At the end of each year, Newsday asks a few of its regular reviewers for a short comment listing some of their favorite recent books.
The resulting piece -- which ran a week ago, on December 30 -- will probably not be available online for all that long. And so
Here's my bit:
It's not that David Michaelis'"Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography" (Harper) is a flawless book. While reading it, I took my mental blue pencil to the repetitious bits. And I can well believe the complaints of some who knew the cartoonist that Michaelis' portrait underplays his more relaxed and amiable side. Even so, "Schulz and Peanuts" is an absorbing biography of one of the great figures in the history of American pop culture. I found myself thinking about it for weeks after reading it. You can never look at the strip the same way again.
Nor will you see the daily news in quite the same light after reading Tim Weiner's"Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA" (Doubleday). Weiner's account of six decades in the life of the American intelligence community is both riveting and chilling. Drawing on internal evaluations of activity by "the Company," Weiner traces a history of rather profound incompetence. I put it down with a suspicion that the crew in Langley, Va., heard about the end of communism via CNN.
While of narrower appeal, Julian Bourg's"From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought" (McGill-Queen's University Press) is one of the best and most interesting works of intellectual history I've read in a while. The "events of May" were part of the worldwide upheaval in 1968: an alliance of students and workers came close to overthrowing Charles de Gaulle's government.
Over the following decade, numerous French thinkers moved from invocations of"the Revolution" to discussing human rights and moral responsibility; some undertook a complex and ambiguous return to religion. A few American pundits have written about this development - usually in a vapidly editorializing way. Bourg's account of it is richly researched and stimulating, and deserves a bigger audience than it will probably get.
Always a difficult call to make. It doesn't appear that the picks any of us made tended to overlap. But it's been surprising to find how much these particular books stayed in mind for weeks or months after I read them, so I'll stick by this choice.
Just got one of the copies of The Savage Detectives from the Library of Congress, so with luck I'll soon have some idea what all the shouting is about....
Anybody else have favorites books of 2007 to recommend?
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