1. The American Civil War, by John Keegan. Maybe I was prejudiced by the early reviews, but I didn't think there was much substance here. Like all of Keegan's work it is very well-written but if you have basic knowledge about the events it doesn't hold your interest.
2. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin. The Indo-Pak quaint narrative tale is an overexplored genre these days, but still I enjoyed this very much. It is "full of life," while sidestepping the cliches of other books that are described as such. Or were all those cliches enjoyable in the first place? Recommended, surprisingly.
3. The Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare, by Jonathan Bate. This book offers plenty of good information but it didn't bring Shakespeare to life for me. Should I prefer the less reliable yet more Shakespearean Stephen Greenblatt book?
4. Stitches, by David Small. By now I've concluded that I'm not good at reading graphic novels, except for the Sandman series for some reason. This much-heralded story of a sick child, mistreated by his parents, struck me as professionally done but pointless.
5. Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815. Is "magisterial" simply a fancy word for "boring"? Since I won't read past p.100 in this book, I guess I'll never find out.
6. Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, by Benjamin Moser. I loved this book. She's an interesting writer with a fascinating biography, plus the book doubles as a history of Brazil and a history of Judaism in 20th century South America. This is one of the sleeper books of the year. Here is Wikipedia on Clarice Lispector, with a good entry. This is one of the sleeper books of the year.