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The Best of 2006: Staff Favorites

The Hardest-Hitting Nonfiction




Book Cover Image. Title: The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Author: Lawrence Wright.

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The Looming Tower
Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Lawrence Wright


Much has been written and said about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and yet this book reaches well beyond previous accounts and commentaries. New Yorker writer Wright has penned a gripping masterpiece that reads like a haunting page-turner of a novel. He succeeds in making sense of the incomprehensible and providing a new perspective on events that have affected all our lives. Reading this book is a profoundly emotional and at times wrenching experience, but readers will be thankful they did.


Book Cover Image. Title: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, Author: Elizabeth  Kolbert

Paperback
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Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Man, Nature, and Climate Change
Elizabeth Kolbert


At last, the hard science and harsh facts of global warming are clearly explained in this expanded version of Elizabeth Kolbert's three-part New Yorker series. With clarity and urgency, Kolbert amplifies the message of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, describing the effects of climate change on specific species and locations. This is a book that no one can afford to ignore.


Book Cover Image. Title: An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, Author: Al  Gore

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An Inconvenient Truth
The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It
Al Gore


Al Gore has found his cause, and he has translated a complex phenomenon into an easy-to-grasp message. In conjunction with the film documentary of the same title, An Inconvenient Truth makes clear the compelling proofs of climate change that have had scientists worried for more than a decade. Avoiding alarmism, Gore suggests changes in lifestyle and consumption habits that everyone can adopt in a concerted effort to reverse destructive tendencies and safeguard life on our planet.


Book Cover Image. Title: The Places in Between, Author: Rory  Stewart

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The Places in Between
Rory Stewart


In this instant travel classic, Scotsman Rory Stewart lays it all on the line in a mesmerizing tale about trekking across war-torn Afghanistan in 2002. He passes snow-covered mountains, villages destroyed by the Taliban, and communities that haven't changed in centuries. He meets up with rogues and heroes, young warriors and tribal elders, and Taliban commanders and aid workers. And along the way reveals an astonishing journey through an astonishing land. Stewart delivers a small masterpiece that The New York Times Book Review calls "a striding, glorious book." We couldn't agree more.


Book Cover Image. Title: Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, Author: Rajiv  Chandrasekaran

Hardcover
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Imperial Life in the Emerald City
Inside Iraq's Green Zone
Rajiv Chandrasekaran


Surprising, infuriating, and weirdly entertaining by turns, here is an account of all the things that have gone wrong in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Rajiv Chandraskaran, the former bureau chief of The Washington Post, surveys the Baghdad of self-anointed "emperors" Viceroy L. Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, pinpointing the often surreal absurdities, delusions, and blind spots that characterized one of the most colossal policy failures in modern history.


Book Cover Image. Title: The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, Author: Ron  Suskind

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The One Percent Doctrine
Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
Ron Suskind


Pulitzer Prize winner Suskind knows how to turn mundane facts into compelling prose, and he does it again in this sharp-eyed narration of the Bush administration's approach to the "war on terror." He marshals a compelling body of evidence to support his argument that the White House has consistently based its strategies on dubious conjectures and procedures: the very title of the book alludes to Vice President Cheney's statement that if there was only a one percent chance that a danger was real, it had to be treated as a certainty. There are other books out there, pro and con, but this one delves deeper that the rest.


Book Cover Image. Title: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Author: Barack  Obama

Hardcover
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The Audacity of Hope
Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
Barack Obama


When Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a political star was born. Now, in this full-length book, the dynamic and persuasive senator from Illinois presents us with an antidote to the cynicism and mistrust that has informed too much of politics and public life. He reminds us that now, more than ever, we must look past our differences and focus on the hopes and dreams we all share as Americans. This is a fine introduction to a compelling figure who figures to be a major force in American politics for years to come.


Book Cover Image. Title: Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, Author: Ian  Buruma

Hardcover
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Murder in Amsterdam
The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance
Ian Buruma


Returning to his native Holland to explore the murder of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic fundamentalist, distinguished journalist Ian Buruma has produced a brief work that manages to be concise, provocative, and balanced. Without attempting to be politically correct, Buruma addresses the volatile issues of religious and ethnic intolerance, and the response to Islamic fundamentalist in a liberal Western society. Buruma's talent for illuminating complex concepts and getting people to talk openly about subjects often shrouded in taboos make this book an important contribution to understanding an ongoing modern dilemma.


Book Cover Image. Title: State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Author: James  Risen

Paperback
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State of War
The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
James Risen


Domestic surveillance emerged as a thorny issue in 2006, and James Risen's articles in The New York Times brought the subject to national attention. In State of War, Risen widens his focus to discuss the entire involvement of the CIA in the Bush administration's efforts to combat terrorism, specifying in chilling detail how the agency has been used -- and misused -- in the days since 9/11. Readers who expect to find startling revelations in books on the CIA will not be disappointed.


Book Cover Image. Title: House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power, Author: James  Carroll

Hardcover
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House of War
The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power
James Carroll


In one of the year's most buzzed-about nonfiction books, James Carroll delivers a hard-hitting history of the Pentagon -- the five-sided monolith built during WWII and the juggernaut of unchecked military power it has come to symbolize. This impeccably researched book offers up an intriguing mix of history, biography, and journalism; but it is the author's personal connection to the material that readers will find most compelling. In the 1960s, Carroll's vehement antiwar sentiments put him at odds with his father, a prominent Defense Department official. He chronicled this anguished conflict in the National Book Award winner An American Requiem; but obviously, burning questions of war and peace still loom large in his writing.