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The year in review and Mt. Everest too

December 18, 2011 |  7:09 am

George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on Mt. Everest in 1924.

So, not to be outdone by the actual calendar, we are getting a jump on the end of the year this Sunday with our review of 2011. In a notes-on-the-year-essay, our book critic, David L. Ulin, finds it heartening that a couple of brick-and-mortar book businesses are exploring some interesting strategies to thrive in a world captivated by the digital imperative. He also offers a thoughtful list of his 10 favorite books of the year. Murakami’s there, so is Lethem, but you may be  surprised by some of the others.

Our weekly book review coverage includes Richard Rayner’s review of the compelling "Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest” by Wade Davis. World War I saw the obliteration “of almost an entire generation of young men,” Rayner writes, and a few of the hearty souls that survived decided to test their mettle against Everest, the great unconquered foe.  Those climbing expeditions in the early 1920s captivated Britain and much of Europe looking for a positive human experience to replace the fog of war. 

Deputy books editor Nick Owchar offers a  Q&A with Philippa Gregory on the challenges of writing history as history and history as fiction, in this case the English Wars of the Roses.  Wesley Bausmith looks at “Identify: Basic Principles of Identity Design in the Iconic Trademarks of Chermayeff and Geismar” and finds that firm’s creations have “left some of the more lingering impressions of contemporary graphic design.”  Susan Carpenter is back this week with another trip into the world of YA books with “Planesrunner,” an adventure in parallel worlds from sci-fi novelist Ian McDonald. And we also have our weekly bestsellers list.Holiday-books-2011

Two shopping days are left before Hanukkah and six before Christmas, and you still don’t know what to buy for the book lovers in your family? Our handy holiday books and gift guide still offers some good options. Check it out.  

Sadly, Christopher Hitchens died Thursday of cancer at 62. It would be hard to name another voice in contemporary letters who made it such a firm practice to go his own way and often against the conventional grain. If you missed Elaine Woo's obituary of Hitchens, please take a look.  David L. Ulin checks in with a thoughtful appraisal of Hitchens' work. 

As always, thanks for reading.

-- Jon Thurber, book editor

Photo: George Mallory and Andrew Irvine as they prepare to climb the peak of Mt. Everest in June 1924.    Credit: Associated Press