In most cases, my review is behind the link, though a few times it leads merely to the Amazon page. If I wrote only a few words about the book, I have reproduced them directly in this post. And the books are listed, more or less, in the order I read them. Apologies if I forgot your book, each year I do neglect a few. Here goes:
Marco Santagana, Dante: The Story of His Life.
Melancholy, by László F. Földényi.
Ji Xianlin, The Cowshed: Memoirs of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The classic account of its kind, in this edition brilliantly translated and presented.
Robin Hanson, The Age of Em. Unlike any other on this list, this work created a new genre.
Benedict Anderson, A Life Beyond Boundaries.
Tom Bissell, Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve. Fun, engaging, and informative, worthy of the “best of the year non-fiction” list.
Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History.
Srinath Raghavan, India’s War: World War II and the Making of Modern South Asia.
Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon, Continental Drift: Britain and Europe from the End of Empire to the Rise of Euroscepticism.
Peter Parker, Housman Country: Into the Heart of England. It’s already out in the UK, which is where I bought my copy.
Lawrence Rosen, Two Arabs, a Berber, and a Jew: Entangled Lives in Morocco. Superb descriptive anthropology.
Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet. Due out in February, the UK edition is already out. Substantive and delightful on every page.
Kerry Brown, CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping.
Richard van Glahn, The Economic History of China: From Antiquity through the 19th Century.
Christopher Goscha, The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam. The best general history of Vietnam I know, and it does not obsess over “the Vietnam War.” Readable and instructive on pretty much every page.
Andrew Scott Cooper, The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran.
William Domnarski, Richard Posner.
Peter Laurence, Becoming Jane Jacobs.
Daniel Gormally, Insanity, Passion, and Addiction: A Year Inside the Chess World. A personal favorite, you can read this as a study in labor economics as to why people hang on to crummy jobs.
Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. Short descriptions of places you ought to visit, such as ossuaries, micronations, museums of invisible microbes, the floating school of Lagos, the Mistake House of Elsah, Illinois, Bangkok’s Museum of Counterfeit Goods, and the world’s largest Tesla coil in Makarau, controlled by Alan Gibbs of New Zealand. The selection is conceptual, so I like it. I will keep this book.
Jean Lucey Pratt, A Notable Woman.
Ben H. Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich.
Sebastian Mallaby, The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan
Tim Harford, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.
Marina Abramović, Walk Through Walls.
Christopher de Hamel, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts.
I would describe this year as thick in wonderful, superb books, though I remain uncertain which of these is truly the year’s winner. So many plausible contenders! I can only promise I’ll continue to cover what comes out between now and the end of the year, and apologies if one or two of those above are from late 2015.