Books

TNR Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2011
December 23, 2011

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

Realism's Return
December 22, 2011

With the publication of China in Ten Words, the puzzle over Yu Hua’s surrealism comes largely undone. Here, in ten very realist chapters, which he cal

Blessings
December 21, 2011

The Rosenwald School takes center stage in Stephanie Deutsch’s book, which charts the steadily expanding alliance between Booker T. Washington and Jul

Outward, and Inward, Bound
December 20, 2011

The shadow of Henry David Thoreau casts itself over many Americans who write about the natural world, and although John Casey works here on a vastly d

Frequency Hopping
December 19, 2011

Hedy’s Folly avoids the pitfalls of other books about Lamarr, starting with the star’s own memoir, Ecstasy and Me. These volumes ultimately fail to ca

It’s the Science, Stupid
December 15, 2011

Back in the 1980s, doctors had little to offer beyond a kind heart, an attentive ear, and a few highly problematic drugs. An avalanche of intriguing i

What Hope Remains?
December 14, 2011

An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age By Jürgen Habermas (Polity Press, 87 pp., $14.95) The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere By Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West Edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (Columbia University Press, 137 pp., $19.50) On October 14, 2001, the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas stepped up to the lectern at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt to deliver a short address called “Faith and Knowledge.” The occasion was his acceptance speech of the Peace Prize, a yearly honor that the German Book

The Invention of Space
December 14, 2011

Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science By Hans Belting Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider (Belknap Press, 303 pp., $39.95) In many respects this is a bold book, first of all because of its premise: a veteran art historian dares, after half a century as an active scholar, to take another look at a classic art-historical problem—the formulation of linear perspective in fifteenth-century Florence.

Strategist and Scourge
December 14, 2011

George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.

The Boundaries of Justice
December 14, 2011

David Hume was born three hundred years ago, in 1711. The world has changed radically since his time, and yet many of his ideas and admonitions remain deeply relevant, though rather neglected, in the contemporary world. These Humean insights include the central role of information and knowledge for adequate ethical scrutiny, and the importance of reasoning without disowning the pertinence of powerful sentiments.

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