This is my annual post listing books I read in the most recent year. I have produced such a list since 2005 -- here's a link to the 2020 list if readers want to work backwards.
Robert Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics
Robert C. Rowland, The Rhetoric of Donald Trump
Paul Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance
Rikka Kuusisto, International Relations Narratives
Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk
Fareed Zakaria, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World
Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler, I Had a Hammer
Joe Cox, The Immaculate Inning: Unassisted Triple Plays,
40/40 Seasons, and the Stories Behind Baseball's Rarest Feats
Harvey Frommer, Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball
Jess Lebow, The Beer Devotional: A Daily Celebration of the
World's Most Inspiring Beers
The Vitalis book is not perfect, but it is an eye-opening must-read. I recommend it to anyone interested in international relations. Vitalis produces an amazing array of evidence revealing that the IR discipline was built by scholars and institutions that were fundamentally racist and imperial. He also discusses an array of black scholars who were building "the Howard School" of IR that pondered genuinely rival ideas, but that are mostly neglected, if not forgotten.
Disclosure: I've been friends with Robin Rowland for over 40 years -- read his book on Trump's rhetoric anyway. It's not an insiders account of misdeeds. Arguably, in fact, it is a far more frightening account of Trump's appeal based on his public rhetoric.
The Harris book is an update of a similar older book that I read some years ago. I adopted it as a textbook for my class on Global Environmental Politics this past fall.
Both Lewis and Zakaria have penned better books. These had their moments, but also had some serious flaws. Both actually seemed a bit rushed and thus unfinished.
I don't know why I waited so long to read Hank Aaron's autobiography. It's a great story. Joe Cox's book is full of interesting tales of baseball rarities.
Literature and Genre Fiction
Patrick Modiano, So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood
Graham Greene, Power and the Glory
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
I didn't read that many books this year that would count as "literature." I'm listing these three and could put them in almost any order. Modiano has won a Nobel Prize for Literature, though I found this book somewhat frustrating. That may have been the point. Greene was a master, but this book is kind of slow and perhaps repetitive. Achebe's tale is well-known, so I'm late to it. It's more enjoyable if you like magical realism.
Charlie Fletcher, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World
Stephen King, Billy Summers
Philip K. Dick, VALIS
I think these three works were my favorite fiction books of the year. I was sometimes frustrated by Fletcher's story, but it easily held my interest and it is well worth your time. King's recent non-horror book is terrific (though flawed, ultimately) and Dick's work was bizarre at times, but compelling.
Shawna Seed, Not in Time
Eric Ambler, Cause for Alarm
Donald E. Westlake, The Black Ice Score as Richard
Donald E. Westlake, Dancing Aztecs
Michael Connelly, The Last Coyote
Ross Macdonald, The Underground Man
John MacDonald, The Lonely Silver Rain
Donald E. Westlake, Drowned Hopes
Helen MacInnes, Ride a Pale Horse
This set of works is rated a bit higher than the books below. I read three books by Westlake and he rarely fails to entertain. As you can see, I completed the Travis McGee series this year. Indeed, as usual, this list includes a lot of crime fiction.
Disclosure: I've known Shawna Seed for decades as we were undergrads together at Kansas. I liked her first book a great deal, but this one also made for an interesting read. Personally, I would have preferred that she not include the paranormal elements.
Paul Auster, Music of Chance
Carl Hiassen, Bad Monkey
James Lee Burke, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead
Duane Swierczynski, Expiration Date
PD James, A Mind to Murder
Sue Grafton, K is for Killer
Stephen King, Later
Ian Fleming, The Spy Who Loved Me
David Goodis, Shoot the Piano Player
Jean-Patrick Manchette, No Room at the Morgue
Jim Thompson, Savage Night
Robert Parker, Catskill Eagle I was really disappointed in the Spencer book by Parker. To me, the character jumped the shark, committing far too many acts of violence and lawlessness. I'm not sure when I might jump back into that series, which I had been reading in order.
The books just above that Spencer story were a bit dated in one way or another. I found King's storytelling to be first-rate, of course, but the story itself was not all that interesting in the end. PD James, Sue Grafton, and James Lee Burke all told new stories about familiar characters -- but I didn't enjoy these books as much as others I have read by the authors.
The Auster story was very strange (absurd even), which made it difficult to embrace. It has stuck with me, however, so that's a strong point in its favor. I had not read a Hiassen book in some years, but this one was kind of funny (as intended).
Visit this blog's homepage.
For 280 character IR and foreign policy talk, follow me on twitter.
Or for basketball, baseball, movies or other stuff, follow this personal twitter account.