The Adult Books editors have selected the following titles
as the best of the year’s books
for public library collections and
Our scope is intentionally inclusive,
and we have sought books that
combine literary and intellectual ex-
cellence with popular appeal.
Arts & Literature
Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian
Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today.
By Simon Morrison. Norton/Liveright, $35
Morrison portrays the players and reveals all
the behind-the-scenes passion, struggle, and
drama of Moscow’s historic and profoundly
influential Bolshoi Ballet, through the reigns
of czars and czarinas, wars and invasions, right
up to the present.
I’m Supposed to Protect You from All
This. By Nadja Spiegelman. Riverhead, $27
Spiegelman’s artistic rendering of her moth-
er’s, grandmother’s, and her own coming-of-age
is a touching, surprising consideration of the
unclear inheritances of family and the certain
fallibility of memory.
Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the
Painting of the Water Lilies. By Ross King.
Bloomsbury, $30 (9781632860125).
King, a master at illuminating overlooked
facets of art history, tells the full, wondrous,
and poignant story of Monet’s three-decade
struggle to paint his monumental Water Lilies at Giverny.
Walk through Walls. By Marina Abramovic.
Crown Archetype, $28 (9781101905043).
Legendary performance artist Abramovic
brings her wild courage to the page as
she frankly recounts her daring, radical,
and reverberating artistic adventures and
Black Elk: The Life of an American
Visionary. By Joe Jackson. Farrar, $30
Jackson’s exhaustively researched biography of the Sioux visionary and medicine man
details his life and the landmark events that
shaped it, evoking awe over Black Elk’s struggle to help his embattled people preserve their
culture and traditions.
Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a
Liberal Icon. By Larry Tye. Random, $32
Tye presents a probing and perceptive biography of Bobby Kennedy that traces the
evolution of a complex man and bold statesman who captured the imagination of a
generation and continued to transform society even in the wake of his assassination.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. By Trevor Noah. Spiegel &
Grau, $28 (9780399588174).
South African comedian Noah, host of The
Daily Show, reveals the full brunt of the ter-
ror and diabolical absurdity he endured as a
mixed-race child under apartheid in this sub-
stantial collection of incisive, funny, and vivid
The Firebrand and the First Lady: Pauli
Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle
for Social Justice. By Patricia Bell-Scott.
Knopf, $30 (9780679446521).
Bell-Scott’s involving chronicle of a boundary-breaking friendship offers an unusual and
affecting perspective on world-changing Eleanor Roosevelt and a rousing biography of
Murray, a fiery writer, civil rights activist, law
professor, and Episcopalian priest. (Top of the
List winner—Adult Nonfiction)
George Lucas. By Brian Jay Jones. Little,
Brown, $32 (9780316257442).
George Lucas is globally famous as the
filmmaker who brought us Star Wars, one of
the most iconic Hollywood franchises in history, but as Jones’ in-depth, often gripping
exploration reveals, Lucas is also a trailblazing entrepreneur.
Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for
James Brown and the American Soul.
By James McBride. Spiegel & Grau, $28
In this superb biography, McBride deciphers
James Brown’s grip on black culture, illuminates the singer’s complex family tree, and
provides perceptive analysis of his decline.
Of Arms and Artists: The American
Revolution through Painters’ Eyes. By Paul
Staiti. Bloomsbury, $30 (9781632864659).
Staiti zestfully portrays five largely self-taught artists whose paintings helped forge
the new American ethos in the midst of war
and civic unrest: Charles Willson Peale, Benjamin West, John Trumbull, John Singleton
Copley, and Gilbert Stuart.
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.
By Ruth Franklin. Norton/Liveright, $35
In her engrossing biography of an un-derappreciated literary master, Franklin
illuminates Jackson’s sensibility and the covert ways she paired “the horrific with the
mundane” to capture the fears, anxiety, and
prejudice of the Cold War era.
Much of Claude
Monet’s life and
work had been a
mad striving for the
impossible. His goal,
which he frankly
admitted was unattainable, was to paint
his carefully chosen
object . . . under
singular and fleeting conditions of
weather and light. —Ross King