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A dozen nonfiction books that mattered in 2005

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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

By Malcolm Gladwell

Little, Brown, $25.95, 288p

About: How humans make snap decisions --- all the way from why we vote for the face instead of the brain to the police killing of unarmed man Amadou Diallo --- and how we can make those decisions better. Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story

By Kurt Eichenwald

Broadway, $26, 768p

About: Highly readable account of how Enron managed to hide billions of dollars in debt until the company finally collapsed under the weight of its own venality. Comes down hard on CFO Andy Fastow but goes light on Chairman Ken Lay. Fastow's in the slammer but will testify at Lay's trial next month. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Morrow, $25.95, 256p

About: Fascinating and unexpected, concludes that the legalization of abortion in the 1970s led to the decline in the crime rate in the 1990s; explains why real estate agents don't try to get the best price for your house; shows why street-level dope dealers have to live with their moms. Mark Twain: A Life

By Ron Powers

Free Press, $35, 722p

About: The man whom Powers calls the "nation's first rock star," a temporarily wealthy, globetrotting luminary who came to be "the representative figure of his nation and his century." Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion

By Bruce Feiler

William Morrow, $26.95, 416p

About: The third book of Feiler's Old Testament exploration. But he doesn't just write about the Bible. He goes to where the Bible was written. This trip is based on the second half of the Hebrew Old Testament. Mao: The Unknown Story

By Jung Chang, Jon Halliday

Knopf, $35, 832p

About: The first sentence sets the tone for the next 831 pages: "Mao Tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one quarter of the world's population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader." Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis

By Jimmy Carter

Simon & Schuster, $25, 224p

About: The prolific and pacific Carter turns to morality and politics and delivers a best seller. Booklist says the book will confirm the views of those who lionize Carter for his many good works, and of those who find him to be "a naive, presumptuous meddler." The FairTax Book: Saying Goodbye to the Income Tax and the IRS

By Neal Boortz and John Linder

Regan, $24.95, 208p

About: The WSB ranter and the Georgia congressman deliver a seductive plan for ending income taxes (and the IRS) and creating a nationwide sales tax. My War: Killing Time in Iraq

By Colby Buzzell

Putnam, $25.95, 358p

About: Relentlessly profane and utterly believable. A young slacker in California joins the Army, having few other choices, and goes to war in Mosul, Iraq. He becomes a machine gunner who names his weapon "Rosebud," after the sled in "Citizen Kane" and begins writing a Weblog that the Army can't quite control. Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

By Joshua Wolf Shenk

Houghton Mifflin, $25, 350p

About: Clinical depression may be driving millions of Americans to the pharmacy, but Lincoln's case drove him to become one of our best presidents. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

By Thomas L. Friedman

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.50, 496p

About: The Times columnist, a three-time Pulitzer winner, believes technology has flattened the world and that economic globalization is the most potent force in the world today. 1776

By David McCullough

Simon & Schuster, $32, 400p

About: Two-time Pulitzer winner focuses on George Washington and King George III in his account of the year of American independence. "First-rate historical account, which should appeal to both scholars and general readers," says Booklist.

Copyright 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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