Even in a year that saw the release of a blockbuster work of nonfiction about blockbusters called 'Blockbusters,' many of the best books were small enough in scope to hide their ambition. As George Saunders continued to play cutman for the American short story, two English journalists journeyed across continents in an attempt to map alcohol's role in culture and an ex-NFL tight end pulled back the curtain on life in the locker room. The world of men was scratched across book after book. These are the ones you need to read.
By Wil S. Hylton
Of the 83,000 American troops missing in action over the past 100 years, an astonishing 73,000 were lost during World War II. Eleven of those soldiers are the focus of 'Vanished,' journalist Wil S. Hylton's dramatic chronicle of a B-24 brought down by Japanese fire near the South Pacific island of Palau in 1944. Hylton alternates chapters about the crew, their hardscrabble backgrounds, and their mission, with sections on the dogged divers, archaeologists, and researchers who joined forces 60 years later to hunt down the aircraft and the servicemen's remains. Each narrative builds to a potent climax – one describing the airmen's final, straight-out-of-a-war-movie battle, the other detailing the awe-inspiring discovery of the massive bomber plane in 2004 – along the way delivering overdue closure for at least some descendants of the greatest generation.