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FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2007

Nonfiction

December 09, 2007

The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor

By William Langewiesche

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The availability of enriched uranium in the former Soviet Union may soon spread nuclear technology to weaker nations, Langewiesche warns. He also contends that Pakistan's nuclear plans "were well known" to the U.S. government by the mid-1970s.

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Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics

By Bill Boyarsky

University of California Press

This biography of Jesse Unruh by a former city editor and columnist for The Times shows how the powerful speaker of the California Assembly exerted charm and political muscle to enact fair housing and civil rights laws and build highways, canals and schools.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, January 04, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Favorite Books: In a list in the Dec. 9 Book Review section of favorite books of 2007, alternative-country songwriter-musician Gram Parsons was described as being from New Orleans. Parsons was born in Winter Haven, Fla., and spent his childhood in Waycross, Ga.

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The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival

By Stanley N. Alpert

Putnam

Alpert was kidnapped in 1998 in Manhattan after his 38th birthday party; his memoir of the experience is "like watching a slow-motion train wreck -- difficult to look at but impossible to turn away from."

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Brother, I'm Dying

By Edwidge Danticat

Alfred A. Knopf

The novelist tells the history of her family and her native Haiti in "small, piercing scenes" ringing with "emotional clarity": the Port-au-Prince riots, the Duvalier regimes, the post-Sept. 11 U.S. immigration policies that resulted in the detention of her ailing uncle, who died in custody in Miami.

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Circling My Mother: A Memoir

By Mary Gordon

Pantheon

This portrait, "rife with painful disclosures," traces the seismic shifts in women's lives in the 20th century. A perceptive "work of memory, catharsis and literary grace," it's a compelling companion to Gordon's book about her father, "The Shadow Man."

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The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

By David Halberstam

Hyperion

In what turned out to be his final book, Halberstam views the Korean War through the eyes of its key figures and combat troops, noting we've been "too often let down by those who should have known better and done better by their ordinary countrymen."

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Don't Go Where I Can't Follow

By Anders Nilsen

Drawn & Quarterly

An "exploration of terrible grief," this graphic memoir is neither comic book nor narrative but something in between. Containing some of Nilsen's most potent images, it's a tribute "to the life and death of a woman he loved and to the redemptive power of art."

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The Happiest Man

in the World: An Account of the Life of Poppa Neutrino

By Alec Wilkinson

Random House

This tale of a drifter who crossed the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland on a homemade raft is a celebration of a self-determined life. Neutrino is neither fool nor hero but someone desperate to place himself "in the middle of this life-and-death swim."

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House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest

By Craig Childs

Little, Brown

On this trip through the homelands of the ancient Indian tribes now called the Anasazi, Childs ponders crumbling kivas, pottery and bone fragments, trying to fathom why these people suddenly disappeared.

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The House That George Built: With a Little Help From Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty

By Wilfrid Sheed

Random House

Sheed's survey of American popular music in the last century "mixes biographical anecdote, cultural history and high-wattage moonbeams of critical insight that light up the old standards."

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Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

By Tim Weiner

Doubleday

Weiner, a reporter who covered the CIA for the New York Times in the 1990s, takes a no-holds-barred look at the agency and what he contends is its culture of incompetence.

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Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl

By Steven Bach

Alfred A. Knopf

"[C]ompulsively readable and scrupulously crafted," Bach's biography of the appallingly ambitious Nazi filmmaker becomes a broader meditation on the relationship of art and power, showing Riefenstahl as complicit in the society she sought to document.

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Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

By Eric Jay Dolin

W.W. Norton

Whaling, America's first great international industry, created enormous wealth for the young nation. Dolin traces its history from the early 17th century through its "golden age" to its decline in the early 20th century, with "exotic locations, colorful characters, melodrama and gore aplenty."

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The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved

By Judith Freeman

Pantheon

This account of Chandler's long love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman who later became his wife, is really "an exploration of . . . two relationships -- Ray and Cissy, Chandler and L.A." Freeman's "identification with her subject is so complete we feel we're there with Chandler too."

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Proust Was a Neuroscientist

By Jonah Lehrer

Houghton Mifflin

Lehrer argues that contemporary findings about the brain are foreshadowed in the work of eight iconic 19th and 20th century authors and artists. His book "marks the arrival of an important new thinker, who finds in the science and the arts wonder and beauty, and with equal confidence says wise and fresh things about both."

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