December 31, 2016


I'm way behind on my book review, but here are a few of the best I read this year:


Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin

REVIEW : HOLY FOOLERY (Ken Kalfus, The New Yorker)

A book that takes faith, but not itself, seriously.

They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy 

REVIEW: The Romance of a Decaying World : Miklós Bánffy's tale of the Austria-Hungarian empire in decline captures the charm and decadence of a doomed civilization. (MAX EGREMONT, WSJ)

Best read in conjunction with Fermor and De Waal below--portraits of the world that was lost to the Nazis and Soviets

The Golden Age by John C. Wright

INTERVIEW: "The Soul of Sci-Fi": An Interview with John C. Wright (Janice Walker & Eleanor Bourg Donlon, DAPPLED THINGS)

Initially difficult to orient yourself, but it's an ambitious and morally serious sci-fi novel.


Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow  

REVIEW: How We Got Shafted at the Revolution (Walter Isaacson, New York Magazine)

I'd read and liked Richard Brookhiser's Hamilton book, so skipped this one, until the Hamilton phenomenon and the whole family read and loved it.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

REVIEW: They Began a New Era (James Salter, NY Review of Books)

I was genuinely stunned at how moved I was when Wilbur shut up their critics with his first flight in France and his humility about it.

The Isis Apocalypse : The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State by Will McCants

Not quite on the level of The Looming Tower, but indispensable to understanding the second half of the WoT.

Between the Woods and the Water : From The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates by Patrick Leigh Fermor

REVIEW: The Inspired Voyage of Patrick Leigh Fermor (Daniel Mendelsohn, NY Review of Books)

Fermor is a revered travel writer who I'd never read until now.  He justifies the hype.

The Hare With Amber Eyes : A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

Maybe the most surprising book I read this year.  De Waal is a sculptor whose family were not unlike the Rothschilds.  He traces their history by way of a collection of Japanese netsuke figures that were handed around the family. The Holocaust lurks but never really figures in the story.  It's more about the very Europeanized Jewish culture that was likewise exterminated.


The Perfect Pass : American Genius and the Reinvention of Football by S.C. Gwynne 

It may not be the only book that is insightful about the actual geometry of the game of football, but it's the only one I'm aware of.  Reminiscent of David Winner's Brilliant Orange 

REVIEW: Mind of a Team: David Peace's Red or Dead (MARK LANE, The Millions)

Peace, who wrote the book on which Damned United was based, here portrays Bill Shankly, the legendary coach of the dominant Liverpool team of the 60s and early 70s. The sing-song narrative style creates an oddly epic poem quality to the text.  

Anyone read anything good this year?

N.B. : It was a dire year for movies.  I think I only saw two I'd recommend, both Icelandic films that seem ripped from the Sagas:


Two estranged brothers try to save the family's historic sheep herd from a scabies outbreak.


The Deep

When a fishing boat capsizes off the Norther coast of an outlying island, one man swam three miles back to shore in 41 degree water and then walked across a lava field to get home. No one knows why he was able to survive the temperatures. (based on a true story)

Posted by at December 31, 2016 4:32 AM