Recently Read (12/17 – 11/11/18). (Books in Red are personal favorites – a lot of those in the Pre-2017 section).

  1. October 1964 David Halberstam. A baseball fan’s delight – a battle to the end of the season, along with Halberstam’s usual brilliance in describing the period and true issues of the era.
  2. Forever and a Day: James Bond novel – Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz does a fine job of describing 007’s first mission, and recreating the 50’s post WW II era.
  3. Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression Era Detroit – Tom Stanton. Recommended by my Detroit friend Kat Dobson. Chronicles when Detroit had the champions in Baseball, Football, Hockey and Boxing, combined with the murderous reign of the Black Legion, a bigoted group as bad as the Klan.
  4. The Quiet American – Graham Green. Considered one of the most realistic spy novels of the Cold War. Set in the French Viet Nam conflict in the 50s.
  5. The Fifties David Halberstam. I could not put down this book. Halberstam brilliantly brings to life every aspect of the 50s in succinct sections, ranging from early Cold War politics, Post war consumerism, the suburban birth, TV and the demise of Radio, ”The Beat” generation, McDonalds, Holiday Inn, and a host of other stories. Excellent studies of leaders and innovators, and their flaws and strengths.
  6. LA Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City – John Buntin.
  7. Delusions, Imaginations, and the Invention of Los Angeles – Gary Frist. Another fascinating Frist historical piece focusing on the invention of LA, with emphasis on the water wars, movies and unusual spiritual movements.
  8. A Gentleman’s Murder – Christopher Huang. A post WWI mystery exposing us to the inner workings of the quintessential British Club seen through the eyes of an honorable British-Chinese WWI veteran. An excellent first novel by a promising author.
  9. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann. Soon to be a movie. A chilling tale of a previously little known 1920’s campaign killing off Native Americans.
  10. The President is Missing – Bill Clinton and James Patterson. I am not a James Patterson fan, and the book is hardly a deep work, but Clinton’s input elevates the book. One gets the sense that the protagonist is the President Clinton wishes he could have been. That’s kind of refreshing.
  11. The Irregular: A Different Classes of Spy – H.B. Lyle. One of the more novel spins of the Sherlockian-type novel. The brilliant streetwise protagonist is the grown up leader of the urchins of Sherlock Holmes “Baker Street Irregulars.”
  12. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East Michael B. Oren.
  13. Bone White – Ronald Malfi. This mystery horror story will hurt your brain and surprise you. Pretty dark, though.
  14. Ball Lightning – Cixin Liu. Not as good as this Chinese author’s first book, The Three Body Paradox, but an excellent sci-fi/mystery read, especially if your knowledge of science and physics is far better than my own.
  15. Fire and Ashes – Aber Mukherjee. Third volume by this British born Indian author who wonderfully captures the setting and complexity of post-WW I India in the context of murder and mystery. His first volume, A Rising Man, is on my must-read list.
  16. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. – Niall Ferguson. No historical period intrigues me more that the growth and fall of the British Empire. This book convincingly proves that for all its flaws – and there were many – much good flowed from the British period.
  17. The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit and an Epic Quest to Arm a Nation at War – A.J. Baime. I could not put down this book or its successor, Go Like Hell. I had no appreciation of what was truly required to arm the Allies, the might of Detroit, or the soap opera like saga of Henry Ford and his company. A fascinating read.
  18. The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova. This novel almost made my Red list. A fascinating spin on the Dracula story.
  19. Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Glory at Le Mans – A.J. Baime. My second favorite book of the year.
  20. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen.
  21. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest human Strength – Roy Baumeister and John Tierney – A brilliant work by a trailblazing psychologist and a NYT Writer, which revived interest in the role of willpower, the chemical and physiological issues, and steps to improve. Others have built up Baumeister’s analysis and it is of special interest to me because of my efforts to prevent poor judgment and decisions resulting in Workplace deaths, ethical lapses and harassment.
  22. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress – Stephen Pinker.
  23. City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Shanghai – Paul French.
  24. The Peshawar Lancers SM Sterling.
  25. The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, From Freemasons to Facebook – Nile Ferguson.
  26. The Gone World – Tom Sweterlitsch. A truly unique Sci-fi brain twister. “Inception meets True Detective in this science fiction thriller of spellbinding tension and staggering scope that follows a special agent into a savage murder case with grave implications for the fate of mankind….”
  27. Dead Nation – Justina Ireland. Alternative history meets zombies. A novel recreation of post-civil war history with a bizarre twist.
  28. Raven Rock: The Story of US Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die. – Garrett M Graff. I read this book as part of my 2018 effort to master the Fifties, and hey, who isn’t intrigued by underground bunkers and command centers.
  29. The Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War – Paul Scharre. A dry but sobering expose of where war is heading and the myriad of unforeseen effects.
  30. The Disappeared: A Retrieval Artist Novel – Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
  31. Consequences: A Retrieval Artist Novel – Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I enjoy new and creative spins on detective noir and other themes. This story is set in a well-researched and feasible settlements on Mars and other planets. Books like The Martian, Gunpowder Moon, and the Retrieval Artist series are believable engaging works..
  32. The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations – John McCain and Mark Salter. This book is not well written and is probably about 40% too long, but that’s not the point, it is John McCain’s philosophic Last Will and Testament. One can only hope we can emulate some of the attitudes set out in this final word by a flawed but great man.
  33. Hell Divers III: Deliverance: the Hell Divers series, Book 3 – Nicolas Stansberry Smith. Another gritty and dark installment of this wildly creative post-apocalyptic series.
  34. City of Endless Night (Agent Pendergast series)Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston. Anything by these guys is a great thinking person’s mystery with extraordinary attention to detail.
  35. The Obsidian Chamber (Agent Pendergast series) – Lincoln Child and Preston Child.
  36. The Illustrious: Sublime Electricity series, Book 1 – Pavel Kornev. Russian author Kornev blends the current fondness for wizardry in books with steampunk with funky alternative history form an unpredictable and satisfactory group of books. The influx of Russian, Chinese, and Indian sci-fi, fantasy and mystery writers is giving us great new twists.
  37. The Heartless: Sublime Electricity series, Book 2 – Pavel Kornev
  38. The Fallen: Sublime Electricity series, Book 3 – Pavel Kornev.
  39. Red Sky at Noon: the Moscow Trilogy, Book 3 – Simon Montefiore. Truly unique. I’m going to cheat and use the Amazon description: “Imprisoned in the Gulags for a crime he did not commit, Benya Golden joins a penal battalion made up of Cossacks and convicts to fight the Nazis. He enrolls in the Russian cavalry, and on a hot summer day in July 1942, he and his band of brothers are sent on a suicide mission behind enemy lines—but is there a traitor among them? The only thing Benya can truly trust is his horse, Silver Socks, and that he will find no mercy in onslaught of Hitler’s troops as they push East.” Spanning ten epic days, between Benya’s war on the grasslands of southern Russia and Stalin’s intrigues in the Kremlin, between Benya’s intense affair with an Italian nurse and a romance between Stalin’s daughter and a war correspondent, this is a sweeping story of passion, bravery, and survival—where betrayal is a constant companion, death just a heartbeat away, and love, however fleeting, offers a glimmer of redemption.
  40. Coldheart Canyon: a Hollywood Ghost Story – Clive Barker.
  41. Built From Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew the Home Depot from Nothing to $30 billion – Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Bob Andelman. It’s a bit dated. Home Depot is even bigger and the founders have achieved many other things, but it’s a gritty tough talking explanation of the work ethic and common sense of these visionaries.
  42. Agent in Place (A Gray Man Novel) – Mark Greaney. Solid spy fiction and a far cry from the average fare.
  43. Gunpowder Moon – David Pedreira. In the spirit of the Martian, this murder mystery set in a believable and scientifically feasible moon colony.
  44. Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend – Andy Stanley. Typical practical, simplified and humble recommendations from Andy Stanley.
  45. Insight: Why we’re not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and In Life – Tasha Eurich.
  46. The Travelers – Chris Pavone.
  47. Persepolis Rising (Expanse Series, Book 7) – James SA Corey. Amazingly this series keeps on producing some of the most thoughtful believable sci-fi with the rollicking nature of a good Western or Firefly. No longer a secret, it’s also an outstanding series 0from Amazon. 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  48. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business – Charles Duhigg.
  49. The Night Manager: A Novel – John Le Carre’. It’s hard to say which is better – the outstanding TV miniseries or the book. I’ll go with the show. However, the settings of the movie and the book are 20+ years apart and because the settings are so different, I’d read the book and then watch the show.
  50. A Legacy of Spies: A Novel – John le Carre’. After 25 years, a final George Smiley novel reconstructed from le Carre’s notes.
  51. The Angel of Darkness – Caleb Carr.
  52. Artemis – Andy Weir. Weir could not possibly duplicate the brilliance of his first book, The Martian, but Artemis is still a fun read.
  53. The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg – Nicholas Dawidoff.
  54. Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th Century New York – Stacy Horn.

January 2017 – November 2017

  1. The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to transform the World of Victorian Medicine Lindsey Fitzharris.
  2. Paradox Bound – Peter Clines. More of Clines often hilarious sci-fi with the usual twists.
  3. The Outpost (Donovan Book 1) – W. Michael Gear.
  4. Greeks Bearing Gifts: A Bernie Gunther Novel, Book 13 – Philip Kerr.
  5. Palace of Treason (Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 2) – Jason Matthews. Pretty sure that everyone knows about these outstanding and believable spy novels. Quite unique with its tough scarred female heroine. Do not judge it by the turkey of a movie with Jennifer Lawrence.
  6. Red Sparrow: A Novel (Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 1) – Jason Matthews.
  7. Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck – Adam Cohen.
  8. Empire of Sin: A Story of Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for the Modern New OrleansGary Krist. Everything Frist does is super. His history reads like a good mystery even while imparting great history lessons.
  9. The Air Raid Killer (Max Heller, Dresden detective Book 1) – Frank Goldammer. Having traveled in Germany, Poland, Hungry  and other Central European countries, I especially enjoy the historical setting.
  10. The Devil’s Feast: Blake and Avery Novel series Book 3 – M.J. Carter. Another good and different spin on a Sherlock Holmes-type character.

Before 2017

  1. Dreamland, The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic – Sam Quiones (My “must read” for 2015 – a necessary read to understand the epidemic of Opiate abuse) (See also NYT article).
  2. Hillbilly Elegy. A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. J.D. Vance (My 2016 Must Read – lessons abound in this conversationally written book about the rural working people, especially the Scotch Irish predominating Appalachia and whose heritage I share).“A riveting book.”—The Wall Street Journal “Essential reading.”—David Brooks, New York Times “You will not read a more important book about America this year.”—The Economist
  3. The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 4.5 8, Joseph J. Ellis (Pulitzer Prize winner Ellis throws down another immensely readable book; this time on the personalities leading to our US Constitution).
  4. The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World: 1788 – 1800 Joseph J. Ellis (This book and The Quartet, along Founding Brothers are essential and enjoyable reading to understand our Constitution and the improbability of the US having come to be.)
  5. Three Body Problem Trilogy – Cixin Liu (Bestselling SF from China, which is both a complex but readable story and a fascinating look within China.)
  6. Hero of the Empire, Candice Millard (young Churchill – need I say more?).
  7. The Expanse series – James S. A. Corey (Believable SF recommended by George R. R. Martin.)
  8. A Rising Man – Aber Mukherjee (First effort by promising author – murder mystery set in post WW I India – unusually good job of painting an era).
  9. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, Douglas A. Blackmon (another 2016 Must Read to better understand US race relations. Painful for me to read.).
  10. The Alchemy Wars series – Ian Tregillis. (Delightful reads. SF meets Steam Punk meets fantasy).
  11. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Ashlee Vance (My favorite Bio for 2015-2016).
  12. Micus: A Novel of the Roman Empire, Ruth Downie (fascinating setting.).
  13. The Company: A Novel of the CIA. Robert Littell (riveting novel which gives a sense of the CIA up to 911. Difficult to find but worth the hunt.)
  14. Anything by John Scalzi (snarky science fiction and alternative military history/SF).
  15. Andersonville, MacKinlay Cantor (painful fictional history of the mind-numbingly inhumane Civil War prison.)
  16. The War of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenet’s and the Rise of Tudors (Narrative non-fiction which reads like a real life Game of Thrones. It truly stunk to be royal.)
  17. City of Thieves, David Benioff (Classic coming of age story meets grueling Leningrad war tale meets Catch 22 craziness.)
  18. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Tale of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adam Hochschild. (Chilling. Explains the problems facing Central Africa. Warning: you may feel grumpy toward Belgians after reading this book.).
  19. The Relic Master, Christopher Buckley (Some of Buckley’s work veers out of control but this quirky post Medieval tale will convulse you in laughter while you learn a bit of history.)
  20. The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rolling) (The first two books of this gritty series by the Harry Potter author are superb detective novels).
  21. A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power, Paul Fischer.
  22. Red Rising trilogy, Pierce Brown (Hunger Games for adults.)
  23. Wonderland, How Play Made the Modern World, Steven Johnson.