The 5 best nonfiction books of 2021, critic Mary Ann Gwinn – Los Angeles Times

December 17, 2021 by No Comments

As 2021 comes hobbling to an end, we ask four book critics to pick their favorites from a very fruitful year (at least where books are concerned). Here are Mary Ann Gwinn’s five favorite works of nonfiction.

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By Patrick Radden Keefe
Doubleday: 560 pages, $33

A meticulously reported, beautifully written indictment of the Sackler family and their influence on Big Pharma over the decades, culminating with their complicity in and outrageous profiteering from the opioid epidemic. Keefe, a longtime New Yorker writer and the author of the IRA chronicle “Say Nothing,” is a master of the nonfiction form.

By Dorothy Wickenden
Scribner: 400 pages, $30

Wickenden, executive editor of the New Yorker, does an almost perfect job of braiding together the stories of three very different women: Frances Seward, wife of Lincoln’s secretary of state; feminist Martha Coffin Wright; and Harriet Tubman, one of the bravest women you will encounter. These longtime friends risked their reputations and their lives in the service of abolishing slavery.

By Daniel James Brown
Viking: 560 pages, $30

The author of the mega-bestseller “The Boys in the Boat” tells three separate stories centering on Japanese Americans during World War II: of the West Coast families incarcerated by the government; of the young men who enlisted and faced some of the worst fighting of the war; and of a young war resister dedicated to fighting both the unfair treatment of Japanese Americans and the war itself. A deeply resonant history, both inspiring and disturbingly relevant to our current predicaments.

By Matthew Sturgis
Knopf: 864 pages, $40

Sturgis, an expert on the Victorian era, masterfully recreates Wilde’s milieu; the reader feels like they’ve grabbed a seat in the theater of the wit’s meteoric rise and tragic fall. The author also reveals Wilde as a deeply flawed human being, in a biography that does justice to its unforgettable subject.

By Peter L. Bergen
Simon & Schuster: 416 pages, $30

Bergen’s study of bin Laden began in the early 1990s, when he interviewed the Al Qaeda leader for CNN, and today he’s a world authority on the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. He writes with deep authority about bin Laden’s family, rise to power and eventual assassination, as well as the many missteps in …….



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