2018 Books: Top Ten

Thanks to being part of a book club and the discovery of audiobooks, I did a lot of reading (and listening) in 2018.

Here are ten of my favorites:

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, by Michael Booth

This is an interesting look at the cultures and societies of the Scandinavian countries, which tend to score high on happiness indexes. The author set out to find out if people in Scandinavia really are happier, and if so, why.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present, by John Pomfret

We often think of US-China relations beginning with Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Pomfret shows that the US and China have been engaging one another since the 1700s, and that things really haven’t changed that much.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie

After visiting St. Petersburg and seeing her burial place and the palace where she lived,  I needed to learn more about this amazing Czarina.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, by Mary Elise Sarotte

This is the rivetting story of how the Berlin Wall came down, not as the result of a well thought-out plan, but as a series of bureaucratic blunders.

The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America, by Andrew Ferguson

Apparently there is a vibrant sub-culture of Abe Impersonators in the United States. Ferguson travelled the country to meet them, and produced this laugh-out-loud story.

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America

The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible, Indivisible, by Simon Winchester

Our nation is what it is today because of a collection of oddballs doing oddball things. This is their story, told by the master story-teller Simon Winchester.

The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck

In 2015, Buck and his brother decided to build a wagon, buy some donkeys and retrace the journey of the pioneers along the Oregon Trail, or at least as close to it as they could find. They made it from Kansas to Oregon in one summer.

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe

When Tom Wolfe died this year, I realized that I had never read any of his books and decided to remedy that. All I can say is Wow!!

The Right Stuff

Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy, by Jonah Goldberg

In interesting, and sobering look at political ideas in the United States.

Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy

Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China (Studies in Chinese Christianity), by Li Ma

This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to understand the house church movement in China.

Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China (Studies in Chinese Christianity)

2017 Reading: American Stories

In looking over the books I read in 2017, it’s apparent that I somehow got on a kick of reading books that told stories about the history of the United States.

Maybe it had something to do with the four 1000+ mile road trips across the country that I took. At any rate, if you too are interested in American stories, I think you’ll enjoy these 7 books (hopefully as much as I did):

Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America’s Role in the World, by Robert D. Kaplan

Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World

I think this book would have to be at the top of a list of best books I read last year. It’s the story of the growth and development of the western US, and the crucial role that geography plays. It was particularly meaningful to read (listen, actually) to this book while driving west toward and over the Rockies in April. In fact, I liked this book so much that when I got home I ordered the physical book so I could re-read it and take notes. I admit it; I am a geography nerd!

Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission, by Brett Baier

Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower's Final Mission

Baier tells the story of Eisenhower and his presidency through an analysis of the final speech he gave to the nation before the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

This is the stuff of nightmares, with descriptions of bodies piled in the streets of eastern cities. It’s a bit heavy on medical details, but push through all that and the story is riveting.

Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out, by Annette Atkins

Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out

Just trying to learn more about the history of my home state!

Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads, by Paul Teroux

Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads

I read (listened to) this after returning from our southern road trip in November. It’s typical Theroux — lots of stories and wordy descriptions. But an interesting look at the uniqueness of southern culture.

How the Post Office Created America: A History, by Winifred Gallagher

How the Post Office Created America: A History

It may be fashionable to malign the post office these days, but it played a significant role in the history of the nation. As they say, “who knew?”

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America, by Andrew Ferguson

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America

Ferguson, in a way that will make you chuckle, writes about the quirky sub-culture of Lincoln buffs. My favorite was his story of attending a national convention of Abe “presenters,” people who make a living (or try to) giving speeches “as” Abe Lincoln, one of whom was short, fat, and bald!

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