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Holiday Books Guide 2000
National Review approved.


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Edited by Cristopher Rapp, NR associate editor

The holiday season is upon us, and NRO is here to help you decide what to give (and ask for) this year. We asked some of our editors and contributors to come up with their favorite books published in the last year or so. The result is the list of recommendations you see before you. Each title is linked to Amazon.com or another site where the book can be purchased. If you’d like to check out NRO’s list of music suggestions, click here. Happy Holidays!

Recommendations by: Linda Bridges, Richard Brookhiser, John Derbyshire, Jeffrey Hart, Dave Kopel, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Chris McEvoy, John J. Miller, Ramesh Ponnuru, David Pryce-Jones, Cristopher Rapp, Melissa Seckora, John Simon, and Andrew Stuttaford.

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LINDA BRIDGES
NR senior editor
Someone who has never read C. S. Lewis would probably do better to start with The Narnia Chronicles, or The Screwtape Letters, or Mere Christianity, or Surprised by Joy, or Till We Have Faces. But for those who are already fans, a major event is the publication of the first volume of C. S. Lewis: The Collected Letters (Fount, 1068 pp., 25), edited by Lewis’s literary executor, the indefatigable Walter Hooper. (The book will be published in the U.S. sometime next year; last March it was released in the UK — you can get it from AmazonUK right now. Your credit-card company will make the pounds-to-dollars exchange). It is fascinating to watch the young Lewis’s mind and soul develop, starting with the first letter, written when he was seven years old, to his brother who was away at school, and going through 1931, when he was a young don at Oxford. Mr. Hooper has provided just the right amount of footnote and background narrative.

Again for those who are already fans, Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis, by James Como (Spence, 224 pp., $22.95), ingeniously relates Lewis’s life to his work and places him within the various theological and literary traditions he inhabited.

And now for something completely different: Bombers, Bolsheviks, and Bootleggers: A Study in Constitutional Subversion, by Leon Scully (Publius, 464 pp., $29.95). Mr. Scully, a lawyer, was puzzled by the development of the exclusionary rule, which seemed to him plainly contrary to the sense of the Fourth Amendment. He set out on an exploration of its history, and the result is a splendid detective story, with some eye-opening material about the Progressive movement around the turn of the last century.

RICHARD BROOKHISER
NR senior editor and author most recently of Alexander Hamilton, American
I have one recommendation, and it’s an old book — in fact, a way-old, out-of-print book. But I got a copy from Amazon or someplace, and its relevance should be obvious.

The Diary of John Quincy Adams, 1794-1845, Alan Nevins, ed. (Longman Green, first published 1928, price varies). JQA was the other presidential son/president; he also won a nip and tuck election. His prose is bitter and wonderful.

JOHN DERBYSHIRE
NR contributing editor and author of the novel Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream
Stretching “year” back to the fall of 1999, this has been an exceptionally good year for lovers of mathematics. I have read two — count ‘em, two — decent novels about mathematicians: Apostolos Doxiadis’s Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture (Bloomsbury, 208 pp., $19.95) and The Wild Numbers by Philibert Schogt (Four Walls Eight Windows, 160 pp., $18) The first is more fun, more interesting and better written, but I think the second gives a truer impression of what mathematical creativity actually feels like from the inside.

From the nonfiction shelves, Keith Devlin’s Mathematics: The New Golden Age (Columbia, 312 pp., $24.95) is an excellent and bang up-to-date survey of the field for the non-specialist, with some good anecdotes not widely known among laymen. If, for example, you are over 50 and your self-esteem needs a boost, look up “Bieberbach Conjecture” in the index.

More towards the technical end of the spectrum, I strongly recommend the AMS translation of Gérald Tenenbaum and Michel Mendès-France’s little handbook The Prime Numbers and Their Distribution (American Mathematical Society, 112 pp., $17). Here are some very knotty topics — Cramér’s model for the statistical properties of the primes, for example — dealt with briskly and clearly, all in 112 pages. A true gem of scholarly exposition.

Finally, Martin Gardner has published a collection of his columns from Skeptical Inquirer, titled Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? (Norton, 320 pp., $26.95) This is a clear trumpet blast for all sane people to rally in defense of science against pseudo-science. As well as having done more for the wide enjoyment of mathematics than any man alive, Gardner is a fine and subtle writer, a steadfast warrior in the never-ending war of reason against lunacy, and a true American gentleman — in short, a national treasure.

JEFFREY HART
NR senior editor and author of Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe, forthcoming in Oct. 2001 from Yale University Press
1. Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present (HarperCollins, 877 pp., $36)
Mr. Barzun is among the great historians, yet this account of Western civilization since the Renaissance is so well written that it was on the New York Times bestseller list for 14 weeks.

2. Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (Norton, 336 pp., $27.95)
A virtuoso historian and man of letters sums up a lifetime of reflection on the totalitarian temptation.

3. William F. Buckley Jr., Let Us Talk of Many Things (Prima, 544 pp., $30)
Arguably the most influential political writer of the last half-century, Mr. Buckley moves elegantly and astutely through a succession of its major issues and crises.

4. Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1936-1945, Nemesis (Norton, 832 pp., $35)
The second and concluding volume of Mr. Kershaw’s definitive biography of the man who demolished relativism.

5. Lionel Trilling, The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent, ed. by Leon Wieseltier (Farrar, Straus, 576 pp., $35)
Despite a woefully inadequate Introduction by Mr. Wieseltier, who does not understand the address by John Erskine whose title he lifts, it is very good to have easily available these essays by a major literary critic.

6. Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney (Farrar, Straus, 213 pp., $25)
Of all things, the skill of Mr. Heaney turned this Old English epic poem into a bestseller. Who said there is no audience for poetry?

7. Inferno, by Dante Aligheri, translated by Robert Hollander (Doubleday, $35)
Speaking of translations, the new Robert Hollander translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy has so many strengths that it is certain to become the translation for our time. The Inferno now has been published, and the Purgatorio and Paradiso will follow in 2002. The translation itself is lucid and authoritative; the Notes are up-to-date and marvelously informative.

DAVE KOPEL
NRO columnist, research director of the Independence Institute, and author of the forthcoming Anti-Trust After Microsoft, to be published in January by the Heartland Institute
The “Magic Treehouse” series by Mary Pope Osborne is very big for children 5-9 these days. The 22-volume series tells the story of a pair of children who time-travel to various points in the past — to the Civil War, or to when dinosaurs ruled the earth, or to the Middle Ages. Sometimes instead, the characters Jack and Annie go someplace “scientific,” such as the moon. Once you get started with the series, your kids may insist that you buy them all.

More Guns, Less Crime, by John Lott (2d ed., Chicago, 321 pp., $12). One of the very best books ever written about the gun issue. Besides learning why handgun-carry permit laws save lives, you’ll also learn about the mendacity and malice of the gun-prohibition lobby, and many more important facts about firearms policy. Along the way, you also get an amazingly comprehensible and readable introduction to multivariate statistical analysis.

The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America, by Larry Elder (St. Martin’s, 352 pp., $23.95) The black Los Angeles talk-radio host discusses some of the most important things that political correctness forbids you to think about.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country, by Peter McWilliams and Jean Sedillos (Prelude, $9.95) Why America should not have over a million people in prisons and jails for consensual “crimes.” This book was published a few years ago, but it’s worth buying as a memorial to its author, the late Peter McWilliams. McWilliams was arrested by angry Drug Enforcement Agency police who claimed that his book was popular with drug dealers. Prosecuted in federal court for using medical marijuana, McWilliams was not allowed to let the jury know that his marijuana usage was in full conformity with California state law; he needed to use marijuana in order to keep his AIDS medications down. Placed on probation coupled with strict drug-testing for the victimless federal crime of using medicine without federal permission, McWilliams died this summer, choking on his own vomit.

Meditations on Mary, by Kathleen Norris (Viking, 112 pp., $19.99) A great gift book for the Christmas season, or any other season. The text, written by a Protestant woman, suggests that Mary is accessible to people from a wide variety of religious traditions. But the glory of the book is the luminous and numinous illustrations — reproductions of Renaissance and Medieval art detailing Mary’s life.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ
NR associate editor
Reverend James Schall’s Another Sort of Learning is a universal gift — perfect for everyone on anyone’s shopping list, for any occasion. It could easily be titled Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know for this Life and the Next. If the answer is not in Fr. Schall’s book, one of the books he recommends will lead you in the right direction. If you haven’t read Another Sort of Learning and reread it, you are missing a treasure.

But of this year’s fare, anyone who has not read Norman Podhoretz’s My Love Affair with America (Free Press, 248 pp., $25) needs to — especially given this election. Podhoretz will restore your faith in the American experiment.

Other sure-fire winners from this year, which you may never read in one sitting, but will keep digging into again and again include Jacques Barzun’s monumental From Dawn to Decadence (HarperCollins, 877 pp., $36) — a right history of history, and Leon and Amy Kass’s From Wing to Oar (Notre Dame, 652 pp., $25) — a perfect gift for the singles on your list.

If you want to remind your giftees why the junior New York state senator must be stopped, they should read Peggy Noonan’s The Case Against Hillary Clinton (Regan Books, 181 pp., $24). Hillary might have won, but Noonan’s book will provide future historians with a good account of what it was about that pair that should keep them from a return performance in the White House in January ‘05. And, while we’re on the subject of Hillary, Laura Ingraham’s The Hillary Trap (Hyperion, 223 pp., $23.95) is an easy read and a nice reminder of what’s wrong with politics today.

Finally, if, for anyone on your list, the holidays might bring with them the pain of the recent passing of a loved one, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s Death on a Friday Afternoon (Basic, 288 pp., $24) won’t erase the sadness, but it might be a help with prayers and perspective. The First Things editor also edited The Eternal Pity (Notre Dame, 208 pp., $15), a collection of pieces on death and dying — another gift.

CHRIS McEVOY
NRO managing editor
The Book of War, by John Keegan (Penguin, 492 pp., $13.60)
John Keegan’s collection of great war writing is far reaching in its landscapes (from the Peloponnesian War to the Gulf War), and its authors are second to none. Here’s a taste: Julius Caeser on an awkward Roman invasion across British surf; George Orwell on being shot in the neck; Ernest Hemingway on catching mortar fragments with his legs; Ernie Pyle on breaking out of Normandy. And those are the names you know. The ones you don’t — the citizen soldier, the civilian caught in the middle — might impress you more. Recently released in paperback, Keegan’s work is easy carry-around material, and need not be read in any order. Jump around from Agincourt to Flanders to Little Big Horn. You won’t want to stop jumping.

The Battle of New Orleans, by Robert V. Remini (Viking, 226 pp., $19.96)
One test of the quality of a history of war might be how often you reference the maps. If it’s poorly written, of course, you begin by referencing the maps too often, then not at all. But when it’s well written, you rush to check the position of every river and back road as you run through the text. The latter is the case in Robert Remini’s history of the Battle of New Orleans. Where’s that island where the British froze their wet tails off? Where did Andrew Jackson station the privateer Dominique You? Certainly, Remini has plenty of color to work with in this hallmark battle of the War of 1812. In a very concise style, he not only presents that color, but argues that this victory in the bayou was “one of the great defining moments in the history of the republic.” And he has the maps to prove it.

JOHN J. MILLER
NR national political reporter and author of The Unmaking of Americans
1. I was an English major in college because I enjoyed the classics — Shakespeare, Milton, etc. — and believed that reading them would improve my writing. Now I’m a professional writer, and my old professors would probably be horrified to learn that I enjoy a good, smart thriller more than anything else these days. The Shot, by Philip Kerr (Pocket, $24.95), is one of the finest I’ve cracked — up there with The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth and Fatherland by Robert Harris. I was slowly making my through Kerr’s novels before this one came out. He’s marvelously eclectic; I recommend Esau to fans of Michael Crichton, A Five-Year Plan to admirers of Elmore Leonard, and the Berlin Noir trilogy to devotees of Eric Ambler. But The Shot is my favorite Kerr title, with its brilliant twist on the JFK assassination. I won’t give anything away, except to say there’s a whiplash-inducing turn of events around page 125, and then another right at the end. A wonderfully fun book, albeit with a few dumb mistakes about American politics that an American wouldn’t make (Kerr is English). At least they’re incidental. The Shot is an outstanding diversion.

2. My wife and I were bit by the lighthouse bug this year. We’ve enjoyed visiting them for years, but only now are we keeping lists of the ones we’ve seen. They’re ideal travel destinations: scenic, historic, uncrowded. During one stretch this fall, we visited five along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. We encountered other people at only one stop, and even then there were only two of them. I recommend a pair of handy guides. The first is American Lighthouses: A Comprehensive Guide, by Bruce Roberts and Ray Jones (Globe Pequot, 264 pp., $21.95). It hits all the major sites around the country, and includes color photos. But it doesn’t mention every one, so we also carry with us Great Lakes Lighthouses: American and Canadian, by Wes Oleszewski (plus black and white photos by Wayne S. Sapulski).

RAMESH PONNURU
NR senior editor
J. M. Coetzee’s novel Disgrace (Penguin, 224 pp., $13) is set in a South Africa suffering from the wounds of apartheid and the wounds of post-apartheid. The prose is both elegant and, in its extreme spareness, brutal. The main character is an academic, and the novel touches on divisions of race, sex, age, and even species; yet it is never tiresome, which makes it something of a miracle. Coetzee’s disorienting style is perhaps appropriate for what amounts to a fable without a moral.

The subtitle of David Frum’s How We Got Here (Basic, 224 pp., $25) announces that the 1970s were “The Decade That Brought You Modern Life — for Better or Worse.” It is not so much a history of the Seventies as a history of postwar America that pivots on the period roughly between 1969 and 1982. The book therefore revises the received view of the importance of “the Sixties.” But it is also an arrow against nostalgia for what preceded it. Frum argues that “the middle decades of the twentieth century were an entirely anomalous period in American history,” its institutions and mores formed by “war and the preparation for war.” In the long Seventies, we Americans began to reassert our essential unruliness — with effects that Frum, a conservative, finds wholesome in politics and economics and troublesome in morals. Frum tells his story in short, zippy (but well-researched) chapters that bring his acute intellect to bear on everything from the depiction of children in movies to the hyperactivity of courts. Almost all of his judgments are persuasive.

I reviewed Kay Redfield Jamison’s Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide (Vintage, 448 pp., $14) for NR. It is not, I’ll admit, everyone’s idea of a stocking stuffer. But it is a well-written treatment of a subject that, as Jamison convincingly argues, gets less attention than it deserves. It is also very informative. It turns out, for instance, that suicide rates do not increase around Thanksgiving or Christmas or, for that matter, in winter, which is the season in which rates actually hit a trough.

Richard John Neuhaus, the editor of First Things, is shockingly prolific. Anyone who writes about his “latest book” runs the risk of seeing his words become outdated as quickly as a dispatch about the election wrangling in Florida. The latest book of his that I’ve read is Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross (Basic, 288 pp., $24). The book is invaluable for a beginning Christian such as myself, but I imagine that lifelong Christians who read it will gain a new understanding of atonement, “the fall,” Mary, and the reason the day of crucifixion is called “Good.” Among the highlights of the book is Father Neuhaus’s explanation of why he thinks we must hope (not expect) that all will be saved. It’s a book well worth reading — and rereading.

The New Yorker Book of Political Cartoons (Bloomberg, 128 pp., $21.95) is relief from a dreary day. Two of my favorites: a Frank Cotham drawing of two guys at a bar, one of them grumbling, “My alcohol intake has more than doubled over the last four years, and the President has done precious little to prevent it.” And one by Jack Ziegler. A pig in a suit, hands folded on the table, is testifying before Congress: “Your constant cries to cut the pork sadden me, Senator.” All this, and an introduction by Christopher Buckley.

DAVID PRYCE-JONES
NR senior editor
Two books by Roger Kimball in one year is a special cause for rejoicing. He is a marvelously clear expositor of writers and ideas. His The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (Encounter, 326 pp., $23.95) picks out some of the more prominent wreckers — Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag, Robert Reich, The New York Review of Books — who since the Sixties have been busily degrading social and cultural life, reversing the morals and manners of the past in the name of one or another misconceived “revolution.”

Experiments Against Reality (Ivan R. Dee, 352 pp., $28.50) continues the good work. A critic, Desmond MacCarthy once wrote, should be like a coral insect, “building the reef that protects the lagoon of literature from the restless sea of nonsense and confusion.” Kimball’s reef is built with intelligence, learning and a wit which surmounts the gloom his theme inspires. In spite of appearances, these books proclaim, We Shall Overcome.

Anybody who wants to know what it was like to live in Hitler’s Germany has only to read the diaries which Victor Klemperer kept of the entire period, I Will Bear Witness. His second volume covers 1942 to 1945. In many ways he was unlikeable, impossible, considering himself more German than Jewish, doing his utmost to believe that the Germans couldn’t really be anti-Semites at heart. Eva, his wife, a Catholic, seems to have been a hysteric by nature. Klemperer describes the step-by-step persecution to which the couple had to submit. Here is Nazism in action. Against all probability, they survived, even when caught in the bombing of Dresden. The detail is unforgettable, the testimony unique.

Another historic document of almost equal value is Inside Stalin’s Russia (Day, 320 pp., $19.95) the diary which Reader Bullard kept of his time as British consul in Leningrad from 1930 to 1934. He observed with human pity the poverty-stricken and murderous life that the Communists had imposed on all within the Soviet Union. He reported the truth about Communist crimes to his superiors. Part of his job consisted in receiving British and American Communists and sympathizers passing through Leningrad, and his scorn for their gullibility and lies is superb. This diary’s lasting strength also lies in the marshalling of detail.

Ernest R. May’s Strange Victory (Hill & Wang, 384 pp., $30) examines exhaustively the fall of France in 1940. Conventional opinion has it that Hitler smashed his way through by superior tactics and armaments. Not so, says May. The French and British had the advantage in men and weaponry. If they had attacked Hitler in the aftermath of his blitzkrieg on Poland, they would almost certainly have won the war then and there. Their military intelligence was badly at fault. Worse, they did not have the imagination to understand Hitler and his purposes.

In Siberia (HarperCollins, 288 pp., $26), Colin Thubron’s travel book-cum-reportage, depicts a huge land-mass where the past is almost too horrible to contemplate, and the future seems hopeless. In spite of this unpromising material there comes the literary thrill which the English language generates, when used by such a stylist as Thubron.

CRISTOPHER RAPP
NR associate editor
Autobiographies always make nice gifts. The best one I read this year was Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences, by Ward Connerly (Encounter, 286 pp., $24.95), the force behind California’s Prop. 209. The chapters on Connerly’s battles over racial preferences in California, Washington state, Florida, and elsewhere are fascinating; those covering Connerly’s hardscrabble youth as part of a mixed-race family in Louisiana and California are even better, driving home the point that “it’s not the life we’re given, but the life we make of the life we’re given that counts.” And the anecdote that opens the book — meeting at the White House where Al Gore tries to intimidate Connerly by crushing his hand — is a must-read.

I warmly recommend The Total View of Taftly, the delightful debut novel by Scott Morris. This Southern Gothic novel is by turns touching, quirky, bawdy (be forewarned — it might be too much so for some tastes), and wise. It’s the story of Taftly Harper and his search for his dream girl and his destiny (a/k/a, the “Total View” seen only by God). Along the way he is befriended by Dennis Jolly, a shirtless, witless part-time groundskeeper and one of the funniest characters this side of Carl Hiaasen. A friend of mine also read Taftly and loved it as much as I did — we actually spent an hour one evening reading our favorite passages aloud to each other, laughing like loons.

Anyone who is frustrated by the GOP’s seeming inability to gets its message across should pick up The Art of Political War (Spence, 203 pp., $24.95) by David Horowitz. Horowitz is best known of course, for his political journey from left to right (wonderfully detailed in his autobiography Radical Son). Here he shows how Republicans can “sell” their message effectively to the public, without selling out. This is an entertaining, perceptive book that will rejuvenate your political juices. On second thought, get two copies — keep one for yourself, and send one to your congressman.

Conservatives do a good job of pointing out the shoddy science and misguided assumptions behind liberal environmentalism, but beyond that often have very little to say on the issue. In Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists: A Conservative Manifesto (Basic, 224 pp., $25), Peter Huber of the Manhattan Institute goes a step further, laying out a conservative vision for conserving the “silent places, unworn of man” that Teddy Roosevelt loved so much. This is a very important book, and a good gift for any conservative who hates environmentalist cant but loves the outdoors.

In The Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana, (Encounter, 332 pp., $22.95), Peter Hitchens, a columnist for the London Express and the younger brother of left-winger Christopher Hitchens, offers a bracing critique of Blairism and all its works. This is double-barreled conservatism, and cultural criticism at its finest. (Parts of the book reminded me of one of my all-time favorites, The Vision of the Anointed, by Thomas Sowell.) When it was published in Britain, this enormously entertaining book caused a national controversy — American readers will be struck by how much his description of cultural decline in Britain reminds them of trends in our own country.

Journalist Ted Conover wanted to write about the life of a prison-guard trainee (a “newjack”), but the authorities denied his requests for interviews. So he took the entrance exam and spent a year of his life working as a prison guard in Sing Sing, an experience he details in the fascinating Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (Random House, 321 pp., $24.95). One might quibble with one or two of Conover’s conclusions, but overall Newjack provides a thought-provoking, unsentimental look at prison life — and let’s face it, the guy has guts.

In a Sunburned Country (Broadway, 307 pp., $25) details humorist Bill Bryson’s travels in the land Down Under. Bryson has a delightfully skewed perspective, with just a touch of the misanthrope. A fun, light read — perfect for anyone who loved Bryson’s hilarious meander on the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods.

MELISSA SECKORA
NR editorial associate
During the holiday season I like to take as much time as possible to reflect on the past year, and often the best way for me to begin is to sit down with a good book. I like short stories, and I usually pick up one by Chekhov, but for this holiday season I recommend the short stories and letters of the fierce moralist and greatest Catholic fiction writer of 20th-century America, Flannery O’Connor.

Her body of work was relatively small (only 31 short stories, two novels, and a few speeches and letters) but her words, combining comedy with tragedy, life with death, were profound in her day and remain so in ours. Whether it’s Hazel Motes, the young protagonist of Wise Blood who founds the Church Without Christ, or an escaped criminal called the Misfit in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” O’Connor’s characters have not only helped explain southerners to themselves (she was born in Savannah, Ga., and the South shaped her writing), they have also helped explain why we do the things we do.

I’ve read pretty much everything she wrote, but if asked to choose just one or two of her stories, I would pick “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “The Artificial Nigger,” a story about injustice that O’Connor herself considered the finest thing she ever wrote. In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a grandmother, her son and daughter-in-law, and their three children are on a car journey when they encounter an escaped criminal called the Misfit and his two fellow killers. The murdering trio manages to kill off all of them just when the grandmother declares her identity: “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my children!” The Misfit shoots her too and says, “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Flannery O’Connor’s words were indeed harsh, and her characters sometimes grotesque; but it was all in the uncompromising service of truth — and truth, as we know, is always the hardest to take.

JOHN SIMON
John Simon is the film critic of National Review.
Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence (HarperCollins, 877 pp., $36)

Roger Kimball, Experiments Against Reality (Ivan R. Dee, 352 pp., $28.50)

Suzanne Jill Levine, Manuel Puig and the Spider Woman: His Life and Fictions (Farrar, Straus, 304 pp., $27.50)

Jan-Werner Muller, Another Country: German Intellectuals, Unification, and National Identity (Yale, 256 pp., $27.50)

Graham Robb, Rimbaud: A Biography (Norton, 544 pp., $35)

Ned Rorem, Lies: A Diary (Counterpoint, 400 pp., $30)

ANDREW STUTTAFORD
A frequent contributor to NRO
I’d like to recommend three books, each of which in their own way are a reminder of what the Left has stood for over the past century. The first (and easily the most important) is The Black Book of Communism, by Stephane Courtois et al. (Harvard 858 pp., $37.50). This book was first issued in the U.S. last year, but is still worth including in a list for this holiday season. It is a painstakingly detailed recital of Communism’s crimes, victims and failures. That such a book is still so necessary is a sad tribute to the persistence of the Marxist faith, and the refusal of far too many Western intellectuals to denounce Communism for the evil that it was, and is. Obligatory reading, also, for anyone tempted to believe that Lenin’s revolution at least began with good intentions.

Despite the Black Book’s evidence to the contrary, the occasional Leftist still does manage to preserve some integrity. One such, Christopher Hitchens, has written my second choice, No One Left to Lie To (Verso, 150 pp., $10), a brilliantly polemical dissection of that chancer without a conscience, William Jefferson Clinton.

The Man from Hope receives the send-off he deserves in my third selection, American Rhapsody, by Joe Eszterhas (Knopf, 448 pp., $25.95), a book that seems to have been written in some sort of inspired frenzy. Sleazy, over-the-top, in-the-gutter, and driven by some sort of deranged Hollywood leftism, American Rhapsody still manages to be more often on target than it is not. By the conclusion Clinton is looking as soiled as a blue Gap dress. I can think of no better way to wish the Big Creep farewell.



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