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New General Nonfiction

Essays, biography, politics, and the occasional unclassifiable oddity.
The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393071016
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - December 1st, 2008

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman's prescient analysis was first published in 1999. Alerted then by early-warning signs in the form of economic crises that affected Latin America and Asia, Krugman predicted that conditions were ripe for a return of Great-Depression-era economic disaster. Though subsequent prosperity, and the booming economy at home, blunted the force of his book at the time, Krugman's assessment has become all too accurate. This re-issue has been thoroughly updated to include extensive background on the current financial crisis, as well as some paths toward a solution. Certainly one of the most lucid and informative guides to the current economic meltdown.

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780393067019
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 1st, 2008

House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James Family Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780805074901
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Published: Henry Holt and Co. - June 10th, 2008

It's an intimidating task to take on the James family, especially since the path has been trodden by some other fine biographers. But Paul Fisher acquits himself well in this highly readable composite portrait, bringing out the darker side of these outsize intellects. The father's alcoholism, Henry's closeted sexuality, and the thwarted ambitions of the mordantly witty Alice (whom Fisher compares to Emily Dickinson). We follow them as they racket from continent to continent as children, against the backdrop of the intellectual and social tensions of the nineteenth century. An illuminating portrait of the most hyper-articulate American clan on record.

The Letters of Noel Coward Cover Image
By Barry Day (Editor), Noel Coward
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ISBN: 9780375423031
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Published: Knopf - November 13th, 2007

The modest title of this volume belies its generosity. It is in fact a portrait in the round of this famous playwright and elegant man of the world through letters. Included are not only Coward's letters to luminaries of the theater, the press and society on both sides of the Atlantic, but often the replies as well. Editor Barry Day allows the letters center stage while framing them within an illuminating narrative of Coward's life. The letters are of course incomparable: a few are in verse (in a cable to Beatrice Lillie, soon to star in one of his Broadway productions, he writes, "Pretty witty Lady Peel/ Never mind how sick you feel/ Never mind your broken heart/ Concentrate and learn your part") and the salutations alone are worth the price of the book. His correspondents are no mean letter writers themselves--Coward knew some of the most interesting people of his time. All in all, a portrait of a man for whom not only theater, but social life, was a constantly cultivated art.

Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780300125511
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Published: Yale University Press - September 1st, 2007

Janet Malcolm casts her gimlet eye on one of the iconic relationships in American Modernism-the decades-long affair between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Malcolm, though acknowledging that Stein was very probably the genius she proclaimed herself to be, foregrounds not the writing but the life circumstances. She lays bare the power dynamics in the relationship, which did not always favor Gertrude (Alice's jealousy could be a force of nature, and had serious consequences for one of Gertrude's manuscripts). She also explores the circumstances that allowed two Jewish lesbians to live through the Second World War unharmed in Vichy France, and the role played by the widely detested collaborationist Bernard Fay. The story is written with the elegance and lucidity that are Malcolm's trademarks, as is its major shortcoming: a dispassion that can be depersonalizing.

Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060826598
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Published: Harper Perennial - May 8th, 2007

From the author of River Town comes a mesmerizing portrait of modern-day China and its ordinary denizens. Peter Hassler gives us a gorgeously written and immediately engaging book that renders the present in vivid detail, while providing a rich historical context, interweaving archaeology, folklore, and politics. One of the most satisfying books about another country in recent memory.

The World Without Us Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780312347291
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Published: Thomas Dunne Books - July 10th, 2007

An ingenious, fascinating and sobering look at what would happen to the planet after human presence has vanished from it. From the decay of our cities' infrastructure to the fate of works of architecture and art, to the extinction of non-human organisms and the survival of others (not to mention the eerie afterlife of plastic), this is a compelling narrative of a possible future that will make you think and really look at what you see around you.

Edith Wharton Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780375400049
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Published: Knopf - April 10th, 2007

Edith Wharton's many-sidedness and seemingly limitless energy are brought into relief in a sparkling and very thorough biography of this Gilded Age American novelist, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. Wharton was a restless intellect who was born to old New York money and raised to be an ornamental hostess, a role she refused by crafting herself as a writer. She also spent much of her time abroad, meeting the leading literary lights of her day, most famously Henry James. She built The Mount, her home in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she gardened, entertained tirelessly, and engaged in the one passionate love affair of her life. This portrait of a tough, multifaceted woman reads gorgeously: Hermione Lee. who wrote the definitive biography of Virginia Woolf, has achieved another triumph.

Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780060198169
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Published: Ecco - January 1st, 2007

There are plenty of books out about the 60s, but few of them are such good company as this one. For those who were young in those years, reading it is like reminiscing with an old friend-albeit an exceptionally astute and honest one. Stone manages to be matter-of-fact, vividly concrete, and wholly without pretense as he recounts the events of his own life-his stint in the Navy, his beginnings as a writer, his encounter with Ken Kesey-as well as the larger issues of the day, foremost among them the Vietnam War and the cultural divide it inaugurated in America. (Never fear, music and drugs play no small part, either.) Smart, unsentimental, and fascinating, this is a book to put alongside Dylan's Chronicles for a different and equally authentic trajectory through the decade.

The Year of Magical Thinking Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400043149
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Published: Knopf Publishing Group - October 4th, 2005

In a portrait of a marriage as well as an anatomy of grief, Joan Didion chronicles the year in which she lost her husband, John Gregory Dunne, to a sudden heart attack, even as her daughter Quintana lay in a coma in a nearby hospital. For several months after his death her daughter remained in critical condition. Didion portrays wrenchingly the almost hallucinatory clarity and detail in which one experiences states of extreme anxiety and shock, when the psyche has not fully registered what has happened but knows it has suffered a depth charge. The book is all the more harrowing for its elliptical, spare sentences, in which the almost ungovernable anxiety is reigned in and its energy converted to prose. If the book lacks some of Didion's usual distance and elegant syntactic complexity, it gains in the immediacy of its testimony to a great grief and a long-standing love.

A Tale of Love and Darkness Cover Image
By Amos Oz, Nicholas de Lange (Translator)
ISBN: 9780151008780
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Published: Houghton Mifflin - November 15th, 2004

Amos Oz gives us an exceptionally fine memoir, evoking at once the feel of childhood, the complicated relationship of a family to class and place, and the newness and fragility of Israel in its first decades. A beautifully paced recounting of a childhood marked by love and stability, followed by great loss, and an evolution into a wider sphere in which to win political and artistic maturity.

At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780684857121
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Published: Simon & Schuster - January 10th, 2006

With "At Canaan's Edge," Taylor Branch concludes his definitive three-volume cycle, "America in the King Years." This segment opens onto the violence surrounding the voting rights campaign in Selma in 1965. It chronicles Kings growing opposition to the Vietnam war and his falling out with Lyndon Johnson over the issue, as well as King's disagreements with his advisers over the direction of the Civil Rights movement, and the growth of Black Power under Stokely Carmichael. The book ends with a detailed narrative of the events before and after the assassination. Like Taylor Branch's previous two volumes, "Parting the Waters" and "Pillar of Fire," this is an intensive education in postwar American history, and an enthralling reading experience.

The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781400062652
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Published: Random House - February 1st, 2005

This fascinating hybrid of biography, literary mystery, and cultural history unfolds the hidden life of Lev Nussimbaum, a Jew who transformed himself into a Muslim prince, disguised himself during the Nazi regime, and under the name Kurban Said, became the author of the widely acclaimed novel Ali and Nino. A compelling narrative that takes us into the byways of early 20th-century history in parts of the world where East and West mesh and identities are fluid. This mesmerizing and intelligently-written book will allow you effortlessly to absorb little-known history while taking you completely away from the everyday.