Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Books

About the Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Books
The Adult Books editors have selected the following titles as representative of the year’s outstanding books for public-library collections. Our scope has been intentionally broad, and we have attempted to find books that combine literary, intellectual, and aesthetic excellence with popular appeal.

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Social Sciences

2012 Selection(s)

The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom.

By Marcus Rediker. Viking, $27.95 (9780670025046).

Rediker offers a totally enthralling account of the Amistad rebellion and its place in the broader American story of revolt against those who would threaten liberty.

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010

By Charles Murray. Crown Forum, $27 (9780307453426).

In this timely analysis, Murray argues that a worsening class divide has resulted in the segregation of elites, living in “SuperZips,” from those with little education, eking out a living in poor neighborhoods.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version

By Philip Pullman. Viking, $27.95 (9780670024971).

Celebrated British author Pullman retells what he calls the “cream” of the brothers’ 210 tales. In a straightforward, conversational style, Pullman delivers a wonderfully rich reading experience for all ages.

Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years among the Poorest Children in America

By Jonathan Kozol. Crown, $27 (9781400052462).

This is an engaging look at the broader social implications of ignoring poverty as well as a very personal look at individuals struggling to overcome it.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.

By Paul Tough. Houghton, $27 (9780547564654).

Tough argues that disadvantaged children would be best served by learning such skills as grit, conscientiousness, curiosity, and optimism in this very hopeful look at promising new research in education.

The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court

By Jeffrey Toobin. Doubleday, $28.95 (9780385527200).

Legal analyst Toobin offers a vividly revealing inside look at the personalities and politics behind the fractious relationship between Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama.

The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security since Reagan

By Eric Laursen. AK, $27 (9781849351010).

In this breathtakingly comprehensive and compelling analysis, Laursen shows how American economics and politics evolved to the point at which Social Security, once considered nearly sacrosanct, has come to be viewed as a government entitlement.


2012 Selection(s)

The Social Conquest of Earth

By Edward O. Wilson. Norton/Liveright, $27.95 (9780871404138).

In this passionate analysis of the human condition, renowned biologist Wilson guides us through the great maze of evolutionary adaptations that led to our ancestors’ “advanced social life,” the biological wellspring for tribalism, art, and morality.

The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body.

By Frances Ashcroft. Norton, $28.95 (9780393078039).

Our ability to move, perceive, think, and speak depends on continuously occurring electrical events in nerve and muscle cells, which are explained by physiologist Ashcroft with scientific precision, levity, and sometimes shocking tidbits.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

By David Quammen. Norton $30 (9780393066807).

Quammen’s vital, in-depth inquiry into the fascinating if alarming facts about animal infections that sicken humans, such as Ebola, influenza, SARS, and AIDS, is aimed at helping prevent future pandemics.