I went through all the nonfiction I read in 2011, and the books below are the volumes I enjoyed the most; they cover a range of topics.
London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis, by Jonathan Schneer, is pretty much what it says on the cover – it gives a detailed picture of the different ways British imperialism affected and interacted with London in 1900. I particularly liked chapters which gave me a lot of good information on anti-imperialists of the period.
The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes, Joan Silber is a book I will probably read more than once. Possibly several times. It’s short, but crammed with concepts and new ways to think about writing.
Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progression, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative, by James Phelan, is probably not for everyone, but I was delighted with its theoretical density, and am still mulling over its implications for my own writing. This is another book that I will have to read again, so I can deepen my understanding of what Phelan is saying.
Finally, Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England, by Judith Flanders, is perhaps the most useful book I’ve read yet on everyday life in the English Victorian household, and I highly recommend it both for general interest and for writers interested in setting fiction during that period. The book’s bibliography is even more valuable!