Post-election analysis is still with us — see JOHN HEILEMANN & MARK HALPERIN's Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime (Harper, January 11). But the big news is the economy, stupid. Among dozens of titles trying to explain how we got where we are, look for Nobel Prize-winning economist JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ's Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (Norton, January 18), which argues that we've foisted bad economic policy on everyone else, and MICHAEL LEWIS's thoroughly documented The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (Norton, March 15).
In Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State (Penguin Press, January 21), GARRY WILLS traces George W. Bush's assault on the Constitution to the creation of the atom bomb, which gave the US president unprecedented power. In The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State (Penguin Press, February 18), SHANE HARRIS argues that Total Information Awareness, a surveillance program recommended by former National Security Adviser John Poindexter after 9/11 and banned by Congress in 2003, is still with us — somewhere in the black-ops underworld.
Current events got you down? Escape into history. Anglophiles, look for ALISON WEIR's The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (Ballantine, January 5) and A. ROGER EKIRCH's Birthright: The True Story That Inspired "Kidnapped" (Norton, January 25), the latter about the abduction of young aristocrat Jemmy Annesley. American history lovers, try MARK LEE GARDNER's To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West (Morrow, February 9) and MICHAEL O'BRIEN's Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon (Farrar, Straus, March 9), which tracks Louisa Catherine Adams's 1815 journey from St. Petersburg to Paris, where husband John Quincy Adams had been transferred.
In The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War (Harper, March 16), DAVID LASKIN reveals that one in five US soldiers during World War 1 was born abroad; fighting made them Americans. For thoroughgoing background on that war, consider MIRANDA CARTER's George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I (Knopf, March 14). JEFF SHESOL addresses an important between-the-wars issue in Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court (Norton, March 22); RICHARD REEVES's Daring Young Men: The Heroism and Triumph of the Berlin Airlift — June 1948–May 1949 (Simon & Schuster, January 5) celebrates those who delivered 2.3 million tons of supplies to Berlin during the post-WW2 blockade.
Bancroft Prize winner IRA BERLIN's The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (Viking, January 21) explains how the Middle Passage, the shift to the South's interior, the eventual migration north, and today's arrival of black populations from abroad have all shaped African-Americans. NELL IRVIN PAINTER counters with The History of White People (Norton, March 15), which is really the history of an idea. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Crown, February 2), REBECCA SKLOOT recounts how doctors took cells from the African-American Lacks without her knowledge and used them to create the first immortal human cell line grown in a culture. Big issues here, for science and ethics.