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The Best Books of 2003

By Steven Martinovich
web posted December 22, 2003

A Long Short WarA Long Short War
The Postponed Liberation of Iraq
By Christopher Hitchens
Plume
PB, 104 pg.
Christopher Hitchens is an unlikely hero for those who supported the coalition invasion of Iraq earlier this year. Hitchens, a former Trotskyite, had opposed the 1991 Gulf War of George H.W. Bush because he believed the war was conducted for the wrong moral reasons. It came as a surprise to many then when he came out in support of the younger Bush's proposed invasion and provided potent intellectual justification for it. It also drew fire from a constituency that Hitchens has long enjoyed the unflagging support of but has lately abandoned him – and he it.
- Read the rest of our review here


Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of FlightWings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight
By Paul Hoffman
Hyperion
HC, 369 pg.
Mention the name Alberto Santos-Dumont in Brazil and there's a good chance you'll be greeted with a smile and the argument that it was he, and not the Wright brothers, who was the first person to fly an airplane. The large number of streets and buildings named after Santos-Dumont bares testament to the fact that Brazilians believe as fervently as Santos-Dumont did himself that he had been robbed of his glory of being the first man to conquer the sky in a heavier than air machine. - Read the rest of our review here


The Malady of IslamThe Malady of Islam
By Abdelwahab Meddeb
Basic Books
HC, 241 pg.
Since September 11, 2001 a veritable industry has sprang up devoted to exploring the problems of Islam, or perhaps more accurately the problems that some interpretations of Islam have created. Many commentators have opined that before the Islamic world is able to join the Western world in shaping the world's future it must undergo a process that Christianity was forced into centuries ago. They argue that Islam must become more moderate and allow secular forces to play a predominant role in societies where they co-exist.
- Read the rest of our review here


Terrorism and TyrannyTerrorism and Tyranny
Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil
By James Bovard
Palgrave Macmillan
HC, 440 pg.
In the war against terrorism the most important metric for Americans may be the number of terrorist attacks that have occurred on American soil since September 11, 2001. If you rely on that as your sole criterion then you'll likely be satisfied with the performance of George W. Bush. Adopting such a narrow definition of success, however, can blind a person to some of the issues that the war itself has raised -- issues that carry long term ramifications for the American people and the world. - Read the rest of our review here


How Ronald Reagan Changed My LifeHow Ronald Reagan Changed My Life
By Peter Robinson
Regan Books
HC, 263 pg.
The assertion that Peter Robinson is a lucky man is something that he likely wouldn't argue. Born and raised in a small town in New York, Robinson attended Dartmouth and Oxford before landing a job at the age of 25 writing speeches in the Reagan White House, first for Vice President George H.W. Bush and eventually for the president himself. Robinson was witness to some of the most remarkable events in American history and served one of the most highly regarded men to ever serve the highest office in the land.
- Read the rest of our review here


An Imperfect GodAn Imperfect God
George Washington, His Slaves and the Creation of America
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
HC, 404 pg.
The Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings controversy of a few years ago forced many Americans to acknowledge an uncomfortable fact that they, and history, had long ignored in favor of simple hero worship. America's founding fathers, the very men who spoke so eloquently for and acted in the cause of freedom, were slave owners with all the evil of the institution that entails. How was it that such men were able to reconcile human bondage with the noble goals of the American Revolution? For many of them, including Jefferson, there was no dichotomy between slavery for some and freedom for others. - Read the rest of our review here

The Burma RoadThe Burma Road
The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theatre in World War II
By Donovan Webster
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
HC, 370 pg.
In many ways the Second World War's China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre is the forgotten child of military history. During the war it was last on the long list of priorities for the Allies and after saw relatively few books and movies chronicling its people and events. While The Burma Road: The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theatre in World War II isn't the first treatment of the subject, Donovan Webster manages the near impossible task of allowing the reader to imagine on some level what it was like to campaign in the mud and leech-ridden jungles of Burma. - Read the rest of our review here

The Bookseller of KabulThe Bookseller of Kabul
By Åsne Seierstad
Little, Brown
HC, 288 pg.
In many ways Sultan Khan could be considered a hero of Afghanistan. He is liberal and moderate in a nation where those labels are rarely used. For decades he has operated several bookstores in Kabul that offer books on every conceivable subject and from every political and religious perspective and has managed that feat during some very unfriendly times. As he states, "First the Communists burnt my books, then the Mujahedeen looted and pillaged, finally the Taliban burnt them all over again." Khan is an urbane man who is in love with books and the knowledge they offer. - Read the rest of our review here

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Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • The Best Books of 2002 by Steven Martinovich (January 6, 2003)
    Steve Martinovich picks the books he thought were the best of 2002
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