Badass Books

    Nonfiction

    If Danielle Steele wrote nonfiction, furlongs of potential toilet paper would be wasted on lousy books. Good wipes are accessible, made to absorb and, to most, something one simply cannot do without, which is more than can be said about Steele’s work. This year, two books should be part of every well-stocked bathroom; both are controversial, and they make for much better stocking-stuffers than tissue rolls, too.

    As a long-time New York Times foreign affairs columnist, Thomas L. Friedman has pissed off people on both sides of the political spectrum. The quintessential neo-liberal’s latest tome, “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,” attempts to examine the inevitability of globalization. Just like his columns, the book has few sacred cows, offering truly insightful commentary on the interrelation of economic growth and terrorism.

    “Instead of challenging readers with a fresh, crisp perspective, [Friedman] ends up serving reheated French fries,” one Amazon.com reviewer charges. The truth is that the book may simply be a bit too flavorful for an isolationist’s palate.

    In “Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun’s Supreme Court Journey,” another Times correspondent, Linda Greenhouse, shies away from geopolitics to focus on the author of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which has heretofore defined the American abortion debate.

    Far from being comprehensive, the book provides an engaging look at the man behind the robes, at a time when Supreme Court nominations again splash across headlines.

    Like good toilet paper, these books are multilayered and leave the reader much more fulfilled than any Steele novel.

    — Vladimir Kogan

    Senior Staff Writer

    Fiction

    It has been a long 12 years since Gabriel Garcia Marquez bestowed a novel to faithful readers of his masterful and engaging narratives.

    A winner of the Nobel Prize, Marquez perpetuates the theme of old age and the remembrance of young love in “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” whose main character is keenly reminiscent of Florentino Ariza in “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

    It is hard to resist a 128-page novella that begins with the line, “The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin” and it will be an enticing read for both the veteran Marquez reader and a novice just discovering him.

    Other notable novels include “Lunar Park” by Bret Easton Ellis (author of “American Psycho”) for less squeamish readers who can endure its signature graphic content, and Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” recently adapted into a Broadway musical.

    — Christine Pae

    Focus Editor

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