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Every day at the office, I receive unsolicited books in the category known as "inspirational." I glance at them all, but almost invariably they end up in the giveaway bin. No disrespect: we simply can't cover everything. This book was an exception. A terrible car accident as a freshman in college. Many surgeries. Unrelenting pain. Out of this suffering came a deepened faith—and a desire to help others. Formulaic? Yes and no. (We're all born, we all die: pretty formulaic, isn't it?) Read Gracie Rosenberger's story yourself. And keep some Kleenex handy.

Destiny Of The Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
Candice Millard (Doubleday)

At the center of this riveting narrative is James Garfield. Inaugurated as President of the United States in March 1881, he was shot by a self-deluded assassin in July and died in September. In addition to restoring to public memory the admirable Garfield (a man of deep faith, an ardent abolitionist, and a natural leader who knew grinding poverty firsthand), Candice Millard deftly handles several story lines connected with Garfield's fate. The result is one of the year's best pieces of history writing.

The Best American Poetry 2011
Kevin Young, Guest Editor, David Lehman, Series Editor (Scribner)

As the former editor of a series with "Best" in the title, I'm not inclined to be huffy about this annual gathering. Why quibble? I rejoice at the continuing existence of this series, and I'm particularly happy when—as this year—the guest editor is a poet whose work I enjoy. Not that I like all the poems Kevin Young has picked. Who could expect that? But keep this volume by your bed for a few weeks, and you'll be amply rewarded.

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December 2011

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