1. William Skidelsky, Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession. An excellent short book on how tennis has changed through technology, the nature of excellence in human performance, and why fans are interested in sports and sports stars at all. There is no great tennis stagnation.
2. Bill Hayton, The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia. If you wish to be convinced that no one has much of a good claim to the Spratlys, this is the place to go. The best guide to current disputes.
3. Padraig O’Malley, The Two-State Delusion: Israel and Palestine — A Tale of Two Narratives. This “substance on every page” book can be read profitably no matter what your point of view on this conflict. It has lots of economics too, most of all a good discussion of what it would take for a Palestinian state to be economically viable. Definitely recommended.
4. Barry Allen, Vanishing into Things: Knowledge in Chinese Tradition, is a consistently interesting take on the history of ideas in China, including Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and much more. It is unusual for a book to both make scholarly contributions and engage the common educated reader, most of all on these sometimes arcane topics.
I don’t currently have time to read it, but Robin Lane Fox’s forthcoming Augustine: Conversions to Confessions looks quite good.
Patrick Modiano’s newly translated Pedigree: A Memoir is perhaps excellent in the original French, but I found very little in it to hold my attention.
Jeremiah D. Lambert’s The Power Brokers: The Struggle to Shape and Control the Electric Power Industry is full of useful and interesting facts, organized by the stories of various personalities, including Paul Joskow and Kenneth Lay. Cintra Wilson’s Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style is written in exactly the opposite manner, breezy and fun but at times could use more facts.