May 5, 2007

Ask: You Never Know

There I was at lunch, floating down the Amazon, having an amazing lunch with a bunch of people I didn't know and would be spending a lot of time with. We were talking about books -- Freakonomics won high praise -- and logistics. Since most of these people live on a ship, they depend on Amazon even more than I do, and they're just as eager for answers to that critical question, "What should I read next?"

Ask: You Never Know

In a lull, I mentioned that I'd love to read a biography or a good essay about Gertrude Bell, the woman who pretty much invented Iraq. "Oh yes!", said the young Englishwoman (who was actually from Australia: Americans are hopeless), in a very brief interval of animation. But it proved impossible to draw her out, even though in my book a hull is an introduction even if you're not an American who doesn't know any better.

So, what do I find this morning in The Atlantic Monthly this morning, but a review of a new biography of Gertrude Bell! Christopher Hitchens is enthusiastic for Georgina Howell's new biography . There's also a new biography by Liora Lukitz .

Now, how to choose?