2013’s bounty of long-form journalism, essay collections, biographies, history books, and memoirs covering a broad range of topics — from race and politics in America to unusual childhoods to the current Golden Age of television — has resulted in more than enough great nonfiction to choose from at the end of this year. These ten books merely scratch the surface of all the noteworthy nonfiction published in the last 12 months, but they also represent what we consider the best of the best.
Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)
If the 2011 National Book Award for her novel Salvage The Bones wasn’t evidence enough that Jesmyn Ward is one of our finest writers, Men We Reaped has proven both her talent and her vital importance to American literature. This deeply honest memoir interweaves the story of Ward’s youth in poverty-stricken rural Mississippi with chapters recounting the death of one young black man from her community — and even her own family — after another, examining how the author dealt with the grief, and interrogating why this country still can’t fix the plagues of poverty and institutionalized racism. Put simply, Men We Reaped is 2013’s most necessary book.