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Life in all its mad glory: We pick the year’s best non-fiction

Meet Me In The Bathroom

by Lizzy Goodman (Faber)

Drawn from some 2,000 hours of conversations with more than 150 interviewees such as The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem, Goodman’s breezeblock oral history recalls the internecine squabbles of the indie-rock scene that briefly flared in post-9/11 New York before download culture and turbo-charged gentrification took hold. Clearly a great listener, she weaves bitchy testimony into an addictive patchwork of gossip, including an unlikely cameo from Britney Spears.

Touched By God

by Diego Maradona (Constable)

Arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Maradona won his journeyman Argentina side the 1986 World Cup with genius and cunning. Subtitled How We Won the Mexico’ 86 World Cup, this brings the unlikely story back to life — Hand of God and all — reopening countless grudges (against teammates as well as opponents), while pouring scorn on the game’s governing body, Fifa, which seems deliciously hypocritical if you saw him trussed-up in his tux and making the draw for next year’s World Cup in Russia. But that’s Maradona.


by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Harvill Secker)

Knausgaard made his name with My Struggle, a multi-part memoir-novel cut so close to the bone that his family shunned him. More gentle, Winter is the second in a seasonal quartet explaining the world to his fourth child while she’s still in the womb. A series of mini-essays riffing on whatever comes to mind – from atoms to the 1970s and the joy of dressing up as Father Christmas — it sounds mad, and often is, but it’s also sweet, funny and brimful of wide-eyed seasonal wonder.

A Ringside Affair

by James Lawton (Bloomsbury)

This access-all-areas chronicle of late 20th-century boxing doubles as a grizzled sportswriter’s memoir of learning his trade in a transitional era when fiercely charismatic showman Muhammad Ali gave way to new idols such as Panamanian bruiser Roberto Durán. The latter was so fearsome that he looked like he came from ‘a separate planet devoted exclusively to waging war’ — just one of many eye-catching turns of phrase in these zesty tales of the fights that electrified venues from Las Vegas to Tokyo.


by Robert Peston (Hodder)

From 2008’s Who Runs Britain? to the post-crash tome How Do We Fix This Mess?, the sense of rising panic in Robert Peston’s book titles tells its own story about the state of the nation. The bluntly named WTF? sees ITV’s political editor (he of the eccentric sing-song delivery) make a heartfelt bid to grasp why the country voted for Brexit in June, in an unbuttoned and vitally even-handed analysis that takes in everything from the decline of social mobility to the tyranny of social media.

The Rub Of Time

by Martin Amis (Cape)

Ignore the odd spot of jaw-dropping pomposity and this showcase of some 30 years of journalism reminds us that the bad boy of English fiction has always been a versatile reporter, unafraid to turn his hand to anything, from venturing behind the scenes at a porn shoot in Malibu to chancing his arm at the World Poker Championships or mixing with homicidal street gangs in a dispatch from mid-2000s Colombia.


by Elisabeth Åsbrink (Scribe)

From Sweden comes this globe-trotting factual narrative tracing the poisonous fallout from World War II with novelistic flair. With a reporter’s nose for detail and a crime writer’s sense of pace, Åsbrink’s account revisits contemporary hotspots from post-Raj India to British-ruled Palestine while tracking a star-studded cast including George Orwell (at work on Nineteen Eighty-Four) and Billie Holiday, arrested on drugs charges in New York.