This year we took our annual slugfest to the pub underneath our new office and came up with a list of the year's top 100 books that could be our best ever. It wasn't any easier with a drink in hand to pick, and agree upon, the best books of 2010, but we did it. And, as a magazine that's published continuously since 1872 and reviews over 7,000 books a year, we had a lot to consider. The women are back... strong... and we're all over the globe. Before the full list hits in Monday's issue, here's a peek at our top 10. So who made the cut? There's Franzen mining the American family for his canvas; Egan, the music industry; Hillenbrand, Louis Zamperini, a hero from our greatest generation; Lee, the Korean War; Skloot, one African-American woman's experience with medical research in the days of segregation; Wilkerson, the great African-American migration; Udall, a lonely Mormon polygamist; Spencer, a very American moral dilemma; Lewis, our financial crash of 2008; and, of course, Smith- rock and roll idol, whose literary gifts match her musical talent-delved into New York City's in the '60s and '70s and her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

Click PW's Best Children's Books 2010 for our top children's books of 2010.

First, our top ten books of the year:

A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan (Knopf)
Egan's a daunting stylist, and she's in blistering form for these interlocking narratives about the milieu surrounding an aging and waning music producer. Essentially, it's a story about getting mugged by the passage of time, and along the way she interrogates how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate. You also might know this as the novel that has a chapter written in PowerPoint. Egan: unpredictable and, here, brilliant.

Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Did you know Jonathan Franzen has a new novel? He does. It's called Freedom, and it follows a Minnesota family whose problems, squabbles, and poor decisions encapsulate the very essence of what it means to have lived through the first decade of the 21st century. It's… a masterpiece.
Click here to read a travel diary of being on the road with Franzen.

Laura Hillenbrand (Random)
Readers of this soul-stirring narrative will never forget Louis Zamperini, who after a career as a runner served in WWII only to be captured and held prisoner by the Japanese; a more horrific internment would be difficult to imagine. Zamperini's physical and spiritual sufferings both during and after WWII and his coming out the other side become the story of a true American hero from that greatest generation.
Click here to read a Galley-of-the-Day post from PWxyz about Unbroken.

The Surrendered
Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead)
Grim, but so is Dostoyevski. Lee, who can craft a sentence, follows several decades in the lives of an American soldier and a Korean orphan whose paths cross during the Korean War, the reverberations of which, Lee shows, are now deeply woven into the fabric of what it means to be American.
Click here to read our profile of Chang-rae Lee.

The Big Short
Michael Lewis (Norton)
Lewis has written the briskest and brightest analysis of the crash of 2008. Other books might provide a more exhaustive account of what went wrong, but Lewis's character-driven narrative reveals the how and why with peerless clarity and panache. When will they ever learn?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot (Crown)
Medical history is grippingly told through the life of one African-American woman and her family, which begins at the "colored" ward at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s. Skloot, who hit the road in her beatup old car to relentlessly follow this story, explores issues of race, poverty, the ethics of medical research and its sometimes tragic, unintended consequences.

Just Kids
Patti Smith (Ecco)
Smith's beautifully crafted love letter to her friend Robert Mapplethorpe functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by a passion for art and writing. Her elegant eulogy lays bare the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work.
Click here to read our fiction editor's post about watching Patti Smith take the cover shot for this issue.

Man in the Woods
Scott Spencer (Ecco)
A man and a dog in Spencer's adroit hands adds up to one stunning story. Spencer says he likes to put his characters in situations and "turn up the heat." Here his well-meaning, easygoing protagonist lands in the third circle of hell, with his whole life in jeopardy, after a chance encounter at a highway rest stop. Exciting, thoughtful, compelling: you won't want to put it down and you won't want it to end.

The Lonely Polygamist
Brady Udall (Norton)
Golden Richards, a fundamentalist Mormon with four wives and 28 children, flirts with infidelity in this tragicomic family saga with a cast of flawed, perfectly realized characters. Don't mistake this for the Great American Mormon Novel-it could just be the Great American Novel of the year.
Click here to read a Galley Talk on The Lonely Polygamist.

The Warmth of Other Suns
Isabel Wilkerson (Random)
Wilkerson's sprawling study of the flight of six million blacks from the humiliation of Jim Crow to uncertain destinies in the American North and West is expansive in scope, pointillist in focus, and a triumph of scholarship and empathy. Anchoring her narrative in the suspenseful stories of three who made the journey, Wilkerson humanizes the migration that reshaped American demographics, art, and politics.


The Pregnant Widow
Martin Amis (Knopf)
Amis propels a very Martin Amis-like Keith Nearing through a summer of poolside torment-sexual, psychological, literary-in 1968 Italy. This dark drawing-room comedy is a showcase of Amis's ability to make the English language bend to his whims.

Parrot & Olivier in America
Peter Carey (Knopf)
Olivier, a fictionalized and absolutely obnoxious riff on Alexis de Tocqueville, contends with Parrot, a cunning servant dispatched to spy on Olivier by Olivier's mother, as the two journey across early 19th-century America. In this vast picaresque, Carey finds, via a snobbish Frenchman and an earthy Brit, a truly American story.

The Privileges
Jonathan Dee (Random)
Dee again turns a gimlet eye on the way we live now, offering a churning story of greed, risk, danger, and financial industry chicanery set amid the foibles of a rabidly ambitious Manhattan family. Think: Bonfire of the Vanities, updated, hipper, and stripped to the bone.

Nick Drake (Harper)
Drake easily injects a serial killer plot into the middle book of his Ancient Egyptian trilogy while vividly evoking the reign of the boy king Tutankhamun.

Extraordinary Renditions
Andrew Ervin (Coffee House)
Modern Budapest comes to life in three linked novellas with characters that cover the spectrum from a concentration camp survivor who returns for the premiere of his opera to a black American G.I. forced into gun running by his unscrupulous commander.

Faithful Place
Tana French (Viking)
Suspense blends with family demons in French's meticulous crime novel about a cop's quest for the truth behind the disappearance of the young Dublin woman he was planning to elope with 22 years earlier.

To the End of the Land
David Grossman, trans. from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Knopf)
Grossman's epic masterwork maps the long, dark shadow war has cast over an Israeli family. From domestic disruption to harrowing violence, this unflinching account is devastating and seductive.

The Four Stages of Cruelty
Keith Hollihan (St. Martin's/Dunne)
Hollihan combines a labyrinthine plot with a nuanced, character-driven narrative that provides insights into prison life in his impressive debut.

Father of the Rain

Lily King (Grove)
King's intense family drama coincides with the demise of Waspdom and exposes the thrill and despair of an alcoholic, charismatic father who is wildly entertaining to a child but difficult to deal with as an adult.

Our Kind of Traitor
John le Carré (Viking)
Those who have found post-cold war le Carré too cerebral will welcome this Russian mafia spy thriller involving an English couple on holiday in the Caribbean.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze
Maaza Mengiste (Norton)
African novelists have been taking center stage, and Mengiste's debut marks her as one to watch. Ethiopia from the fall of Haile Selassie through the dark '70s of Derge rule is her setting as a family struggles to maintain its humanity.

How to Read the Air
Dinaw Mengestu (Riverhead)
Mengestu sticks to familiar territory in his soulful second novel, but here brings an intriguing formal rigor to the tale. Jonas Woldemariam retraces a brief road trip that his parents, both Ethiopian immigrants, took 30 years before, compelling him to distort the truth about not only their lives, but his own, in ever more complicated ways.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
David Mitchell (Random)
Mitchell goes straightup historical in this majestic account of a young Dutch East Indies clerk's time in the trading port of Dejima, in turn-of-the-19th-century Japan.

Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco)
Yes, we suspect there are really three separate writers producing the endless stream of prose: Joyce, Carol, and Oates. Here, Oates takes it to the edge, bringing her recurring themes of violence and desire to terrifying fruition. Widows figure prominently, as do children, and everyone's in trouble.

Years of Red Dust
Qiu Xiaolong (St. Martin's)
This collection of linked short stories from the author of The Mao Case and five other Inspector Chen novels charts the political changes in China under Communist rule through the eyes of the inhabitants of Shanghai's Red Dust Lane.

The Imperfectionists
Tom Rachmann (Dial)
The ragtag staff of a dying English language daily newspaper in Rome provide a memorable cross-section of experience, failure, expectation, and perilous aspiration. It's also a magnificent paean to that increasingly endangered species: the printed newspaper.

Invisible Boy
Cornelia Read (Grand Central)
Acid-tongued ex-socialite Madeline Dare uncovers a child's skeleton in Queens' Prospect Cemetery in a crime novel that exposes undertones of racism and classism in New York City's justice system.

John Reimringer (Milkweed)
This sensitive and searching debut confronts the conflicts of a newly ordained young priest from a family whose men "have always loved strong drink and a good fight," torn between his desire for spirituality and the temptations of the flesh.

Scott Turow (Grand Central)
Twenty-two years after the events in Presumed Innocent, former lawyer Rusty Sabich once again faces a murder charge in a novel that rates as a worthy successor to that memorable debut.

Frederic Tuten (Norton)
For 40 years, since his early postmodernist stunner, The Adventures of Mao on the Long March, Tuten has reworked the shape and consistency of the novel. In this one, Tuten, now 74, turns self-ward. The result: magical Calvino-like tales both revealing and uncompromising, as the author's energy for invention trumps nostalgia while ennobling it.

Marlene van Niekerk, trans. from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Tin House)
South African van Niekerk takes readers into the muck of her homeland's complicated history of race relations via the perspective of a dying woman whose only companion is her black servant.


Anne Carson (New Directions)
This is a fold-out replication, a kind of scroll, of the handmade notebook that Carson made to mourn her brother's death.

The Eternal City
Kathleen Graber (Princeton)
Graber is the kind of poet who thinks out loud. What may at first seem like casual conversation with the self, however, turns out to be deep philosophical thinking.

By the Numbers
James Richardson (Copper Canyon)
Richardson is the best aphorist writing in English, and he's a hell of a poet, too. Both forms are represented in this wonderful book.

C.K. Williams (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Fear of death has sent some lightning through veteran poet Williams's poems. These are urgent remembrances of a life's regrets and what hopes still survive into old age.

Come On All You Ghosts
Matthew Zapruder (Copper Canyon)
Zapruder's third book mixes the kind of hip swagger he's known for with an increasingly earnest engagement with the people and things he loves.


The Man with the Baltic Stare
James Church (Minotaur)
Church audaciously sets his fourth Inspector O novel in 2016, when O must investigate a Macao prostitute's murder linked to the young man being groomed as the future leader of North Korea.

Love Songs from a Shallow Grave
Colin Cotterill (Soho Crime)
The murders of three women, each with a dueling sword, preoccupy 73-year-old Laotian coroner Siri Paiboun in a mystery that has it all-a heroic protagonist, a challenging puzzle, and an exotic setting.

Bleed a River Deep
Brian McGilloway (Minotaur)
Despite being suspended from the Garda for failing to prevent what could have been the fatal shooting of a visiting former U.S. senator, Irish Inspector Devlin persists in looking into a bank heist and other crimes in a mystery that explores the underside of the "Celtic Tiger."

Bury Your Dead
Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Penny's gift for displaying heartbreak and hope in the same scene is just one of the many strengths of her sixth traditional mystery to feature French-Canadian Chief Insp. Armand Gamache.

The Insane Train
Sheldon Russell (Minotaur)
Railroad security agent Hook Runyon must help transport a trainload of dangerous mental patients from California to Oklahoma in a rough-edged 1940s historical that evokes both Chandler and Hammett.

The Red Door
Charles Todd (Morrow)
Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked WWI veteran, looks into a missing missionary and a bludgeoning murder in a mystery that offers a tricky puzzle and incisive character portraits.


The Forbidden Rose
Joanna Bourne (Berkley Sensation)
In mid-revolution France, a noblewoman and a spy are torn between wartime practicality and headstrong passion. The gripping espionage story and wry voiceovers from the heroine will win hearts.

The Iron Duke
Meljean Brook (Berkley)
Brook's fabulous steampunk tale has an iron-boned war hero and a half-Asian detective inspector matching wits and wills on airships and battleships and in smoke-choked London as England recovers from 200 years of Mongol rule.

The Heir
Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Burrowes pulls off an improbable Regency affair between a spoiled ducal heir and a housekeeper with a secret.

Barely a Lady
Eileen Dreyer (Grand Central/Forever)
The wartime amnesia romance is as old as the hills, but RWA Hall of Famer Dreyer (aka Kathleen Korbel) makes this one work.

Trial by Desire
Courtney Milan (HQN)
Modern readers will be as intrigued by the Victorian-era political issues as they are by the central story of a man trying to reconnect with the wife he abandoned.


The Bone Palace
Amanda Downum (Orbit)
Deadly power games play out in haunted royal palaces, streets thronged with sex workers and political protesters, and sewers inhabited by seductive, amoral vampires.

Mira Grant (Orbit)
Grant (a pseudonym for urban fantasist Seanan McGuire) hits hard in a brutal tale of three bloggers following a Republican presidential candidate through the zombie-infested Midwest.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms/The Broken Kingdoms
N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
These searing novels relate the struggles of ordinary people caught up in the machinations of gods at a time of global change when faith, power structures, and the fabric of reality have been called into question.

Who Fears Death
Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)
Young adult author Okorafor makes a blazing entrance onto the adult fiction scene with a story of love, pain, magic, and genocide in postapocalyptic Saharan Africa. Readers will be enthralled by troubled, fierce adolescent Onyesonwu and her quest to find and destroy the sorcerer who fathered her.

A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter
Peter Straub (Pegasus)
This exquisitely horrifying outtake from A Dark Matter depicts a young psychopath's first steps along the path of becoming a serial killer. Straub drags the reader into the dark interstices of a deeply troubled mind, where brutality and murder seem only natural and right.


X'Ed Out
Charles Burns (Pantheon)
The adventures of Tintin get a dark mirror image as a young man named Doug suffers teenage angst and a hostile universe of talking maggots.

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson(Dark Horse)
Gorgeous artwork and a smart, witty script elevate this tale of household pets who unite to fight occult menaces in idyllic Burden Hill.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
Sarah Glidden (Vertigo)
An evocative, sometimes funny and often emotional recap of Glidden's birthright visit to Israel done with charming watercolors and no shortage of candid responses to the Jewish state and the Palestinian question.

Duncan the Wonder Dog
Adam Hines (AdHouse Books)
A powerfully imagined and visually detailed experimental work set in an otherwise naturalistic world where animals can speak and argue the moral consequences of their treatment by humans.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
G. Neri and Randy DuBurke (Lee & Low)
The origin of ongoing urban violence is explored through the true story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an 11-year-old from the Chicago projects who gained infamy after killing a 14-year-old neighbor.

Batwoman: Elegy
Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams (DC)
A crazy-intense achievement of spectacular artwork tells the story of Kate Kane, a gay former Marine who must save Gotham City from a crime-worshipping cult.

Dash Shaw (Pantheon)
A goofy yet gorgeously rendered, relentlessly experimental mashup of the high school sports hero and psychedelic drug novel genres that quite literally turns the book on its head.

Acme Novelty Library: Lint
F.C. Ware (Drawn & Quarterly)
Using an inventive and ever-evolving visual syntax, Ware chronicles the life of a difficult and flawed character from his birth to his death.

AX: Alternative Manga
Edited by Sean Michael Wilson and Mitsuhiru Asakawa (Top Shelf)
More like American indie comics than mainstream manga, this anthology of 33 artists from Japan's acclaimed magazine on alternative manga opens a new window on Japanese comics.

Weathercraft: A Frank Comic
Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
A disturbing fantasy of struggle from comics' premiere surrealist as the piglike Manhog endures the sufferings of Job from the cruel Whim.


The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Elif Batuman (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Batuman displays a fresh, quirky, voice in this account of her love affair with Russian literature and her travels through the former Soviet Union.

Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship
Gail Caldwell (Random)
In this quiet, fierce work, Caldwell creates a memorable offering of love to her best friend, the writer Caroline Knapp, who died in 2002. Caldwell is unflinching in depicting her friend's last days, and writes of this desolating time with moving grace.

Composed: A Memoir
Rosanne Cash (Viking)
This work is a rare treat, since Cash, first-born of country music legend Johnny Cash, is not only a hereditary celebrity musician, having made scores of albums and #1 singles, but a terrific writer.

Washington: A Life
Ron Chernow (Penguin Press)
Chernow is back with another epic examination of another influential American founder. Thanks to a recent "explosion of research," Chernow produces the most complete and complex portrait of George Washington on record.

About a Mountain

John D'Agata (Norton)
D'Agata, after moving his mother to Las Vegas, becomes haunted by a proposed plan to house nuclear waste in a nearby mountain and by the suicide of a local boy. A genre-busting disquisition on place, consciousness, and culpability.

Travels in Siberia
Ian Frazier (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Drawn to what he calls "the incomplete grandiosity of Russia," Frazier combines the personal travelogue with in-depth history and gives readers a firsthand account of a place that calls up, for many, the terrifying unknown.

The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance
David V. Herlihy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Set in the 1880s during the American cycling craze, this lively story follows cyclist-adventurer William Sachteleben as he retraces the path of Franz Lenz, a man whose attempt to cycle around the world ended with his disappearance near Turkey.

Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet
Jennifer Homans (Random)
In an important and groundbreaking work of dance history, Homans restores ballet to its rightful place among the performing arts.

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
Michael Korda (Harper)
This biography of British soldier and adventurer T.E. Lawrence celebrates a life spent subverting authority in the most glamorous-and bizarre-ways.

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood
Jane Leavy (Harper)
With storytelling bravado and fresh research, Leavy weaves around her own story the milestone dates in the Mick's career. In Leavy's hands, the life of Mantle no longer defies logic: it seems inevitable.

Colonel Roosevelt
Edmund Morris (Random)
Morris's concluding volume in his accomplished biography narrates Roosevelt's postpresidential life with the same insight and style he displayed in his Pulitzer-winning first volume.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
Mukherjee's sweeping account of the long war on cancer pits an army of dedicated doctors and scientists, impassioned activists and courageous patients against a wily enemy whose secrets are at last being uncovered.

The Grace of Silence: A Memoir
Michele Norris (Pantheon)
In this eloquent and affecting memoir on race, Norris, cohost of NPR's All Things Considered, examines her childhood growing up in Minneapolis, as well as her family's Alabama roots and secrets.

Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed
Judy Pasternak (Free Press)
An unforgettable exposé of a sorrowful-and unresolved-chapter in American history: how uranium mining on Native American territory in the 1970s has led to horrifying cancer rates and birth defects among four generations of Navajos-and how the U.S. government (who funded the mining) long abdicated responsibility.

Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran-A Journey Behind the Headlines
Scott Peterson (Simon & Schuster)
A veteran reporter on the region brings us the best account we have of Iran-its rich history, artistic legacies, profound internal contradictions-in a copious, balanced, and readable narrative.

Listen to This
Alex Ross (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Music critic Ross utilizes a wide musical scale-classical music in China; opera as popular art; sketches of Schubert, Björk, Kiki and Herb-as a way of understanding the world.

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margins of Error
Kathryn Schulz (Ecco)
A mirthful and wise diagnosis of what ails us: Schulz dances us through science, psychology, and literature in a sparkling history of (and ode to) human error.

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?
James Shapiro (Simon & Schuster)
Shapiro looks at why people believe Shakespeare was not Shakespeare, while delivering up sly portraits of self-delusion and how not to read great literature.

Bomber County: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War
Daniel Swift (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Swift tells the story of his grandfather, an RAF bomber pilot shot down in 1943, washed up on a beach, and buried twice, as a way to examine the iconography of war and the popular notion that WWII failed to produce great poetry.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. I
Mark Twain (Univ. of California)
The great American humorist is his own best character in this first volume of his unexpurgated autobiography that doubles as a razor-sharp portrait of the human comedy.

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
John Vaillant (Knopf)
When a Siberian tiger begins attacking hunters with a savagery that seems personal, Vaillant launches a thrilling investigation into the conflict between man and nature, and life in post-perestroika Russia.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the American Woman
Sam Wasson (HarperStudio)
Wasson highlights Blake Edwards's memorable Breakfast at Tiffany's, recapturing the era's sexual ploitics, fashion, and Hollywood glamour.

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires
Tim Wu (Knopf)
Wu dazzles in his history-cum-manifesto as he reveals how fiercely corporate empires have vied to control communication and information technology-and why we must keep the Internet free and open.


Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
Gregory Boyle (Free Press)
In this surprisingly jubilant and spiritually acute memoir, Boyle writes about difficult social and spiritual work on the streets of Los Angeles that has changed, and saved, the lives of gang members.

Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
William Dalrymple (Knopf)
Through keen observation and adroit focus, Dalrymple conveys the contradictions of modern India, where deeply rooted and diverse religious practice is of a piece with modern economic life.

Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest
Adam Elenbaas (Penguin/Tarcher)
Elenbaas writes with bravery, candor, and humility about mistakes, redemption, and growing up, sounding familiar and universal themes of families and striving and shortsightedness woven into a narrative about an exotic and unfamiliar quest.

The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam
Eliza Griswold (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Griswold's on-the-ground reporting ranges from Africa to Asia as she offers poetic and closely observed portraits of people who coexist in varied ways in the geographic area of the world where Christianity and Islam make headlines when they collide.

Hannah's Child
Stanley Hauerwas (Eerdmans)
The provocative theologian casts a characteristically thoughtful look back in an uncharacteristically self-revelatory way in a memoir that fulfills his mother's powerfully formative intention for her child to do service to God.

Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
Diarmaid McCulloch (Viking)
Historian McCulloch's ambitious book covers the historic length and geographical and theological breadth of the multiple-millennia-old Christian waterfront in an elegantly written way.

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell (Simon & Schuster)
In a sweeping analysis, Harvard political scientist Putnam and his colleague Campbell measure America's religious landscape. Among their findings: America is a religiously diverse and-contra the currently popular perception-religiously tolerant nation.

Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith
Stephanie Saldaña (Doubleday)
This gorgeously memoir set in Damascus combines political tension, passion, and spiritual seeking, a timeless blend that offers spiritual sustenance.

Hillel: If Not Now, When?
Joseph Telushkin (Nextbook-Schocken)
The multitalented Telushkin is the right author to convey the wisdom of the man who could distill the ethical wisdom of the Torah in a single maxim.

Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference
Desmond M. Tutu and Mpho A. Tutu (HarperOne)
The South African religious leader retired from public life this year, and this book, written with his daughter, is a lovely swan song in a life of faith that has prevailed in the face of the enormity of evil, faith learned as a child and strengthened through love, sacrifice, and failure.


Food Matters Cookbook: Lose Weight and Heal the Planet with More than 500 Recipes
Mark Bittman (Simon & Schuster)
New York Times columnist Bittman provides a rational approach to eating that not only improves health but helps the environment as well.

The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual
Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo, Peter Meehan (Artisan)
It is surprising to learn that Castronovo and Falcinelli, as they are pulling off a 20-something hipster vibe these days, are also lighting up Brooklyn with their restaurants. They have created a tribute to red sauce dining, bound in an embossed, gilded, faux-leather cover.

Around My French Table
Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
This inviting French cookbook, written from an American in Paris perspective, has all the classics plus unusual dishes, inspired by Vietnam and other cultures.

One Big Table: 800 Recipes from the Nation's Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Pit-Masters and Chefs
Molly O'Neil (Simon & Schuster)
O'Neill, former New York Times Magazine food writer and author, has compiled an informative and touching refutation of the demise of American home cooking.

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives
Annie Murphy Paul (Free Press)
Science writer Paul segues between ponderings about her own second pregnancy and the developing literature on fetal origins in this fascinating study of the prenatal period. Paul's thought-provoking text reveals that this pivotal period may be even more significant and far-reaching than imagined.

In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart
Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter)
Waters, restaurateur and culinary force of nature, showcases basic cooking techniques every cook can and should master.