It’s time for my second annual ‘Best Reads’ of the year post. This year, since I didn’t read much, I decided to expand it to all the books I have read this year – so I am exposing how little reading I get accomplished in a given year. These picks are ranked in favorite order, though I could be talked into the top two being a tie. So without further ado – here are my quick opinions of the books I read this year:
1. The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe
An interesting book covering the rise of Facist Dictator Mussolini from the 1920’s til his execution during WWII. Even if you have no interest in or understanding of the Catholic Church, this book provides an interesting look at how the church saw Mussolini as a partner in helping control the populace. A worthy read. Readers of this blog may recall that last year I promised myself I would stay away from World War II histories, but I don’t count this one, as it covers more pre-war stuff, and more focuses on the rise to power.
2. Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization
I really enjoyed this – it covered a period of time that I knew very little about – Carthage and the Roman expansion in the Mediterranean 0-300BC. Well written and very understandable (even if everybody was named Hannibal back then..) and it provides a great understanding of the politics of the time.
3. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History
A real quick read – a nice break from some of the longer dives into a historical period. Interesting story about how American forefathers were no strangers to getting involved in foreign war for capitalist reasons. A nice little intro into the Ottoman empire of the late 1700’s also. Recommended.
4. Liars Poker
I had been meaning to read this book for awhile – a lookback at the Wall Street excesses of the late 20th century. Found it an interesting look into the culture of Wall Street then.. and likely now.. If investing isn’t your thing, this could bore you. This was the first Michael Lewis book I had read, and his style is very readable, so I will likely try another of his books in the future.
5. Stranger in a Strange Land
I decided to do a quick science fiction read before heading back into historical non fiction, so I chose what was considered Heinlein’s best book by a number of reviewers. In short – this book just didn’t connect with me. I had a hard time immersing myself in this book. It may be characters were dated (this was written in 1961, and the characters felt to me kind of caricatures of that time), or it may be Heinlein’s writing style just didn’t agree with me. The next time I read science fiction, I will probably try a different author, to see if this was a problem with the book or if I have just lost my ability to enjoy reading science fiction.
For 2018, I could see myself sticking exclusively to history this year, and I might sprinkle in a World War II book – old habits die hard. In case you missed last year’s reviews (and if you have read this far you may be interested) – here is my list for 2016.