4. The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel
Mischel is a psychology professor well-known for his studies on willpower and self-control--including a famous study where children who as preschoolers were able to wait 15-20 minutes for two marshmallows rather than eat one marshmallow immediately tend to achieve more and get in less trouble as adolescents and young adults. Here he summarizes his lifetime of research and the current state of the science on willpower, self-control, and executive function, with the helpful and encouraging message that it's never too late to change. I'm already applying some of the book's lessons to sticking to my diet in the new year.
5. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I became so angry while reading this book. Not over anything Stevenson said or did--he is on the side of the angels and I fully support his work--but over the wrongful conviction that forms the core of the narrative. Walter McMillian's joke of a trial and the first part of his six years on death row before his exoneration happened in my home state, Alabama, when I was in high school and still living there. Which means it was in some degree done in my name. Now, since I'm not stupid and I study history, I know Alabama has a terrible history when it comes to race relations. But I did NOT know that such a ridiculous travesty of justice had happened in my lifetime, well after the days of Selma and fire hoses and church bombings and bus boycotts. I don't have words for how furious it makes me.
It will be a tiny drop in the bucket, but at least for the next year and possibly beyond I will tithe the royalty checks from my writing income to Stevenson's organization, the Equal Justice Initiative. Because I have to do something.
6. Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean
My first historical romance read of the year, and the conclusion to a series about a group of scandalous lords (and one lady) who run a casino in 1830's London. The lady in question is the heroine of this entry--though all London thinks she's the mysterious, never-seen, MALE fourth partner in the business. While this isn't the book for you if you're craving historical realism, it's intense and romantic. And I do love the cover, which is something I almost never say about Avon romances. As I've seen pointed out elsewhere, that's a heroine in a hero pose--which is perfect for the character and the story.