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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Fiasco
by Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin Press)
A Pulitzer Prize–winning military correspondent for The Washington Post presents an unpolemical yet blistering account of the planning for and execution of the war in Iraq.

Inside Terrorism
by Bruce Hoffman (Columbia)
A revised and expanded edition of the RAND scholar’s classic work on the evolution and present-day expressions of terrorism, featuring added material on the post-9/11 world. Hoffman predicts that by its very definition, terrorism—political violence carried out with the aim of spreading fear and attracting global notice—has a long future in the fractious, media-saturated twenty-first century.

Enough
by Juan Williams (Crown)
In a book that often reads like a padded reprise of Bill Cosby’s famed cri de coeur at a 2004 NAACP gala, the NPR correspondent raises the alarm about crime, misogyny, and poverty among African Americans. Despite its uninspired execution, Enough conveys genuine outrage and despair.

Watching the World Change
by David Friend (FSG)
A Vanity Fair editor reflects on visual representations of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. Focusing on the week after the attacks, and writing with the distance offered by the lens, Friend creates a cool, critical space for the consideration of tragedy.

Building Red America
by Thomas B. Edsall (Basic)
A longtime Washington Post reporter assesses the distinctive qualities of the current GOP ascendancy. The recent trend toward realignment is unique, he argues, in that it has arisen more as a result of deliberate strategy than through organic historical contingency.

U.S. HISTORY

Blessed Among Nations
by Eric Rauchway (Hill and Wang)
America’s rise to preeminence, the author argues, was the product of a perfect storm of foreign investment, luck, and global instability, and we forget at our peril the fickle nature of such forces. With hegemony comes responsibility, he suggests, responsibility that the U.S. may presently be all too willing to shirk.

There Goes My Everything
by Jason Sokol (Knopf)
A young historian provides a fascinating and remarkably empathetic assessment of how white southerners experienced the civil-rights movement. Sokol’s book offers more evidence (as if more were needed) supporting I. F. Stone’s contention that history is tragedy and not melodrama.

WORLD HISTORY

Democracy in Iran
by Ali Gheissari and Vali Nasr (Oxford)
A book tracing the tradition of democracy in Iran, from the country’s first constitution, in 1906, to the electoral system that survives in spite of the mullahs today. Although the current regime may seem to be growing ever more illiberal, the authors argue, the continued strengthening of Iranian civil society could portend a more democratic future.

The Lost
by Daniel Mendelsohn (HarperCollins)
A New York Review of Books critic recounts his search across three continents for people with knowledge of his relatives who perished in the Holocaust.

Easter 1916
by Charles Townshend (Ivan R. Dee)
This gripping new volume presents a dispassionate and definitive reconstruction of the Easter Rising, painstakingly sifting legend from fact, with the help of, among hundreds of other sources, eyewitness accounts recently released by the Irish government.

The Conquest of Nature
by David Blackbourn (Norton)
A natural history of Germany from the mid-eighteenth century to the present, revealing the extent to which landscape is destiny (but not necessarily in the way the Nazis insisted it was).

BIOGRAPHY

Fortunate Son
by Charles Ponce de Leon (Hill and Wang)
A brief new life of Elvis Presley emphasizes his conservative political values and inability to adjust to changing times (the King’s surface chameleon tendencies notwithstanding).

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek
by Laura Tyson Li (Atlantic Monthly)
The first biography of the Wellesley-educated charmer portrays her as a tragically complex Scarlett O’Hara figure, at once outspoken and submissive, devoutly religious and coldly calculating, triumphantly Chinese and alien to her compatriots.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE

The Perfect $100,000 House
by Karrie Jacobs (Viking)
The founding editor of Dwell magazine embarks on an epic and moderately successful cross-country search for a reasonably priced home. Although Jacobs’s journey is a cheerful one, it also reveals the inescapably darker truth that affordable comfort is remarkably hard to come by in the candy store of American consumption.

Service and Style
by Jan Whitaker (St. Martin’s)
A cultural history of (and wistful elegy for) the American department store and the sunnily paternalistic function it served in teaching the middle class how to recognize and outfit itself.

Natural Selection
by Gary Giddins (Oxford)
A wide-ranging collection of essays on music, film, and books from the celebrated Village Voice jazz critic (and Bing Crosby biographer).

Bitchfest
edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler (FSG)
A tenth-anniversary greatest-hits anthology from the pages of Bitch, the leading post-postfeminist culture-crit ’zine. Topics under discussion include television, sexuality, parenting, and the conversational utility of the word like.

The Essential Chaplin
edited by Richard Schickel (Ivan R. Dee)
Introducing this new anthology, Schickel makes the case for the “kinetic genius” of the Little Tramp, recognizing Chaplin as the performer who made cinema intellectually respectable (even if his own efforts at high-mindedness often fell flat). Winston Churchill, Graham Greene, Theodor Adorno, and others offer their assessments as well.

RELIGION

The New Faces of Christianity
by Philip Jenkins (Oxford)
A leading religious scholar examines Christianity as it is experienced in the global South. Fundamentalist as many of these believers’ biblical interpretations may be, Jenkins observes, they also contain a liberating ecstasy absent from the faith as practiced in the North.

A History of the End of the World
by Jonathan Kirsch (HarperSanFrancisco)
A close reading of the book of Revelation, from its authorship to its various afterlives. Ultimately it’s hard to say which perpetual belief is more surprising: that the end is imminent or that salvation is just around the corner.

SPORTS

Baseball
by George Vecsey (Modern Library)
A brief, conversational history by a veteran New York Times sportswriter. Although the aromas of Cracker Jack and cut grass hang heavy over the proceedings, Vecsey stops just short of intolerable sentimentality and convincingly portrays the game’s reliable monotony as a source of constancy and national comfort.

NOVELS and SHORT STORIES

The Return of the Player
by Michael Tolkin (Grove)
The continuing adventures of Griffin Mill, murderous protagonist of The Player, here concerned mainly with midlife career change, private-school admissions, and an exhausting love triangle. The book also features a winning cameo by one William Jefferson Clinton.

The Last Town on Earth
by Thomas Mullen (Random House)
In 1918, a small Washington logging town quarantines itself against the influenza outbreak raging outside. (Yes, one of the epigraphs is from The Plague.) Haunted by a distant war and an acute fear of outsiders, the plot is clearly meant to echo the present.

Rise and Shine
by Anna Quindlen (Random House)
Two sisters—one an unassuming social worker, the other a high-powered morning-show anchor—have their daily routines upended after the latter accidentally works blue on the air.

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs
by Irvine Welsh (Norton)
The new novel from the man behind Trainspotting finds a debased Edinburgh restaurant inspector searching for his long-lost father and engaged in mortal combat with a workplace rival.

The Slow Moon
by Elizabeth Cox (Random House)
A small Tennessee town is racked with suspicion and intrigue after the vicious beating of a teenage girl. Secrets, it is revealed, have a way of disclosing themselves against the will of their keepers.

Coronado
by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow)
A new collection of stories from the author of Mystic River.

MYSTERY and SUSPENSE

The Afghan
by Frederick Forsyth (Putnam)
A British special-forces operative tries to infiltrate al-Qaeda in order to avert a terrorist attack of 9/11-like scale.

The Interpretation of Murder
by Jed Rubenfeld (Holt)
Sigmund Freud tours New York in 1909 and turns his analytical powers to solving high-society crimes. Although the plot is fictional, the author, a Yale law professor, drew extensively on Freud’s letters and published works in writing his dialogue.

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