Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Nick's Picks, the 100 Most Notable Books of 2012 - 91,90,89...

#91:  Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn.  Harper.  $25.99.

Do you think the Queen gets a little tired of the shenanigans of her royal brood?  The Hitler costumes?  The naked photographs?  (Billiards in the nude is seemingly quite difficult.)

Well, what if one day, Queen Elizabeth decided to don a hoodie in the rain and head out to the great unknown?  Or at least to Scotland, where a loved yacht is now moored.

Set sail with William Kuhn and discover what happens on just such a sojourn - all while the Royal attendants try to keep up the ruse that the Queen isn't missing, not at all.

#90:  Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power, by Seth Rosenfeld.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  $40.

Clark Kerr, Ronald Reagan, Mario Savio, and J. Edgar Hoover - a University President, a future President, the icon of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement, and the director of the FBI - have had their stories told before, but Rosenfeld had access to government documents (more than a quarter of a million pages that he forced the government to produce) so his portraits are fuller, darker and more expansive than ever before.

On one side are Kerr and Savio, the other Reagan and Hoover.  Hoover was a bastard, Reagan a power-hungry dupe - and both Kerr and Savio, though sympathetic, are shown in Rosenfeld's work to not have personally wielded the influence many ascribe to them today.  Subversives is monumental - both in length (more than 700 pages) and in its effort to lay bare the contempt falsely fostered and fomented, contempt that led to the explosion of the Free Speech Movement.

Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Hoover.

#89:  The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater.  Scholastic Press.  $18.99.

Haunted forests?  Tarot?  Latin-speaking trees?  All these and more you'll find inside Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys.  But what's most impressive in this book geared to the Young Adult reader in your life, is that the story always comes back to family - how families work (or not) and the peculiar ties that bind them together and often pull them apart.

The book's on this list, though, because my coworker Tracy says this is the book above all others that she is going to press into readers' hands this season.  Good enough for Tracy is good enough for me.

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