Penguin Press

Governing the World: The History of an IdeaBy Mark Mazower (Penguin Press, 475 pp., $29.95)   WE HAVE PASSED, Mark Mazower writes, “from an era that had faith in the idea of international institutions to one that has lost it.” Mazower, a prolific professor of history at Columbia, has written a challenging and thought-provoking history of that arc of disillusion. We certainly have reason to be disillusioned.

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What's missing from Zadie Smith's new novel, "NW"? The recognition that fiction cannot be written according to a program.

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  The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 By Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin Press, 394 pp., $27.95) I. FROM CENTRALITY TO banality: perhaps no other event in modern American history has gone from being contentious to being forgotten as quickly as the war in Iraq. Remember the war? It consumed a trillion American dollars, devoured a hundred thousand Iraqi lives, squandered a country’s reputation, and destroyed an American presidency.

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The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression By Amity Shlaes (HarperCollins, 464 pp., $26.95) Herbert Hoover By William E. Leuchtenburg (Times Books, 208 pp., $22) Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America By Adam Cohen (Penguin Press, 372 pp., $29.95) A generation ago, the total dismissal of the New Deal remained a marginal sentiment in American politics. Ronald Reagan boasted of having voted for Franklin Roosevelt. Neoconservatives long maintained that American liberalism had gone wrong only in the 1960s.

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Angler: The Cheney Vice PresidencyBy Barton Gellman (Penguin Press, 384 pp., $27.95) As Americans prepare to choose a new president, it may seem a curious exercise to rehearse the manifest failures of the current one. But either Barack Obama or John McCain is going to be stuck with the burdensome legacy of the Bush years, and the rest of us will be too--possibly for a long time. The war in Iraq is still with us. So are Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The Wall Street cataclysm will ramify, locally and globally, for many months, perhaps years.

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The Vital Centrist

Journals: 1952-2000 By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger (Penguin Press, 894 pp., $40) I. FEW HISTORIANS write personal journals that deserve publication, which is not surprising. How much interest can there be in the academic controversies and petty jealousies that dominate the lives of working historians, much less in the archives, the private libraries, and the lecture halls where they spend so much of their time?

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Unhappy Endings

THOMAS HARDY  By Claire Tomalin (Penguin Press, 486 pp., $35) Thomas Hardy's life could have made a novel: a poor provincial boy rises to unthinkable eminence by dint of talent and sheer hardwork, overcoming every obstacle placed in his way. But people havestopped writing novels like that, and one of the reasons is Thomas Hardy. Hardy changed his life by changing the way novels werewritten, discarding their familiar patterns and their reflexive optimism.

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