Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Readers looking to cut through the White House and media spin of the Iraq Study Group report released yesterday can now read the document themselves and draw their own conclusions.
A tone of urgency pervades ``The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward -- A New Approach,'' by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton (Vintage). It states, ``Current U.S. policy is not working, as the level of violence in Iraq is rising and the government is not advancing national reconciliation,'' and the $2 billion a week being spent in Iraq is ``not sustainable over an extended period, especially when progress is not being made.'' Baker and his team offer President Bush 79 recommendations for moving forward.
If 2004's ``9/11 Commission Report'' is any guide, expect to see the study-group manifesto heat up the bestseller lists. It is likely to attract a similarly broad swath of readers -- many of whom will be looking for answers to the question, ``Now what?''
Other highlights this month include:
``Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy'' by Anna Politkovskaya (Owl). Politkovskaya, a crusading journalist who was murdered in October, wrote this highly critical account of life in the New Russia, a dismal virtual dictatorship, where corruption ensures high offices go to the highest bidder, extra- judicial murders go unpunished and starving soldiers fight an endless, pointless war against terror in Chechnya. And this all before outspoken critics began expiring in exotic ways.
``Money, a Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash'' by Liz Perle (Picador). Reflecting on her own transition from well-off wife to nearly bankrupt divorcee, Perle examines the complicated relationship women have with money -- from the financial sacrifices that can factor into the decision to marry and have children, to some women's seemingly irrational need for costly handbags, cosmetics and shoes.
``President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination'' by Richard Reeves (Simon & Schuster). One of nearly 900 books on the late president, Reeve's biography focuses on Reagan as ``The Great Communicator'' -- of ideas rather than facts -- and demonstrates how Reagan's seemingly low-key demeanor masked a sharp, intuitive intellect that charmed everyone from Joe Public to Mikhail Gorbachev.
``A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History'' by Thomas Bender (Hill & Wang). A revisionist survey of American history that places U.S. development in the context of global history. Bender argues that the Civil War was but one conflict in a larger wave of revolutions taking place around the world at the same time, and that our financial influence is not solely of our making, but the result of broader capitalist movement across centuries and continents.
``Heroes: A History of Hero Worship'' by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Anchor). Since Sept. 11, 2001, the word ``hero'' has been tossed around like confetti. Here, a British historian contemplates the meaning of heroism and tries to find it in the lives of Alcibiades, El Cid, Albrecht von Wallenstein, Cato, Sir Francis Drake and Garibaldi, all of whom she measures against archetypes including Achilles the soldier and Odysseus the adventurer.
``Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change'' by Elizabeth Kolbert (Bloomsbury). The New Yorker magazine writer's account of climate change and degradation examines sites in Alaska, the Netherlands and elsewhere and argues that changing weather patterns will threaten agriculture and food supplies while warmer seas will spawn more storms of greater intensity and flood more coastal areas.
``The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca'' by Tahir Shah (Bantam). A British journalist's spirited memoir of moving his young family from rainy London to mystifying Morocco, where he purchases Dar Khalifa, a ruined mansion by the sea, and much like Peter Mayle in ``A Year in Provence,'' finds that renovating his new home in the midst of a foreign culture is far more trouble than he anticipated.
``Gentlemen and Players'' by Joanne Harris (HarperCollins). In this entertaining novel by the author of ``Chocolat,'' a veteran Latin teacher and a young newcomer -- one with access to dangerous secrets -- vie for control over the future of the revered St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, itself struggling to adapt to the new, fast-moving information age while trying to maintain the school's traditional, buttoned-down manner.
``Everybody Loves Somebody'' by Joanna Scott (Back Bay). This absorbing collection of 10 short stories considers the vagaries of love and marriage in a wide variety of contexts, from Europe in the wake of World War I, where a young couple's wedding takes on unexpected layers of meaning, to contemporary New York, where a Madison Avenue ad exec crashes his car in the Catskills while traveling home and is forced reconsider the definition of family.