This was a record-breaking year for me, as I completed 124 books over the past 364 days. Of that total, 108 were works of nonfiction (64 history books, 38 biographies, and 6 memoirs) and the remaining 16 were novels, 12 of which were science fiction or graphic novels.
Looking back on the list there were very few duds, which makes selecting the best ones a little challenging. Two, though, really stand out in my memory for their excellence: David Evans and Mark Peattie's Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy 1887-1941, and Richard Carwardine's Lincoln's Sense of Humor. Both books couldn't be more different in form – the first being a thick tome rooted in decades of archival work, the second a short study that draws heavily from previously published material – but both share the quality of the best nonfiction books, which is an erudition based on a thorough understanding of their subject and a text that enriches the readers with the insights they have gleaned from it. Sadly the same cannot be said for Paul Pedisich's Congress Buys a Navy, which was less than its promised examination "the nexus of U.S. politics, economics, and the funding and creation of what is thought of as the 'modern' U.S. Navy" and more a recitation of the policies of successive Secretaries of the Navy during the Gilded Age. How it won an award still escapes me.