The process of selecting the 10 best books reviewed in the WQ’s pages this year occasioned some spirited debates in our offices. There was so much good stuff to choose from! The 10 titles we finally settled on, a few of which will appear on many best-of lists, and others of which were simply the particular favorites of our editors and reviewers, offer a veritable feast of scholarship, inquiry, and fine—even brave—writing. Compliments of the season, from our shelves to yours.
A monumental book that draws on anthropology, psychology, history, neuroscience, and other fields to show that humans have grown less violent over time.
An exhaustively researched portrait of the leader who transformed 20th-century China.
An unconventional biography of the French nobleman who invented the essay.
A philosophical and historical treatise about the ultimate futility of pushing against death’s outer limit.
A Stanford law professor’s nuanced exploration of the wide gap that persists between the marriage rates of blacks and whites.
The crowning achievement of a scholar who made his last great work, before his death earlier this year, the definitive biography of the radical black leader.
An elegant history of Odessa, the Russian Black Sea city whose past is studded with tragedy along with periods of dynamism and creativity.
A book about the irrational ways that humans make decisions, by the psychologist who made a science of the study.
A biologist proposes that some of the parasites and bacteria modern life has scrubbed away are necessary for human health.
A sweeping account of Britain’s multifaceted role in the American Civil War.