1. The Aztec World, by Elizabeth Brumfiel and Gary Feinman. Long-time MR readers will know Aztec history is a special interest of mine. This book, a companion volume to the Aztec exhibit from Chicago’s Field Museum, is perhaps the best introduction to the Aztecs to date.
2. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective. This achieved (justified) rave reviews in the UK but it has hardly made a dent in the U.S. market. It is non-fiction but written in a hybrid form and often feels more like a novel.
3. The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory, by Torkel Klingberg. When push comes to shove, the author fails to establish his major thesis. Still, this book is way above average for how seriously it treats the actual science behind its argument. I learned a great deal from it.
4. Somewhere Towards the End, by Diana Athill. A scary and effective memoir about how Athill, a famous editor, dealt with aging and the end of her sex life.
5. Not John Steinbeck.
Here are predicted hot reads for 2009.