New Year’s Day has come and gone, meaning that it is time, per established tradition, to report the full list of books that I read over the last year. This tradition is now four years old, but I am still surprised with its popularity. These posts have not generated the highest hit counts the Scholar’s Stage has seen (that honor is a near tie between this year’s “History Was Written by the Losers” and last year’s “Pre-modern Battlefields Were Absolutely Terrifying“), but they still bring in an outstanding amount of traffic. I suspect this just reflects the unusual size of these lists. This year’s post will prove an interesting test of the theory: whereas the lists for 2013, 2014, and 2015 all had more than 70 separate titles to their name, the 2016 list does not reach 50.
I have puzzled over this result the entire year, for it was clear to me by February that I was reading at a far slower pace than before. While I can partly blame the low total on the extreme length of many of the books I did read (Menon’s adaptation of the Mahabharata, Toland’s Rising Sun, Carver’s China’s Quest, etc.), I think the main reason I read less this year is that I have devoted so much of my time to language study. Time is the currency of language learning; the more you spend using and reviewing a language, the better you get. My Chinese improved a great deal this year. The cost of progress was the personal study time I normally would spend reading.
As in past years, I have bolded and linked to the Amazon page of the ten best books I read for the first time this year. All titles are listed roughly in chronological order–from the date when I finished them, not when I started them. (Before any Thucydides Roundtable readers ask: This is not the first time I have read the Landmark Thucydides, so it does not make the cut. However, it shall be added forthwith to my quantum library).
The stand out books of 2016 were written by Michael Bazzell. How I originally came across Bazzell’s body of work I’ve forgotten, but I am incredibly grateful that I did. Here was what I put up on Facebook the day I finished Personal Digital Security:
I am already declaring this the best book I have read in 2016. It will take a very, very good book to top this; it is probably the most useful thing I have read in two or three years.
I am not a techie. I have assumed that because I am not a techie that truly protecting my computer, my online profiles, and my digital information was beyond my capacity, and that all I could do is keep to some common sense rules and hope my low profile would keep me and my data safe.
This was wrong. It is completely possible for you or anyone to learn how to secure their digital assets. In this book Michael Bazzell, a former FBI cybercrime investigator, shows you how to do that. He teaches both the broader principles of digital security and the concrete specifics, down to the names of specific programs and screenshots of specific procedures. If you have the technical literacy to use Microsoft Excel then you can read this book–and likely you will find yourself far more technically literate at the end of it. The language is accessible but not dramatic and his instructions are clear even though methodical. I cannot recommend this book more highly.
I still stand by this. I can also confirm that this helpful approach is repeated in his other books, Hiding from the Internet and Open Source Intelligence Techniques.
If it makes you more excited to buy these books (or listen to the podcast version for updates), Mr. Bazzell is also the main technical adviser for the hit-TV show Mr. Robot.
What was the best book you read in 2016?
EVERY BOOK I READ IN 2016
Harmsen, Nanjing 1937: Battle For A Doomed City, (Philadelphia: Casemate, 2013).
David Ochmanek, Andrew R. Hoehn, James T. Quinlivan, Seth G. Jones, Edward L. Warner, America’s Security Deficit: Addressing the Imbalance Between Strategy and Resources in a Turbulent World: Strategic Rethink (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015).
Marija Babovićc´ and Danilo Vukovićc, Cambodia: A Survey of Livelihood Strategies and Expectations for the Future (San Fransisco: Asia Foundation, 2016).
Vishakhadatta, Rakshasa’s Ring, trans. Michael Coulson (New York: New York University Press, 2005).
Kalidasa, The Recognition of Sakuntala: A Play in Seven Acts, trans. W.J. Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Hans van de Ven, War and Nationalism in China, 1925-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004),
Shudraka, Little Clay Cart, trans. Diwakar Archarya (New York: New York University Press, 2009).
Ye Deming, Fan Huizhen, Liu Xiuzhi and Xiao Meimei, Shiyong Shiting Hanyu 3 [Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 3], 2nd ed, (Taipei:Cheng Chung Book Co, 2007).
Stanley Chao, Selling to China: A Guide to Doing Business in China for Small- and Medium-Sized Companies (Bloomington: iUniverse Books, 2012).
Jonathan Adelman and Chu-yu Shih, Symbolic War: Chinese Use of Force, 1840-1980 (Taipei: Institute of International Relations, 1994).
Asian Productivity Organization. APO Productivity Databook 2015 (Tokyo: APO, 2016).
Taylor Pearson, The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning, and Freedom Without the Nine-to-Five (Amazon Digital Services, 2015).
William Shakespeare, King Lear in Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works Annotated (New York: Greenwhich House Publishing, 1984).
A.C. Graham, Disputers of the Dao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (Chicago: Open Court, 1988).
E. G. Pulleyblank, The Background of the Rebellion of An Lu-Shan, (London: Oxford University Press, 1955).
Yukiko Koshiro. Imperial Eclipse: Japan’s Strategic Thinking About Continental Asia before August 1945 (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 2013).
BP p.l.c., BP 2016 Energy Outlook (London: BP p.l.c., 2016).
Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2018 Security Outlook: Potential Risks and Threats (Ottawa, 2016).
Peter Mattis, Analyzing the Chinese Military: A Review Essay and Research Guide on the People’s Liberation Army (Washington DC: Jamestown Foundation, 2015).
Zhang Xiaoming, Deng Xiaoping’s Long War: The Military Conflict Between China and Vietnam, 1979-1991 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2015).
Mark Edward Lewis, Writing and Authority in Ancient China (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999).
Robert Haddick, Fire on the Water: China, America, and the Future of the Pacific (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014).
Hans Georg-Moeller, Daoism Explained: From the Dream of the Butterfly to the Fishnet Allegory (Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 2004).
David C. Gompert, Astrid Cevallos, and Cristina L. Garafola, War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable (Santa Monica, RAND, 2016).
Edward Slingerland, Effortless Action: Wu Wei and Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Ancient China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Rob Robideua, The Incognito Toolkit (Creative Commons: 2014).
Lyle Goldstein, Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2014).
Paul Goodwin and Alice Miller, China’s Forbearance Has Limits: Chinese Threat and Retaliation Signaling and Its Implications for a Sino-American Military Confrontation (Washington DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, 2013).
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1847).
Donald Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1964).
John Ferling, Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War for Independence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
James C. Bennet, A Time for Audacity: New Options Beyond Europe (self published, 2016).
George Orwell, Animal Farm
Ma Qianfei, Hanyu Kouyu Sucheng (Zhongjipian) [Short-Term Intermediate Course in Spoken Chinese], 2nd ed, (Beijing: Beijing Language and Culture University Press, 2007).
Shi Ji, ed., Hanyu Fenji Yuedu 3 [Graded Chinese Reader 3], (Beijing: Singolingua, 2009).
David Smyth, Colloquial Cambodian: The Complete Course for Beginners (New York: Routledge, 1996).
Robert Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, Richard Crawley, trans. (New York: Free Press, 1996).
Read in part, but not in whole:
John W. Carver, China’s Quest: History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China; Zhu Ziyi, Hanyu Yuedu Sucheng, 2nd ed; Peng Guanqian, Zhao Zhiyin, and Luo Yong, Zhongguo Guofang [China’s National Defense]; Charles and Mary Beard, History of the United States, China reprint; Archie Barnes, Chinese Through Poetry: An Introduction to the Language and Imagery of Traditional Verse; Elizabeth Becker, When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution; Michael Bazzell, Open Source Intelligence Techniques: Resources for Searching and Analyzing Online Information; Gordan Bing, Due Diligence Techniques and Analysis; S.C.M. Paine, The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949; A.E. Poe, Complete Tales and Poems; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Ramesh Menon, Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling; Christopher Lew, The Third Chinese Revolutionary Civil War, 1945–49: An Analysis of Communist Strategy and Leadership.