1. Alex Cuadros, Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country. One of the best looks at contemporary Brazil, and it’s not just about the country’s billionaires.
2. Philip Ball, The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China. I am glad to see the Grand Canal finally get its due. “An epic portrait of China’s water management history,” says one blurb. I found half of this book fascinating and the other half not terrible.
3. Edward B. Foley, Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States. A serious yet also readable look at rigged and semi-rigged elections in the United States, including in the recent past.
4. Nathan Hill, The Nix. This is the trendy novel right now, and usually I don’t like those, but after one hundred or so pages I am still enjoying it. It is both smart and genuinely funny, and doesn’t (yet?) grate on my nerves. And what is “the Nix”? Amazon says: “In Nathan Hill’s remarkable first novel, a Nix is anything you love that one day disappears, taking with it a piece of your heart.” I say it’s the best mother-son story to come along in a long time.
5. Marc Raboy, Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World. A very good, very detailed, 863 pp. but still conceptual and history-of-science rich biography. Compared to Marconi’s earlier fame, you actually don’t hear so much about him any more.