Feature

John Weidman

John Weidman’s musical Assassins, which premiered off-Broadway in 1990, has been nominated for seven Tonys. Last week, it received four Drama Desk awards, including Outstanding Musical Revival.

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (Vintage, $11). In which one of the great creations of American hard-boiled detective fiction, “the Continental Op,” single-handedly cleans up a spectacularly corrupt California town named Personville (pronounced “Poisonville”). Nobody wrote this stuff better than Hammett, and this book is his best.

Citizens by Simon Schama (Vintage, $28). This riveting history of the French Revolution makes fluid, fascinating sense of the dauntingly complex cascade of events that in 1789 redirected the history of the Western world. A work of serious scholarship that really does read like a thriller.

The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, $18). If David McCullough were Japanese he would be a Living National Treasure. Each of his books is a delight, but this extraordinary saga of how the United States built the Panama Canal, and how the French tried to but didn’t, is my favorite. A reassuring, and in the end deeply moving, portrait of pragmatic, idealistic Americans accomplishing something that seemed genuinely impossible.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (Simon & Schuster, $15). Encountering this, one of the most original books I have ever read, at the age of 17 led me to a life-changing discovery: That the darkest truths embedded in the grimmest events can sometimes be most powerfully illuminated through humor.

Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Vintage, $15). A journalist writing with the psychological insights of a novelist applies his remarkable skills to a remarkable subject: the breakup of the Soviet Union. A series of unforgettable vignettes, each one both completely real and completely surreal at the same time. Read this, then read Kapuscinski’s equally brilliant books on Africa.

David Copperfield

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