"Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

A brilliantly complex biography of an ingenious and multifaceted man. (Simon & Schuster, $35)

"Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India" by Joseph Lelyveld

Apparently, even Gandhi was human. Lelyveld bravely probes the weaknesses of the most famous faster of all time. (Knopf, $28.95)

"Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America" by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

Harlem, that enduring cultural neighborhood where thousands of African-Americans have flocked for decades, is the grand protagonist in this vibrant historical portrait. (Little, Brown and Company, $24.99)

"In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" by Erik Larson

Once again, Larson, author of "Devil in the White City," writes of a unique historical period with the flare and narrative skills of a novelist. (Crown, $26)

"Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein" by Judy Salamon

A lovely portrait of the remarkable — and remarkably guarded — playwright. (Penguin, $29.95)

"Newspaper Titan: The Infamous Life and Monumental Times of Cissy Patterson" by Amanda Smith

The heiress of the Medill family's Chicago Tribune kingdom in the 1930s chose to avoid the trap of society wife and opted, instead, to build her own newspaper empire with the Washington Herald. This biography is full of the juicy scandals and fierce battles that kept this woman alive--and in the papers. (Knopf, $37.50)

"Charles Dickens: A Life" by Claire Tomalin

It may come as a surprise to learn that this dearly loved creator of so many infamous curmudgeonly literary characters was not a particularly beloved family man. (Penguin, $36)

"MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus" by Art Spiegelman

The author returns to his 25-year-old "Maus," the comic book that featured mice in the Holocaust, and explores why this concept became a instant hit and won the Pulitzer Prize. (Pantheon, $35)

"Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" by Manning Marable

A masterful definitive biography of the late African-American activist. (Viking, $30)

"A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France" by Caroline Moorehead

In 1943, 230 French women who had worked to save Jews and promote Nazi resistance were sent to Auschwitz; 49 survived. Moorehead sought interviews with the survivors and their families and pored over years of archives to produce a chilling portrait of these heroes and how they bonded in their final days. (Harper, $27.99)

"Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark" by Brian Kellow

The spotlight is finally shone upon one of the greatest film critics of all time, the New Yorker's late Pauline Kael. (Viking, $27.95)

"The Promise: President Obama, Year One" by Jonathan Alter

The always-enlightening journalist Alter outdoes himself with this book. Based on more than 200 interviews with Obama insiders, Alter has shaped an insightful examination of our current President's political strides and strife since his days on the campaign trail. (Simon & Schuster, $16)

"Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War" by Deb Olin Unferth

Parents of college-aged women: you may want to read this with a grain of salt. As a freshman in 1987, Unferth dropped out of school to join her boyfriend on a quest for revolution in El Salvador and Nicaragua. (Henry Holt, $24)

"The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White" by Daniel J. Sharfstein

Racial passing has never seemed more painful or culturally oppressive than in this notable study of three families who once crossed those lines. Law professor Sharfstein dynamically portrays the risks these families took over the years. (Penguin Press, $27.95)

— Assistance in creating this list was provided by Kristin Kloberdanz