In the December issue of The Atlantic, literary editor Benjamin Schwarz named his picks for the top five books of the year. Here, he lists five more that almost made the cut.
A Man of Parts: A Novel
by David Lodge
Ths novel is as scintillating, engaging, and multidimensional as the man whose life and character it faithfully animates. At a time when writers had influence, H. G. Wells was among the most influential--and prolific. Lodge neatly shifts between narrative and probing interview, to reveal the intersections of writer, thinker, and man. Wells wrote a lot of schlock--the ideas (fuzzy as they often were), and sometimes the money, being more important to him than the prose--but he also had literary ambitions, and Lodge, unsurprisingly, provides compelling descriptions of a writer struggling to produce his best work. Ultimately, this novel's sensitive and lively examination of its protagonist's relationships with women--his appreciation of their charms, his responses to their needs and personalities, the social and emotional difficulties in which his love for them embroils him--is what really fleshes out (so to speak) his attractive character.
Letters of Rosa Luxemburg
by Rosa Luxemburg; Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza (editors)
From the many Marxists who took issue with Lenin, there proceeded a number of works of a high order of seriousness, and failing to scrutinize them would severely limit one's knowledge of modern history. To me, the most brilliant--and the most engaging--of these Marxist intellectuals was Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish-born Jew who was the most charismatic figure in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Slightly lamed since childhood, married only to gain the formalities of citizenship, and famous for the scornfulness of her polemics, Luxemburg was easy to portray as a thwarted and unfeminine personage. But her correspondence shows her to have been an active and ardent lover, as well as a woman constantly distracted from politics by her humanism and her love for nature and literature.