THE 2014 NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW NOTABLE NON-FICTION TITLES
The year’s top non-fiction titles, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review
AMERICAN MIRROR: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell. By Deborah Solomon. The author pays respect to Rockwell for his dedication through periods of self-doubt, depression and marital tumult.
BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End. By Atul Gawande. A meditation on living better with age-related frailty, serious illness and approaching death.
BUILDING A BETTER TEACHER: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone). By Elizabeth Green. The gaping chasm between what the best teachers do and how they are evaluated.
CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT? Written and illustrated by Roz Chast. This scorchingly honest, achingly wistful graphic memoir looks at the last years of Chast’s nonagenarian parents.
CHINA’S SECOND CONTINENT: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in ¬Africa. By Howard W. French. The author delves into the actual lives of the Chinese who have uprooted themselves to live and work in Africa.
CUBED: A Secret History of the Workplace. By Nikil Saval. This account of office design and technology since the Civil War offers insights into the changing nature of work.
DEEP DOWN DARK: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. By Héctor Tobar. A graphic recounting of the quandaries faced by the victims of Chile’s 2010 mine disaster.
DEMON CAMP: A Soldier’s Exorcism. By Jennifer Percy. Percy’s first book follows an anguished Army veteran who searches for salvation in a Christian exorcism camp.
DUTY: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. By Robert M. Gates. One of the few Obama administration members who come off well in this frank account — probably one of the best Washington memoirs ever — is Hillary Clinton.
DYING EVERY DAY: Seneca at the Court of Nero. By James Romm. A classicist tries to unravel the enigma of the Stoic philosopher who was the Roman emperor Nero’s adviser.
EICHMANN BEFORE JERUSALEM: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer. By Bettina Stangneth. Eichmann in this study is a more motivated Nazi than in Arendt’s version.
ELEPHANT COMPANY: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II. By Vicki Constantine Croke. A rich portrait of a fascinating Englishman in extraordinary times.
EMBATTLED REBEL: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief. By James M. McPherson. The Confederate president as “a product of his time and circumstances.”
THE EMPATHY EXAMS: Essays. By Leslie Jamison. Considerations of pain, physical and emotional, and how it affects our relationships with one another and with ourselves.
FACTORY MAN: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town. By Beth Macy. Macy’s folksy concentration on her local hero makes complex global issues -understandable.
FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES: A Memoir. By Charles M. Blow. The Times Op-Ed columnist describes overcoming his rage at being abused as a child.
FORCING THE SPRING: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality. By Jo Becker. A fly-on-the-wall account of the 2013 Supreme Court case that led to the overturn of California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
GANDHI BEFORE INDIA. By Ramachandra Guha. It was as a young lawyer in South Africa that Gandhi forged the philosophy and strategies later put to such effect in India.
GEEK SUBLIME: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty. By Vikram Chandra. Chandra, who is both a novelist and a programmer, traces the connections between art and technology.
HOTEL FLORIDA: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War. By Amanda Vaill. A collective portrait of Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, and two other couples.
THE HUMAN AGE: The World Shaped by Us. By Diane Ackerman. An optimistic survey of the technology and innovations that define our human-dominated epoch.
THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. By Rick Perlstein. Engrossing and at times mordantly funny, Perlstein’s book treats the years 1973-76 as a Rosetta stone for American politics today.
THE INVISIBLE FRONT: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. By Yochi Dreazen. Dreazen uses one military family’s tragedy to examine the troubling rise of postwar suicides.
THE INVISIBLE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures. By Christine Kenneally. ¬ A smart and highly entertaining look at the revelations DNA can provide.
JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption. By Bryan Stevenson. An activist lawyer’s account of a man wrongfully convicted of murder reads like a call to action.
LIMONOV. By Emmanuel Carrère. Translated by John Lambert. Carrère applies his affinity for the big questions to his biography of an uncategorizable Russian writer.
LITTLE FAILURE: A Memoir. By Gary Shteyngart. A hilarious and touching account of his family’s move from Leningrad to Queens, and his emergence as a writer.
THE MADWOMAN IN THE VOLVO: My Year of Raging Hormones. By Sandra Tsing. Loh’s memoir wittily describes her roller-coaster ride through “the change.”
NAPOLEON: A Life. By Andrew Roberts. (Viking, $45.) Roberts brilliantly conveys the sheer energy of this military and organizational whirlwind.
NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes. By Anand Gopal. A devastating look at how we got ¬Afghanistan wrong.
NOT I: Memoirs of a German Childhood. By Joachim Fest. The author’s father’s opposition to Hitler brought his family into danger.
ON IMMUNITY: An Inoculation. By Eula Biss. (Graywolf, $24.) Drawing on science, myth and literature, Biss spellbindingly examines the psychological fog of fear that surrounds immunization today.
ON THE RUN: Fugitive Life in an American City. By Alice Goffman. A young sociologist’s remarkably reported ethnography of a poor black Philadelphia ¬neighborhood.
100 ESSAYS I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WRITE: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater. By Sarah Ruhl. How to be creative when life and children intervene.
THE PARTHENON ENIGMA. By Joan Breton Connelly. With first-rate scholarship, an archaeologist reinterprets the Parthenon frieze in this exciting and revelatory history.
PAY ANY PRICE: Greed, Power, and Endless War. By James Risen. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter chronicles the excesses of the war on terror in this powerful book.
PENELOPE FITZGERALD: A Life. By Hermione Lee. Lee takes on the challenge of an elusive late-bloomer — the great novelist and biographer who published her first book at 58 and became famous at 80.
PRO: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. By Katha Pollitt. In this manifesto, Pollitt argues that women should stop apologizing and reclaim abortion as a “positive social good.”
THE SHORT AND TRAGIC LIFE OF ROBERT PEACE: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League. By Jeff Hobbs. A heartbreaking journey from a New Jersey ghetto to Yale to a drug-¬related murder.
THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: An Unnatural History. By Elizabeth Kolbert. A powerful examination of the role of man-made climate change in causing the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens the planet.
A SPY AMONG FRIENDS: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. By Ben Mac¬intyre. This account of the British spymaster who turned out to be a Russian mole reads like John le Carré but is a solidly researched true story.
STUFF MATTERS: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World. By Mark Miodownik. Materials we think banal and boring — paper, concrete, glass, plastic — hold hidden wonders.
THE TEACHER WARS: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. By Dana Goldstein. Goldstein offers a lively, personality-driven survey of the public education system, and offers ideas for its reform.
THIRTEEN DAYS IN SEPTEMBER: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David. By Lawrence Wright. How marathon sessions of bare-knuckle diplomacy forged a framework for peace between Israel and Egypt in 1978.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs. the Climate. By Naomi Klein. In her consequential analysis, Klein argues there is still time to avoid catastrophe, but not within the current rules of capitalism.
THROWN. By Kerry Howley. With its sly humor and trenchant vision, this genre-bending work finds sublime poetry in the world of mixed martial arts.
THE TRIP TO ECHO SPRING: On Writers and Drinking. By Olivia Laing. A charming and look at the alcoholic insanity of six famous authors: John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver.
THE TRUE AMERICAN: Murder and Mercy in Texas. By Anand Giridharadas. Competing visions of the American dream collide in this account of a post-9/11 hate crime and its unlikely ¬reverberations.
WORLD ORDER. By Henry Kissinger. Kissinger’s elegant, wide-ranging cri de coeur is a realpolitik warning for future generations from a skeptic steeped in the past.
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