Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2010 was a good one for you. Either way, we now have one of those psychological new beginnings. So make the most of it.
I took a couple of graduate courses in history last year. So, many of the books I read came from an assigned list. The first course I took focused on the Holocaust. The other one dealt with the Cold War, especially the Cuban Missile Crisis. Every once in a while I had the chance to pick up something that wasn't required reading. Anyway, listed in the order I read them (and highly rated because I just like them) here are "My 10 Best Books of 2010."
1. Hiding in the Spotlight, Greg Dawson.
A true Holocaust survival story that reads like a Dickens novel. The author is the son and nephew of the two main characters. He's also a seasoned journalist. This book is beautifully and tenderly written.
2. Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories, Raymond Carver.
I'd love to write half as well as the great Raymond Carver did. I can't stop reading his stuff. He wasn't afraid to tell sad, gritty stories generated by his own hard experiences.
3. Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume I: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939, Saul Friedlander.
First published in 1997, this book has gone on to establish itself as a major contribution to Holocaust studies. For Volume II, which covers the years of the War, 1939-1945, Friedlander won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.
4. Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcomb Gladwell.
An easy reading book about how personal success is a matter of background and sustained effort. Gladwell says that both are highly significant.
5. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Tribe in American History, S. C. Gwynne.
Wow. It's like David McCullough wrote a book about the Comanches. It's that good. Well-researched, superbly-written, this one is an armchair historian's dream come true.
6. The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past, John Lewis Gaddis.
A series of eight lectures by a Yale history professor. Gaddis responds to questions like, What do historians do? Why? And what is the value of their work?
7. Restoration Roots: The Scottish Origins of the American Restoration Movement, Lynn McMillon.
The subtitle says it all. This is a popular edition of McMillon's doctoral dissertation completed at Baylor University in 1972. It overviews the impact of Scottish religious leaders like John Glas, Robert Sandeman, and James and Robert Haldane on the subsequent American Restoration Movement (also known as the Stone-Campbell Movement).
8. The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis, Sheldon M. Stern.
From 1977 to 1999, Stern was Historian at the JFK Presidential Library. He was almost certainly one of the first to ever hear the tapes made at the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis. From his transcripts of those tapes, he narrates the episode and provides a historical framework.
9. The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power, Garry Wills.
Wills, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and historian, serves up an analysis of the Kennedy clan. Sometimes sympathetic, often scathing, this book was written not long after Ted Kennedy's unsuccessful bid to gain the Democrat's nomination for President in 1980.
10. Waiting for Snow in Havana, Carlos Eire.
Born in Havana in 1950, Eire was a grade-schooler during the Castro revolution. These days he teaches religious history at Yale. In this memoir from his early years, the author brings together his childhood fun and fears, theology, and a deep, dreamy wonder about what might have been.
So, what were some of the better things you read in 2010? Has anyone else read the titles (or authors) I've listed here? What's on your reading agenda for 2011?