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December 9, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

2006 BOOK PICKS....I'd sort of forgotten about this, but a reader emailed today to ask if I was going to post a list of book recommendations, as I did last year. Well, why not?

So here it is, my nonfiction Top Ten list for the year. Note that this is not a list of books published in 2006, just a list of the best books I happen to have read in the past 12 months. It's in no special order.

  • The One Percent Doctrine, by Ron Suskind
    This is a terrific piece of reporting about the Bush White House and its inability to adapt as the contours of the war on terror became clearer after the initial shock of the 9/11 attacks. It relies heavily on sources from the intelligence community, but that's mostly a strength rather than a weakness as long as you keep Suskind's sympathies in mind. I posted about the book here.

  • Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt
    I'm cheating a bit since I'm only about a third of the way through this book, but so far it's a great read: detailed, authoritative, insightful, and well written. A lot of people who have read the whole thing agree. An interview with Judt is here.

  • The Cold War: A New History, by John Lewis Gaddis
    A slim, accessible volume backed by a lifetime of scholarship. Gaddis has a point of view that you may or may not share, but this is a worthwhile and readable survey regardless. I posted about it here.

  • The Perfect Thing, by Steven Levy
    Is Apple's iPod really the perfect thing? Levy thinks so. This is less a book than a collection of essays, but the essays are both fun and thought provoking, and Levy does a good job of digging into the iPod subculture. My review for the Monthly is here.

  • Blocking the Courthouse Door, by Stephanie Mencimer
    Demonizing trial lawyers is a twofer for the Republican Party: it's a popular cause with the corporate interests that bankroll them, and it helps destroy a key funding source for the Democratic Party. But the GOP's tort reform crusade is mostly built on myths about out-of-control lawsuits and skyrocketing legal costs that Mencimer punctures methodically and relentlessly. Well worth reading. I'll have a review of the book in the January issue of the Monthly. Mencimer's tort reform blog, The Tortellini, is here.

  • Five Days in Philadelphia, by Charles Peters
    Peters believes that the Republican Party's nomination of Wendell Willkie in 1940 was the key event that allowed FDR to eventually lead the nation into WWII. I'm not sure I buy this, but it doesn't matter: this is a very accessible book that brings its subject to life in a way that few works of history do. Whether you agree or disagree with Peters, this is outstanding narrative history written by a man who grew up during the events he's writing about. Paul Glastris's review for the Monthly is here.

  • The Primacy of Politics, by Sheri Berman
    This is a bit of an outlier for this list, more a scholarly monograph than a popular history. But the subject at hand is the rise of social democracy in Europe during the 20th century, and this turns out to contain a lot of interesting lessons (or warnings) for American liberalism in the 21st century. It's also unusually lucid and clearly written. The Crooked Timber book event for Primacy of Politics is here.

  • Talking Right, by Geoffrey Nunberg
    This is a terrific, fun, and well-researched book about how conservatives have honed the use of language in politics over the past few decades. It features good writing and engaging insights, and manages to avoid the tendentious psychoanalyzing common to the genre. Even if you know the drill on Republicans and language, you'll learn some new things from this book. I reviewed it for Mother Jones here.

  • Prisoner of Trebekistan, by Bob Harris
    This is a fun book written by a friend of mine. Bob has appeared on Jeopardy! five times and uses his experiences there to frame a book about life, the universe, and everything. But the answer isn't 42. Or even the question. I posted about the book here. Bob's blog is here.

  • The Great Risk Shift, by Jacob Hacker
    Everybody talks about income inequality (as they should), but in this book Jacob Hacker talks about something that may be equally important: the growing amount of risk borne by average families in America. Incomes are far more volatile than in the past, pensions and healthcare are more precarious, and many more people lead lives that can be ruined by a single stroke of bad luck. It's important stuff, and this is the first book-length treatment of it. I posted about it here, and Jacob responded in a series of posts for the blog during October. You can find them by scrolling down here.

If a book doesn't show up on this list, you may be wondering if it's because it didn't make the top ten or because I just didn't happen to read it. Probably the latter, but if you want to make sure, my complete reading list for the year is below the fold.


  1. Impostor, by Bruce Bartlett

  2. American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips

  3. Killer Instinct, by Jane Hamsher

  4. The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan

  5. Five Days in Philadelphia, by Charles Peters

  6. Hiding in the Mirror, by Lawrence Krauss

  7. Lusitania, by Diana Preston

  8. The Cold War, by John Lewis Gaddis

  9. White Flight, by Kevin Kruse

  10. No Two Alike, by Judith Rich Harris

  11. An Army of Davids, by Glenn Reynolds

  12. The Good Fight, by Peter Beinart

  13. With All Our Might, edited by Will Marshall

  14. Lapdogs, by Eric Boehlert

  15. The Broken Branch, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein

  16. Whose Freedom?, by George Lakoff

  17. Talking Right, by Geoffrey Nunberg

  18. The Primacy of Politics, by Sheri Berman

  19. The One Percent Doctrine, by Ron Suskind

  20. The Perfect Thing, by Steven Levy

  21. Altered States, by Jeremy Black

  22. Prisoner of Trebekistan, by Bob Harris

  23. The Best of I.F. Stone, edited by Peter Osnos

  24. The Great Risk Shift, by Jacob Hacker

  25. The John W. Campbell Letters, edited by Perry Chapdelaine et. al.

  26. The Truth About Conservative Christians, by Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout

  27. Blocking the Courthouse Door, by Stephanie Mencimer

  28. The Best American Political Writing 2006, edited by Royce Flippin

  29. Postwar, by Tony Judt


  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

  2. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

  3. A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby

  4. Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson

  5. Silverlock, by John Myers Myers

  6. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

  7. Accelerando, by Charles Stross

  8. Learning the World, by Ken MacLeod

  9. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

  10. Ranbows End, by Vernor Vinge

  11. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

  12. The Algebraist, by Iain Banks

  13. When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger

  14. Red Lightning, by John Varley

  15. The Man Who Fought Alone, by Stephen Donaldson

  16. More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon

Kevin Drum 7:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (70)

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Good list. What's interesting is that Judt ripped Gaddis' book a new one in the NYRB. I've read "Postwar," and was so persuaded that I've passed on "Cold War."

Posted by: MattSimonton on December 9, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Tony Judt's evisceration of John Lewis Gaddis' The Cold War: A New History was one of the best things I read this year (in print), followed closely by Garrison Keillor's mockery of Bernard-Henri Levy in the New York Times Book Review.

Both reviews left me amazed by their audacity and fucking awesomeness.

Posted by: Triskele on December 9, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I remember reading Judt's take on Gaddis. But you know, sometimes it's a good idea to read people with competing points of view. And it's not like Gaddis is a flaming neocon or anything.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on December 9, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Kevin. I wish every request I throw out into the universe were answered so promptly...or so completely.

Posted by: shortstop on December 9, 2006 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

How did you like the Ken MacLeod book?

Posted by: Triskele on December 9, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

The most enlightening book that I have read in years is Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade. In short, it is a thoroughly researched and sourced discussion on the genetic history of mankind.

It relays the modern genetic-based discoveries of where we came from, how we developed, and why we do what we do as a species. It is an amazing book with many a-ha! moments.

Posted by: Keith G on December 9, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'd recommend The Looming Towers by Lawrence Wright for non-fiction and Restless by William Boyd for fiction.

Over-all, a good list.

Posted by: RWB on December 9, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

ooh, ooh, ooh, gotta get out of here but still reading this...am very surprised you didn't read Glenn Greenwald's irreplaceable How Would a Patriot Act? or David Sirota's excellent Hostile Takeover. Think WM may have reviewed both, though.

I love these threads. Can't wait for all the suggestions to pile in.

Posted by: shortstop on December 9, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, these are the kind of threads our little trolls can't figure out a way to hijack, or even enter into.
(Bad grammar, but you get the idea)

Posted by: Kenji on December 9, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

None of the fiction books were good enough to make your best books? Would you even recommend any of them? (Actually, I remeber when you posted about the Hugo nominees).

Posted by: Steve on December 9, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

45 books?

Either I'm a very slow reader or you are very fast, I can't figure which.

Thanks for a great list.

Posted by: Suffering Bruin on December 9, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Brian Mann's "Welcome to the Homeland". If Lakoff is a breakdown of Right and Left among moral/values lines, and "American Theocracy" is a breakdown among religious lines, then this is a breakdown along rural/urban lines.

And as usual, slicing the pie a different way yields additional insights.

Posted by: Erik on December 9, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the list Kevin. You just helped my holiday list in more ways than you'll ever know, since I just don't have time to read anything that doesn't have credit hours attached.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 9, 2006 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

More suggestions:

Collapse by Jared Diamond
The Weathermakers by Tim Flannery - it's a very good round-up of the effects of global warming
Fiasco by Thomas Ricks
Hostile Takeover by David Sirota
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - highly recommended!
How Would a Patriot Act? by Glenn Greenwald
Crashing the Gates by Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on December 9, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Just a reminder about Bush Admin. hypocrisy: they thought that if there was even a "one percent" chance of some terrorist act or threat, spend billions of dollars, thousands of lives, twist the constitution, etc. - But if there's a 90% chance of something like the ruinous effects of global warming, pretend it doesn't matter, spend no money and make no sacrifices, shut up the people talking about it, etc.

Posted by: Neil' on December 9, 2006 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

I've read your blog for a while and have enjoyed several of the books you've recommended over the past two years. Based on your taste in non-fiction, I suggest you read the following:
"The King of California: JG Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire"
It's by two LA Times reporters (history is too important to leave to the historians) and tells the story of big ag in California's central valley through the rise of the Boswell corporation. You might not believe it from that description, but this book is epic. The authors have done their homework and the story unfolds beautifully and from a variety of perspectives. If it helps, this book hits the same nerves as Caro's "The Power Broker," and Joan Didion's essay "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream."

Posted by: Andy on December 9, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Here are some that readers may like:

"Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin -- about Lincoln and some members of his cabinet; begins with early years, and follows them through the end of the war and later life.

"Rhythms of the Brain" by Gyorgy Buzsaki, about the rhythmic activities of neuronal ensembles.

"The Philodophy of Physics" by Roberto Torretti, in the Cambridge University Press series The Evolution of Modern Philosophy. This history includes the mathematics that expresses the ideas, and is pretty much a slog. lagrangian and Hamiltonian physics, thermodynamics, and statistical physics are well-presented. Easier to read than "Physics and Chance" by Lawrence Sklar.

"Beyond Measure", by Jim Baggott, a semi-mathematical account of sub-atomic particle physics, with all the math in appendices. Schrodinger's cat, Bell's theorem, entanglement, etc.

"The Social Construction of What?" by Ian Hacking, about aspects of the "science wars", as they were called.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 9, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I am ashamed to admit not having read any, though I look forward especially to reading Judt and Hacker (Andrew's son, right?). Of others mentioned above by commenters, however, I can strongly recommend Collapse (actually from a year or two ago, I think). And I've heard Ricks of Fiasco discussing his views on the radio and may read it if I ever am not sick at the thought of our Iraq "adventure."

Posted by: David in NY on December 9, 2006 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

I finally got 'round to tackling Robert Blake's Disraeli and was bowled over. Although it was published fourty years ago, it is an absolutely splendid overview of a unique, extremely clever, but very flawed man and the evolution of the British political system over most of the 19th century. Disraeli, in many ways, was the first proponent of "big government conservatism", and struck me as a proto-neoconservative. In fact, there are many parallels between his last government and the current White House.

Keith G recommended Before the Dawn - there was an excellent review of the book by Professor H. Allan Orr in the NYRB a few months back. Although he gives Wade credit for writing a good overview of modern human evolution, he does object to Wade's excessive "genetic adaptationism", especially with respect to very recent human traits. I think it was a very fair review of a book that is destined to have a wide readership due to Wade's long career as a nationally known science reporter.

Posted by: Chuck Darwin on December 9, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas Ricks' Fiasco, Rajiv Chandarsekharan's Life in the Emerald City(Probably butchering his name and title of the book) and Frank Rich's Greatest Story every Sold (or whatever it's called.) Surely one Iraq nightmare book should be on this list.

Posted by: azggl on December 9, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Fiasco is an excellent work. It is quite long. Most of what you may have seen in various formats about the ruinous first year of Iraqi occupation (like on Frontline) you'll find in Ricks but with a lot more detail and color.

Posted by: Greg in FL on December 9, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

I have an airplane-book recommendation. When I fly I never fully relax and focus on what I'm reading, so I don't bother reading anything that actually matters. I grabbed Willie Nelson's The Tao of Willie and Graham Parker's Carp Fishing on Valium at the airport giftshop a few weeks ago. Willie was like fat-free frozen yogurt, enjoyable but not very filling, while Graham Parker was more like a magic brownie...I didn't think it was that great; but I inexplicably wanted more 30 minutes later.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 9, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: not sure if you've read this earlier or not, but every SF fan should read Light by M.John Harrison. Best SF I've read in years. (just to be clear in my tastes, I most enjoy Dick-Delaney-Wolfe-Lethem type stuff)

Posted by: foolishmortal on December 9, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Good list. I'd nominate Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession and the President's War Powers by James Simon.

Posted by: Lou on December 9, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait for Rush Limbaugh's new book Red State, Purple Pill - Exporting GOP Values to the Beaches and Playgrounds of the Dominican Republic introduction by Mark Foley, dedicated to Craig Spence.

Posted by: Al on December 10, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

I'm the Commander in Chief and I'm not going to read any of these...

Posted by: See the little angry white boy pout... on December 10, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

They all look terribly interesting; I'd like to read good reviews of all of them. Haven't yet read a totalizing narrative of the Bush Adminstration yet -- unless you can count MoDo's BushWorld of two years ago -- which you really shouldn't.

Lemme ask this -- of all the Iraq books out there, which is *the* one? Fiasco? State of Denial? The Assassin's Gate? Life in the Emerald City? Another one?

Anyway, I read a recent fiction release and it's unfortunate, but I can't really recommend it to anyone but fans of this author -- because it's a gigantic, knotty, gnomic, postmodern "supertext" that's gotten extremely mixed reviews -- everything from yet another masterpiece to somebody doing a parody of the author on Quaaludes.

In other words, I wouldn't be recommending a "good read," but rather a highly complex work of art that has yet to be fully evaluated. Most of the reviewers felt literally pummeled by it.

I loved it (and finished it in a week), but I'm a freak of nature. And a freak for its author, the one and only Thomas Pynchon -- according to Edward Mendelson, the greatest living writer in the English language. The book is called Against The Day, and in the tiniest nutshell, it's a historical novel set from the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition to several years after WW1.

It contains some of the most flabbergastingly eloquent and evocative prose I have ever read.


Posted by: rmck1 on December 10, 2006 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, Kevin. Feminine Mystique AND Handmaid's Tale? Cool. I started reading Friedan the day she died. Had the book on my nightstand for a long time, and just never got into it until that day. Finished it in a week. Very illuminating. The Atwood I finished in less than 24 hours. Total page turner.

Books I would recommend that I finally read this year, both by Vonnegut: Mother Night and Cat's Cradle.

I'm now delving into The God Delusion. Love me some Dawkins. The man is a friggin genius.

Posted by: sa rose on December 10, 2006 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

A good book to pick up in order to discover how the U.S. should extricate itself from Iraq would be Iraq- the Logic of Withdrawal by Anthony Arnove. This books makes a persuasive case why the U.S. and the Iraqis would be better off if the United States were to leave Iraq sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Erroll on December 10, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK


I'll keep my eye open for that one; thanks. I'd like to be able to make for myself a completely convincing case for withdrawal instead of just viewing it as the least bad of a set of horrible options.

sa rose:

Agreed about A Handmaid's Tale. An absolute well-plotted page-turner imaginative dystopia that's worth a second read. It really should be up there with Brave New World and 1984.

Also, I really enjoyed The Feminine Mystique when we read it for class. I've always appreciated the first generation of postwar feminists, who first asked the important questions. I liked the "functionalist freeze" chapter, too, because it dovetailed with my reading on American sociology at the time.

And sheesh, Cat's Cradle rivalled Catcher in the Rye as my favorite book as a freshman in highschool. Loved Mother Night, too. As well as Slaughterhouse Five, The Sirens of Titan, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Welcome to the Monkey House, Player Piano.

And then when I got a little older I loved Bluebeard and ... sheesh, there's another one I can't remember, with a brother and sister who are deformed, I think? Happy Birthday, Wanda June?

Gahh, I should prolly re-read Vonnegut. Even now, thinking of his books, I'm getting shuddery, nostalgic feelings about some of the characters ...


Posted by: rmck1 on December 10, 2006 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

I have to say, I was less than impressed with Gaddis' book. There seemed to be a lot to desire from it that it didn't make good on.

That said, I just finished Sir Rannulph Fiennes excellent Race to the Pole which tries to set the record straight about Captain Scott's doomed second expedition to the south pole. As a bonus, due to the book that prompted him specifically to write it, Fiennes delivers one of the most restrained but seriously brutal smack downs I've read of another author in some time. It was sort of Queensberry rules artistry.

Posted by: The Critic on December 10, 2006 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

You forgot 'The Party of Death' by Mr. Ramesh Ponnuru, 'The Fascism of Liberalism' (or vice versa or whatever) by Jonah Lucianne Goldberg, and 'We Are So Much Smarter and Principled Than The Traitorous Dirty Hippie Liberals' by the Uberboys of the Corner.

Posted by: gregor on December 10, 2006 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

2006 was the year I installed much of Project Gutenberg (over 10,000 books including many classics) on a 3-lb laptop that can be handled like a hardcover book (you can read it in a comfortable armchair, or even in bed, and it travels well). It's a strange feeling having so much of what was written before 1930 just a keystroke away. I'm now catching up on Aristotle.

This can be done for free directly from PG, but there are good commercial CD and DVD compilations that include an alphabetical index with hot links to the books on your hard drive. A good source is here.

These collections are not complete, but they include a lot. And for some things there is a lot of detail -- for example, the Critique of Pure Reason is there both in English translation and in two German versions (one with and one without German accents).

Posted by: JS on December 10, 2006 at 4:45 AM | PERMALINK

foolishmortal -

I like your tastes in SF (Wolfe is probably my favorite writer, period.). Thanks for the rec, I'm ordering Light (M.John Harrison) tonight.

Posted by: Triskele on December 10, 2006 at 5:27 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly my first order of business should be to somehow find the time to actually read through that stack of NYRB accumulating in the living room.

Dawkins. Absolutely. I'll never forget the strange looks I got as I lugged Sociobiology around. Brilliant man.

"To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries. This may explain some of the sheer strangeness of the Bible. But unfortunately it is this same weird volume that religious zealots hold up to us as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living." Richard Dawkins - 'The God Delusion'

Posted by: CFShep on December 10, 2006 at 7:34 AM | PERMALINK

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt would have to be the greatest thing since the introduction of ATM's to get me to abandon my well worn copy of Europe Since Hitler - The Rebirth of Europe by Walter Laqueur which I've just been consulting re the Truman Doctrine/Marshall Plan.

Posted by: CFShep on December 10, 2006 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Silverlock, by John Myers Myers

I hadn't seen that you'd read this, Kevin. I first read this, oh, 15 years ago, and its definitely one of my "desert island" books.

Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson
Have you heard that Wilson is writing a sequel? I've seen cover art for it, anyway.

Posted by: Paul on December 10, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Ah Kevin, how quickly we forget. Aren't you supposed to be linking to the books via http://washingtonmonthly.bookswelike.net/ instead of directly to Amazon?

Posted by: Adam on December 10, 2006 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

I finally finished the complete version of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Admittedly I was daunted by the task at the start but it turned out to be one of most enjoyable reading experiences I have had in a long time.

Posted by: Botecelli on December 10, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

hey, if anybody wants to recommend any AUDIOBOOKS that they found particularly fine this year ...

(I'll start. I listened to the unabridged version of Philip K Dick's A Scanner Darkly, read by Paul Giamatti, and thought it was simply fantastic, mostly due to Giamatti's interpretations. The movie, which I saw later, paled in comparison, and it was a book that really opened my eyes/ears to the possibilities of audiobooks when done well. Oh, I'll also recommend Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God")

Posted by: Triskele on December 10, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Fiasco is an excellent summary of our misadventures in Iraq, as is The Assasin's Gate by George Packer. I believe Kevin reviewed that one as well, a while back. I also enjoyed Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, although he tries too hard to be funny and many nuggets of real insight are lost in his bad attempts at humor. For a complete evisceration of the Bush family, Secrecy and Privilege by Robert Parry is unparalleled. Robert Parry is the best investigative reporter working today.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 10, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I have to weigh in for Fiasco as well, and I'm starting The Greatest Story Ever Sold, which is looking promising despite my recurring reservations about its author.

Thanks for the Parry tip, TCD. I'll check that out.

Posted by: shortstop on December 10, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

This has been a year during which I have felt compelled to read histories of the debacle in Iraq and my favorite is "Imperial Life In The Emerald City" by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

Having said that, I have also begun to revisit some of my high school and college favorites. I recently finished "To Kill A Mockingbird" and read Erskine Caldwell's "Tobacco Road" for the first time. I also read a couple of Cormac McCarthy's books this year, but I'm not sure I would recommend them.

I almost forgot Dr. Walker Percy. I'm reading several of his books as well as a couple of biographies.

Posted by: Fred on December 10, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to second Judt's Postwar..like Kevin, I'm only about a third through, but it's excellent.

Fiasco would definitely be on my list. If you retained any doubt as to the complete incompetence of Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz, Franks, and company, Fiasco will erase it, and it does so in an entertaining fashion.

Posted by: Glenn on December 10, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Anything ever written by biologist Edward O. Wilson, probably including his grocery list.

Some of my favorites of his are The Diversity of Life, Naturalist, In Search of Nature, (with Laura Simonds Southworth) Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, The Future of Life, From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books, Nature Revealed: Selected Writings 1949-2006, and The Creation: A Meeting of Science and Religion. The last one just came out a couple of months ago and I'm barely into it, but there is a large Wilson section on my bookshelf.

I'm not motivated enough to go find the link, but he did a great interview on Talk of the Nation: Science Friday with Ira Flatow back when The Creation came out. I actually put it on my ipod.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 10, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

How was "Rainbow's End"? I was disappointed in "The Algebraist", although I am a Banks fan, thanks to the recommends here.

"The Looming Tower" (Lawrence Wright) is the most comprehensive book on 9/11 and the US's missteps. It is as good or better than "The One Percent Doctrine," which is also very good.

Best book I (re)read this year was "Tears of Autumn" by Charles McCarry, and then "The Last Supper." A different take on the Cold War.

Posted by: Mimikatz on December 10, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

The other day Diane Rehm interviewed Jim Newton, the author of "Justice For All", a biography of Earl Warren & the Supreme Court of his day. It sounded quite good.

Did you all know that Roe v Wade came from the Burger Court, and not that of Earl Warren?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on December 10, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I'd second a great many of the nonfiction/public affairs books already listed, and add some more that I read this year to the list:

State of War by James Risen
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley Martin
The New American Militarism by Andrew Bacevich
Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer
Money-Driven Medicine by Maggie Mahar
The Punishment of Virtue by Sarah Chayes

Someone asked about the single best book on Iraq. The problem is that there is no single book, among those I've read, that is really comprehensive--some focus on affairs on the ground in Iraq, some on Washington decision-making, etc. Ricks and Suskind are both absolutely essential, in my view.

Posted by: Mark on December 10, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Fiasco by Tom Ricks. A Pulitzer winner for sure.

Posted by: kimster on December 10, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

All of the Iraq-is-horrible books are basically the same: big idea, don't listen to any experts, hire any nitwit who agrees with you, and then wait for the disaster to strike. You can read one or all, but that's the story. My personal favorite is Imperial Life in the Emerald City for the on-the-ground POV.

As for additions, I'd put Thunderstruck by Erik Larson up there. Not quite the masterwork Devil in the White City was, but still very, very good. Since we passed the 100-year anniversary of the event, I'd also go for A Crack at the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, which just came out in paperback a month or so ago.

Posted by: frinklin on December 10, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Triskele (and anyone else interested),

If you like audiobooks, I have recommendations galore over at my site. I work a night shift desk job that is low-concentration, so to keep my mind occupied, I listen to audiobooks and have been posting reviews of them at my site for going on three years now. I review at a rate of around two books per week, mostly focused on the actual book part with a few comments at the close in regards to the reader. Sometimes I throw in a paper book or a film or an album for review, and I'm semi-regularly published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer for paper book reviews.

So, if you're interested in audiobooks, I have a ton of reviews over at my site, though I haven't updated my list of archived reviews in several months. There's about forty or so reviews inaccessible unless you found them site-search specific googling, and over the holidays I plan on updating my links to them.

So stop on by and, by all means, comment. Every so often a fairly good debate gets going in the comments section of my particularly low-traffic site. I'm interested in whatever people have to say, and if you have any good suggestions or requests, that's great too.

Posted by: The Critic on December 10, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Critic - Cool, I'll be dropping by!

(at the moment I'm really into The Teaching Company audiobooks, btw. Love love love them.)

Posted by: Triskele on December 10, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

I work in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation, my significant other in the stock market.

Kiril Sokoloff's The Thinking Investor's Guide to the Stock Market

Sarah Ban Breathnach, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self

Fawn M. Brodie's Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History

Requested for Christmas: William R. Polk's Undertanding Iraq: The Whole Sweep of Iraqi History From Genghis Kahn's Mongols to the Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate to the American Occupation.
Watched him on Cspan recently with George McGovern, probable octogenarians

Next purchase: David Corn and Michael Isikoff: Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War. The cover shows members of the administration walking with great insolence, arrogance and excessive pride.

I reread Stephen Hawkings "A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, had to read each line at least twice, and Hunter S. Thompson's The Great Shark Hunt, breezing through it with glee

Still paging through:Christopher R Finch: The Illustrated History of the Financial Markets.

I read countless political journals such as The Nation, too numerous to list

Posted by: consider wisely on December 10, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

spockpuppet, you left out The Very Hungry Caterpiller

Posted by: Mike on December 10, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mike--your link--Hilarious, clever and best thing I saw all night

Posted by: consider wisely on December 10, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

I recommend:

"Conservatives Without Conscience" by John Dean.

Posted by: NeoLotus on December 10, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

For Bob and others with an interest in women's issues, here's a citation and linkup to an online copy of a book which details the criminalization of abortion. I thought the writing was excellent, very engaging, and the content superb.

Reagan, Leslie J. When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1997. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft967nb5z5/

Posted by: san antone rose on December 10, 2006 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Fiasco: Don't buy it. Ricks claims that Cheney and Bush had no designs on Iraq until 9/11, despite Cheney and Jeb Bush being in the original 25 signers of PNAC. It's a fricking whitewash. I don't care how good the book was about the actual military operations, it's a fucking whitewash on the political side.
Andrew Bacevich or somebody like that will do a better book on the military ops in a couple of years anyway.
I two-starred it on Amazon.

Other good books, some Kev didn't list:

American Theocracy by Kevin Philips. This got a hack job review by the WaPost, posted on Amazon.

Hubris by Corn/Isikoff

State of Denial by Woodward; more than any of the others, this book exposes Rummy

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright (though it's not as good as some people rate it). Sorry, RWB. Main prob was seeing Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv on a map as Israel's capital, and the book wasn't as in depth as it could have been.

Other books:
In China's Shadow by Reed Hundt. NO. It's a DLC prescription list for how to compete with China. No mention of "fair trade" instead of free trade.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Won't persuade many people, but it's the No. 1 book for "atheist apologetics" out there today.

Omnivore's Dilemma also very good.

Re Izzy Stone, "The Trial of Socrates" is still NO. 1 with me.

Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides. GREAT new bio of Kit Carson.

Breaking the Spell, by Dan Dennett. NO. His attempt to do what Dawkins did is possibly his worst book ever.

Being Caribou, book and CD. If you want to see, or read about, the ANWR Porcupine caribou herd up close and personal, this is THE source.

The New Unconscious by Ram Hassin. If you want the latest findings in cognitive science about how a conscious "I" simply does not exist, pick this baby up.

Walking it Off, by Doug Peacock. "Hayduke's" autobio. Need I say more?

First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong. Reveals as much as Armstrong allows. And he is still that aloof.

Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress
by William Lee Miller
Great book

Posted by: Socratic Gadfly on December 10, 2006 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

how could you possibly leave "fiasco" off your list?

Posted by: bill on December 11, 2006 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Neolotus--good pick. When I see John Dean on cspan, I am always impressed. He is very special. Sometimes I go to his findlaw site.

Posted by: consider wisely always on December 11, 2006 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

I just got Dean's book from my library. It's next read after State of Denial is done.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 11, 2006 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

I dunno, consider wisely always. I find Dean to be a rationalizing, opportunistic sneak who's spent 30 years trying to make money off his role in Watergate, downplaying the criminal part and upgrading the whistleblower aspect.

Still, even a rationalizing, opportunistic sneak can tell the truth about some things, as he has about this administration.

Posted by: shortstop on December 11, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm struck by the almost complete absence of books dealing with economic issues. I'd suggest

Benjamin Friedman, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.

Donald MacKenzie, An Engine, not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets.

Marc Levinson, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the WOrld Smaller and the World Economy Bigger.

David Warsh, Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations.

Also in no particular order, and with the nagging thought that I'm leaving something important out...

Posted by: Donald A. Coffin on December 11, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Good list. I'd also recommend "The Occupation" by Patrick Cockburn as the best book of reporting on Iraq I read this year. Short, readable, and utterly damning.

Posted by: mancred on December 11, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

The House of War by James Carroll is a gripping and thoughtful (post 1942) history of U.S. warmaking and the coming of age of the Pentagon. I thought it to be an important book that should be read by all Americans. I am suprised I don't see it mentioned in this post. A worthwhile read.

Posted by: Scott Obeck on December 11, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

A very interesting read:
Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security by Christopher Cooper and Robert Block

Posted by: Mel on December 11, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

In re: The Perfect Thing, by Steven Levy

I checked this out last month. It was an easy, fun read more about modern culture than the IT world.

Posted by: dzman49 on December 11, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Any comment on the Donaldson book? I loathed and despised the couple of Thomas Covenant books I read in college (belonged to my roommate, I was in bed sick for a weekend -- also my excuse for having read a couple of the Clan of the Cave Bear tomes), but maybe a real fantasy aficionado could talk me into trying Donaldson again.

Posted by: Wendy on December 11, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Of all the books you mention on Iraq, noe of them and I have read quite a few were as informative as to what is actually goong on in Iraq as michael Shadid's book "Night Draws Near" This WAPO reporter, as an Arab speaker of Lebanese descent takes us inot the homes of a diverse group of iraqis and allows us to obewserve their changeing reaction to the United States occupation.

Posted by: al green on December 12, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Of all the books you mention on Iraq, none of them and I have read quite a few were as informative as to what is actually going on in Iraq as Michael Shadid's book "Night Draws Near" This WAPO reporter, as an Arab speaker of Lebanese descent takes us into the homes and lives of a diverse group of Iraqis and allows us to observe their changing reaction to the United States occupation.

Posted by: al green on December 12, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK



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