Honorable mention:The Given Day y Dennis Lehane, which would have been the best novel I read this year if I had read it for the first time. Instead, I was reading it for a second time and found that my opinion was sharply improved the second time around. A great sprawling epic centered around the Boston police strike of 1919--which Lehane tells with the patience, clarity, and jaundiced eye that you'd expect from a former writer fo The Wire--but sweeping up the immigrant experience, race relations, and any number of other fascinating topics. Lehane has a talent for writing fascinating characters up and down the social spectrum, from high ranking Boston Brahmins to freshly arrived immigrants and everything in between, and in particularly for understanding police culture inside and out. (Lehane's follow up Live By Night, is a big disappointment, unfortunately.)
Best non-fiction book I've read this year Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Clas y Jefferson Cowie. An academic writing labor history sounds potentially dry, but Cowie is not just an ambitious historian but an entertaining and clear writer. And the story to tell is dramatic: in 1970, both Democrats and Republicans were striving to cater to the powerful union bosses while business influence over politics was at its lowest point in the modern era. Ten years later, unions were disillusioned with both Democrats and Republicans (one fire-breathing union leader said that the best thing that Carter could do for the working class was to die), and about to suffer what still appears to be an inexorable decline. What the hell happened? Cowie explains, and in doing so, cover territory as diverse as violent internal union conflicts and the political meaning of Devo and disco.
Honorable mention The New New Deal y Michael Grunwald, an account of the stimulus bill which anybody interested in American politics, but especially disaffected liberals, should read.