One of the last books I read this year, and easily one of my favorites, was Ridgeline by Michael Punke, who also wrote The Revenant. It describes the fight between Capt. William Fetterman and the Sioux chief Crazy Horse at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.
Punke switches between the perspective of the settlers, soldiers, and the Sioux to great effect. I can’t stop thinking about what it’d be like on one hand, to live in a small fort surrounded by people who want to kill you, or on the other, to have your entire way of life threatened by that same group of heavily armed people in the small fort.
Other excellent historical fiction this year were Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield.
Towards the end of the year I switched to reading about oppressive states and bad leaders. That included:
The Party by Richard McGregor, a look inside the Chinese Communist Party’s inner workings.
The Fear by Peter Godwin. The most harrowing of the lot, this book is about the Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and his descent from liberator to murderous dictator.
The Man Without a Face by Massha Gessen is an excellent look at Putin’s rise to power and what makes him who he is.
Erdogan Rising by Hannah Lucinda Smith is about the rapid decline of democracy in Turkey under the populist Erdogan.
The Wires of War by Jacob Helberg. This was less about any individual leader and more about threats to America’s technological sovereignty in the face of foreign disinformation campaigns, and intellectual property theft as well as internal complacency and mismanagement of our technological future.
I recommend all of them.