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Best Books of the Year So Far: Nonfiction

Amazon Book Review: NarconomicsHere are a few of our favorite Nonfiction titles of 2016. See more in the Best Books of the Year So Far.

Chances are when you hear someone talking about the drug trade what comes to mind is an image from T.V. or the movies—seedy dealers, million-dollar busts, films like Traffic and shows like The Wire. In Narconomics, author Tom Wainwright looks at the drug business as…a business. And it's fascinating. We already know how internet shopping has changed the way people buy and sell goods, but in the course of his research Wainwright learned that all manner of illegal drugs are increasingly being bought and sold online, too. Interesting, right? Just wait until you read how customer service and product quality have been impacted by this change… And this is just one of the many ways in which an economist's view paints a very different picture than the one we're used to seeing. Wainwright's fresh look at a decades-old problem shows not only how the narcotics industry is run, but also how the "war on drugs" could be more effective if law enforcement started thinking about the drug business as just another corporate jungle. --Seira Wilson

More of the our picks in Nonfiction:


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Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson
In 1980, more than a thousand feet disappeared from the top of Mt. St Helens in a moment of stunning power, decapitating the mountain and leveling miles of old growth forest in a shockwave of boiling ash. 57 lives we lost within minutes, and yet the disaster didn't come without warning. Why was anyone there at all? Olson examines the forces at work--volcanic, economic, political, and historical--to tell a story at both geologic and human scales, documenting in thrilling fashion the demise of an iconic landscape as well as those who witnessed it.--Jon Foro

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Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein
It would be easy to pigeonhole Girls & Sex as essential reading only for parents of female teens or preteens. But as I traveled deeper into Orenstein's honest and thoughtful exploration of "the complicated new landscape" of sex as seen from the points of view of seventy high school and college-age girls she interviewed, I realized this book is for anyone who cares for a girl approaching womanhood, whether she is a daughter, niece, granddaughter, or friend of the family.--Adrian Liang

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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
It's the rare writer who can capture a social ill with a clear-eyed, nonjudgmental tone and still allow the messiness of real people its due. Matthew Desmond does just that as he explores the stories of tenants and landlords in the poorest areas of Milwaukee during 2008 and 2009. It's almost always a compliment to say that a nonfiction book reads like a novel and this one does – mostly because Desmond gets very close to the "characters," relating their words and thoughts and layering on enough vibrant details to make every rented property or trailer come alive. —Adrian Liang

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The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley by Eric Weiner
Weiner looks for creative hotbeds where geniuses from Socrates to Steve Jobs thrived, and asks Why? Moreover, why do these hotbeds eventually fizzle? The book—an irreverent and surprisingly entertaining blend of historical biography, travel essay, and sociological study—centers around this quote by Plato: "What is honored in a country will be cultivated there," be it intellectual discourse, art, music, literature, or life-altering gadgets like the iPhone.--Erin Kodicek

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