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By Salon Staff

Published November 20, 2000 9:50AM (EST)

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Like a lot of people in my profession, I am machine-gunned by information in my daily life: New poll numbers and new interviews, new daily spin and a constant barrage of new articles must be digested, transformed, processed and reassembled -- on deadline of course. So it's rejuvenating to have a book on my nightstand like "Angle of Repose," to allow myself a nightly drink from a deep well of profoundly American wisdom. Sure Stegner is sappy and romantic at times, but the voice of the narrator, Lyman Ward, is endowed with the authority of my favorite college professor, a voice mindful of tradition and continuity, worshipful of the rugged American individual, yet critical of our tendencies to be destructive. The book speaks to my inner traditionalist, adrift in this modern, rapid-fire life, articulating a worldview that has the unmistakable ring of truth, and is strangely optimistic, even in the form of a lamentation for a world gone by.

--Anthony York

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman
I've watched with alarm and confusion as clashes in the Middle East fracture the peace process. Newspaper reports often leave me skeptical and wondering about reporters' biases. Personal opinions also betray the passionate allegiances that the conflict inspires. Seeking some sort of larger, historical perspective, I dove into this 1989 National Book Award winner. Friedman, who served as the New York Times bureau chief in Beirut and later as head of the Jerusalem bureau, offers a fascinating, anecdotal and painstakingly comprehensive account. Almost magically, he spins a beguiling story out of his own kaleidoscopic viewpoint -- that of a Jewish-American with strong ties to Israel, a one-time Beirut resident who befriended his Arab neighbors, a Middle East scholar obsessed with the region since childhood, and a life-threatened journalist struggling to remain objective. Friedman breaks down the conflict into its many mysterious pieces and valiantly tries to put them back together again (in a writing style that goes down fast and furious).

--Suzy Hansen

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