the crime, sparking a Paris sensation and an impassioned debate over the power of suggestion. — Anna Mundow

LITTLE FAILURE

A Memoir

By Gary Shteyngart (Random House)

Shteyngart presents himself as a pathetic dweeb but also offers an astute examination of the immigrant experience and the process of turning misery into art. — Lisa Zeidner

THE LONG SHADOW

The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century

By David Reynolds (Norton)

Reynolds takes the study of World War I out of the trenches, where it has been mired for nearly a century, and looks at its effects upon nations, democracy, empire, capitalism, civilization and peace. — Gerard De Groot

THE MEAT RACKET

The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business

By Christopher Leonard (Simon & Schuster)

This is a deeply reported narrative about how big business — specifically the giant Tyson Foods — has come to rule the production of meat, with harsh consequences for our health, farm animals and especially for farmers. — Bethany McLean

MY AGE OF ANXIETY

Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

By Scott Stossel (Knopf)

Stossel, editor of the Atlantic magazine, has a range of phobias: from claustrophobia to aeronausiphobia (fear of vomiting on an airplane). His journey through the annals of anxiety is harrowing, hilarious and brave. — Jen Chaney

THE MYTH OF THE STRONG LEADER

Political Leadership in the Modern Age

By Archie Brown (Basic)

An international relations expert makes the case that ostensibly strong leaders are often linked with flawed, myopic and dangerously misguided strategies — while those who adapt, improvise, conciliate and even struggle are often more successful in realizing their goals. — Gordon M. Goldstein

THE NIXON DEFENSE

What He Knew and When He Knew It

By John W. Dean (Viking)

Dean, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel — and later his chief accuser — analyzes 600 new conversations that depict a White House full of lies, chaos, distrust, maneuver and counter-maneuver. — Bob Woodward

ON DEMOCRACY’S DOORSTEP

The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought “One Person, One Vote” to the United States

By J. Douglas Smith (Hill & Wang)

Smith recounts an all-but-forgotten key to political representation in the United States: the Warren Court’s ruling that states must draw all legislative districts on the basis of population alone. — David Garrow

OVERWHELMED

Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time

By Brigid Schulte (Sarah Crichton/Farrar Straus Giroux)

Schulte, a Washington Post reporter, uses her own harried-working-mom life as the jumping-off point for her book on the plague of business that afflicts us and what we can do about it. — Jennifer Howard

PLATO AT THE GOOGLEPLEX

Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away

By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (Pantheon)

Goldstein showcases the continuing relevance of a classic philosopher in amusing ways and offers a more straightforward discussion of Platonic philosophy. — M.D.

POLITICAL ORDER AND POLITICAL DECAY

From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

By Francis Fukuyama (Farrar Straus Giroux)

In Fukuyama’s view, successful liberal democracy combines three essential elements: the state, rule of law and accountability. — G.D.G.

THE PROBLEM OF SLAVERY IN THE AGE OF EMANCIPATION

By David Brion Davis (Knopf)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning authorfocuses on the terrible question he has pondered for half a century: What does it mean to dehumanize a human being? — James Oakes

SALLY RIDE

America’s First Woman in Space

By Lynn Sherr (Simon & Schuster)

Sherr portrays a complex woman, easy-going one day, hard-hearted the next and inscrutable about her 27-year relationship with her female partner. — Marcia Bartusiak

SAVAGE HARVEST

A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art

By Carl Hoffman (Morrow)

Hoffman examines the disappearance in Papua New Guinea of 23-year-old Michael C. Rockefeller, son of the New York governor, raising the possibility that the young man was killed by members of a cannibalistic culture. — Bill Gifford

THE SCORPION’S STING

Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War

By James Oakes (Norton)

Oakes writes that Abraham Lincoln and fellow Republicans not only had a plan for ending slavery peaceably, but gave it a name: They called it the Scorpion’s Sting because they believed slavery, like a cornered scorpion stinging itself to death, would inevitably self-destruct. — Ira Berlin

THE SHORT AND TRAGIC LIFE OF ROBERT PEACE

A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

By Jeff Hobbs (Scribner)

Hobbs tells the story of how terribly things went for Robert Peace, a gifted, charismatic black teenager from the ghetto who got a free ride to Yale. Hobbs was Peace’s white college roommate, and it’s hard to imagine a writer who could care more about portraying fully the intricacy and context of Peace’s life. — Gerald Early

SOLDIER GIRLS

The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War

By Helen Thorpe (Scribner)

Thorpe follows three women who enlisted in the Indiana National Guard before Sept. 11, 2001, tracking their ups and downs for 12 years as they do multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and readjust to civilian life. — Carla T. Main

A SPY AMONG FRIENDS

Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

By Ben Macintyre (Crown)

Macintyre portrays the traitor Kim Philby as a spectacularly gifted and fearless liar and a supremely perverse antihero. Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, in contrast, “appears to be a collection of drunken, self-celebrating, upper-class twits who get it wrong nearly every time.” — D.I.

S STREET RISING

Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C.

By Ruben Castaneda (Bloomsbury)

By day, Ruben Castaneda was an ambitious young reporter for The Washington Post. By night, he made the round of drug slingers on S Street, buying crack and sinking deeper into addiction. Castaneda — who eventually devoted himself to recovery with the same energy he’d brought to chasing highs — tells a gritty and utterly convincing street-level portrait of the 1990s. — Daniel Stashower

THIRTEEN DAYS IN SEPTEMBER

Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David

By Lawrence Wright (Knopf)

The New Yorker staff writer masterfully paints psychological portraits of three leaders at a pivotal moment: America’s Carter, Egypt’s Sadat and Israel’s Begin, each answering to his national and personal needs. — Thane Rosenbaum

UNCERTAIN JUSTICE

The Roberts Court and the Constitution

By Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz (Henry Holt)

The authors provide a painstaking explanation of all sides of the important cases that have come before the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts.— Stephen Wermiel

UNREASONABLE MEN

Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics

By Michael Wolraich (Palgrave Macmillan)

Wolraich traces the Republicans’ swift loss of power in the early 20th century in what he calls “the greatest period of political change in American history.” — Dennis Drabelle

UPDIKE

By Adam Begley (Harper)

Begley not only chronicles Updike’s life but also manages to produce a major work of criticism. — M.D.

WHAT STAYS IN VEGAS

The World of Personal Data — Lifeblood of Big Business — and the End of Privacy as We Know It

By Adam Tanner (PublicAffairs)

Tanner argues convincingly that the data-brokering business has eroded not only our expectations about personal privacy but also our civil liberties. — Dina Temple-Raston

WAR OF THE WHALES

A True Story

By Joshua Horwitz (Simon & Schuster)

Horwitz probes the connection between deadly mass whale strandings and the use of sonar — which the Navy says is essential for U.S. defense. — Marc Kaufman

WORLD ORDER

By Henry Kissinger (Penguin Press)

The former secretary of state explores the challenges of defending and renovating the global order. Despite some policy differences, his analysis largely fits with the Obama administration’s broad strategy. — Hillary Rodham Clinton

WORTHY FIGHTS

A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace

By Leon Panetta with Jim Newton (Penguin Press)

Panetta’s personality as a scrappy, profane, devout, Italian-American mensch comes through in this memoir of his years as CIA director and defense secretary.— D. I.

THE ZHIVAGO AFFAIR

The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book

By Peter Finn and Petra Couvée (Pantheon)

Finn, The Post’s national security editor, and Couvée have created an intellectual thriller out of the release and reception of Pasternak’s “Dr. Zhivago.” — Alan Furst

READ MORE:

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The top 50 fiction books for 2014

The top 10 graphic novels of 2014

The five best romance novels of 2014

The five best thrillers of 2014

The five best science fiction/fantasy books of 2014

The five best audiobooks of 2014

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