1. Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic Capitalism. A very smart, well-written, well-argued book, and an argued book indeed it is. As the title suggests, Kenworthy tries to persuade the reader to embrace social democratic capitalism, but with an emphasis on what government can do, not the market. One rebuttal: responding to the Swiss experience requires far more than the two short paragraphs on pp.105-106, and furthermore Switzerland has done very well in many sectors above and beyond being a financial safe haven (which in some regards hurts those other sectors through exchange rate effects).
Laurence Louër, Sunnis and Shi’a: A Political History of Discord. Captures the complexities, and in fact pulls the reader away from the usual tired dichotomy.
Neil Price, A History of the Vikings: Children of Ash and Elm. I have only browsed this book, yet it appears to have much more information about the Vikings than other books I know, yet without getting squirrelly. That said, I find it difficult to connect books on the Vikings with the broader conceptual narratives I know, and thus I do not retain their content very well. So I am never sure if I should read another book on the Vikings.
John Took’s Dante is the book to read on Dante after you’ve read all the other books (an interesting designation, by the way, I wonder how many areas have such books? In most cases, if you’ve read all the other books you shouldn’t bother with the next one!).
Fred Kaplan, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, is not a secret history, but it is a good general overall introduction to its chosen topic.
Dietrich Vollrath, Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy is a Sign of Success is now out, my previous review is at that link, an excellent book on economic growth and it will make my best of the year list.