Astonishing Splashes of Colour
This first novel gives a whole new meaning to the trite expression
“dysfunctional family,” showing that among a vivid array of
peculiar and selfish individuals (whose problems can verge
on the psychotic), an unexpected degree of caring and decency
emerges pretty much all the time.
2. The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme
Andrei Makine returns yet again to the Siberia of post-World
War II Russia, where his protagonist, an orphan in a ghastly
prison/school for the children of political criminals, learns
about a brief, dazzling love affair between a Frenchwoman
and a Russian pilot during the siege of Stalingrad. Three
time periods converge—the inconceivably violent war, the grungy
postwar school, and the narrator’s adult life as a pilot in
the Arctic—all brilliantly conceived in 216 pages.
3. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
This first collection of short stories explores what can only
be called the cross-cultural experience of various Chinese
people, young and old, who are trying to make sense of the
utterly changed social and economic landscape of their present.
4. The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe
In this spare memoir of her 23rd year, Paula Fox came face
to face with struggling survivors of World War II as they
tried to maintain life in a blasted postwar landscape locked
in one of the coldest winters on record, yet had something
of the traditional trip abroad, for her year there showed
her “something beyond my own life, freeing me from chains
I hadn’t know were holding me, showing me something other
White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America
In this life of William Johnson, an Irishman who suppressed
his Catholic background in order to advance in England’s Protestant
empire, the complete success of his association with the Iroquois
tribes tipped the balance in upstate New York during the conflict
between the French and the English in northern America.
6. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist
Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade
Pietra Rivoli takes readers on a breathtaking, informative
ride through the complexities of contemporary global economics,
using nothing but a $6 T-shirt purchased in a Florida drugstore.
7. The Year of Magical Thinking
The author examines the first year following the death of
her beloved husband, including the pain and disorientation
that many have suffered, but few have such talent to express.
8. Wormwood Forest
The author celebrates the strange, fantastic resurrection
that has taken place in the land contaminated by the explosion
and meltdown of the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear power
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
Tom Standage describes how six drinks have both characterized
and determined the nature of history in the periods when they
predominated: beer, wine, hard alcohol, coffee, tea, and Coke.
10. Saving Troy: A Year with Firefighters and Paramedics
in a Battered City
This beautifully structured book captures the ongoing heroism
of everyday firefighters and EMTs—the perpetual pressure,
the drama, the revulsion, the humor, the bravery, and the
never-ending press of impossible calls.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side
Levitt and Stephen Dubner
morality represents how we would like the world to work, then
economics represents how it actually does work,” says this
book, and it dramatizes that premise in a number of very entertaining
2. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First
You may have noticed, as Friedman has, that we live in a global
economy, that wages in Schenectady are effected by wages in
Jakarta, and that most of what you buy in Wal-Mart is made
in China. While this isn’t news, it’s certainly important
and Friedman does a good journalistic job of surveying the
global economy, showing its interconnectedness and noting
its effects on governments, corporations and individuals.
3. China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges
America and the World
Ted C. Fishman
No nation has ever moved so swiftly and so massively toward
global economic hegemony as China. China is booming. There
are more Chinese who speak English as a second language than
there are native English speakers in the United States, and
it’s projected that over the next 15 years China will have
to construct an urban infrastructure equivalent to that of
Houston every month.
4. Why Europe Will Run the Twenty-first Century
Worried readers looking for a balance to China may be encouraged
by Mark Leonard’s little book. It’s a concise work, and not
everyone will think it a counterweight in intellectual heft
to Fishman’s tome.
5. Class Matters
Correspondents of The New York Times
Originally appearing as a series in the Times, this
work illustrates the class bias in our so-called classless
society by focusing on the lives of real New Yorkers. It’s
not a secret that class matters, but it’s instructive to see,
for example, what a heart attack does to two people who have
great differences in money, education and social standing.
Moral: get rich as soon as you can.
6. The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes
of the Twenty-First Century
The scarcity of fuel and the effects of climate change are
only two of the many catastrophes that are coming together
to change for the worse the way we live, or so says Kunstler,
an apocalyptic writer who makes Malthus look like a starry-eyed
7. The 9/11 Commission Report
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
This report offers an overwhelming wealth of information,
and not just dull data but dramatic stories as well. There
are heroes in this terrifying tale, but even a scattered reading
in this long and detailed work leaves the reader with a sense
of utter tragedy.
8. The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq
In this work, the hawkish liberal Packer reports on the bureaucratic
maneuvers that led up to the invasion of Iraq and shows the
horrific consequences of this optional war and its horribly
bungled aftermath. His is a dramatic and personal account;
it’s a best seller and deservedly so.
9. The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the
Award-winning journalist Fisk has produced 1,000-plus pages
and included all the historical breadth and depth you can
ask for. An Olympian look into what’s going on in our world.
10. See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in
the CIA’s War on Terrorism
This book was published three years ago, but it’s here because
it’s the basis for this year’s great political movie Syriana.
The movie is fiction, a thriller involving the global oil
industry from Washington, D.C., to the fields of the Persian
Gulf, the upper-level maneuvering for wealth and power, and
the consequences. The book is nonfiction.