Best Nonfiction of 2017

Notable Books list selected by the editors of The New York Times

AGE OF ANGER: A History of the Present. By Pankaj Mishra. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) Mishra argues that broad swaths of the globe are reliving the traumas and violent dislocations that accompanied Europe’s transition to modernity in the 18th and 19th centuries.

AMERICAN FIRE: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land. By Monica Hesse. (Liveright, $26.95.) Hesse tells the story of 67 fires set in Virginia during a five-month arson spree, beginning in 2012, and the mystery of why a local auto mechanic was behind them.

ANIMALS STRIKE CURIOUS POSES: Essays. By Elena Passarello. (Sarabande, $19.95.) Passarello presents biographies of famous animals, from an ancient mummified mammoth to Mr. Ed and Cecil the Lion.

THE BLOOD OF EMMETT TILL. By Timothy B. Tyson. (Simon & Schuster, $27.) Tyson’s absorbing retelling of the events leading up to the horrific lynching in 1955 includes an admission from Till’s accuser that some of her testimony was false.

BORN A CRIME: Stories From a South African Childhood. By Trevor Noah. (Spiegel & Grau, $28.) The host of “The Daily Show” writes about growing up in South Africa under apartheid, and about the country’s rocky transition into the post-apartheid era in the 1990s.

BUNK: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News. By Kevin Young. (Graywolf, $30.) Young’s enthralling and essential history is both exhaustive and unapologetically subjective — not to mention timely. Again and again, he plumbs the undercurrents of a hoax to discover the fearfulness and racism that often lurk inside.

CHURCHILL AND ORWELL: The Fight for Freedom. By Thomas E. Ricks. (Penguin Press, $28.) This enjoyable dual biography draws out the common causes of these 20th-century giants: two independent thinkers and opponents of totalitarianism whose influence remains pervasive today.

THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF ELIZABETH HARDWICK. Selected and with an introduction by Darryl Pinckney. (New York Review Books, $19.95.) The landmark American critic surveys everything from the 1968 Democratic convention to the literature of New York City.

A COLONY IN A NATION. By Chris Hayes. (Norton, $26.95.) Hayes paints a portrait of two “distinct regimes” in America — one for whites, which he calls the Nation; the other for blacks, which he calls the Colony.

THE COLOR OF LAW: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. By Richard Rothstein. (Liveright, $27.95.) Going back to the late 19th century, the author uncovers a policy of de jure segregation in virtually every presidential administration.

THE CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE-CLASS CONSTITUTION: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic. By Ganesh Sitaraman. (Knopf, $28.) Sitaraman argues that the Constitution is premised on the existence of a thriving middle class, and that the current explosion of inequality will destroy it.

THE DAWN WATCH: Joseph Conrad in a Global World. By Maya Jasanoff. (Penguin Press, $30.) Conrad explored the frontiers of a globalized world at the turn of the last century. Jasanoff uses Conrad’s novels and his biography to tell the history of that moment, one that mirrors our own.

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT LAKES. By Dan Egan. (Norton, $27.95.) Climate change, population growth and invasive species are destabilizing the Great Lakes’ wobbly ecosystem, but Egan provides a taut and cautiously hopeful narrative.

DESTINED FOR WAR: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? By Graham Allison. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28.) Allison offers erudite historical case studies that illuminate the pressure toward military confrontation when a rising power challenges a dominant one.

DEVIL’S BARGAIN: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. By Joshua Green. (Penguin Press, $27.) Green’s book is a deeply reported and compulsively readable account of this fateful political partnership.

THE EVANGELICALS: The Struggle to Shape America. By Frances FitzGerald. (Simon & Schuster, $35.) FitzGerald’s fair-minded history focuses on the doctrinal and political issues that have concerned white conservative Protestants since they abandoned their traditional separation from the world and merged with the Republican Party.

THE EVOLUTION OF BEAUTY: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us. By Richard O. Prum. (Doubleday, $30.) A mild-mannered ornithologist and expert on the evolution of feathers makes an impassioned case for the importance of Darwin’s second theory as his most radical and feminist.

FASTING AND FEASTING: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray. By Adam Federman. (Chelsea Green, $25.) Federman’s biography is the first of this cult food writer.

FLÂNEUSE: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London. By Lauren Elkin. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) Elkin joins memoir and biographies of walking women like Woolf and Sand.

FRIENDS DIVIDED: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. By Gordon S. Wood. (Penguin Press, $35.) Wood traces the long, fraught ties between the second and third presidents, and sides almost reluctantly with Jefferson in their philosophical smack-down.

THE FUTURE IS HISTORY: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. By Masha Gessen. (Riverhead, $28.) Gessen, a longtime critic of Vladimir Putin, tells the story of modern Russia through the eyes of seven individuals who found that politics was a force none of them could escape; winner of the National Book Award.

GENERATION REVOLUTION: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East. By Rachel Aspden. (Other Press, $24.95.) What happened to Egypt’s revolution? This excellent social history argues that despite their politics, young Egyptians did not reject the conservative mores of family and religion.

THE GLASS UNIVERSE: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars. By Dava Sobel. (Viking, $30.) This book, about the women “computers” whose calculations helped shape observational astronomy, is a highly engaging group portrait.

GRANT. By Ron Chernow. (Penguin Press, $40.) Chernow gives us a Grant for our time, recounting not only the victories of the general but also the challenges of a president who fought against the K.K.K.

GREATER GOTHAM: A History of New York City From 1898 to 1919. By Mike Wallace. (Oxford, $45.) A vibrant, detailed chronicle of the 20 years that made New York City the place we know today.

THE GULF: The Making of an American Sea. By Jack E. Davis. (Liveright, $29.95.) Davis’s sweeping history of the Gulf of Mexico takes into account colorful nature, idiosyncratic human characters and economic development.

HAMLET GLOBE TO GLOBE: Two Years, 190,000 Miles, 197 Countries, One Play. By Dominic Dromgoole. (Grove, $27.) To celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, London’s Globe Theater performed “Hamlet” all around the world. Dromgoole’s witty account offers insight about the play and its enduring appeal.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU: A Life. By Laura Dassow Walls. (University of Chicago, $35.) This new life of Thoreau, in time for his 200th birthday, paints a moving portrait of a brilliant, complex man.

THE HOUSE OF GOVERNMENT: A Saga of the Russian Revolution. By Yuri Slezkine. (Princeton University, $39.95.) This history describes the lives of Bolsheviks who were swallowed up by their own cause.

THE INVENTION OF ANGELA CARTER: A Biography. By Edmund Gordon. (Oxford University, $35.) This terrific book is the first full-length biography of Carter, whose novels were fantastical, feminist and sexy.JANESVILLE: An American Story. By Amy Goldstein. (Simon & Schuster, $27.) Goldstein writes about the impact on the small Wisconsin factory city of the title when General Motors closes a plant there.KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. By David Grann. (Doubleday, $28.95.) In the 1920s, the Osage Indians had been driven onto land in Oklahoma that sat on top of immense oil deposits. The oil made the Osage rich, and then members of the nation started turning up murdered.

KRAZY: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White. By Michael Tisserand. (Harper/HarperCollins, $35.) Who was the man behind “Krazy Kat”? This fascinating biography and guide to the work of the cartoonist, who passed for white, tells the full story.

LENIN: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror. By Victor Sebestyen. (Pantheon, $35.) Sebestyen has managed to produce a first-rate thriller by detailing the cynicism and murderous ambition of the founder of the Soviet Union.

LETTERMAN: The Last Giant of Late Night. By Jason Zinoman. (Harper/HarperCollins, $28.99.) Zinoman’s lively book does impressive triple duty as an acute portrait of stardom, an insightful chronicle of three rambunctious decades of pop-culture evolution, and a very brainy fan’s notes.

LOCKING UP OUR OWN: Crime and Punishment in Black America. By James Forman Jr. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) A masterly account of how a generation of black elected officials wrestled with crises of violence and drug use by unleashing the brutal power of the criminal justice system on their constituents.

LOOKING FOR “THE STRANGER”: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic. By Alice Kaplan. (University of Chicago, $26.) Impressive research illuminates the context and history of Camus’s classic novel.

THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD: A True Story. By Douglas Preston. (Grand Central, $28.) The novelist joins a rugged expedition in search of pre-Columbian ruins in the Honduran rain forest.

NOMADLAND: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. By Jessica Bruder. (Norton, $26.95.) For three years, Bruder traveled and worked alongside “workampers,” older people, casualties of the Great Recession, who drive around the United States looking for seasonal work.

NOTES ON A FOREIGN COUNTRY: An American Abroad in a Post-American World. By Suzy Hansen. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Hansen, who moved to Istanbul after 9/11, grapples with her country’s violent role in the world.

PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. By Caroline Fraser. (Metropolitan/Holt, $35.) This thoroughly researched biography of the “Little House” author perceptively captures Wilder’s extraordinary life and legacy.

PRIESTDADDY: A Memoir. By Patricia Lockwood. (Riverhead, $27.) The poet’s memoir is fueled by a great character: her father, a rare married Catholic priest, a big bear of a man fond of guns, cream liqueurs and pork rinds.

THE SONGS WE KNOW BEST: John Ashbery’s Early Life. By Karin Roffman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) This first full-fledged biography of the poet is full of rich and fascinating detail.

TENEMENTS, TOWERS & TRASH: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City. By Julia Wertz. (Black Dog & Leventhal, $29.99.) Wertz has become a cult favorite for her graphic memoirs. Her new book is a departure, focusing on her great love, New York.

TO SIRI WITH LOVE: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines. By Judith Newman. (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.99.) Newman’s tender, boisterous memoir strips the usual zone of privacy to edge into the world her autistic son occupies.

THE UNDOING PROJECT: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. By Michael Lewis. (Norton, $28.95.) Lewis profiles the enchanted collaboration between Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, whose groundbreaking work proved just how unreliable our intuition could be.

WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER: An American Tragedy. By Ta-Nehisi Coates. (One World, $28.) A selection of Coates’s most influential pieces about race in America from The Atlantic, with subjects including Barack and Michelle Obama, Donald J. Trump, reparations and mass incarceration.

WHAT HAPPENED. By Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) Clinton tells the story of what it was like to run for president of the United States as the first female nominee of a major party.

WORLDWITHOUTMIND: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. By Franklin Foer. (Penguin Press, $27.) Foer dons the heavy mantle of cyber-skeptic with this persuasive brief against the big four tech giants who he believes pose a threat to the individual and society.

YOU SAY TO BRICK: The Life of Louis Kahn. By Wendy Lesser. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) This biography covers the best-known works of the architect Louis Kahn as well as his complicated personal life.