Death and grief, love and sex, gender and race: the year’s best nonfiction demonstrates no shortage of bravery its encounters with major social, political, personal, and historical themes. Nor did these books shy away from the formal daring required to navigate those themes; in many ways, we’ve seen enough stylistic invention, reinvention, and resourcefulness in one year to last us the next five. That’s because each of these books presses into new ways of negotiating personal struggle with the promises and expectations of society. The results, as you can see, are staggering.
Missoula, Jon Krakauer
Krakauer turns campus rape into a gripping true crime story, following several cases in the titular Montana college town from a reconstruction of the incident through trials and aftermath. This is an accurate, blow-by blow account that looks at rape as a crime outside any political context except its own grim parameter — and it makes a damning, riveting read. I wish it weren’t necessary to tell the story this way, but it is. — Sarah Seltzer