By George Packer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
"The hollowing out of the heartland was good for the company's bottom line." Packer takes the lives of five average Americans and uses them as a jumping-off point to discuss the "unwinding" of America: how the promise of a secure future gave way.
By Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf)
Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, revisited the question of "Can women have it all," and concluded that we could: It's just a matter of "leaning in." Argue all you want: the phrase is now firmly in the lexicon.
By Mary Roach (WW Norton)
Author of Stiff, Bonk, Spook and Packing for Mars, Roach is the most engaging science writer we have right now. In Gulp, she brings her unflagging curiosity and delightful voice to the topic of our alimentary canal.
I Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai (Little, Brown)
The youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala was 15 when she was shot by the Taliban for fighting for girls' rights to education in Pakistan. Her autobiography describes her rise to fame and her life to date.
Thank You for Your Service
By David Finkel (Bond Street)
In 2007, Finkel was embedded with a group of American soldiers in Iraq. Years later, he revisits their lives and discovers the toll combat has taken on them. A humane, unflinching look at PTSD from a prize-winning writer.
The Most of Nora Ephron
By Nora Ephron (Knopf)
One of America's flintiest wits passed away this year but is survived by a massive collection of writing that ranges from screenplay (When Harry Met Sally) to novel (Heartburn), to dozens of hilarious essays in between.
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
By Robert Kolker (Harper)
Kolker's investigation into a still-at-large serial killer on New York State's Long Island is a riveting piece of true crime writing. But more than that, it's an indictment of a society that turns its back on women in danger.
By Sonali Deraniyagala (McClelland & Stewart)
Deraniyagala's entire family – children, husband, parents – were among the victims of the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 275,000 people on Boxing Day. Wave is sparsely written, precise in its evocation of nearly bottomless grief.
The Book of My Lives
By Aleksandar Hemon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hemon's verbal acuity would amaze no less even if English were his first language – but it isn't. A collection of essays chronicles his life, immigrating to the U.S. from Yugoslavia, and ends with his daughter's devastating story.
By Kristine Barnett (Random House Canada)
After Barnett's extraordinary son was diagnosed with autism, she followed the advice of a team of experts, only to see him withdraw more deeply. Breaking with convention led Barnett and her son down a risk-filled road that was ultimately their salvation.
Levels of Life
By Julian Barnes (Random House Canada)
After the death of his wife, literary agent Pat Kavanagh, Barnes wrote a slim, affecting book on the anatomy of love and grief that also touches on the topics of ballooning and photography, gracefully folding them into the theme.
Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls
By David Sedaris (Little, Brown)
As he ages, humourist Sedaris's writing becomes more pointed and more poignant, but no less funny. Here, Sedaris talks dental surgery, the purchase of a pygmy skeleton … you know, the usual.
The Examined Life
By Stephen Grosz (Random House Canada)
Psychoanalyst Grosz tells stories from his practice: small, epiphanic moments shared by analyst and analysand alike that evoke Chekhov as much as Freud.
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
By Ann Patchett (Harper)
Patchett has written a series of lovely essays about her life, and the things that have meaning within it: Her dog, her marriages, a nun, her grandmother, art. Shades of Joan Didion.
By Robert Dallek (Harper)
A man the New York Times described as "Kennedy's leading biographer" has a new book out about JFK's inner circle – their conflicts, and the forging of Kennedy's distinctive personality.
Mind of an Outlaw: Selected Essays
By Norman Mailer (Random House)
The loose cannon of the 20th-century literati, Mailer wrote on everything from presidential candidates to George Plimpton's death to why women aren't good writers. No punches pulled here.