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 V.17 No.1 | January 3 - 9, 2008 

Book Reviews

Year of the Bookworm

The top 10 titles of 2007

2007 was a grim year for the book industry, but not for the books themselves. As newspapers took deep cuts out of their literary sections in a mad dash to save their business model, and the publishing industry got its last dose of Potter, a pack of terrific books traveled just below the radar. Here is a subjective list of the very best of those books (in no particular order), by my yardstick the must-reads of 2007.

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Dinaw Mengestu
Riverhead Hardcover
Hardcover
$22.95

Dinaw Mengestu's heartbreaking, exquisitely made The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears tells the story of three African refugees finding their way in Washington, D.C. long after they've given up on realizing their wildest American dreams.

In the Country of Men

In the Country of Men

Hisham Matar
The Dial Press
Hardcover
$22

There is a rightness and terrible melancholy to every sentence of Hisham Matar's debut novel, In the Country of Men, which tells the story of a young boy who is entrusted with a secret much larger than himself, and reveals how in times of political duress everyday betrayals can become lethal.

Falling Man

Falling Man

Don DeLillo
Scribner
Hardcover
$26

Don DeLillo's Falling Man is the only novel about 9/11 that recreated the trauma of that day and turned it into a new aesthetic. Here was the first abstract expressionist novel, the Great American Novel on barbiturates.

In the Driver's Seat

In the Driver's Seat

Helen Simpson
Knopf
Hardcover
$22

Funny, wry and always closely attuned to the lives of women and especially mothers, Helen Simpson is the U.K.'s answer to Lorrie Moore. There is nothing flashy to her latest collection, In the Driver's Seat—the stories turn and arc just as they're supposed to and always come to a satisfying conclusion. It's the after-effects, however, that are worth dialing in for—and the laughs, which are plentiful.

The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

Francisco Goldman
Grove Press
Hardcover
$25

Good books seldom say they can change the course of an election, but Francisco Goldman's gripping and important new book, The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?, which recounts the story of the murder of a Roman Catholic human rights activist in Guatemala and the political theater which ensued, just may change the course of that country's current affairs.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Naomi Klein
Metropolitan Books
Hardcover
$28

In her towering polemic, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein shows how the free-market ideas associated with Milton Friedman have spread often through catastrophe (as in Thailand, post-tsunami, and in New Orleans, post-Katrina) and at the point of a gun (as in Chile in 1973 and Iraq today).

The Assistant

The Assistant

Robert Walser
New Directions
Paperback
$16.95

For every hour you worked as a temp, for every minute you've slaved at that job so far beneath your intelligence level, for every slight you've taken from a maniacal, perhaps sadistic boss, the late Swiss writer Robert Walser's finally published The Assistant will be a balm and a salve.

A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932

A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932

John Richardson
Hardcover
Knopf
$40

Occasionally bitchy, often brilliant, full of anecdotes that make you realize the surrealists had a thing or two in common with bloggers of today, John Richardson's ongoing study of Picasso is far more entertaining than almost any biography on the market, let alone of Picasso. His latest volume, A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, is superb.

Sleeping and Waking

Sleeping and Waking

Michael O'Brien
Flood Editions
Paperback
$12.95

Last month, the New York Times finally ran a review of Michael O'Brien's lovely and wonderfully urban new poetry collection, Sleeping and Waking, and the book has now sold out of stock almost everywhere. So if you see a copy, nab it, because there wasn't a more limpid book of poetry published in 2007.

Blonde Faith

Blonde Faith

Walter Mosley
Little, Brown and Company
Hardcover
$25.99

He's been with us for a decade but Walter Mosley's Los Angeles detective, Easy Rawlins, may be done after the publication of his 10th installment, Blonde Faith. This is a terrific book about a city that has never quite come together from the perspective of a man who has seen, perhaps, a little too much of its underside.

John Freeman is president of the National Book Critics Circle.

 
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