Best books of the year

November 23, 2009 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

The Atlantic has published a list of the 25 best books of the year. The top five:

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: A Life
By Michael Burlingame

Johns Hopkins

“Measured, psychologically astute, authoritative when it can be, Michael Burlingame’s exhaustive narrative (2,024 pages!) is unafraid of ambiguity and indeterminacy. This is the life of Lincoln for our times.” [Read Christopher Hitchens’s full review from the July/August Atlantic]

THE CHILDREN’S BOOK: A Novel
By A. S. Byatt
Knopf

“Byatt has wrought a richly detailed, decade-spanning, at once Olympian and pointillist masterpiece. To read this gorgeous bolt of fiction is to fully enter a world.” [Read the full review from the October Atlantic]

THE THIRD REICH TRILOGY
(Concluding With The Third Reich at War)

By Richard J. Evans
Penguin

“Evans’s cool, crisply argued three-volume chronicle will be for a generation the definitive general history of Nazi Germany in English.”

IT’S BEGINNING TO HURT: Stories
By James Lasdun
FSG

“This collection of short stories illuminates the everyday agonies of the mind, its anxieties, obsessions, doubts, and yearnings. Lasdun pins each observation to the page with grace and exactitude.” [Read the full review from the September Atlantic]

MRS. WOOLF AND THE SERVANTS:
An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury

By Alison Light
Bloomsbury

“In her elegant, sparkling book, Light marries social and literary criticism as she probes the deeply intimate, often sordid, always fraught relationship between women servants and their female employers.”

**

Related: Andrew Sullivan posts on “The Neuroscience of Reading,” excerpted below.

Stanislas Dehaene, chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology at the Collège de France, gives his view of the brain:

“What I am proposing is that the human brain is a much more constrained organ than we think, and that it places strong limits on the range of possible cultural forms. Essentially, the brain did not evolve for culture, but culture evolved to be learnable by the brain. Through its cultural inventions, humanity constantly searched for specific niches in the brain, wherever there is a space of plasticity that can be exploited to “recycle” a brain area and put it to a novel use. Reading, mathematics, tool use, music, religious systems — all might be viewed as instances of cortical recycling.”

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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