Best nonfiction 2005
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LIKE A ROLLING STONE: BOB DYLAN AT THE CROSSROADS, by Greil Marcus (PublicAffairs, $25)Skip to next paragraph
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In a sometimes hyperbolic but sincere paean to Bob Dylan's masterpiece "Like a Rolling Stone," music writer/historian Greil Marcus chronicles what it was like to be alive that summer and how it felt to hear that song for the very first time. (4/12/05)
ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS: A BIOGRAPHY OF JIMI HENDRIX, by Charles R. Cross (Hyperion, $24.95)
Flashy, raucous, sad - Jimi Hendrix's brief life was all of the above, but it was also seminal to music history. Charles R. Cross's biography of Hendrix does not break new ground but does skillfully illuminate the details of Hendrix's career. (8/2/05)
THE BEATLES: THE BIOGRAPHY, by Bob Spitz (Little, Brown and Company, $29.95)
If you like your Beatles cute, cuddly, and dusted with magic, this is not your book. But if you want insights on the men behind the mop-tops, Bob Spitz offers a compelling read, with surprises even for those who think they already know the whole story. (11/8/05)
The Last Coach: A Life of Paul 'Bear' Bryant, by Allen Barra (W.W. Norton, $26.95)
In Alabama "Bear Bryant" was as good as royalty. This new biography examines the life and achievements of one of college football's most-winning coaches. (9/13/05)
THREE NIGHTS IN AUGUST, by Buzz Bissinger (Doubleday, $25)
Tony LaRussa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, tells his own story to Buzz Bissinger as he focuses on a pivotal August 2003 series between the Cardinals and their despised arch rivals the Chicago Cubs. It's a tale full of baseball lore and a good deal of humanity as well. (9/2/05)
Since I became the Monitor's book editor June, I've heard the same question over and over:
Is it the best job ever?
My answer: Just about. Contrary to what some imagine, I don't spend all day reading, but I do read at least two or three books a week, and I enjoy most of them. Of course, among these I do have my favorites so to answer the other most frequently asked question ("What have you read that you really liked?"), of all the books listed here, the following were my top 10 favorite on-the-job reading experiences this year:
1. Two Lives, by Vikram Seth The characters were so incredibly ordinary and yet so extraordinary at the same time.
2. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard . What's not to like when history, adventure, and good writing all come together?
3. Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, by Jane Smiley . I couldn't get enough of that reading list.
4. The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdrich . Erdrich is a truly skilful novelist.
5. The Accidental Masterpiece, by Michael Kimmelman . It's easy to love a book that finds art everywhere.
6. Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday . A chilling but very compelling read.
7.The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion . Once again, a writer who really knows her craft.
8. Mark Twain: A Life, by Mark Powers . It was as if Twain were in the room with me.
9. Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev, by Robert Dessaix . I had no chance to amble through Europe this summer - except when I read this book.
10.Marley & Me, by John Grogan . What can I say? I have a dog.