Holiday Book Guide 2014: Nonfiction

Capitalism, George Washington, empathy, war, the Mars Rover, Bob Hope and Derek Jeter are among the topics covered in a selection of new nonfiction titles.

Capitalism, George Washington, empathy, war, the Mars Rover, Bob Hope and Derek Jeter are among the topics covered in a selection of new nonfiction titles. See all our holiday books recommendations.

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The Half Has Never Been Told

Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Edward E. Baptist

Basic, $35

This ambitious socioeconomic history suggests that slavery in the antebellum South was a chapter in the nascent global economy.


The Warrior Queen

Kirstin Downey

Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $35

A new biography of the controversial queen, best known for sponsoring Christopher Columbus and establishing the Spanish Inquisition.


A History

Jean-Pierre Filiu

Oxford University Press, $29.95

A French historian and former diplomat turns his eyes to the Gaza Strip, home to decades of rancor between Israel and Palestine.

Political Order and Political Decay

From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

Francis Fukuyama

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35

In a follow-up to his acclaimed "The Origins of Political Order," Fukuyama considers what makes modern politics work and why we get it wrong so often.

How We Got to Now

Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson

Riverhead, $30

There are no lone inventors, argues Johnson — innovations like glass and clocks are the work of networks, and new inventions help spawn others in complex ways.

The Return of George Washington


Edward J. Larson

William Morrow, $29.99

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian looks at what might be called Washington's missing years, between the end of the American Revolution and his presidency.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

Jill Lepore

Alfred A. Knopf, $29.95

The surprising story of the creator of Wonder Woman, a polyamorous academic who invented the lie-detector test and surrounded himself with strong women.

The Deluge

The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931

Adam Tooze

Viking, $40

The Yale history professor argues that World War I led to the decline of Europe as the world's seat of political power and the ascent of the U.S.

Current Affairs

Why We Lost

A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Daniel P. Bolger

Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28

America lost the war on terror, but it didn't have to be that way, argues the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who served in both wars.

This Changes Everything

Capitalism vs. the Climate

Naomi Klein

Simon & Schuster, $30

Klein turns her sharp gaze to global warming, the uneven response, and what the crisis says about our political and economic systems.

How to Speak Money

What the Money People Say — and What It Really Means

John Lanchester

W.W. Norton, $26.95

Don't know a garden hedge from a hedge fund? Lanchester's new book explains what the financial experts mean when they talk about money.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty, translated by Arthur Goldhammer

Belknap/Harvard University Press, $39.95

In this unlikely hit for the French economist, Piketty warns that economic inequality is getting worse and that it could lead to a dangerous oligarchy.

National Insecurity

American Leadership in an Age of Fear

David Rothkopf

PublicAffairs, $29.99

Terrorism and a failing economy have made Americans live in fear, argues Rothkopf, whose new book explores how that happened.


On Immunity

An Inoculation

Eula Biss

Graywolf, $24

A thoughtful, elegantly written treatise on the history of vaccination and its recent controversies.


New and Collected Essays

Charles D'Ambrosio

Tin House, $15.95 paper

This collection from the Oregon cult author takes on topics such as whaling, J.D. Salinger and sexual abuse.

The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison

Graywolf, $15 paper

In this breakout collection, Jamison combines philosophy, memoir, imagination and journalism to investigate many aspects of empathy.


Notes From an Ongoing Investigation

Laura Kipnis

Metropolitan, $25

The insightful author of "Against Love" takes men as a starting point to explore various pressures on gender in today's culture.


Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys

A Memoir

Viv Albertine

Thomas Dunne Books, $27.99

A member of pioneering female band the Slits self-deprecatingly recalls her adventures in punk rock, romance and motherhood.

Brothers Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?

A Memoir

George Clinton and Ben Greenman

Atria, $27

A wild ride through the life of the peerless, visionary, out-of-this-world founder of Parliament Funkadelic.

Not That Kind of Girl

A Young Woman Tells You What She's 'Learned'

Lena Dunham

Random House, $28

Framed as an advice book, this memoir touches on elements of the actress-writer's life including virginity, date rape, friends and therapy.

Creating the Future

Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s

Michael Fallon

Counterpoint, $28

The L.A. art scene was just as vital in the 1970s as it was before or after, Fallon claims, citing the influence of performance art, feminism and the Chicano Art movement.

Tennessee Williams

Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh

John Lahr

W.W. Norton, $39.95

An indispensable and astute biography of the gifted playwright that doesn't skimp on sex, drugs or nervous breakdowns.


My Life In and Out of Aerosmith

Joe Perry and David Ritz

Simon & Schuster, $27.99

Aerosmith's guitarist chronicles his life from quiet nature-loving boy to living on the edge, with sex, drugs and … you know the rest.

The Universal Tone

Bringing My Story to Light

Carlos Santana with Ashley Kahn

Little, Brown, $30

A memoir from the legendary Mexican American blues-rock musician who's always had a keen interest in spirituality and mysticism.

David Hockney

The Biography, 1975-2012

Christopher Simon Sykes

Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $40

The second volume of the biography of an artist who's as synonymous with Southern California as he is with his native England.

33 Artists in 3 Acts

Sarah Thornton

W.W. Norton, $26.95

What does it mean to be an artist? The author of the bestseller "Seven Days in the Art World" tries to answer that question with these intimate portraits.


Entertainer of the Century

Richard Zoglin

Simon & Schuster, $30

An honest look at beloved actor and comedian who nonetheless had a dark side.


The Prince of Los Cocuyos

A Miami Childhood

Richard Blanco

Ecco, $25.99

Blanco, who in 2013 became the first Latino and first gay U.S. inaugural poet, chronicles his childhood as the son of Cuban immigrants in Miami.

Living With a Wild God

A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything

Barbara Ehrenreich

Twelve, $26

Ehrenreich rediscovers a teenage journal chronicling a spiritual awakening and takes it up again, as an atheist, six decades later.

The Interior Circuit

A Mexico City Chronicle

Francisco Goldman

Grove, $26

Goldman explores Mexico City's landscape and politics as he is forced to reconstruct his life after his wife's death.

Without You, There Is No Us

My Time With the Sons of North Korea's Elite

Suki Kim

Crown, $24

An immigrant from South Korea to the U.S., author Kim chronicles six months spent teaching in a North Korean university — including the day Kim Jong-il died.

Worthy Fights

A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace

Leon Panetta with Jim Newton

Penguin Press, $36

The ex-CIA director, who left the Cabinet in 2013, critiques President Obama's handling of international affairs and White House management.


Being Mortal

Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande

Metropolitan, $26

The American way of dying is lonely, expensive and often painful; surgeon and journalist Gawande argues that doctors need to adopt a more humane approach to end-of-life issues.

The Innovators

How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Walter Isaacson

Simon & Schuster, $35

The author follows up his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs with a look at several computer pioneers and how their inventions changed the world.

The Lagoon

How Aristotle Invented Science

Armand Marie Leroi

Viking, $29.95

Scientist Leroi argues that Aristotle wasn't just a philosopher but also an academic pioneer who essentially invented biology as we know it.

Mars Rover Curiosity

An Inside Account From Curiosity's Chief Engineer

Robert Manning and William L. Simon

Smithsonian, $29.95

The story of one of America's greatest and most unlikely moments in space exploration: the successful landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars.


Boy on Ice

The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard

John Branch

W.W. Norton, $26.95

A Pulitzer-winning reporter makes his literary debut with the story of a troubled hockey star who died at age 28 of a drug overdose.

You Can't Make This Up

Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television

Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim

William Morrow, $28.99

A memoir from the legendary sports broadcaster and former "Monday Night Football" play-by-play announcer, who brought the world "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

Coming Out to Play

Robbie Rogers with Eric Marcus

Penguin, $17 paper

The L.A. Galaxy winger writes about his life, from his childhood as a soccer-obsessed California kid to his decision to come out as gay in 2013.

Jeter Unfiltered

Derek Jeter

Gallery/Jeter Publishing, $28

The New York Yankees' shortstop looks back on his final season on and off the field in this book filled with never-before-published photos.

See all our holiday books recommendations.