Happy New Year!

If, like me, you found a stack of books under the Christmas tree, you probably have enough on your plate for a while.

However, if you’re also like me, you’re motto is “When In Doubt, Buy A Book”.  Reading is a tub I plan to thump a lot in 2016, after sounding off about it last month.

To that end, I’ve been tracking some blogs and their reading lists, based on the best of what they saw published last year.

One of those blogs is From The Green Notebook, run by a thoughtful US Army officer, Joe Byerly.    His list of recommended reading can be found here.

The only book I read last year from Joe’s list is Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next War by P.W. Singer and August Cole.   When I started reading it,  I wasn’t that optimistic about the literary merits of a novel written by two defence analysts, so I wasn’t that disappointed by the somewhat creaky plot and cardboard characters.   However, imagining how technological trends will play out in a major-power conflict, it is interesting.  Joe’s review of it is perhaps kinder than what I would say, but I don’t disagree with him.

Speaking of fiction, it’s refreshing to see so much fiction (and even a book of poetry) on Joe’s list.  he offers some insightful thoughts here on why military people should read fiction.  Perhaps fiction is something that soldiers, sailors and air personnel don’t need to be sold on, judging from this article.  When I first went to the Royal Canadian Regiment, there was a yellowing sheet of paper pinned to the wall, with a list of books on leadership.  One was Robert Heinlen’s Starship Troopers.   Steven Pressfield, an ex US Marine, talks on his website of how tattered copies of his novel on the Spartans at Thermopylae, Gates of Fire, still circulates through Marine and Army platoons in Afghanistan.  I re-read Gates of Fire during my Christmas leave and I can see why.  If all you know about Thermopylae is from the terrible film 300, you need to read this book.

If I had to recommend one novel from my (too slim) reading last year, it would have to be Anthony Doerr’s magical book All The Light We Cannot See, about two children before and during World War Two.  There’s a good discussion of it, hosted by NPR’s ageless Diane Rehm, here.  Doerr’s novel may some a little Oprahesque (I’m not entirely sure what I mean by that) compared to Gates of Fire, but it has the truth and delicacy of a fable, and some of the finest writing I’ve read in a while.

Another military-themed reading list I’m tracking is produced by the Young Turks at War on the Rocks.  Lots to pick from there.

I’m frankly embarrassed at how few books (OK, 3) I read from this list by NPR or this top ten list by the NYT (though I did give a copy of Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk to a bereaved friend on the strength of its reviews at the time).

That’s probably enough to get started on.

What did you read in 2015 that you think we should read?

0 Responses

  1. My list is much poorer than yours, alas. Ah, retirement—too many movies and binge watching tv and blog reading. Books? George Friedman, Flashpoints: the Emerging Crisis in Europe—thought provoking and more than a little disturbing as history seems to be repeating itself yet again. Still Alice—fascinating. Arts Paasilinna, The Year Of the Hare—Finnish humour ( read as a result of our visit to Finland last summer). Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity—after watching The Theory of Everything. An attempt at Conrad Black's Rise to Greatness—good, but I just wasn't interested in the detail enough. Henry Kissinger, World Order—incomplete. I was surprised how dull I found it.

  2. "—too many movies and binge watching tv and blog reading"
    That and Finland make retirement sound very enticing.
    I wouldn't go out of my way to read Kissinger either. I do however like it when he pops up on the PBS news hour – I'm always surprised he's not dead! Friedman sounds good.