1. Marcel Proust, The Mysterious Correspondent: New Stories. Yes they read like fragments, but Proust’s fragments are still better than almost anything else.
2. Michele Alacevich, Albert O. Hirschman: An Intellectual Biography. There can never be enough books on Albert Hirschman, noting this one focuses on his ideas rather than his life.
3. Jennifer Ackerman, The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think. A good and entertaining overview of some of the most interesting questions about birds, including bird intelligence. “Extreme behavior in birds is more likely in Australia than anywhere else.”
4. Paul Betts, Ruin and Renewal: Civilizing Europe After World War II. The immediate aftermath of WWII was the last time the Western world was truly chaotic, and this book captures that time well, including its intellectual milieu. Are you interested in how West and East German books of manners differed in the late 1940s and 1950s? If so, this is your go-to book.
5. Tim Birkhead, The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology. As I tweeted: “I am coming to the conclusion that the quality of books about birds is higher than about almost any other subject.” Simple question: have you read a better book about the history of ornithology than this one?
Tom Standage, A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next is a very good history of what it promises.
Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, is indeed…a defense of truth.
There is Niall Ferguson, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, lots of bad news yes, but is he short the market?