The 5 best nonfiction books of 2022, critic Mary Ann Gwinn

It’s been a good year for experienced writers and novices alike, for pop fiction and experimental work, memoir and historical works. We asked four critics to name the five best books published in 2022. Here are Mary Ann Gwinn’s five favorite non-fiction books.

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"Path Light by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe" by David Maraniss

By David Maraniss
Simon & Schuster: 672 pages, $33

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and biographer of Barack Obama and others tells the story of an Olympian’s unhappy life with sympathy and clarity, and places it in the context of that country’s appalling treatment of Native Americans. An authority on sports, politics and American history, Maraniss uses his superior reporting and storytelling skills to vividly chronicle the highs and lows of Thorpe’s odyssey.

"I Lived Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys," by Miranda Seymour

By Miranda Seymour
Norton: 448 pages, $33

Seymour, a masterful biographer, sums up what propelled the talented and troubled author of Wide Sargasso Sea to become a successful novelist. Rhys’ surreal upbringing in the Caribbean as a “white Creole”, her years of dissolution and poverty, and her struggles with addiction make up a gripping life story made all the more satisfying by her late triumph. Seymour tells her story with empathy, precision and a keen eye for narrative detail.

"The bald eagle" from Jack. E Davis

By Jack E Davis
Liveright: 432 pages, $30

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian brings together politics, culture and natural history to tell the story of the bald eagle’s rescue from extinction. Commemorated on that country’s great seal as the embodiment of the American spirit, the species was nearly destroyed by the nation’s greed for land and wealth, and then rescued by a group of visionaries who ensured its survival. A uniquely American story with an unusually happy ending.

"Who Killed Jane Stanford?" by Richard Weiss

By Richard White
Norton: 384 pages, $25

White, an acclaimed professor emeritus at Stanford University, combines dogged research, superior storytelling skills, and a delicious sense of irony to tell the tale of the likely murder of his institution’s duplicitous and monomaniac co-founder. Readers will marvel at the corruption and cover-ups that veiled the truth, all in the service of the esteemed university’s survival.

"The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams" by Stacy Schiff

By Stacy Schiff
Little Brown: 432 pages, $35

Schiff, who won a 1999 Pulitzer Prize for her biography of Vera Nabokov, not only has a gift for crafting stories from freshly interpreted history, but also a wicked sense of humor. All of their talents are harnessed in this tale of founding father Samuel Adams, a Harvard-educated son of a businessman who turned rogue against the British and used his strategic and propagandistic genius to outmaneuver Boston’s oppressors at every turn. Schiff paints an indelible portrait of colonial Boston and puts Adams at the center of it all. The 5 best nonfiction books of 2022, critic Mary Ann Gwinn

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