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The Best Books of 2003

By Steven Martinovich
web posted December 22, 2003

The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. BushThe Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
By David Frum
Random House
HC, 384 pgs.
David Frum's bestseller, The Right Man is not a behind-the-scenes exposé of the George W. Bush White House - if that was what you were expecting, you can save your money. Rather than tabloid fodder, this tome is an insightful, but clearly deferential, examination of Bush's character and ideas that are cogently shaping his presidency. Sure, Frum was a Bush speechwriter for only a year, but it was one heck of a year! The September 11th "Day of Infamy" not only ignited a battle-royal against terrorism, but revealed the true mettle of George W. Bush as resolute world leader confronting an unparalleled threat. As Frum notes, "George W. Bush was hardly the obvious man for the job. But by a very strange fate, he turned out to be, of all unlikely things, the right man." - Read the rest of our review here

A Free Nation Deep in DebtA Free Nation Deep in Debt
The Financial Roots of Democracy
By James Macdonald
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
HC, 564 pgs.
It is James Macdonald's contention that political freedom and public debt were inseparable for much of human history. From the earliest Greek city states until the end of the First World War, he writes in A Free Nation Deep in Debt, government looked to its citizens in time of great need. Few wars, whether of offensive or defensive nature, have not occurred without the citizen playing the role of creditor.

- Read the rest of our review here


Of Paradise and Power
America and Europe in the New World Order
By Robert Kagan
Alfred A. Knopf
HC, 103 pgs.
"It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world." With that statement Robert Kagan opens Of Paradise and Power, his controversial June/July 2002 Policy Review essay turned book. As recent events have shown, European and American political leaders have come to the sudden realization that an ideological gap may have irreversibly changed the nature of their decades old alliance.
- Read the rest of our review here

All Day Permanent RedAll Day Permanent Red
The First Battle Scenes of Homer's Iliad - Rewritten
By Christopher Logue
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
HC, 51 pgs.
Only the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare may be more important to western literature then Homer's The Iliad, his retelling of the final days in the ten year war between the Greeks and Trojans some 3 000 years ago. It began life as oral epic poetry, recited over what took days in villages across Greece before someone put ink to paper to preserve the work, at least in the form that it existed at the time, for posterity. It's not unfair to declare it as a foundation stone of everything that has come after it.
- Read the rest of our review here

The Anti-Semitic MomentThe Anti-Semitic Moment
A Tour of France in 1898
By Pierre Birnbaum
Hill and Wang
HC, 388 pgs.
The recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France have revealed some uncomfortable truths, chief among them that the motto of the Republic, "Liberté, égalité, fraternité", applies to all Frenchmen providing you believe that some are more French than others. Verbal and physical assaults have also reminded people of just a few decades ago when French Jews lived in far more perilous times. The history of French anti-Semitism, unfortunately, stretches back far longer than mere decades.
- Read the rest of our review here

Infectious Greed
How deceit and risk corrupted the financial markets
By Frank Partnoy
Times Books
HC, 464 pgs.
The opening lines in the stories of companies like Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom and dozens of others all begin with the same name, writes Frank Partnoy. In 1984, Sanskrit scholar turned Wharton graduate Andy Krieger began trading currency options at Salomon Brothers. Although his career ended in ignominy just a few short years later, Krieger was the "Patient Zero" in the virus that infected Wall Street and financial markets around the world. The infection was a cavalier disregard for everything except meeting or exceeding profit expectations and the end of the year bonus, Wall Street's ultimate measuring stick. - Read the rest of our review here

After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic DemocracyAfter Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy
By Noah Feldman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
HC, 260 pgs.
The recent post-war unrest in Iraq, which has now included two incidents of American soldiers firing on Iraqi protestors, illustrates the long and very difficult road to bringing freedom and democracy to that country. It's also, unfortunately, reinforced the thinking of many people that Arabs -- and Muslims in general -- aren't capable of governing themselves. Without an autocratic leader, they believe, Muslim nations fall into chaos at a moment's notice.

- Read the rest of our review here


The TeammatesThe Teammates
By David Halberstam
HC, 217 pgs.
There is no doubting that David Halberstam is one of the finest writers in America today. Something happens, however, to further elevate his ability when he turns to the subject of baseball. When it comes to America's past-time, Halberstam turns not into a historian but rather a chronicler, paying attention not just to its grand themes but also the small elements that make up the tapestry of the game.

- Read the rest of our review here

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