(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial ,
By Rabia Chaudry (St. Martin’s)

Lawyer Chaudry expands on her 17-year struggle to win a new trial for Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction and appeals process were heard on the “Serial” podcast.

Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age
By Dan Zak (Blue Rider)

Beginning with the story of protesters’ break-in at the Oak Ridge, Tenn., government facility where thousands of nuclear bomb cores are stored, Washington Post journalist Dan Zak examines the state of nuclear security and diplomacy.

Avid Reader: A Life
By Robert Gottlieb (Farrar Straus Giroux)

A memoir by the long-serving editor and publisher who brought to print “Catch-22,” “Beloved” and many other foundational works of the 20th century.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts
By Joshua Hammer (Simon & Schuster)

Hammer’s book tells the story of the librarian who oversaw a plot to smuggle ancient manuscripts out of Timbuktu, Mali, to save them from war.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
By Krista Tippett (Penguin Press)

Tippett, host of the NPR show “On Being,” delves into religion and science and perennial questions with astronomers, neuroscientists, religious leaders, poets and philosophers.

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
By Larry Tye (Random House)

An extensively researched biography that provides the most balanced view to date of this complicated liberal hero who spent most of his life driven by the right-wing orthodoxies of his father.

The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right
By Michael J. Graetz and Linda Greenhouse (Simon & Schuster)

The authors contend that the Warren Burger-led Supreme Court dramatically diminished the scope and impact of the Earl Warren court’s precedents.

By Jean Edward Smith (Simon & Schuster)

Written in sober, smooth, snark-free prose, this history of George W. Bush’s years in office is nonetheless exceedingly damning in its judgment of the president.

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture
By Glen Weldon (Simon & Schuster)

A look at how Batman has remained so consistently intriguing to so many people over eight decades.

Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union
By Stephen Budiansky (Knopf)

A richly detailed look at the rise of the National Security Agency and its struggle to penetrate Soviet communications in the Cold War.

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
By Jane Mayer (Doubleday)

Mayer takes readers through what she argues are decades-long efforts by Charles and David Koch and other conservative billionaires to undermine American democracy and block progress on solving problems such as climate change and income inequality.

The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America
By Ethan Michaeli (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Michaeli shows how the Chicago Defender and other African American papers shaped discussions about social justice.

Defenseless Under the Night: The Roosevelt Years and the Origins of Homeland Security
By Matthew Dallek (Oxford)

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt battles New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as the two create the country’s first Office of Civilian Defense, the precursor to what we know today as the Department of Homeland Security.

Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law
By David Cole (Basic)

How citizen advocacy groups sometimes produce stunning constitutional changes.

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises , By Lesley M.M. Blume (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

A fiendishly readable account of how “The Sun Also Risesturned Hemingway into a phenomenon.

Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century
By Daniel Oppenheimer (Simon & Schuster)

The stories of six 20th-century intellectuals, politicians and journalists who underwent jarring transformations.

Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World
By Christina Lamb (William Collins)

A heartfelt valedictory dispatch from veteran war correspondent Christina Lamb that explores the Western experience in Afghanistan since 2001.

The Fight to Vote
By Michael Waldman (Simon & Schuster)

Waldman traces the nation’s commitment to expanding the franchise in the face of efforts by certain majorities to rig the rules to ensure they continue to hold power.

The Firebrand and the First Lady : Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice
By Patricia Bell-Scott (Knopf)

The unusual friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and young black activist Pauli Murray, who went on to become an influential lawyer and co-founder of the National Organization for Women.

The Gunning of America : Business and the Making of American Gun Culture
By Pamela Haag (Basic)

An exploration of the major businesses and families that have manufactured firearms in this country over the past 150 years.

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill
By Candice Millard (Doubleday)

A clear-eyed view of young Churchill as a bumptious self-promoter whose exploits in Africa were as farcical as they were courageous.

The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency
By Ellen Fitzpatrick (Harvard)

Fitzpatrick offers a rich story of quick-witted and resilient women who preceded Hillary Clinton’s quest.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
By J.D. Vance (Harper)

Vance, who grew up in the Rust Belt, uses his life story to explore the loss of optimism among the white working class and explain its affinity for Donald Trump.

The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks
By Terry Tempest Williams (Sarah Crichton)

A dozen essays devoted to the state of the American environment as reflected in our national parks.

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley
By Eric Weiner (Simon & Schuster)

Weiner presents a global odyssey that seeks to discover why geniuses gather in certain places during certain eras and why these hot spots burn out.

The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups
By Erika Christakis (Viking)

This is a fervent rebuke of academic-style early education — testing, flashcards and so on — in favor of a more nuanced approach, centered on the child and based on play.

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
By John Donvan and Caren Zucker (Crown)

Donvan and Zucker paint the story of autism in sweeping, cinematic bursts.

Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World
By Baz Dreisinger (Other)

Dreisinger takes us on a tour of prisons around the globe to reveal that the American style of punishment is not normal, natural or inevitable.

The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War
By Arkady Ostrovsky (Viking)

Ostrovsky portrays the period since 1991, when Russians experienced the longest period of freedom in their 1,000-year history — and then lost it.

John Aubrey: My Own Life
By Ruth Scurr (New York Review Books)

Scurr has mined Aubrey’s archival and printed work to fashion a wildly entertaining diary of perhaps the most endearing figure of 17th-century England.

A Kingdom of Their Own: The Family Karzai and the Afghan Disaster
By Joshua Partlow (Knopf)

Partlow, The Washington Post’s former bureau chief in Kabul, traces the history of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and his sprawling family to tell the larger tale of Afghanistan.

Looking for Betty MacDonald: The Egg, the Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I
By Paula Becker (Univ. of Washington)

A look at the singular American woman who wrote the surprise best-selling memoir “The Egg and I” and the popular Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s series.

Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality
By Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell (Morrow)

The story behind Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution extends the fundamental right to marry to all Americans, including same-sex couples.

My Own Words
By Ruth Bader Ginsburg with
Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams (Simon & Schuster)

In this new collection of Ginsburg’s speeches, opinions and writings, the justice shows herself to be deliberative, gracious and quick to credit others with her own successes.

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets
By Luke Dittrich (Random House)

Henry Molaison, who underwent a risky brain operation to cure his epileptic seizures and was left without any memory, became one of the most important research subjects in the history of neuroscience.

Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency
By David Greenberg (Norton)

The merging of public relations and politics gave us presidential spin and, ever since, the electorate has been trying to sort fact from hype.

Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
By Douglas Brinkley (Harper)

Brinkley shows how strands of Roosevelt’s life united to shape his aggressive approach to environmental preservation.

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
By Bill Bryson (Doubleday)

Bryson ambles up and down picture-perfect country roads, gazes out from windswept coastal cliffs and drops in on old stone villages.

The Romanovs: 1613-1918
By Simon Sebag Montefiore (Knopf)

An unforgettable portrait of characters fascinating and charismatic, odd and odious.

Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything
By Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Simon & Schuster)

A decidedly sponge-worthy book on the cultural history of “Seinfeld.”

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
By Ruth Franklin (Liveright)

This biography uncovers Jackson’s secret and haunting life and repositions her as a major artist whose fiction so uncannily channeled women’s nightmares and contradictions.

Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family
By Daniel Bergner (Lee Boudreaux)

This story of Ryan Speedo Green, an African American boy in juvenile detention who grew up to become an opera star, shows the challenges the opera world poses to singers of color.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
By Ibram X. Kendi (Nation)

In this intellectual history of prejudice in America, Kendi hunts for racist ideas and sometimes finds them in unexpected places. Winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Surfing: 1778-Today
By Jim Heimann (Taschen)

In this 15-pound book, Heimann covers the entire history of surfing, from James Cook’s arrival in Hawaii to the present day.

Ten Restaurants that Changed America
By Paul Freedman (Liveright)

The story of America’s restaurants is one of changing immigration patterns, race relations, gender and family roles, work obligations and leisure habits.

Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power
By Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher (Scribner)

A portrait of Trump up to his time as the GOP’s presidential nominee, by Washington Post writers, reporters, fact checkers and editors.

United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists

By Peter Bergen (Crown)

Bergen makes the case that the real threat from the Islamic State will remain “lone wolves” — Americans inspired by the group, rather than those directly financed or trained by it.

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

By Carol Anderson (Bloomsbury)

This slim but persuasive volume catalogues the centuries-long efforts to derail African American progress, from post-Reconstruction racial terror to contemporary legislative actions that have disproportionately criminalized blacks and suppressed their voting rights.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

By Nancy Isenberg (Viking)

Isenberg examines the white rural outcasts who have been vilified and shunned and have inspired mockery, kitsch and unceasing grimaces in the nation’s cultural imagination.

Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism — From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond

By E.J. Dionne Jr. (Simon & Schuster)

Dionne details the gradual domination of the Republican Party by reactionaries, and he traces their ideological line of descent through William F. Buckley to Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon to today’s extremist presidential candidates.


Notable fiction books in 2016

Best audiobooks of 2016

Best Science fiction and fantasy books of 2016

Best mystery books and thrillers of 2016

Best poetry collections of 2016

Best romance novels of 2016

Best memoirs of 2016

Best children’s and young adult books of 2016

Best graphic novels of 2016

The big book news of 2016