How to Live

Sarah Bakewell

Bakewell brilliantly extracts principles for living from Montaigne’s life and letters; this is a biography which is transparent about its purpose.

Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit

The title is cheeky, the subject is not: Solnit’s explorations into the power structures that underlie violence against women, rape culture, marriage equality, and, yes—mansplaining—is both scathing and hopeful.

“I never set out to write this book,” Mary Ruefle begins. And yet, she did write it, and that contradiction is the first of many.

Tigerman

Nick Harkaway

Harkaway’s fiction occupies an extraordinary space between evocative sci-fi dystopia and Hollywood action-adventure—in other words, it is completely irresistible.

Merchants of Doubt

Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway

An important and infuriating book. The authors describe in detail the methods by which a few scientists successfully manipulated public opinion about tobacco, DDT, the ozone hole, global warming, and more.

Open City

Teju Cole

Teju Cole’s first novel is uneventful, but don’t let that deter you.

The Manual of Detection

Jedediah Berry

A playful novel, part Kafka, part Borges. Reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s films (in the best possible way).

Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie skewers racism and sexism in America in a story that is both affecting and hilarious.

Submergence

J.M. Ledgard

Escaping into Ledgard’s language is itself a kind of submergence—the book has a vaguely liquid quality as it moves between its characters and between the surface and the lower depths.

Lilith’s Brood

Octavia E. Butler

In Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, Annalee Newitz argues that humans will need to build cities on the Moon and elsewhere if we are to survive. Octavia Butler’s fiction repeatedly turns to that potential future, and nowhere more provacatively than in this collection of novels.

The Once and Future World

J.B. MacKinnon

MacKinnon calls for a “rewilding,” bringing the wild back into our lives rather than carving out a separate place for it. A compelling and beautiful read.

The Sixth Extinction

Elizabeth Kolbert

From frogs to bats to megafauna and the Great Barrier Reef, Kolbert’s tale is a terrifying and fascinating travelogue.

Young’s 1958 treatise introduced the word “meritocracy” into the lexicon, something he himself would later regret.

Hild

Nicola Griffith

From the scant historical record of Hild of Whitby, Griffith spins an extraordinary story of a girl who learns to navigate the world of kings and thegns.

Hall’s contribution to the unstoppable (yes, I’m biased) A Book Apart list is both an instructive reference and a critical corrective.

Newitz first dives into the history of evolution and extinction, looking at how past species have survived (or not) and what we can learn from them; then she projects a fascinating and divergent vision of humanity millions of years from now.

Mumbai New York Scranton

Tamara Shopsin

Shopsin writes in short, present-tense sentences. Frequent paragraph breaks are separated by empty lines. Many pages stop short. In the hands of someone less genuine, the effect would be gimmicky, but Shopsin is as real as it gets.

Privacy

Garret Keizer

Keizer’s approach to the topic of privacy is more philosophical than policy: you won’t find solutions to the problems of data mining or warrantless wiretaps within, but you will be prompted to think hard about privacy and its many contexts.

The Chairs Are Where the People Go

Misha Glouberman & Sheila Heti

A unique collaboration between Misha Glouberman—a performer and artist—and his friend—the writer Sheila Heti—results in this charming and instructive collection of parables.