Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World by John Szwed This book was published the day before New Year’s Eve, 2010, and I had not yet read it when I chose my best books of that year. With empathy but no defensiveness, Szwed shows Lomax to be something more than a musical imperialist and less than the benevolent patron of American folk culture. - David Hajdu, Music Critic Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson I was hoping to be the lone end-of-year champion for this well-received but somewhat overshadowed debut novel, but the pesky New York Times beat me to it in their ten best list. S
Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa By Jason K. Stearns (PublicAffairs, 380 pp., $28.99) The history of Congo is the history of mass murder. What is going on today—with rebels, government soldiers, and armed groups from neighboring countries raping and slaughtering Congolese civilians—is a continuation of the ruthlessness that has been embedded in this country for more than a hundred years.
The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History By Samuel Moyn (Belknap Press, 337 pp., $27.95) In 1807, in Yorkshire, activists hit the campaign trail for William Wilberforce, whose eloquent parliamentary fight against Britain’s slave trade had won surprising success. “O we’ve heard of his Cants in Humanity’s Cause/While the Senate was hush’d, and the land wept applause,” they sang.