Bailey, who was given access to the journals Cheever kept throughout his life, shines a new light on Cheever's literary output, making possible a fresh reappraisal of his achievement. In addition, Bailey offers up juicy, appalling, hilarious and moving anecdotes with verve, sensitivity and perfect timing.
Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
David Grann (Doubleday)
In this classic adventure tale, New Yorker writer Grann--who gets winded climbing the stairs of his New York City walkup--follows in the footsteps of early--20th-century Amazon jungle explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared along with his son on a 1925 expedition. Grann expertly and energetically weaves the story of Fawcett's explorations with that of his own.
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon
Neil Sheehan (Random House)
The development of the ICBM as a key part of the cold war arsenal wasn't inevitable. In a splendidly reported and narrated account, Sheehan credits Air Force Gen. Bernard Schriever with the foresight and shrewdness to triumph over powerful Pentagon opponents and develop the crucial and terrifying weapon.
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
Richard Holmes (Pantheon)
In a thrilling narrative of scientific discovery and the spirit of an age, Holmes illustrates how the great scientists of Britain's romantic era gripped the imaginations of their contemporaries and forever changed our understanding of the universe and our place within it.
Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater
Frank Bruni (Penguin Press)
In this wonderfully honest memoir, former New York Times food critic Bruni admits to a lifelong battle with his weight. Detailing his life from baby bulimia to Weight Watchers, Bruni addresses desire, shame, identity and self-image.
In 16 years of living homeless in Manhattan, native New Yorker Cadillac Man has amassed a stunning collection of stories regarding a population and culture most people never even consider, and a talent for rendering them with beauty, sympathy and brutal truth.
Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
Barbara Ehrenreich (Metropolitan)
This indictment of America's reigning ideology of positive thinking stretches from breast cancer culture through religion and politics into the business world, where it was likely at the root of last year's economic collapse.
Finkel's incredible fly-on-the-wall reporting gives an uncomfortably visceral sense of one army battalion's involvement in the Iraqi surge, with “the dust, the fear, the high threat level, the isolation....”
Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape
Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti (Seal)
Activist writers Friedman and Valenti present an extraordinary, eye-opening essay collection that focuses on the importance of sexual identity and ownership in the struggle against rape in the U.S., as well as a number of related issues, including sexual pleasure, self-esteem and the mixed societal messages that turn “nice guys” bad.
This fascinating illustrated volume goes beyond standard food porn, looking at the refined artwork of Spain's chef Ferran Adrià, whose unmatched culinary innovation landed him in 2007's documenta, a prestigious annual international art exhibition.
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Rhoda Janzen (Holt)
Janzen does the easy jokes about moving back in with her religious parents after her marriage falls apart, but she also conducts an unflinching self-examination that makes her emotional healing come across as all the more genuine.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Morrow)
This exquisite story of struggle, ingenuity and hope, from a 14-year-old Malawi boy who saved his family by building an electricity-generating windmill, strips life to its barest essentials, challenging American readers with all they take for granted.
Kennedy's life, replete with well-known tragedies, triumphs and shameful episodes, is rendered in perfectly polished, witty and moving tales that follow two historic arcs: that of a remarkable American family and a half-century of American politics.
With access to Tillman’s diaries, Krakauer gives an unparalleled portrait of the football star turned army Ranger, who was the victim not only of lethal friendly fire but of a cynical government coverup.
New York Times columnist Kristoff and his wife, WuDunn, collaborate on a vitally important book that locates women’s empowerment in the developing world as the central moral issue of our time. Their vignettes on women activists in Africa, India and China are heartbreaking, galvanizing and unforgettable.
This iconoclastic manifesto is the sharpest environmental book of the year. Owen excoriates ecoconsumerism and trends, fells green goliaths Michael Pollan and Amory Lovins and celebrates Manhattan as the most sustainable city in the nation.
Philosopher and motorcycle mechanic Crawford makes a brilliant case for the intellectual satisfactions of working with one's hands--and why white-collar work is the assembly line of the new millennium. Crawford is catholic in his tastes (references range from Aristophanes to Dilbert), unsentimental and irresistible as he extols the virtues of “knowing how to do one thing really well.”
This bizarre, slapstick journey into medical tourism’s heart of darkness, with plenty of gonzo stops along the way, is a laugh-out-loud tribute to family ties and a less-than-subtle commentary on the state of U.S. health care.
Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957--1965
Sam Stephenson (Knopf)
In 1957, legendary photographer W. Eugene Smith opened up his New York City loft to some of the great artists of mid-century jazz, including Thelonious Monk and Zoot Sims. These fantastic photos--taken of the musicians as well as scenes snapped outside Smith’s window--offer a rare glimpse into an important music scene as well as a neighborhood being itself when it thought no one was watching.