The best non-fiction of 2012

Selected by the WSJ’s editors:

The Astaires
By Kathleen Riley (Oxford)

Fred Astaire was our most elegant film star. But he danced in the shadow of a partner, his glamorous sister, Adele, until she retired from the stage in 1932 and he headed off to Hollywood. Kathleen Riley chronicles this sibling non- rivalry and gives us a broad portrait of a very American art form, the Broadway and Hollywood musical. “A salute to an America at ease with itself,” our reviewer called it. This is cultural biography at its best.

The Signal and the Noise
By Nate Silver (Penguin Press)

Numbers don’t, in fact, speak for themselves. Much has been made of Nate Silver’s electoral predictions. But his impressive book explores the principles of prognostication in fields from sports and politics to Wall Street and the weather. His “breezy style makes even the most difficult statistical material accessible,” our reviewer said, as Mr. Silver gently reveals how too often we color data with our hopes and biases.

All of them are available on Kindle, too.


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