I enjoyed writing the post on my favorite books of 2016 and am repeating it in 2017.
This is my list for the year, in the order that I read them. Note that the books weren’t necessarily released in 2017. I also updated the list throughout the year as a read the books instead of compiling as list at the end of the year.
To put it in context, I read approximately 40 books in 2017.
I read several books before one made the list. It was February before I hit one I consider 5-stars.
Here are this year’s favorites:
- American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant– my first Grant biography. I under-appreciated him. From selling firewood in the streets of St. Louis to commander of the Union army and then President all in an 8 year span. Think about that the next time you pass a guy selling firewood on the side of the road. I’ve been a Sherman fan (who was way ahead of his time) since reading his memoirs in college. Now I see why Sherman was a Grant fan. After reading this, I now rank the big 4 like this: 1. Jackson; 2. Grant; 3. Sherman; 4. Lee. Jackson has a huge advantage by dying before Gettysburg, which was an unmitigated debacle for Lee. If Jackson makes it to 1865, he probably suffers defeats that drop his ranking.
- The Futures– highly praised, I bought it because Amazon ran it on a kindle daily deal. It’s a novel about a couple who were Yale graduates moving to NYC in 2008 as the financial markets crashed. One worked for a hedge fund. The other had an affair. Having just finished the Grant book, I was prepared to dislike this novel. An author 20 years younger than me, Ivy Leaguers, NYC, investment bankers–not my cup of tea. But one of the joys of reading is when an author connects with you when you didn’t expect it. That happened here. I will buy Anna Pitoniak’s next book no matter what it’s about.
- The Impossible Fortress– Another novel, this one about teenagers in the 1980’s. How could I not love it? Reminds me of Ready Player One, but less plot and more character driven. I read this book at the end of March during a time period when I was struggling to get into the books I was reading. This book kind of made that problem worse, since I read it in a few days and had to return to my slog reads.
- Armada– fun read by author of one of my favorite books: Ready Player One. Aliens invading earth is not an original plot, but still a fun read.
- Al Franken, Giant of the Senate– Wow. This one really went up in flames. But worth the read just for the exchange with Lyndsey Graham about the latter’s presidential run. Makes you like Graham.
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future– Great book about the man behind Tesla and SpaceX. Interestingly, he’s just as big of an a-hole as Jobs and Bezos. A good title of a book about the richest self-made men of the last 60 years would be “Warren Buffet and a Bunch of A-holes.”
- When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management– 2001 book about the 1998 collapse of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management. The hubris of LTCM’s partners reminded me of lawyers in Mississippi (plaintiff and defense) during the boom of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
- Dark Money the Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer- I postponed reading this for a year because I knew it would be depressing. And it was. You can’t understand modern politics at the national, state and sometimes local level without reading this book.
- Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street, by Sheelah Kolhatkar- good luck sleeping at night with your retirement in the stock market after reading this book.
- Hue 1968: A Turning Point for the American War in Vietnam, by Mark Bowden- a city battle in a war known for jungle fights. Bowden is a great writer.
- Note: I hit a real dry spell for books making the list after reading Hue.
- Two Kinds of Truth, by Michael Connelly, – Harry Bosch infiltrates an opioid pill ring and his brother Mickey Haller (Lincoln Lawyer) helps get him out of a wrongful conviction frame-up. This is my favorite Connelly book and I’ve read most of them.
- The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris- This is 2001 book that won a Pulitzer Prize. I’ve never read anything on T.R. because the turn of the century didn’t interest me much until I went on a Churchill binge. But this is a great book about an interesting man. If he was born 30 years later he might have been America’s Churchill. Both had overpowering personalities and had interesting lives from cradle to grave.
The two books that came the closest to making the list but didn’t were John Grisham’s Camino Island (unique, non-legal thriller and entertaining, but a little slow) and Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard (already knew the story from Churchill biographies).