I can hardly turn around without finding somebody’s list of the best books of the year. So, why shouldn’t I write one up, too? I doubt that many literary critics have reviewed more books this year than I have. So, here goes . . .
Following are the ten books, both fiction and nonfiction, that I’ve read and reviewed and feel best about promoting here. They cover a wide range of topics, from the Vietnam War and African slavery to intelligence in World War II. All were published in 2016 or late in 2015. I’ve arranged them in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. The titles are linked to my reviews.
The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch #19), by Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly’s latest entry in the venerable series of Harry Bosch detective novels shows the aging investigator has lost none of his insight and skill. Working as a private eye, the former LAPD detective searches for a possible heir to the vast fortune of a dying man.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
A sociologist follows the lives of several Milwaukee families, both black and white, before, during, and after their experience with eviction. Simultaneously, he tracks the work of the two slumlords whose properties they rent.
Homegoing: A Novel, by Yaa Gyasi
In a searing exploration of the history of slavery, an African-born American woman traces the story of a Ghanaian family over more than two centuries through the lives of two branches of its descendants, one in Ghana, the other in the United States.
The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945, by Max Hastings
A British historian’s revisionist view of military intelligence in World War II. His book debunks the many myths that have inspired dozens of books and takes their exaggerations down a peg with a long-lacking sense of perspective.
The Considerate Killer (Nina Borg #4), by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
A team of two Danish thriller writers follows a neurotic Red Cross nurse and her detective friend as they become embroiled in solving an international murder mystery. The scene shifts back and forth from Denmark to the Philippines.
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer
An award-winning New Yorker staff writer examines the Koch Brothers’ heavy-handed attempt to dominate American politics. As Warren Buffet has said, “There’s class warfare all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
The Sympathizer: A Novel, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
A Vietnamese-American won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with this complex novel of the Vietnam War, viewing the conflict from both sides. In my view, he deserves that prize.
NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, by Steve Silberman
A science journalist traces the history of autism throughout the twentieth century, when it was first became the subject of close study. It’s a story of myths and misunderstandings long held both among psychiatrists and the public.
Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, by T. J. Stiles
An award-winning biographer corrects the history we were spoon-fed in our public schools about both Custer’s Last Stand and Custer himself, an honored Civil War general. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2016.
The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, by David Talbot
A veteran investigative journalist explores the time in the 1950s and 60s when the CIA ran amok, assassinating foreign leaders and intervening in the affairs of other countries, allegedly in pursuit of containing Communism.