Monday, July 06, 2009

Fifty Books for Our Times ...

... that's the heading for this feature in the latest issue of Newsweek magazine online, which offers a suggestion on "What to Read Now. And Why"

"We know it's insane," editors acknowledge at the start. "We know people will ask why on earth we think that an 1875 British satirical novel is the book you need to read right now—or, for that matter, why it even made the cut. The fact is, no one needs another best-of list telling you how great The Great Gatsby is."

"What we do need, in a world with precious little time to read (and think), is to know which books—new or old, fiction or nonfiction—open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways. Which is why we'd like you to sit down with Anthony Trollope, and these 49 other remarkably trenchant voices."

Most of you will have probably read the 'old chestnuts' on the list ... works by Twain and Kipling, Faulkner and Whitman, Shelley, O'Connor and the aforementioned Trollope ... although you might find that some of them 'read' differently now than they did in English Lit class, umpteen years ago.

Others on the list are newer, and do not have the broad recognition of a "Kim or a "Leaves of Grass." There's "The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, for example, an insightful, engaging account explaining our appetites by tracing the evolution of four plants: potato, tulip, marijuana, and apple tree. I've enjoyed it ... and I think you would, too.

I also enjoyed "American Prometheus" by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, telling how J. Robert Oppenheimer gave us the atomic bomb, then found himself torn in "the biggest military tug-of-war of the 20th century-and beyond."

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