Notable Books We Read in 2016 -- 11/28/16

Here they are -- our favorite books for 2016. As always, it's books we read (or, for some of the lengthier tomes, finished reading) this year, but not necessarily books that were published this year. They are listed below, but not in any order of preference. If you wish to read an excerpt from any of the books mentioned click on the link.

To help note our 2016 Best Books, tell us what your favorite non-fiction book was this year by email to Anyone submitting his or her favorite non-fiction book will be entered into a drawing. We will randomly draw ten names and send each a copy of the Notable Books We Read in 2016.
We hope you find this list to be helpful!


Empire of Cotton: A Global History, Sven Beckert 
Author: Sven Beckert
Publisher: Vintage Books

Global trade is not a modern phenomenon, as this history of cotton ably demonstrates. In fact, vast global trading networks defined the Industrial Revolution and defined the early modern world, and no product of that era was more dominant than cotton. This tour de force provides insights as helpful as any you will find into the social, economic and political world of the 1800s. 

Publisher: Ballantine Books
I grew up in the 70s, and this selection belies my upbringing, but few things pervaded that era more than the Muppets. This book is a well-researched and thoughtful history that also offers -- if you grew up in that era too -- a torrent of nostalgia.

Author: Michael Doran
Publisher: Free Press

In the late 1940s and 1950s, when Britain faded as a superpower and was no longer militarily or financially able to play a dominant role in the Middle East -- fresh on the heels of the establishment of Israel -- America stepped into that role. When it did, it immediately encountered the fractiousness and difficulties that plague it to this day. This is that story, and, even though the book lapses briefly into didacticism, the facile reader can readily sidestep that and end up rewarded with a deeper level of understanding of both Dwight Eisenhower and of that region's crosscurrents.

Author: Karl Jacoby
Publisher: Penguin Books
The early days of the America West has always held a special fascination, especially when not burdened with clichés and stereotypes. No book does that more effectively than this one as it dissects one of the truly tragic episodes of that era -- the Camp Grant Massacre. Jacoby brings an anthropologist's perspective to the clash among Americans, Mexicans, and Native Americans in that key period. Jacoby carefully examines each perspective and provides deep insights into human nature and ethnic relationships.

Author: Jeffrey L. Pasley
Publisher: University Press of Kansas

 Nothing quite matches the election we just endured, but the contest between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was almost as lively and defined the nascent contours of the political battlefield we still fight on today. This is a masterful telling of that story.

Author: Paul Freedman
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation

Is there such a thing as an American cuisine? A vibrant history of the changes in American tastes told through ten restaurants. Freedman takes the reader from the pathfinding menus of Delmonico's, Antoine's and Chez Panisse to lunch counters that catered toward working women and to the rise of the hamburger over the hot dog as the cornerstone of fast food. 

Author: Alex Von Tunzelmann
Publisher: Picador

Few moments in contemporary history are as tragic as The Great Partition, the moment in 1947 when a newly independent India was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. This book tells that story, and brings to life the dominant actors in that drama -- Gandhi, Nehru, Mountbatten, and more. 

Author: Karen Armstrong
Publisher: Penguin Books

When it comes to religious history, few can match Armstrong, and this book is an easy and lively read that sheds light on a life obscured by history. Buddha lived in an age of economic prosperity but spiritual dislocation, and offered his followers the Middle Way, a path of moderation between the extremes of self-indulgence and deprivation characteristic of his era. 

Publisher: Atria Books
What could be better than a book about the octopus? And the books prose is fully matched by stunning photographs. And if the octopus makes you squeamish, Montgomery has written the equally compelling Birdology.

Author: Adam Hochschild
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A heartbreaking book that carries the reader from the depths of America's Depression to the idealism of America's youth, then on to Hitler, Mussolini, and the willful neglect of Spain's plight by the Western democratic powers, and finally to the crushing defeat of Spain's nascent republic. 

Author: Peter Ackroyd
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Ackroyd is a master historian and storyteller, and what better material could he have than Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and so many others?

 Author: Jerry Brotton
Publisher: Viking
Speaking of Elizabeth I, who could have predicted the success of her forty-four year reign in the earliest years? Burdened with her father's war debts and cut off from trade with the Catholic nations of Europe, she was forced by these dire circumstances to reach out to Muslim kingdoms in Marrakech, Istanbul, and Persia. This book tells that story. 

Author: Marc Morris
Publisher: Penguin UK
What a happy discovery! Penguin books has a well-established series offering a short biography of each of England's monarchs. Very much in the sprit of the American President's Series offered by Times Books, this series lets you learn about a particular king or queen without the necessity of having to invest the time required by a 500 page tome. And William I's reign is as lively and consequential as any.

We hope this list helps -- and we thank you as always for your interest in!  Thanks!!
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