Nonfiction books reviewed in 2020

American Heritage History of World War II by Steven E. Ambrose and C. L. Sulzberger—The best short history of World War II

The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection by Tamim Ansary—Understanding human history as an extraterrestrial might view it

Pelosi by Molly Ball—A critical but admiring biography of Nancy Pelosi

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry—A brilliant account of the 1918 flu epidemic

American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power by Andrea Bernstein—The Trumps and the Kushners: the backstory

The Rest of Us”: The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews by Stephen Birmingham—Start here to understand Jews in America

Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury—What’s gone wrong with business

The Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman—Reflecting on 100 years of landmark ACLU cases

Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of World War II by Jennet Conant—The amateur scientist who helped deliver radar and the atomic bomb

American Disruptor: The Scandalous Life of Leland Stanford by Roland de Wolk—The California Governor who was a notorious thief

Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America by Conor Dougherty—Why are so many homeless in America?

The Jews: Story of a People by Howard Fast—An account of Jewish history full of surprises

Nancy Wake: The gripping true story of the woman who became the Gestapo’s most wanted spy by Peter FitzSimmons—A female WWII spy led thousands against the Nazis

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox—“The Quest to Crack and Ancient Code”

Unconditional: The Japanese Surrender in World War II by Marc Gallicchio—The unconditional Japanese surrender in WWII

From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives by Jeffrey E. Garten—The story of globalization told through biography

Drive! Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age by Lawrence Goldstone—This thrilling account of the early auto industry sets the record straight on Henry Ford

The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began by Valerie Hansen—When did globalization begin?

The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote — and How to Get It Back by Thom Hartmann—The Republican war on voting unmasked

Operation Chastise: The RAF’s Most Brilliant Attack of World War II by Max Hastings—Bomber Command’s most successful attack on Nazi Germany was not on its cities

The Bridge at Remagen by Ken Hechler—The strategic breakthrough that opened the Allies’ way to Berlin

Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II by Henry Hemming—British interference in American politics in WWII

Rescue at Los Baños: The Most Daring Prison Camp Raid of World War II by Bruce Henderson—A true-life account of a spectacular WWII prison camp rescue

Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes by Adam Hochschild—Early 20th-century America viewed through the life of one extraordinary woman

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa—Escape from North Korea: a first-person account

Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan—The geopolitical reality behind the “pivot to Asia”

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi—Racism still kills

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn—A hopeful message about poverty in America by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson—An intimate view of Winston Churchill in WW2

Churchill’s Shadow Raiders: The Race to Develop Radar, WWII’s Invisible Secret Weapon by Damien Lewis—How German radar technology helped Britain win World War II

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent by Owen Matthews—The greatest spy of the twentieth century?

Man of Tomorrow: The Relentless Life of Jerry Brown by Jim Newton—Jerry Brown: politician, would-be monk, “man of tomorrow?”

A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Board Game Helped Win World War II by Simon Parkin—How wargames helped win World War II

AIQ: How Artificial Intelligence Works and How We Can Harness Its Power for a Better World by Nick Polson and James Scott—Two data scientists explain artificial intelligence for the lay reader

The Last Jew of Treblinka by Chil Rajchman—A moving death camp survivor’s memoir

The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It by Robert B. Reich—Robert Reich explains how the ultra-wealthy have rigged the system

Empire of Resentment: Populism’s Toxic Embrace of Nationalism by Lawrence Rosenthal—A scholar of Right-Wing politics dissects the Trump coalition

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund—The facts, just the facts, about the world as it really is

The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published by David Skinner—The famous dictionary that threw out the rules of grammar

The Emperor’s Codes: The Thrilling Story of the Allied Code Breakers Who Turned the Tide of World War II by Michael Smith—Did the British crack the World War II Japanese codes?

Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener—An insightful Silicon Valley memoir

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard—Understanding America’s polarization and how we got to now

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