There were more strong candidates this year than usual. The order here is more or less the order I read them in, not the order of preference:
Jeremy Adelman, Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschmann.
Daniel Brook, A History of Future Cities.
Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.
M.E. Thomas, Confessions of a Sociopath.
Emile Simpson, War from the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics.
William Haseltine, Affordable Excellence: The Singapore Health System.
Clare Jacobson, New Museums in China. Good text but mostly a picture book, stunning architecture, no art, full of lessons.
Mark Lawrence Schrad, Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State.
Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia gets rave reviews, although I have not yet read my copy. From the UK I’ve ordered the new Holland translation of Herodotus and Richard Overy’s The Bombing War and have high expectations for both.
If I had to offer my very top picks for the year, they would all be books I didn’t expect to like nearly as much as I did:
Mark Lewisohn, Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years, volume I.
Peter Baker, Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House.
Apologies to those I left out or forgot, I am sure there were more.