News & Politics

Books of the Year

We asked some of Washington’s top literary figures what book this year had the most impact on them

Laura Hillenbrand, author of the biographies Seabiscuit and Unbroken, suggests A Measureless Peril, by Richard Snow: “Exploring World War II’s epic Battle of the Atlantic, this story is told from two points of view: that of the battle’s architects, American and German, and that of the author’s father, an officer aboard a destroyer escort. Fastidiously researched and beautifully written, it’s gripping, jaw-dropping, moving, at times surprisingly funny—and always spellbinding.”

David Baldacci, whose most recent novel is Hell’s Corner, recommends Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 by Mark Twain: “It’s Twain—the most famous American writer and the most iconic and unique in all he did—speaking from the grave a hundred years after his death. His autobiography is a stream-of-consciousness tour de force that brings to bear in all its glory his acerbic wit, his inimitable cleverness with words, and his plain and outspoken truth, which never allowed the facts to get in the way.”

Susan Coll, whose novels include Acceptance and Beach Week, praises The Believers, a novel by Zoë Heller: “There’s nothing I enjoy quite as much as a dark comedy, and this one—about family dysfunction, leftist politics, and religion—is especially delicious. Heller’s ability to evoke sympathy for unlikable characters is a rare gift, and her description of a young woman’s slow, tortured embrace of Orthodox Judaism is surprisingly affecting."

W. Ralph Eubanks, author of the memoir Ever Is a Long Time, liked A Geography of Secrets by Frederick Reuss: “This novel represents Washington authentically and without pretense, unlike many films set here. One of the main characters is, like me, a Roman Catholic who must reconcile his faith with what he does for a living. I was reminded of many people in this city whom I know, as well as a few I don’t, who find their work life in conflict with their faith.”

Mark Feldstein, author of Poisoning the Press, on Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars: “A disturbing account of an administration at war with itself and the Taliban. The Pentagon’s campaign to force Obama to escalate in Afghanistan, complete with alarmist leaks to credulous media, suggests military insubordination and journalistic malpractice. Some gripe about Woodward’s anonymous sources and omniscient voice, but this is an important rough draft of history.”

Franklin Foer, editor of the New Republic and author of How Soccer Explains the World, on To the End of the Land by David Grossman: “This is the great Israeli novel—so deft in its portrayal of mothers and sons and their relationships that you easily forget you’re in the thick of a book about ‘the Situation.’ Grossman is wildly funny and inventive, capable of rendering the familiar stories of a family—a child’s first steps, vacations—as if they were the rarest of events.”

This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.  

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