the New York Times 100 most notable books of 2010 list just came out today. I found some that intrigued me. I read nonfiction, mostly. My potential favs are noted below.
The links lead to book reviews at the NYT. Membership at the site is free. (Not any more. -ed) I have set up my account with the NYT so that I get no spam from them.
ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis. By Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera. (Portfolio/Penguin, $32.95.) More than offering a backward look, this account of the disaster of 2008 helps explain today’s troubling headlines and might help predict tomorrow’s
CHANGING MY MIND: Occasional Essays. By Zadie Smith. (Penguin Press, $26.95.) The quirky pleasures here are due in part to Smith’s inspired cultural references, from Simone Weil to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
COMMON AS AIR: Revolution, Art, and Ownership. By Lewis Hyde. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Hyde draws on the American founders for arguments against the privatization of knowledge.
CLEOPATRA: A Life. By Stacy Schiff. (Little, Brown, $29.99.) It’s dizzying to contemplate the ancient thicket of personalities and propaganda Schiff penetrates to show the Macedonian-Egyptian queen in all her ambition, audacity and formidable intelligence. I saw the author on The Daily Show. She said that Cleopatra was Greek-Macedonian, and looked semitic, if one goes by the images on her coins.
WILD CHILD: Stories. By T. Coraghessan Boyle. (Viking, $25.95.) In these tales, Boyle continues his career-long interest in man’s vexed tussles with nature
THE BOOK IN THE RENAISSANCE. By Andrew Pettegree. (Yale University, $40.)A thought-provoking revisionist history of the early years of printing.
EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. By S. C. Gwynne. (Scribner, $27.50.) The story of the last and greatest chief of the tribe that once ruled the Great Plains.
FINISHING THE HAT: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes. By Stephen Sondheim. (Knopf, $39.95.) Sondheim’s analysis of his songs and those of others is both stinging and insightful.
THE HONOR CODE: How Moral Revolutions Happen. By Kwame Anthony Appiah. (Norton, $25.95.) A philosopher traces the demise of dueling and slavery among the British and of foot-binding in China, and suggests how a fourth horrific practice — honor killings in today’s Pakistan — might someday meet its end.
KOESTLER: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic. By Michael Scammell. (Random House, $35.) Scammell wants to put the complex intelligence of Koestler (“Darkness at Noon”) back on display and to explain his shifting preoccupations.
LAST CALL: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. By Daniel Okrent. (Scribner, $30.) A remarkably original account of the 14-year orgy of lawbreaking that transformed American social life.
SCORPIONS: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices. By Noah Feldman. (Twelve, $30.) A group portrait of Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, Hugo Black and William O. Douglas.
SUPREME POWER: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court. By Jeff Shesol. (Norton, $27.95.) Contention over Roosevelt’s proposal to transform the court nearly paralyzed his administration for over a year and severely damaged fragile Democratic unity.