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Best books of 2009: nonfiction

The nonfiction books we liked best in 2009.

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Fingerprints of God:
The Search for the Science of Spirituality
By Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Riverhead Books
323 pp., $26.95
National Public Radio reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty uses journalism’s tools to explore the intersection of spirituality and science.  (Monitor review 5/19/09)

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Shop Class as Soulcraft:
An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
By Matthew B. Crawford
Penguin Press
246 pp., $25.95
A philosopher-turned-motorbike mender meditates on the rewards and joys of manual labor. (Monitor review 6/16/09)

Tears in the Darkness:
The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
By Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman
Farrar, Staus and Giroux
464 pp., $30
This balanced, beautifully written book about the horrors of the Bataan death march is the definitive account of this exceptionally grim chapter of human history. (Monitor review 7/8/09)

Provenance:
How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
By Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
Penguin Press
352 pp., $26.95.
The preposterous yet true tale of one of the most audacious scams in the history of art makes an intoxicating page turner. (Monitor review 8/11/09)

The Age of Wonder:
How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and the Terror of Science
By Richard Holmes
Pantheon
576 pp., $40
In this sprawling, dazzling account, biographer and historian Richard Holmes examines the close company shared by scientific discovery and artistic creation during the 19th century. (Monitor review 8/12/09)

Strength in What Remains:
A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness
By Tracy Kidder
Random House
277 pp., $26
Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Kidder’s tells the true story of a Tutsi medical student who fled the genocide in his country, battled fearsome odds to become a physician in the US, and then found himself ready to return home. (Monitor review 8/24/09)

The Snakehead:
An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream
By Patrick Radden Keefe
Doubleday
432 pp., $27.50
Journalist Patrick Radden Keefe turns the story of the boss of a human smuggling ring into a masterwork of narrative nonfiction. (Monitor review 8/26/09)

The Sisters of Sinai:
How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels
By Janet Soskice
Knopf
304 pp., $26.95
The unlikely tale of the pair of wealthy, erudite, identical twins who made one of the most significant scriptural discoveries in history. (Monitor review 8/31/09)

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