Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
An intelligent and fearlessly sympathetic portrait of a group of society’s outsiders—sex offenders—that illuminates the moral complexities at the heart of our justice system.
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
The vicissitudes of extramarital love and the obstructions to its smooth flow—including spouses, children, and the necessary secrecy surrounding an affair—are charted in sharp yet supple prose.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
This dazzlingly inventive first novel introduces 12-year-old gator-wrestling Ava Bigtree and her eccentric family, whose lives (and the Florida theme park they run) straddle the boundaries between the real and the surreal.
Who is your pick? (I'm pulling for Russell Banks, although I haven't read the Enright book, which is probably phenomenal.)
The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick
A comprehensive study describing the melodious interplay between science and literature documents the transmission of human knowledge from talking drums to the Internet.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
This definitive work on the life of the Malcolm X corrects previous misconceptions and offers new information about the charismatic leader’s life and death during the turbulent years of the civil rights era.
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert Massie
A compulsively readable biography of the fascinating woman who, through a combination of luck, personality, and a fine mind, rose from her birth as a minor German princess to become the Empress of all the Russias.