Sunday, December 2, 2007

Best Books and Holiday Books

Several newspapers are featuring "Holiday Books" and lists of the best books of 2007. Here are selected titles from the lists:

Holiday Books

New York Times

The Times (London)

Best Books

Washington Post

History selections include:

American Creation, by Joseph J. Ellis (Knopf). Gives the founders their full due but insists that they made serious mistakes. - Jonathan Yardley
Dry Manhattan, by Michael A. Lerner (Harvard). Exceptionally interesting. Lerner accurately observes that Prohibition was the most ambitious attempt to legislate morality and personal behavior in the history of the modern United States. - JY
Legacy of Ashes, by Tim Weiner (Doubleday). He paints a devastating portrait of the CIA as an agency run, during the height of its power, by Ivy League incompetents. Must reading. - David Wise
Medical Apartheid, by Harriet A. Washington (Doubleday). The Tuskegee Syphilis Study remains an ignominious milestone in the intertwined histories of race and medical science in U.S. society. A courageous and poignant book. - Alondra Nelson
Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds, by Gregory Rodriguez (Pantheon). A fascinating excursion through the history of Mexican immigrants in the United States. - Pamela Constable
The Most Noble Adventure, by Greg Behrman (Free). Meticulously researched. Behrman vividly describes many of the larger-than-life individuals who converged to design and execute the Marshall Plan. - Moises Naim
Nixon and Mao, by Margaret MacMillan (RH). MacMillan, who has availed herself of some valuable new interviews, narrates the history beautifully. - Orville Schell
Paris, by Andrew Hussey (Bloomsbury). A breathless race across more than 2,000 years of massacres, revolutions, insurrections, riots, wars, beheadings, plagues and poverty. The rat's-eye view. - Molly Moore
The Road to Disunion, by William W. Freehling (Oxford). The second and concluding volume of Freehling's splendid, painstaking account of the setting of the stage for the Civil War. - Jon Meacham
Sacco & Vanzetti, by Bruce Watson (Viking). The literature of the case is vast, but surprisingly little of it provides as balanced and unemotional a survey as this volume does. - JY
Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution, by Woody Holton (Hill & Wang). This lively, provocative book disputes the idea that the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to protect civil liberties. They wanted, he says, to make the United States more attractive to investors. - Pauline Maier
West from Appomattox, by Heather Cox Richardson (Yale). Argues that the years after the Civil War saw nothing less than the reconstruction of America, a recasting of the relationship between the government and the people. Engaging and reveals much that is fresh. - Edward L. Ayers
What Hath God Wrought, by Daniel Walker Howe (Oxford). The period between the end of the War of 1812 and the Mexican American War in 1848 is one of the most important in American history. Howe brings an impressive array of strengths to the daunting task of encapsulating these decades in a single volume. - JY

New York Times ("notable" books)

The list includes:

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE: A Life. By Hugh Brogan. (Yale University, $35.) Brogan’s combative biography takes issue with Tocqueville’s misgivings about democracy.
AMERICAN CREATION: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. By Joseph J. Ellis. (Knopf, $26.95.) This history explores an underappreciated point: that this country was constructed to foster arguments, not to settle them.
ARSENALS OF FOLLY: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race. By Richard Rhodes. (Knopf, $28.95.) This artful history focuses on the events leading up to the pivotal 1986 Reykjavik summit meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev.
DRIVEN OUT: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. By Jean Pfaelzer. (Random House, $27.95.) How the Chinese were brutalized and demonized in the 19th-century American West — and how they fought back.
LEGACY OF ASHES: The History of the CIA. By Tim Weiner. (Doubleday, $27.95.) A comprehensive chronicle of the American intelligence agency, from the days of the Iron Curtain to Iraq, by a reporter for The New York Times.
THE NINE: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. By Jeffrey Toobin. (Doubleday, $27.95.) An erudite outsider’s account of the cloistered court’s inner workings.

Boston Globe

Nonfiction books include:

Legacy of Ashes By Tim Weiner
Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution By Woody Holton
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