'Ghost Story' by Jim Butcher

For the first 12 addictive installments, Butcher's modern-day wizard-detective Harry Dresden sleuthed, slayed, and satirized pretty much the entire pantheon of nightmare creatures, occasionally while riding a zombie dinosaur. Now he's dead, but he hasn't quit his day job. This oddball in the series is the best in a while, preserving (no embalming fluid necessary) Harry's appeal for cross-genre fans and newcomers alike. -- David Katzmaier
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'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline

The much-discussed debut novel by Ernest Cline takes place within the labyrinthine constructs of an online game filled with 1980s pop culture and references. The weird worlds and mysteries that unfold will satisfy modern-day cyberpunks or your family retro-fetishist equally well, but this is a particularly good pick for gamers raised on Atari, Nintendo, and Sega. -- Scott Stein
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'Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change' by Nick Cooney

Whatever social condition you're trying to improve, it all starts with understanding people's minds, needs, fears, and comforts. Nick Cooney has assembled a very useful survey of the research that has been done to explain how we come to--and cling to--our positions. And throughout, he keeps perspective on the fact that attitudes are not changed wholesale, but by winning the mind of one person at a time. -- Brian Cooley
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'Deadline' by Mira Grant

The zombie apocalypse of 2014 has come and gone and--for the most part--humanity is over it. Mira Grant's Newsflesh series takes place 20 years after the "Rising" in a high-tech world where people cope daily with the threat of joining the walking dead, an army of zombie-chasing bloggers and vloggers have supplanted traditional network media as the primary news outlets, and the CDC is the most powerful organization in the land. "Deadline," the second book in the trilogy, follows the exploits of Shaun Mason and his team of bloggers as they poke dead things with sticks and uncover a conspiracy or two along the way. -- Antuan Goodwin
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'Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens'

It may end up being his final work, but this collection of essays and criticism by Christopher Hitchens is at least a fitting coda to a long career spent sparring with those at both ends of the political spectrum. Unlike more-explosive political and cultural writers, Hitch first attempts to win you over with logic and reason, and if that doesn't work, cutting sarcasm and more than a few vicious, if factual, putdowns. With a wealth of historical, philosophical, and literary references, he's the leading force in anti-anti-intellectualism, even if that means you'll need to flip over to Wikipedia occasionally for context. -- Dan Ackerman
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'Steve Jobs' by Walter Isaacson

Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs provides one of the most fascinating looks at the late Apple co-founder yet, if only for the fact that Jobs came to Isaacson looking to tell his story. What followed was Isaacson getting two years worth of interviews with Jobs, friends, colleagues, and rivals. Apple fans will have plenty to chew on in this story, which represents one of the most complete retellings of Jobs' life and career to date. --Josh Lowensohn
Disclosure: "Steve Jobs" is published by Simon & Schuster, which, like CNET, is owned by CBS.
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'A Dance with Dragons' by George R.R. Martin

Ignore the one-star haters at Amazon. HBO "Game of Thrones" converts will be richly rewarded for sticking to Martin's 1.7-million-word series through this fifth installment, and archaisms like "hippocras" make the e-book version's easy dictionary access indispensable. As Jojen says to Bran: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." -- David Katzmaier
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'Zombie Spaceship Wasteland' by Patton Oswalt

Comedian Patton Oswalt's twisted and hilarious look back at nerd youth and his early years in stand-up. It's a short read, broken into essays that range from the joys of Dungeons & Dragons to a unified theory of bad teen fiction. The book's trajectory is a bit disjointed, and its subject matter will alienate anyone who isn't fluent in sarcasm or spent their formative years as a nerd in the '80s. If that sounds right up your alley, though, it's a fun, short read that you can dabble in without fear of losing a plot thread or keeping track of characters. -- Donald Bell
Disclosure: "Zombie Spaceship Wasteland" is published by Simon & Schuster, which, like CNET, is owned by CBS.
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'The Wise Man's Fear' by Patrick Rothfuss

Warrior-mage-bard-turned-barkeep Kvothe recounts the second riveting part of his rise into legend. His humorous, pitch-perfect voice provides a first-person glimpse into Rothfuss' tantalizing new world, and every detail, from Kvothe's stardom at the academy--Hogwarts, this is not--to wooing a Fae seductress to his training with the sword-monk Adem, will leave fantasy readers wanting more. -- David Katzmaier
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'Reamde' by Neal Stephenson

Geek lit doesn't get any finer or longer than the latest works of Mr. Stephenson; he's averaging 1,000 pages per novel, so your dollar-per-word value's high. Fans of his earlier work will be even more thrilled: this modern-day thriller about online games, gold farming, and global markets feels like Snow Crash laced with Cryptonomicon. Reamde is Stephenson's loosest, most action-packed fiction in years, and a fascinating snapshot of the weird modern-day future we already live in. -- Scott Stein
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