1. Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans (Read the interview with author Captain Charles Moore)
by Captain Charles Moore with Cassandra Phillips, 2011
by Stephen King, 2011
A high school English teacher travels back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Stephen King’s latest seems like a departure from horror and hard-boiled tales. Yet, his powers of suspense are undoubtedly at work here and there’s plenty of fun along the way as Jake, the protagonist, tries to conform to the ‘50s. The 800-pager is a quick read, without too many quibbles over the pitfalls of alternative history.
3. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
by Robert K. Massie, 2011
Rumors about Catherine abound, but few know the true story of the young German princess who reinvented herself as the empress of Russia. Longtime historian of the Russian czars, Robert K. Massie traces Catherine’s life, relying on her memoirs and the well-documented events of her life to show the woman behind the myth.
4. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945
by Max Hastings, 2011
Military historian Max Hastings creates a panoramic portrait of World War II that encompasses personal accounts from every facet of the war and particularly focuses on overlooked battles. Hastings also offers commentary on the effects of particular strategic decisions and more effective decisions that might have been made, in hindsight. For World War II history buffs and newcomers alike, Hastings’ book is a definitive, broad account of the war.
5. Salvage the Bones
by Jesmyn Ward, 2011
Winner of the 2011 National Book Award, African-American author Jesmyn Ward tells the story of four motherless children in the twelve days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. The book has won its lauds from its unflinching look at rural poverty, while preserving the bonds of love and family in poetic, realistic language.
6. World and Town
by Gish Jen, 2010
Chinese-American author Gish Jen follows Hattie Kong, recently bereft of her husband and best friend, to her new life in a small town. Hattie and her neighbors, a family of Cambodian immigrants and an ex-lover of Hattie’s, struggle with American identity and the dictates of religion vs. science. Jen’s work deftly blends the family drama with a novel of ideas, truly committed to building both a better world and town.
7. Death Comes to Pemberley
by P.D. James, 2011
Murder mystery writer P.D. James brings her talent to an unlikely place-the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Austen fans will recognize the famous protagonists of Pride and Prejudice six years after the novel ends, but not the bloody predicament in which they find themselves; a dead body, the villainous Wickham as suspect, and a mystery they must solve.
8. Death Wishing
by Laura Ellen Scott, 2011
The debut novel from local author Laura Ellen Scott is built around a fascinating premise: before their death, each person’s final wish comes true. She explores many implications of this conundrum, including murder and blackmail for death wishes, and movements such as “Wish Local” to downplay wide-ranging effects of death wishes. For those who enjoy an adept mockery of consumer culture and science fiction overtones, Scott’s novel will satisfy.
9. A Walk Across the Sun
by Corban Addison, 2012
Corban Addison’s first novel has a mission-to bring attention and hopefully solutions to human trafficking and slavery. The two sides of the story concern a pair of orphaned sisters, Ahalya and Sita, swept up into the sex trade in Mumbai after a tsunami and a Washington D.C. attorney, Thomas Clarke, whose decision to travel to India to combat human trafficking will lead to his attempt to rescue the sisters. Addison’s prose shows the important pull of human relationships even in the midst of the cruelest inhumanity.
10. Betrayal: Whitey Bulger and the FBI Who Fought to Bring Him Down
by Robert Fitzpatrick and Jon Land, 2012
The recent arrest of notorious mobster Whitey Bulger brought FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick’s long saga to an end. In this memoir, he recounts his determined battle to capture Bulger despite corrupt FBI agents from Boston to Washington D.C. colluding in his escape. This important piece of American crime history will be released on January 3.