Christopher Hitchens's favorite books

  • Wolf Hall

    Wolf Hall

    Hilary Mantel

    England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a selfinterested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself

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    puts the author in the very first rank of historical novelists.

     — Source

  • The Wind Blows Away Our Words

    The Wind Blows Away Our Words

    Doris Lessing
    And Other Documents Relating to the Afghan Resistance
    Afghanistan

    SCOTT (Copy 1): From the John Holmes Library Collection.

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    It was seriously remarkable

     — Source

  • The Great Terror

    The Great Terror

    Robert Conquest
    A Reassessment
    History

    The definitive work on Stalin's purges, the author's The Great Terror was universally acclaimed when it first appeared in 1968. It was "hailed as the only scrupulous, nonpartisan, and adequate book on the subject". And in recent years it has received equally high praise in the Soviet Union, where it is now considered the authority on the period, and has been serialized in Neva, one of their leading periodicals. Of course, when the author wrote the original volume two decades ago, he relied heavily on unofficial sources. Now, with the advent of glasnost, an avalanche of new material is available, and he has mined this enormous cache to write a substantially new edition of his classic work. It is remarkable how many of the most disturbing conclusions have born up under the light of fresh evidence. But the author has added enormously to the detail, including hitherto secret information on the three great "Moscow Trials," on the fate of the executed generals, on the methods of obtaining confessions, on the purge of writers and other members of the intelligentsia, on life in the labor camps, and many other key matters. Both a leading Sovietologist and a highly respected poet, the author blends research with prose, providing not only an authoritative account of Stalin's purges, but also a compelling chronicle of one of this century's most tragic events. A timely revision of a book long out of print, this is the updated version of the author's original work.

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    My favourite nineteen-seventeener, ...is Robert Conquest. Author of The Great Terror

     — Source

  • The Day Stalin Died

    The Day Stalin Died

    Doris Lessing
    Fiction

    From the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Doris Lessing, a short story about a young woman’s attempts to juggle her political beliefs with everyday life.

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    I have only twice had the experience of reading a story that was so good,

     — Source

  • The Caged Virgin

    The Caged Virgin

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    A Muslim Woman's Cry for Reason
    Social Science

    Raised a Muslim but increasingly outraged by her religion's hostility towards women, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has now become one of today's most talked-about, admired and controversial political figures because of her desire to free women from an oppressive Muslim culture. Her bestselling collection of essays, THE CAGED VIRGIN, now available in English for the first time, brings together some of her most passionate and compelling writing on a wide range of issues concerning Islam. Drawing on her own first-hand experience and cultural background, she assesses the role of women in Islam both in practice and in theory; the rights of the individual; fanaticism; and Western policies towards immigrant communities. Provocative and compelling in equal measure, THE CAGED VIRGIN is an important addition to the ongoing debate about the 'clash of civilizations' and marks the debut of a writer and activist destined to be one of the key international figures of the early twenty-first century.

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    I would urge you all to go out and buy her new book, The Caged Virgin

     — Source

  • The Persian Boy

    The Persian Boy

    Mary Renault
    Fiction

    A New York Times–bestselling novel of the ancient king of Macedon and his lover by the author Hilary Mantel calls “a shining light.” The Persian Boy centers on the most tempestuous years of Alexander the Great’s life, as seen through the eyes of his lover and most faithful attendant, Bagoas. When Bagoas is very young, his father is murdered and he is sold as a slave to King Darius of Persia. Then, when Alexander conquers the land, he is given Bagoas as a gift, and the boy is besotted. This passion comes at a time when much is at stake—Alexander has two wives, conflicts are ablaze, and plots on the Macedon king’s life abound. The result is a riveting account of a great conqueror’s years of triumph and, ultimately, heartbreak. The Persian Boy is the second volume of the Novels of Alexander the Great trilogy, which also includes Fire from Heaven and Funeral Games. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Mary Renault including rare images of the author. “Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us.” —Hilary Mantel

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    a marvelous novel

     — Source

  • The God of Small Things

    The God of Small Things

    Arundhati Roy
    A Novel
    Fiction

    The beloved debut novel about an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969, from the author of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • MAN BOOKER PRIZE WINNER Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s modern classic is equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest. Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

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    an exquisite new novel

     — Source

  • Selling Hitler

    Selling Hitler

    Robert Harris
    The Story of the Hitler Diaries
    Business & Economics

    Robert Harris tracked the fiasco following the sudden appearance in 1983 of the so called Hitler diaries. Now this brilliantly researched book is available in paperback.

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    a brilliant book

     — Source

  • The Cruel Sea

    The Cruel Sea

    Nicholas Monsarrat
    Fiction

    A maritime adventure originally published in 1951. Set in the Second World War, two ships and their crews of about a hundred and fifty men are involved in defending Atlantic convoys against impossible odds.

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    The best novels about warfare

    Jan 23, 2009 — Source

  • Rebel Land

    Rebel Land

    Christopher de Bellaigue
    Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town
    Political Science

    An esteemed journalist travels to Turkey to investigate the legacy of the Armenian genocide and the quest for Kurdish statehood. In 2001, Christopher de Bellaigue, then the Economist's correspondent in Istanbul, wrote a piece about the history of Turkey for The New York Review of Books. In it, he briefly discussed the killing and deportation of half a million Armenians in 1915. These massacres, he suggested, were best understood as part of the struggles that attended the end of the Ottoman empire. After the story was published, the magazine was besieged with letters. This wasn't war, the correspondents said; it was genocide. And the death toll was not half a million but three times that many. De Bellaigue was mortified. How had he gotten it so wrong? He went back to Turkey, but found that the national archives had sealed all documents pertaining to those times. Undeterred and armed with a stack of contraband histories, he set out to the conflicted southeastern Turkish city of Varto to discover what had really happened. There, de Bellaigue found a place in which the centuries-old conflict among Turks, Armenians, and Kurds was still very much alive. His government escort began their association by marching with him arm in arm through the town's shopping district to show his presence; the local police chief, sent by the central office in Ankara to keep an eye on the Kurds, was sure he was a spy. He found houses built from the ruins of old Armenian churches, young boys playing soccer with old skulls, and a cast of villagers who all seemed unwilling to talk. What emerges is both an intellectual detective story and a reckoning with memory and identity that brings to life the basic conflicts of the Middle East: between statehood and religion, imperial borders and ethnic identity. Combining a deeply informed view of the area's history with the testimonials of the townspeople who slowly come to trust him, de Bellaigue unravels the enigma of the Turkish twentieth century, a time that contains the death of an empire, the founding of a nation, and the near extinction of a people. Rebel Land exposes the historical and emotional fault lines that lie behind many of today's headlines: about Turkey and its faltering bid for membership into the EU, about the Kurds and their bid for nationhood, and the Armenians' campaign for genocide recognition.

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    an exceptional book.. a contemporary account

     — Source

  • The Meaning of Hitler

    The Meaning of Hitler

    Sebastian Haffner
    History

    A noted German journalist explains why Hitler's campaign to transform the crippled republic of the 1930s into a military and industrial power convinced Germans at all levels of society that he was the nation's savior

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    Read it carefully, because it leaves nothing out

     — Source

  • Ecology of Fear

    Ecology of Fear

    Mike Davis
    Los Angeles And The Imagination Of Disaster
    Science

    Los Angeles has become a magnet for the American apocalyptic imagination. Riot, fire, flood, earthquake...only locusts are missing from the almost biblical list of disasters that have struck the city in the 1990s. From Ventura to Laguna, more than one million Southern Californians have been directly touched by disaster-related death, injury, or damage to their homes and businesses. Middle-class apprehensions about angry underclasses are exceeded only by anxieties about blind thrust faults underlying downtown L.A. or about the firestorms that periodically incinerate Malibu. And the force of real catastrophe has been redoubled by the obsessive fictional destruction of Los Angeles--by aliens, comets, and twisters--in scores of novels and films. The former "Land of Sunshine" is now seen by much of the world, including many of L.A.'s increasingly nervous residents, as a veritable Book of the Apocalypse theme park. In this extraordinary book, Mike Davis, the author of City of Quartz and our most fascinating interpreter of the American metropolis, unravels the secret political history of disaster, real and imaginary, in Southern California. As he surveys the earthquakes of Santa Monica, the burning of Koreatown, the invasion of "man-eating" mountain lions, the movie Volcano, and even Los Angeles's underrated tornado problem, he exposes the deep complicity between social injustice and perceptions of natural disorder. Arguing that paranoia about nature obscures the fact that Los Angeles has deliberately put itself in harm's way, Davis reveals how market-driven urbanization has for generations transgressed against environmental common sense. And he shows that the floods, fires, and earthquakes reaped by the city were tragedies as avoidable--and unnatural--as the beating of Rodney King and the ensuing explosion in the streets. Rich with detail, bold and original, Ecology of Fear is a gripping reconnaissance into the urban future, an essential portrait of America at the millennium.

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    Recommendedn on The Guardian

     — Source

  • The Sword of Honour Trilogy

    The Sword of Honour Trilogy

    Evelyn Waugh
    Fiction

    (Book Jacket Status: Jacketed) This trilogy of novels about World War II, largely based on his own experiences as an army officer, is the crowning achievement of Evelyn Waugh’s career. Its central character is Guy Crouchback, head of an ancient but decayed Catholic family, who at first discovers new purpose in the challenge to defend Christian values against Nazi barbarism, but then gradually finds the complexities and cruelties of war too much for him. Yet, though often somber, the Sword of Honour trilogy is also a brilliant comedy, peopled by the fantastic figures so familiar from Waugh’s early satires. The deepest pleasures these novels afford come from observing a great satiric writer employ his gifts with extraordinary subtlety, delicacy, and human feeling, for purposes that are ultimately anything but satiric.

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    The best novels about warfare

    Jan 23, 2009 — Source

  • Armenian Golgotha

    Armenian Golgotha

    Grigoris Palakʻean
    A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1918
    Biography & Autobiography

    On April 24, 1915, the author, along with some 250 other intellectuals and leaders of Constantinople's Armenian community, were arrested in the launch of a systematic attempt to eliminate the Armenian minority from Anatolia while countless deportation caravans of Armenians were tortured, raped, slaughtered and mutilated on their way to the Syrian deserts.

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    a book of exceptional interest and scholarship

     — Source

  • Hitler

    Recommended on Vanity Fait

     — Source

  • The Temptation of Jack Orkney

    Please make a resolution to acquire the volumes in which these occur.

     — Source

  • Diaries

    Diaries

    George Orwell
    Biography & Autobiography

    Collects the diaries of George Orwell, chronicling the major events of his life, including the rise of totalitarianism and the death of his first wife, that influenced his writing.

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    can greatly enrich our understanding of how Orwell transmuted the raw material of everyday experience into some of his best-known novels and polemics.

    Aug 7, 2012 — Source

  • The Clinton Tapes

    The Clinton Tapes

    Taylor Branch
    Wrestling History in the White House
    History

    The Clinton Tapeswas a secret project, initiated by Clinton, to preserve for future historians an unfiltered record of presidential experience. During his eight years in office, Clinton met with Taylor Branch in the White House, usually late at night, to answer questions and tell stories. Branch recorded seventy-nine of their dialogues to compile a trove of raw information about a presidency as it happened. Branch then recorded his own detailed recollections immediately after each session, covering not only the subjects discussed but also the look and feel of each evening with the president. Their discussions were unpredictable, intense, and candid. At any given moment the president could leap from memories to a current crisis or problems with his daughter's homework. The resultant text captures Clinton from many angles. Branch's firsthand narrative is confessional, unsparing, and personal. What should an objective prompter say when the President of the United States seeks advice, argues facts, or lodges complaints against the press? The relationship that emerges from these interviews is dynamic, both affectionate and charged, with flashes of anger and humor. President Clinton drives the history, but this story is also about two friends.

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    Recommended on Newsweek

     — Source

  • Borges

    Borges

    Edwin Williamson
    A Life
    Biography & Autobiography

    A portrait of the Latin-American writer and poet draws on interviews and previously unavailable sources to cover such topics as Borges's ancestry in Argentina, the passions and challenges that marked his life, and the evolution of his political ideas. Reprint.

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    A new biography reaches the heart of the labyrinththe intense and wondrous life of Jorge Luis Borges

    Sep 7, 2004 — Source

  • Memoirs of an Anti-Semite

    Memoirs of an Anti-Semite

    Gregor Von Rezzori
    Fiction

    The elusive narrator of this beautifully written, complex, and powerfully disconcerting novel is the scion of a decayed aristocratic family from the farther reaches of the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire. In five psychologically fraught episodes, he revisits his past, from adolescence to middle age, a period that coincides with the twentieth century’s ugliest years. Central to each episode is what might be called the narrator’s Jewish Question. He is no Nazi. To the contrary, he is apolitical, accommodating, cosmopolitan. He has Jewish friends and Jewish lovers, and their Jewishness is a matter of abiding fascination to him. His deepest and most defining relationship may even be the strange dance of attraction and repulsion that throughout his life he has conducted with this forbidden, desired, inescapable, imaginary Jewish other. And yet it is just this relationship that has blinded him to—and makes him complicit in—the terrible realities of his era. Lyrical, witty, satirical, and unblinking, Gregor von Rezzori’s most controversial work is an intimate foray into the emotional underworld of modern European history.

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    meshes the micro and macro versions of interwar anti-Semitism very skillfully

     — Source

  • Animal Liberation

    Animal Liberation

    Peter Singer
    The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement
    Nature

    Since its original publication in 1975, this groundbreaking work has awakened millions of people to the existence of "speciesism"—our systematic disregard of nonhuman animals—inspiring a worldwide movement to transform our attitudes to animals and eliminate the cruelty we inflict on them. In Animal Liberation, author Peter Singer exposes the chilling realities of today's "factory farms" and product-testing procedures—destroying the spurious justifications behind them, and offering alternatives to what has become a profound environmental and social as well as moral issue. An important and persuasive appeal to conscience, fairness, decency, and justice, it is essential reading for the supporter and the skeptic alike.

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    Recommended on The Atlantic

     — Source

  • This Was the Old Chief's Country

    This Was the Old Chief's Country

    Doris Lessing
    Africa

    Portrays the helpless collisions and alienations of the races in South Africa.

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    Recommended on Slate

     — Source

  • The Fall of Berlin 1945

    The Fall of Berlin 1945

    Antony Beevor
    History

    "A tale drenched in drama and blood, heroism and cowardice, loyalty and betrayal."—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post The Red Army had much to avenge when it finally reached the frontiers of the Third Reich in January 1945. Frenzied by their terrible experiences with Wehrmacht and SS brutality, they wreaked havoc—tanks crushing refugee columns, mass rape, pillage, and unimaginable destruction. Hundreds of thousands of women and children froze to death or were massacred; more than seven million fled westward from the fury of the Red Army. It was the most terrifying example of fire and sword ever known. Antony Beevor, renowned author of D-Day and The Battle of Arnhem, has reconstructed the experiences of those millions caught up in the nightmare of the Third Reich's final collapse. The Fall of Berlin is a terrible story of pride, stupidity, fanaticism, revenge, and savagery, yet it is also one of astonishing endurance, self-sacrifice, and survival against all odds.

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    A huge success

     — Source

  • The Grass Is Singing

    The Grass Is Singing

    Doris Lessing
    Africa

    This murder story features a Rhodesian farmer's wife and her houseboy.

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    Recommended on Slate

     — Source

  • The Silent Angel

    The Silent Angel

    Heinrich Böll
    A Novel
    Fiction

    Returning to the ruins of post-World War II Cologne, Hans finds his cynicism fading through his healing relationships with the Church and with his new love, Regina

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    A book that unflinchingly discusses the ruins and the corpses

     — Source

  • Infidel

    Infidel

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Biography & Autobiography

    The author of The Caged Virgin recounts the story of her life, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia and escape from a forced marriage to her efforts to promote women's rights while surviving numerous threats to her safety. Reprint. 100,000 first printing.

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    Recommended on Slate Group

     — Source

  • Alexander

    Alexander

    Guy Maclean Rogers
    The Ambiguity of Greatness
    Biography & Autobiography

    A classical scholar traces the dramatic life and legend of Alexander the Great, discussing his youth in Macedonia, military accomplishments, complicated sexuality, mysterious death, and legacy. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.

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    a very absorbing book

     — Source

  • A Dance to the Music of Time

    A Dance to the Music of Time

    Anthony Powell
    Spring
    Ambition

    A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING A BUYER'S MARKET THE ACCEPTANCE WORLD Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, and is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. It is unrivalled for its scope, its humour and the enormous pleasure it has given to generations. These first three novels in the sequence follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles which stand between them and the 'Acceptance World'.

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    The best novels about warfare

    Jan 23, 2009 — Source

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

    electrifying first book

     — Source

  • 40 Days and 40 Nights

    40 Days and 40 Nights

    Matthew Chapman
    Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, Oxycontin®, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania
    Social Science

    In this fascinating story of evolution, religion, politics, and personalities, Matthew Chapman captures the story behind the headlines in the debate over God and science in America. Kitzmiller v. Dover Board of Education, decided in late 2005, pitted the teaching of intelligent design (sometimes known as "creationism in a lab coat") against the teaching of evolution. Matthew Chapman, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, spent several months covering the trial from beginning to end. Through his in-depth encounters with the participants—creationists, preachers, teachers, scientists on both sides of the issue, lawyers, theologians, the judge, and the eleven parents who resisted the fundamentalist proponents of intelligent design—Chapman tells a sometimes terrifying, often hilarious, and above all moving story of ordinary people doing battle in America over the place of religion and science in modern life.

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    40 days and 40 nights. . . . Which is the title of his book, which I recommend.

     — Source

  • The Ship

    The Ship

    C. S. Forester

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    best novels about warfare

     — Source

  • The Captive Mind

    Not entirely by chance, I was rereading his classic collection of essays...in the weeks before his death.

     — Source

  • The Book of Evidence

    The Book of Evidence

    John Banville
    Fiction

    John Banville’s stunning powers of mimicry are brilliantly on display in this engrossing novel, the darkly compelling confession of an improbable murderer. Freddie Montgomery is a highly cultured man, a husband and father living the life of a dissolute exile on a Mediterranean island. When a debt comes due and his wife and child are held as collateral, he returns to Ireland to secure funds. That pursuit leads to murder. And here is his attempt to present evidence, not of his innocence, but of his life, of the events that lead to the murder he committed because he could. Like a hero out of Nabokov or Camus, Montgomery is a chillingly articulate, self-aware, and amoral being, whose humanity is painfully on display.

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    a fine novel...Booker Prize finalist in 1989

     — Source

  • Bitter Lemons

    beautiful but patronizing memoir

     — Source