David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (Dover, $3.50). This is Dickens at his funniest and most soulful, and the genius of the minor characters (Micawber, Uriah Heep, Peggoty, Betsey Trotwood) is both a dazzling pleasure and completely intimidating, if you've ever had any desire to write fiction.

Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris (Penguin, $17). Harris' brilliantly researched study of the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1968, following a pivotal year in Hollywood history, is my favorite book about cinema. It's enormous fun to read but also extremely accomplished: Harris understands the collaborative and random nature of the business better than anyone else I've come across.

Father and Son by Edmund Gosse (Oxford, $15). A misery memoir, perhaps the first, about the author's coming-of-age in a strict evangelical Victorian household. Father and Son is perceptive, wise, occasionally comic, and heartbreaking — even if Gosse is now believed by biographers to have stretched the truth a bit.

What Good Are the Arts? by John Carey (Oxford, $18). A brilliant and important little book — by an Oxford English professor, no less — about taste, high culture, objective artistic worth, and the absurd arguments made to prop the whole teetering edifice up. Carey has an extraordinary mind, and a wicked wit, and it's hard to read this book and end up feeling the same about what you value and why.

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Scribner, $17). Random Family follows two young Bronx, N.Y., women as they struggle over a decade with men, kids, drugs, poverty, and, very occasionally, money. It's an astonishing, and astonishingly patient, piece of reportage; it's also an important book about contemporary America, and it grips like a thriller.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Ecco, $26). Fountain's achingly sympathetic, funny, and imaginative novel is a book about Iraq and the soldiers fighting there, and it's set almost entirely within a Texas football stadium. It's the best novel I've read this year.

— Nick Hornby is a British novelist, essayist, and screenwriter best known for his novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, and Fever Pitch.