Books and authors are always in the news, grabbing attention by telling stories, trumpeting trends, or offering enthusiastic advice. Sorting through this crowd can be like shopping on the day before Christmas: a madhouse where the items that get the most attention tend to be those that are most heavily marketed. Some books deserve the hype. But lots of good reads never get their well-earned praise. So once again this year, the Globe editorial page offers a necessarily quirky list of new books that caught our eye and fulfilled their promise to inform and delight. Happy holiday reading.
- Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World – Margaret MacMillan
: “I voted for you during your election,” Mao Tse-tung said facetiously at their historic meeting. “I like rightists.”
- Roland Merullo’s “Breakfast with Buddha“
- “Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul“ – Karen Abbott
– Is it ever possible to “uplift” women through prostitution?
- “The Abstinence Teacher” – Tom Perrotta
- “The Uncommon Reader” – Alan Bennett
- Mark Lilla’s “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West“
– examines how Western concepts of God’s place in society evolved over time, spurred by the writings of men like Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Ian McEwan’s “On Chesil Beach“
– Charting a couple’s first night as man and wife
- “The Indian Clerk” – David Leavitt
– true story of G.H. Hardy, a British academic who discovers a self-taught mathematician in Madras
- “The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-occupied Soviet Territories”
– first-person accounts of the Nazi murders of more than 2 million Jews on Soviet territory
- Marvin Bell’s “Mars Being Red“
– collection of poetry
- Lynne Olson “Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England”
- “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes”
– Jokes to illustrate Immanuel Kant’s theory of knowledge
1. The 10 Best Books of 2007 – New York Times2. Books of the year 2007 | Pick of the bunch | Economist.com: “History, politics, music, business, biography, memoir, letters and fiction. There is something for everyone in this round-up of the year’s best books”
3. Review of the Year: Books – Telegraph: “BEST OF 2007: The Letters of Ted Hughes, ed by Christopher Reid (Faber, £30)
Astonishingly vital and generous, thrillingly written, scary, sympathetic, touching, bonkers. High-voltage stuff
WORST OF 2007: The Castle in the Forest, by Norman Mailer (Little, Brown, £9.99 pbk)
Jaw-droppingly bad. A-level Freudianism, the Devil, beekeeping, pederasty, Hitler. Mailer had surely lost his marbles by the time he wrote this. RIP”
4. 100 Notable Books of the Year – 2007 – New York Times
Economics: The Year in Books, 2007 – New York Times: “In my column this week, I call “Overtreated,” by Shannon Brownlee, the book of the year in economics. The column also mentions a few other books from 2007: “The Age of Turbulence,” by Alan Greenspan; “Falling Behind,” by Robert H. Frank; “Supercapitalism,” by Robert Reich; and “The Bottom Billion,” by Paul Collier.”
No. 1 Book, and It Offers Solutions – New York Times
5. The Globalist’s Best Books of 2007 by The Globalist – The Globalist > > Global Briefing:
1. Akbar Ahmed: Journey Into Islam
How were women instrumental to Islam’s development into a major world religion?
2. Jean Pfaelzer: Driven Out
What measures did the U.S. Congress implement against Chinese immigrants in the 19th century?
3. Pankaj Ghemawat: Redefining Global Strategy
Is the world economy as integrated as most people perceive it to be?
4. Paul Collier: The Bottom Billion
How can the world get the planet’s poorest one billion inhabitants on the path toward economic development?
5. Ray Takeyh: Hidden Iran
How was the United Kingdom complicit in undermining Iran’s budding democracy half a century ago?
6. Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Infidel
What makes this outspoken critic of Islam controversial enough to warrant threats to her life?
7. Edward Luce: In Spite of the Gods
What striking truth about India does a British reporter learn from a young Indian boy on a train ride to Delhi?
8. Sasha Issenberg: The Sushi Economy
What does the sushi industry reveal about globalized food culture and commerce?
9. Carl J. Schramm and Robert E. Litan: Good Capitalism Bad Capitalism
How can the United States harness the increasingly competitive global economy to its benefit?
10. Joseph Cirincione: Bomb Scare
How safe is the world from nuclear weapons?
6. Holiday Books: India – Books – Review – New York Times
- Melba Levick’s INDIA SUBLIME: Princely Palace Hotels of Rajasthan (Rizzoli, $65)
- Fredric Roberts’s HUMANITAS II: The People of Gujarat (Hylas Publishing/Abbeville, $60)
- Ketaki Sheth’s BOMBAY MIX: Street Photographs (Dewi Lewis/Sepia International, $45)
- THE MAJESTY OF MUGHAL DECORATION: The Art and Architecture of Islamic India (Thames & Hudson/Norton, $65) – George Michell
- AMRITA SHER-GIL: An Indian Artist Family of the Twentieth Century (Schirmer/Mosel/Prestel, paper, $49.95), by Deepak Ananth
More choices from Elsewhere
- Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
Table of Contents
Part One: The Power to Change Anything
Choose Influence over Serenity
1. You’re an Influencer
A small group of remarkable leaders and scholars has been quietly changing the world by influencing people’s behavior. The skills they use offer everyone the potential to rapidly, dramatically and permanently improve their lives, organizations, and world.
2. Find Vital Behaviors
Big problems succumb to changes in just a few behaviors.
3. Change the Way You Change Minds
Changing behavior requires changing minds. Minds move more with stories and experiences than with facts and arguments.
Part Two: Make Change Inevitable
The Six Sources of Influence
4. Make the Undesirable Desirable:
Overcome reluctance and resistance by connecting to moral imperatives..
5. Surpass Your Limits:
New behavior requires new skills. Over-invest in learning how to master skills and emotions.
6. Harness Peer Pressure:
Enlist leaders, partner with opinion leaders, and become an opinion leader yourself.
7. Never Go It Alone:
Amplify influence through just-in-time teamwork.
8. Design Rewards & Demand Accountability:
Modestly and intelligently reward early successes. Punish only when required.
9. Change the Environment:
Harness the pervasive and invisible power of environment to support new behavior.
10. Become an Influencer
Over-determine success by implementing multiple sources of influence.
Book website: VitalSmarts – Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
- Grub: Elise Blackwell
Amid an assortment of scheming agents, editors, and hangers-on, each writer must negotiate the often competing demands of success and integrity, all while grappling with inner demons and the stabs of professional and personal jealousy. The question that nags at them is this: What is it to write a novel in the twenty-first century?
- Rogues, Writers & Whores: Dining With the Rich & Infamous: Daniel Rogov,Yael Hershberg
To the true gourmet, art means Watteau’s Embarquement pour Cythere, which portrays 18th century courtiers picnicking, and Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, in which one nude and another flimsily dressed woman picnic with two fully-clothed men. Literature means James Joyce’s short story, “The Dead”, the entire tale taking place around a sumptuously set table, and Ernest Hemingway’s lunch at Brasserie Lipp in A Moveable Feast.
Throughout history, numerous famous and infamous men and women have contributed in their sometimes perverted but almost always intriguing ways to the world of gastronomy. The stories of those people, their culinary habits and the dishes either created by them, named after them or cherished by them, are the subject of this book. Kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, chefs and restaurateurs, novelists and composers, generals and courtesans–all have had dishes named after them.
- The Almost Moon: Novel: Alice Sebold
Helen is coming to grips with a parable shared by her father when she was a girl. “I like to think your mother is almost whole,” he said. “So much in life is about almost, not quites.” “Like the moon,” Helen had responded.
The whole moon is always there in front of us, although we cannot always see it in its entirety. Except on those nights when it is full, we can do no more than almost see it. So it is with Life. Our life and the lives of those around us are always there in front of us; however, we seldom see the fullness of Life. We almost see it, then it is gone.
“When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily,” reads the first sentence. “When I was a teenager, I thought every kid spent sweaty summer afternoons in their bedrooms, daydreaming of cutting their mother up into little pieces and mailing them to parts unknown.” As the next twenty-four hours unfold, we see into the murky depths of her relationship with her mother, her father, her ex-husband, and her daughters. There is nothing there to make the reader connect and care about a single one of them, and we never fully understand what drove any of them.
- Mister Pip: Lloyd Jones
SOME novelists write variations of the same book throughout their careers. Then there are writers of feral imagination — such as England’s Jim Crace, Tim Parks and James Hamilton-Paterson — who delight in confounding readers’ expectations: a book about a prehistoric storyteller might be followed by one about a modern office block, a novel about Elgar by a modern Tuscan farce.
New Zealand’s Lloyd Jones belongs to this second group. While all but one of his previous five novels are set in his home country, their topics vary from Stalinism to the tango, small-town tourism and rugby.
Mister Pip’s twists and turns, and use of Dickens’s novel, are ingenious. But it is hard to know what to make of it. So much rests on Jones’s tone, which is deceptively simple but accrues the uneasy ambiguity of Conrad’s stories. On the one hand, Mister Pip seems to be a love song to the enduring power of great writing. On the other, it is as insistent as a cultural studies student about readers’ powers to reinterpret texts. It invites sentiment yet gently mocks readers by exaggerating its own tropical colour. It teases us about the bona fides — and ultimate effect — of Mr Watts.
Mister Pip is a post-colonial fable about reading that is as open-ended as a myth.
- The King of Colored Town: Darryl Wimberley
There are good people and bad on both sides of the tracks that divide Laureate from ‘Colored Town’. Our instruction in that hard truth comes as we follow two African-American teens, Cilla Handsom and Joe Billy King, as they endure the backlash resulting from the integration of their segregated school with the all-white school run by Lafayette County’s all-white school board. The issue of the education of Laureate’s children will expose hatreds on both sides of the color divide. Cilla will emerge from her ordeal carrying scars and grace to become a widely traveled classical musician. Joe Billy will be found hanging from the bars of his cell in a Florida penitentiary. Their moving, intertwined dramas put courage, cowardice, loyalty and betrayal side by side in an eloquent, evocative narrative where the demons and angels of a time and place are portrayed in black and white.