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11. THE BEAUTY AND THE SORROW by Peter
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11. THE BEAUTY AND THE SORROW by Peter Englund (Alfred A. Knopf)

The coming centenary of the First World War already has produced memorable books. And excellent histories preceded them, too. But Englund's piercing, poignant narrative comes from a contrasting viewpoint. Through the diaries, letters and notes of 20 ordinary people, he conveys the cataclysm in individual lives and deaths. The result is a powerful, insightful look into the wartime experience, with a shattering coda.

-- PETER M. GIANOTTI

(Credit: Photo by Chris Ware)

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Did you read it? Top 11 books of '11

Here are 11 of our critics' favorite reads in 2011.