10. Girls and Sex, Peggy Orenstein
Orenstein examines the current state of affairs for teen girls, their social health and their cultural sexuality. Her examination of “hook-up culture” questions the role of porn in the expectations girls set for themselves, and it grapples with the conditions surrounding assault.
9. The Constitution Today, Akhil Reed Amar
A book on the Constitution may not have felt so urgent or timely in any other year, but in the wake of the Khan family’s appearance at the Democratic National Convention—and the president-elect’s subsequent affront—Amar’s expert framework of our nation’s most fundamental document feels desperately needed.
8. Kill ‘Em and Leave, James McBride
The author pursues the truth about the godfather of soul, revealing details of his mysterious childhood and his personal influence on everyone from Al Sharpton to Michael Jackson.
7. Lab Girl, Hope Jahren
Jahren, a geobiologist who has built three labs, has had some challenges unique to her status as a woman in science. She’s also had many inspiring moments and one especially meaningful professional relationship. Her memoir is an ode to her profession and to the natural world.
6. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin
The author of The Haunting of Hill House gets the biographical treatment in a book that explores her work and life, from an interest in witchcraft to a complicated marriage.
5. Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly
During WWII, America desperately needed coders for the aeronautics industry. A group of supremely talented African American women answered the call to a challenging job, while racism bubbled in culture. This is their story.
4. Known and Strange Things, Teju Cole
The novelist turns to nonfiction for a collection of essays on a broad range of subjects: fellow authors, such as W. G. Sebald; the death of the last Tasmanian tiger; the African-American photographer Roy DeCarava; and a Nazi performance of Beethoven.
3. You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein
The head writer for Inside Amy Schumer brings her sense of humor to her essay collection that takes on her misfit childhood, her relationship with lingerie and modern womanhood at large.
2. Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
The author pays tribute to his family, who aspired to transcend their white working class roots, while investigating issues like domestic abuse, poverty and alcoholism that plague the culture they came from.
1. March Vol. 3, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
The U.S. Congressman concludes his trilogy of graphic memoir with this, about his Civil Rights activism. The comic book, which recently won the National Book Award for young people’s literature (though it is for adults as well), begins with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and continues through the emotional inauguration of Barack Obama.