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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

John Carreyrou (Knopf)

Originating in the author’s award-winning Wall Street Journal reportage, this corporate exposé describes how Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout in her 20s, created a billion-dollar tech firm, Theranos, based on defective technology and empty promises. While delivering a riveting true-life thriller, Carreyrou’s book doubles as a look at the dark side of Silicon Valley’s startup culture.

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The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created

Jane Leavy (Harper)

Bestseller Leavy, who has chronicled the lives of baseball legends Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle, turns her attention to Yankee legend Babe Ruth in this energetic, colorful biography. She evenhandedly hits the highs of his career as well as the lows of his hard drinking and failed relationships.

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Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star—The War Years, 1940–1946

Gary Giddins (Little, Brown)

Giddins follows up Bing Crosby: Pocketful of Dreams with this exhaustive second volume chronicling the life of the celebrated crooner. The book packs in the details of six years of the singer’s life, and Giddins keeps the prose as cool and relaxed as his subject.

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The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Search for the Earth’s Ultimate Trophy

Paige Williams (Hachette)

New Yorker staff writer Williams’s debut is granular in detail and epic in scope, ranging from Mongolia over 65 million years ago, when the mighty Tarbosaurus bataar roamed the Gobi Desert, to the U.S. in 2012, when the federal government arrested a Florida man for smuggling the dinosaur’s bones into the country for auction.

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Educated: A Memoir

Tara Westover (Random House)

In this searing, vividly told memoir, Westover writes of growing up in a survivalist, religious fundamentalist family in the isolated Idaho mountains. Hers is an intense story of how she went from being birthed and schooled at home to earning her PhD from Cambridge University.

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The Fifth Risk

Michael Lewis (Norton)

In the only anti-Trump administration book of 2018 whose relevance will outlast this presidency, journalist Lewis introduces readers to the vital functions performed by the low-profile Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce and illustrates how their work is threatened by the administration’s ignorance, dismission, and lack of attention to governing.

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Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL

Jeff Pearlman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

With hilarious anecdotes and excellent reporting, sportswriter Pearlman wonderfully revisits the rise of the United States Football League in 1983 and its demise two years later. He fills his book with all the key players, such as Herschel Walker and Steve Young, and the businessmen (notably Donald Trump, owner of the New Jersey Generals) who tried to create a league that could compete with the NFL.

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Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke In the Richest Country on Earth

Sarah Smarsh (Scribner)

Smarsh was raised in a family of working-class farmers in Kansas during the ’80s and ’90s, and here she insightfully explores what it means to grow up poor in America. Smarsh is passionate and unflinching as she exposes the harsh realities of economic inequality.

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Heavy: An American Memoir

Kiese Laymon (Scribner)

Novelist and English professor Laymon addresses this spellbinding, stylishly written memoir to his mother. Within its pages, he analyzes the experience of being black in America, narrates his lifelong struggles with weight and a gambling addiction, and reflects on his relationships with his mother and grandmother, revealing hard-earned insight.

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How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Michael Pollan (Penguin Press)

Pollan helped bring psychedelic drugs back into the cultural conversation with this rollickingly entertaining yet informative look at their use throughout history, including his own mind-changing trips. He shows how LSD and similar substances, long associated with 1960s countercultural excess, have recently enjoyed a revival among researchers, as potential treatments for addiction and depression, among other applications.

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How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

Alexander Chee (Mariner)

This collection could have been titled, simply, How I Became a Writer, but that would have utterly failed to convey Chee’s marvelously oblique style. Over 16 essays, he reflects on varied experiences—working as a Tarot card reader, studying with Annie Dillard, meeting William F. Buckley at a catering job—that together illuminate the development of his craft.

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

Michelle McNamara (Harper)

This posthumous debut received an unexpected addendum when, a month after its publication, a man was arrested and charged with being “The Golden State Killer,” the 1970s and 1980s–era serial murderer and rapist investigated in the book. McNamara, who died in 2016, left behind for her readers a modern true-crime classic imbued with unusual insight and sensitivity.

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The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House

Norman Eisen (Crown)

In lyrical, humanistic, and gripping fashion, Eisen looks at 20th-century Europe through the lens of the titular palace, into which he moved upon becoming U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. Totalitarianism ebbs and flows in the interwoven experiences of his mother, a Czech Holocaust survivor, and the palace’s Jewish, Nazi, and American occupants.

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The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

Francisco Cantú (Riverhead)

A starkly eloquent memoir of the author’s time in the Border Patrol casts a new light on one of the most divisive issue in the United States today. Cantú, a Spanish speaker of partly Mexican descent, hoped to bring a more empathetic approach to the work of catching undocumented migrants; instead, he both witnessed and experienced a relentlessly dehumanizing process.

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The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools

Vanessa Siddle Walker (The New Press)

Walker, professor of African-American studies at Emory University, heralds unsung heroes who advocated for equal education in the pre–Brown v. Board South. She interviewed former school teacher and principal Tate, who worked under the radar to secure educational resources for African-American students, over the course of two years to weave this colorful and engrossing tale.

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The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

Jeffrey C. Stewart (Oxford)

Comprehensive and sweeping, this biography from Stewart restores a sometimes neglected figure to his status as godfather of the Harlem Renaissance. The first black Rhodes Scholar, Alain Locke is revealed here as a flawed but formidable intellectual figure and a trailblazer in African-American history.

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Paul Simon: The Life

Robert Hilburn (Simon & Schuster)

With grace and compassion, music writer Hilburn captures the life of singer-songwriter Paul Simon, from his discovery by disc jockey Alan Freed in the 1950s through his recent solo works and concert tours. In Hilburn’s skillful hands, Simon emerges as a musician who is controlling in the studio yet generous toward and respectful of artists with whom he works.

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Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

Alexandra Natapoff (Basic)

Law professor Natapoff argues persuasively that America’s misdemeanor system is plagued by unfair sentencing, unequal arrest rates, criminalization of poverty, and lack of due process. She exposes police and judicial misconduct, recounts the experiences of the system’s victims, and presents data that makes clear how this system disproportionately affects the already marginalized in this groundbreaking work.

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Reagan: An American Journey

Bob Spitz (Penguin Press)

This massive, spectacular biography isn’t just for Republicans or Reagan fans. Its novelistic approach is backed up with deep scholarship and original research, and its prose is by turns colorful and gripping.

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The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath

Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown)

With dark humor and heartfelt insight, essayist Jamison recounts her path to recovery in this rich autobiographical study. Jamison is clear-eyed as she explores the link between drinking and creativity, intertwining her own story with profiles of such alcoholic writers as John Berryman, Raymond Carver, and Jean Rhys.

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Reporter: A Memoir

Seymour M. Hersh (Knopf)

Hersh, legendary investigative journalist for the New York Times and the New Yorker, recounts his struggles uncovering—and getting into print—some of the biggest stories of the late 20th century, including the Watergate scandal and the 1968 My Lai massacre. Hersh is as straightforward and brutally honest here as he is in his reporting.

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Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Elizabeth Rush (Milkweed)

As predictions of the outlook for climate change worsen, this look at how American shorelines have been affected by it only grows more urgent. Rush brings a literary sensibility and a depth of compassion to her reporting, sharing stories from coastal dwellers whose lives have already been irretrievably altered.

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She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

Carl Zimmer (Dutton)

In this magisterial history, popular science writer Zimmer covers virtually all aspects of the study of heredity. As he takes on topics that include the discredited science of eugenics and the emerging science of epigenetics, he shows how far humans have come, while also conveying how far there is to go, in understanding our individual and collective lineage.

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Small Fry: A Memoir

Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Grove)

Brennan-Jobs writes sincerely of her complex relationship with her father, Apple founder Steve Jobs. Brennan-Jobs is candid and direct as she writes of the loneliness and disappointment she experienced growing up with a mercurial, emotionally distant father whose affection she craved.

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A Song for the River

Philip Connors (Cinco Punto)

This moving essay collection, a new classic of the nature writing genre, weaves together wondrous descriptions of the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, tales of Connors’s comrades in wilderness preservation, and poignant meditations on living, dying, love, and grief.

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The Souls of Yellow Folk

Wesley Yang (Norton)

Journalist Yang turns his critical eye on Asian-American experience and takes surprising stances. He analyzes the motivations and media portrayals of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho, profiles celebrity chef and memoirist Eddie Huang, and regards with skepticism progressives’ increasingly all-encompassing definitions of racism and sexism.

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Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall—And Those Fighting to Reverse It

Steven Brill (Knopf)

This uncommonly insightful analysis of U.S. society from journalist Brill makes an unusual argument: that extreme inequality, inadequate health care and schools, and congressional gridlock can actually be traced back to reforms aimed at reducing inequality, which were then transformed into status-safeguarding “moats” by their beneficiaries.

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The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life

David Quammen (S&S)

Science writer Quammen brings to life the seemingly arcane topic of molecular phylogenetics, the process of analyzing the “sequence of constituent units in certain long molecules,” notably DNA and RNA. He profiles the field’s most important players, shares their discoveries—including a whole new category of living creature—and shows how they’ve dramatically shaped the understanding of evolution.

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What If This Were Enough?: Essays

Heather Havrilesky (Doubleday)

New York magazine columnist Havrilesky invites readers into the contradictions of upper-middle-class American life, taking on the foodie movement, the ubiquity of Disney, and technologically enabled distraction, among other subjects. She also urges Americans to “wake up to the unbelievable gift of being alive,” even if it means facing discomfiting emotions, a message she relates with wit, insight, and terrific prose.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape

Sohaila Abdulali (The New Press)

Novelist Abdulali reflects with precision, compassion, and literary style on the discourse surrounding rape in various cultures. She draws on her own experiences being raped and coordinating a rape crisis center, interviews with others, and sociological data to discuss topics like responsibility, survivorship, and prevention, bringing clarity and grace to an often painful topic.

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