Two weeks ago I gave you my picks for my favorite novels of 2016. Today, with 2017 just a few days away I’m going to reveal my favorite nonfiction books of 2016. Just like in previous years, when I put together my year-end best of list it doesn’t matter when the book was published. All that matters is it’s outstanding.
- Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson – Larson has a great gift for making history, especially tragic history come alive.
- The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal – Why do people get conned? Sadly, most of the time it’s because they WANT to be deceived.
- Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough – 40 years ago a decade-long string of left-wing terrorist acts plagued America. Today, it’s all been forgotten.
- Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal – You think you really know what separates humans from animals? Better guess again.
- Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer – Beyond a doubt, reading Dark Money will forever change how you look at the nation’s political system.
- A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh – When I told the guys at my neighborhood coffee shop about this book, they jokingly asked me if they’d have to someday testify at my trial. This book won’t make you a criminal, but it will make you look at the world in a whole new light. And you’ll love it.
- Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition by Nisid Hajari – If you wanna understand India, Pakistan and their tense relationship this book is essential reading.
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick – North Korea is the mother of all freak shows. By reading this book (the updated version) you’ll learn just how twisted that freak show really is.
- The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933 by Amos Elon – A great account of one of history’s most tragic, and sadly ironic episodes.
- Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century by Christian Caryl – Who knew 1979 was such a pivotal year?
- When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning – Outstanding book on the importance of reading.
- Isaac’s Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland by Matthew Brzezinski – an insanely well-researched account of Poland’s wartime Jewish underground.
There you have 12 outstanding books. Because they’re so outstanding assigning an overall winner has been agonizingly difficult. However, after much thought and consideration I’m declaring Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right the winner. Highly praised by the New York Times, NPR and Washington Post, Mayer’s book is essential reading for any intelligent, curious and civic-minded person.