Since late 2009 I have maintained an annotated bibliography that contains the bibliographic information and a concise (usually 3-5 sentence long) review of every book that I have read since then. I strive to update it immediately after I finish every new book. This can be a bit tedious, but in this case the rewards of tedium redeem its costs. One of the neat things it allows me to do is see everything I have read over the course of the last year at one time.
The following list of books is roughly chronological, listed by the time when I finished, not started, each book. Perceptive readers of the Scholar’s Stage will notice that the books I have read this year correspond quite closely to the essays I have written here. Both my reading interests and the themes of this blog move in tandem: early readings about antebellum America on the one hand and 21st century America’s corrupt plutocrats on the other led to numerous posts comparing the merits of America’s modern political order with its antebellum forebearer. My posts on the Mongol Project were preceded by a whole slew of works on the Mongol conquests, nomadic pastoralism, and the history of China and the steppe.
The list also betrays some of the weaknesses of this year’s readings. A prodigious number of history books make an appearance, but I read only a paltry number of fictional or scientific works (and this despite the fact that one of two of the scientific works I did read, Vaclav Smil’s Biosphere, was one of my top five reads of the year, and one of the only novels I read, Vadney Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, claims the top spot!) Sadly, this is also the first year since I started the bibliography where I did not read a single volume of poetry.
I will hope to delve deeper into each of these genres in 2014. (If you have any recommendations, please sound off in the comments!)
It was difficult to choose favorites from this list. Most of the books listed here were worth reading–if they were not I would not have bothered finishing them. I disqualified books that I had read before (like the fantastic The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China and What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1845) in order to narrow down the competition. Eventually I settled on ten books as the best reads of the year and bolded them below. I recommend them to readers of the Stage without reservation.
In addition, if I wrote a review for Amazon or wrote a more detailed summary of the book’s contents for this blog then I have placed a link to the review next to the book’s citation.
BOOKS READ IN 2013
Greenwald, Glenn, Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2011).
Collins, Suzanne, Mockingjay (New York : Scholastic Press, 2009).
Goldsworthy, Adrian. How Rome Fell: Death of a Super Power. (New York: Yale University Press, 2009). —Amazon review.
Howe, Daniel Walker, What God Hath Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Starr, Chester G, The Roman Empire, 27 BC-AD 476: A Study in Survival (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982).
Ratner, Vadney, In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012).
Putnam, Robert, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).
Plutarch, Roman Lives, trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert (New York: Penguin Books, 1965).
Nisbett, Richard, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… and Why (New York: The Free Press, 2003). —Scholar’s Stage post.
Polybius, The Histories, trans. Robin Waterfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).
Lewis, Mark Edward, Sanctioned Violence in Ancient China (Albany: SUNI Press, 1989). –Amazon review.
Lao Tzu (attr.), Tao Te Ching, trans. D.C. Lau (New York: Penguin Books 1963).
Lao Tzu (attr.), Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation, trans. and commentary Roger Ames and David Hall (New York: Ballantine Books, 2003).
Hardy, Grant, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
Sunil Khilnani, Rajiv Kumar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Prakash Menon, Nandan Nilekani, Srinath Raghavan, Shyam Saran and Siddharth Varadarajan, Non-Alignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy For India in the 21st Century (New Delhi: National Defence College and Centre for Policy Research, 2012).
Rossabi, Morris, ed., China Among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries. (Berkley: University of California Press, 1983).
Autor, David and Melanie Wasserman, Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap Between Labor and Education. (Washington DC: Third Way, 2012).
Shang Yang (attr), The Book of Lord Shang, trans. J.J. Duvyendak. in Sun Tzu’s Art of War/Book of Lord Shang (Wordsworth Classics) (Hertforshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1998), 143-244.
Shakespeare, William, The Tempest in Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works Annotated ( New York: Greenwhich House Publishing, 1984).
Greene, Graham, The Quiet American, deluxe ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2004; or. ed. 1955).
Harford, Tim, The Undercover Economist: Exposing why the Rich are Rich, Poor are Poor – And Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
Syme, Ronald, The Roman Revolution. rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002; or. ed. 1937).
Di Cosmo, Nicloa, Ancient China and its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in the East (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
Sallust, Jugurthine War in Cataline’s War, Jugurthine War, and Histories, trans. A.J. Woodman. (New York: Penguin Books, 2008).
Smil, Vaclav, The Earth’s Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003).
Liu Jung En, trans., Six Yuan Plays (New York: Penguin Books, 1972).
Elvin, Mark, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973).
Murray, Charles, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1963-2010 (New York: Cox and Murray, 2012).
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, rev. ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2010).
Sawyer, Ralph, The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, 2nd ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2007. or. ed. 1993).
Heinlein, Robert A, The Moon is a Hard Mistress (New York: Orb Books, 1997; or. ed. 1966).
Mann, Charles C., 1491: New Revelations of America Before Columbus, 2nd ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 2011).
Liang Heng, Son of the Revolution (New York: Random House, 1983).
Buck, Pearl, The Good Earth. (New York: Washington Square Press, 2005. or. ed. 1931).
Mintz, Steven and Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. (New York: Free Press, 1988).
Lowe, Michael, The Government of the Qin and Han Empires, 221 BCE-220 CE (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2006).
Ho, Karen, Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).
Coe, Michael D, Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003).
Barfield, Thomas, The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China, 221 BC-1757 AD (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1989).
Spence, Jonathan, trans. and ed., Emperor: A Self Portrait of Kang-hsi (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1974).
Saunders, J.J., The History of the Mongol Conquests (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971).
Salzman, Phillip, Pastoralists: Equality, Hierarchy, and the State (Boulder, Co: Westview Press, 2009). — Scholar’s Stage post.
Morgan, David, The Mongols, 2nd ed (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007).
Di Cosmo, Nicolas, ed., Warfare in Inner Asian History: 500-1800 (Boston: Brill, 2002).
Arbinger Institute, Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict (San Francisco: Berret and Kohler Publications, 2006).
Sechin Jagchid and Van Jay Symons, Peace, War, and Trade Along the Great Wall: Nomadic-Chinese Interaction Through Two Millennia (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989).
May, Timothy, The Mongol Art of War (London: Pen and Sword Publications, 2007).
Khazanov, Antoly, Nomads and the Outside World. (Cambridge University Press, 1984; 2nd Edition University of Wisconsin Press, 1994).
Todd, Emmanuel, The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structures and Social Systems trans. David Garrioch (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985)
Murdock, Michael, Disarming the Allies of Imperialism: The State, Agitation, and Manipulation.during China’s Nationalist Revolution, 1922-1929 (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2006).
Atā Malik Juvaynī, The History of the World Conqueror, trans. John A. Boyle (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958).
Togan, Isenbike, Flexibility and Limitation in Steppe Formations: The Kerait Khanate and Chinggis Khan (Leiden: Brill, 1998).
Bentley, Jerry and Herbet Zeigler, Traditions and Encounters: Vol. 1, From the Beginning to 1000, 5th ed., (New York City: McGraw Hill, 2010).
Becker, Jasper, Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine (New York: Free Press, 1996).
Rachewiltz, Igor de, trans, The Secret History of the Mongols, 2 vol (Leiden: Brill, 2006).
Delaney, Carol , and Deborah Kaspin, Investigating Culture: An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology (Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
Paine, S.C.M. The Wars For Asia: 1911-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Miyazaki, Hayao, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, 7 vol., 2nd ed. (San Francisco: VIZ Media LCC, 2004).
West, Thomas, and Grace Starry West, trans., 4 Texts on Socrates, rev. ed. (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1998).
Freehling, William. Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854 (New York Oxford University Press, 1990).
I also read substantial portions of, but did not finish, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Janine Wedel’s Shadow Elites: How the Worlds New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and Free Markets, Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Arrian’s Civil Wars, the Cambridge History of China, vol. 6: Alien Regimes, and F.W. Mote’s Imperial China: 900-1800.
What were the best books you read in 2013?
No wonder I always look forward to your posts.
Must get 'Sanctioned Violence'.
There's not a lot of fiction there, is there? I can understand that. Who has time for fiction? I did this year, but 'twas an exceptional year.
I am glad I can take snippets of what I read and turn them into something worthwhile!
Not too much fiction, you are right. Part of this stems from a distaste with almost everything literary written after 1953. I have to hear really good stuff about a more recent author to pick him or her up.
But I also feel like a lot of the old medieval and ancient historians hits the same spot for me. The conversations/speeches in Plutarch's Lives or the Secret History of the Mongols are probably as factual as the speeches and conversations found in any well researched historical fiction epic. And of course, in literary terms most of these ancient histories and epics are equal or superior to contemporary fiction. The line between literature and history was very blurry in those days.* If I feel the itch to lose myself in a compelling narrative, I often find those old historians do the job quite well.
But if you do have any good fiction recommendations I might take a look. This year your non-fiction recommendations served me quite well!
*Few historians today manage to merge the two so successfully. I celebrate those rare souls who pull it off – what catapulted William Frehling's Road to Disunion into the top 10 was his ability to stride the line between sharp analysis and splendid prose without compromising the project.
@ T. Greer
I have before explored and seen that post — Escaping the Echo Chamber of Modernity — and absolutely loved it. Was too shy to say at the time. Hear, hear, she echoes. In my past & in the right mood or the wrong one I'd have dated that 'after 1900'.
As for the rest… can only agree with you. Have no suggestions for doing otherwise than you do. My own habits have gone downhill past couple of years, I blame the social net. I was quite different as a solitary reader. I worry about it at times.
Since you read 'Non-alignment 2.0', of which S. Raghavan is one of the authors, you might be interested in my review of his book on the creation of Bangladesh. It's up at my blog.
P.s. I have Starr's bk on the Roman empire and have read some of it. Nice and concise.