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CL RECOMMENDS 

Recent Books

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (Vintage International paperback). Roth's inspired "alternate history" novel -- both roundly praised and denounced upon its initial release -- posits that in 1940, Republican Charles Lindbergh, running on an isolationist platform, is elected President in a landslide over FDR. His victory turns him into a near-godlike figure and emboldens anti-Semites who begin to make life harder for many American Jews, including Roth's family, depicted as fictional characters who live, as in real life, in Newark. The result is frightening, funny and poignant. -- Dana Renaldi

Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century by Mark Leonard (PublicAffairs hardback). Leonard, the Director of Foreign Policy at the Centre for European Reform in London and a well-known columnist there, says the US belief in European weakness is off the mark. He believes US military might, or "hard power," is yesterday's news and the future belongs to the "new European model" of power, a pooling of various nation's resources while preserving their sovereignty, drawing others into their orbit in innovative ways that don't depend on, and in fact discourage, military aggression. Leonard is an engaging writer and makes what could have been a policy wonk book an entertaining read. -- John Grooms

On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press hardback). Zadie Smith, whose first novel White Teeth was an international sensation but whose second novel disappointed, is almost back on track with her third novel. On Beauty is a funny kaleidoscope of multi-cultural, multi-racial 21st century life seen through the prism of academic politics and family life. The book makes the point that ideologies, any ideologies, are dangerous -- a timely notion in a Red and Blue nation. The beautiful descriptions of North London, winter on a New England campus, and a college library are worth reading more than once, but those are offset by some sloppiness here and there. The book confirms that Smith is a talented writer, but at the tender age of 30, Smith may not be refining her voice so much as still clarifying what she means to say. -- Melinda Farbman

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