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.
Here’s the full list. I’ve bolded the seven books that I enjoyed the most.
- Cultural Amnesia – Clive James
- The Naked and the Dead – Norman Mailer
- The Hamlet – William Faulkner
- The Dog Stars – Peter Heller
- Jayber Crow – Wendell Berry
- Tortilla Flat – John Steinbeck
- The Sunset Limited – Cormac McCarthy
- Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
- Conscious- Annaka Harris
- The Red and the Black – Stendhal
- Extraterrestrial – Avi Loeb
- The Evolution of Desire – Cynthia L. Haven
- Never Enough – Judith Grisel
- Unmasked – Andy Ngo
- La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert – Joel Dicker
- The Revolt of the Public – Martin Guri
- The Magic Mountain – Thomas Mann
- Gun, With Occasional Music – Jonathan Lethem
- Klara and the Sun – Ishiguro Kazuo
- Live Not By Lies – Robert Dreher
- The Virtues of War -Steven Pressfield
- All About Love – bell hooks
- The Ghost Writer – Philip Roth
- The Price of Tomorrow – Jeff Booth
- A Thousand Brains – Jeff Hawkins
- The Comfort Crisis – Michael Easter
- The Art of Solitude – Stephen Batchelor
- Swan – Mary Oliver
- Ikigai – Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
- The Body Keeps Score – Bessel A. Van der Kolk
- We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Technopoly- Neil Postman
- The Actual Star – Monica Byrne
- Baltasar and Blimunda – José Saramago
- Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir
- The Sovereign Individual – James Dale Davidson
- Wanting -Luke Burgis
- The Mandibles – Lionel Shriver
- The Wires of War – Jacob Helberg
- The Party – Richard McGregor
- Death of Money – Macenzie Guiver
- Senlin Ascends – Josiah Bancroft
- The Fear – Peter Godwin
- The Man Without a Face – Masha Gessen
- Erdogan Rising- Hannah Lucinda Smith
- Beyond Order – Jordan Peterson
- The Creativity Code – Marcus du Sautoy
- Indignation – Phillip Roth
- The Falcon Thief – Joshua Hammer
- Ridgeline – Michael Punke