BOOKS 2013
Man Without Breath, by Philip Kerr
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, by William Manchester and Paul Reid

BOOKS 2012 (24)
Pacific Crucible, by Ian W. Toll
The Winter of the World, by Ken Follett
Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year, by David Von Drehle
Last of the Headbangers, by Kevin Cook
Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett
Bandit Kings, by Roger Bruns
Double Cross, by Ben McIntyre
Raylan, by Elmore Leonard
Killing the Poormaster, by Holly Metz
Capital, by John Lanchester
Mission to Paris, by Alan Furst
Prague Fatale, by Philip Kerr
Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
The Sleepwalkers, by Paul Grossman
The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro
The Long Road to Antietam, by Richard Slotkin
Watergate, by Thomas Mallon
The Fear Factor, by Robert Harris
Iron and Heavy Guns: Duel between the Monitor and the Merrimac, by Gene A. Smith
Remembering Johnny Carson, by The Staff of People
Backstage at The Tonight Show, by Don Sweeney
Here’s Johnny, by Stephen Cox
Carson, by Paul Corkery
I Dream in Blue, by Roger Director

BOOKS 2011 (32)
11/22/63, by Stephen King
The Dispatcher, by Ryan David Jahn
Lucking Out, by James Wolcott
Lucky Bruce, by Bruce Jay Friedman
Fun and Games, by Duane Swierczynski
A German Requiem, by Philip Kerr
The Pale Criminal, by Philip Kerr
Confidence Men, by Ron Suskind
The Fall of the House of Forbes, by Stewart Pinkerton
The World on Fire, by Amanda Foreman
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
A Quiet Flame, by Philip Kerr
Midnight Rising, by Tony Horowitz
In the Garden of Beasts, by Eric Larson
The Murder of Jim Fisk, by H.W. Brands
David Crockett: The Lion of the West, by Michael Wallis
The Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne
King of the Night, by Lawrence Leamer
The Last Run, by Greg Rucka
I’m Feeling Lucky, by Douglas Edwards
Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown, by David Yaffe
Trinity Six, by Charles Cumming
Our Times, by A.N. Wilson. A wonderful stylist–witty, tangy, expressive, surprising. I loved hearing his judgments on things, even when I did not know what he was talking about. He cares rather more about religion than I do.
Reckless Endangerment, by Gretchen Morgenson “Wall Street investment banks saw late in 2005 and throughout 2006 that the mortgages they were financing and selling to investors were becoming increasingly sketchy. They did not share this information with the investors who bought the pools they were selling. Instead, the firms started forcing the lenders producing the diciest loans to accept a lower rpice for them. . . .Rather than pass these discounts on to their customers buying the loan pools, however, the firms charged the same high prices associated with superior loans. . . .Goldman Sachs’s internal response. . .is especially intriguing because unlike many firms, it went negative on the mortgage industry in the fall of 2006. Using its own money, the firm began amassing major bets against the same dubious loans it was peddling to investors. Goldman, therefore, profited immensely from the loans its clients absorbed, losses its own practices helped create.”
The Civil War: A Concise History, by Louis P. Masur
Twelve Turning Points of the Second World War, by P.M.H. Bell
The Siege of Washington, by Charles Lockwood and John Lockwood
Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigill, by Jerome Charyn
Rawhide Down, by Del Quentin Wilber Surprisingly, an often suspenseful account of a well-known event
All the Devils Are Here, by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera. Possibly the most erudite of the financial crisis books I’ve read, but the biggest slog. The storytelling has been given short shrift.
The Dogs of War, by Emory M. Thomas
Troubled Commemoration, by Robert J. Cook

BOOKS 2010 (28)
The Illustrious Dead, by Stephan Talty
13 Bankers, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak
Birthright, by A. Roger Ekirch
The Hellhound of Wall Street, by Michael Perino
The Elephant to Hollywood, by Michael Caine
Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age, by Adrian Johns
A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told By Those Who Know Him, by Michael Takiff
The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson
The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman
Spies of the Balkans, by Alan Furst Not the maestro’s best
The Third Man, by Peter Mandelson
The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman
Lincoln for President, by Bruce Chadwick
When London Was the Capital of America, by Julie Flavell
A Stranger Like You, by Elizabeth Brundage
A Battle Won, by S. Thomas Russell
The Politician, by Andrew Young. Appalling portrait of John Edwards, humiliating self-portrait of its weak author
The Good Son, by Michael Gruber. Much, much better than average thriller. A character describes something she saw in Eastern Europe after the war: “When I was a girl we had a poster in our trailer, one that appeared all over eastern Europe, first in Prague during the Soviet suppression, and then in Warsaw and Budapest and East Germany. Our was in Polish, of course, and it said: We have not learned anything, we don’t know anything, we don’t have anything, we don’t understand anything, we don’t sell anything, we don’t help, we don’t betray, and we will never forget.”
Waterloo, by Jeremy Smith
Teaching the Pig to Dance, by Fred Thompson
The Yankee Years, by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
Lincoln President Elect, by Harold Holzer
The Legacy of the Second World War, by John Lukacs
Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, by J.D. Salinger
Mila 18, by Leon Uris “I’d love to brush my teeth again before I die.”–Andrei Androfski
Under the Dome, by Stephen King
1938: Hitler’s Gamble, by Giles MacDonogh
1920: The Year of Six Presidents, by David Pietrusza

BOOKS 2009 (55)
Divine Justice, by David Baldacci
The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, by Ken Gormley
The Great Divide, by Frank M. Robinson and John F. Levin
World Without End, by Ken Follett
The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane
Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin
D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, by Antony Beevor
Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
The Wicked Wit of the West, by Irving Brecher, as told to Hank Rosenfeld
Totally Killer, by Greg Olear
The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914, by Philipp Blom. Some interesting quotes. From Bertha von Suttner, the winner of the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize: In a future war, “All states [will be] ground to dust, all work will cease, all domestic hearths will be upturned, and only one cry will echo from border to border. every village will be a holocaust, every city a pile of rubble, every firled a field of corpses, and the war will rage on. Beneath the waves torpedo boats are shooting to drag mighty steamers in the deep, in the very clouds armed and manned airships will rise against other airborne troops, and mutilated warriors will fall from six thousand feet like bloody snowflakes.” From Virginia Woolf: “[We need a] complete renewal of human sensibility brought about the great discoveries of science. The people who today make use of the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the train, the bicycle, the motorcycle, the great newspaper (synthesis of a day in the world’s life) do not realize that the various means of communication, transportation and information have a decisive influence on the psyche.” From the French anarchist and thief Marius Jacob: “From top to bottom of the social scale everything is but dastardly on one side and idiocy on the other. How can you expect that convicnced of these truths I could have respected such a state of things? A liquor seller and the boss of a brothel enrich themselves, while a man of genius dies in povertyin a hospital. The baker who bakes bread doesn’t get any; the shoemaker who makes thousands of shoes shows his toes; the weaver who makes stocks of clothing doesn’t have any to cover himself; the bricklayer who builds castles and palaces wants for air in a filthy hovel. Those who produce everything ahve nothing, and those who produce nothing have everything. . . In a word, I found it hateful to surrender to the prostitution of work. Begging is degradation, the negation fo all dignity. Every man has a right to life’s banquet. The right to life isn’t begged for, it’s taken.”
Shocking True Story, by Henry E. Scott
The Anarchist, by John Smolens
Red Gold, by Alan Furst
Dead Sleep, by Greg Iles
Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of WASP Splendor, by Tad Friend
Citizens of London, by Lynne Olsen
The Exchange Rate Between Love and Money, by Thomas Leveritt
The Dying Light, by Henry Porter
Glover’s Mistake, by Nick Laird
Our Front Pages, by The Onion
The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997, by Piers Brendon
Bunny Tales, by Izabella St. James
Managing Mailer, by Joe Flaherty
In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel
American Adulterer, by Jed Mercurio
A Most Wanted Man, by John LeCarre
Inventory, by The A.V. Club
Hell’s Kitchen Homicide, by Charles Kipps
The Foreign Correspondent, by Alan Furst
L.A. Noir, by John Bunton
Renegade, by Richard Wolffe
Go Like Hell, by A.J.Baime
The Ghost, by Robert Harris
Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill
Closing Time, by Joe Queenan
Shelley’s Heart, by Charles McGarry
Losing Mum and Pup, by Christopher Buckley
Belching Out the Devill, by Mark Thomas
Heart of the Assassin, by Robert Ferrigno
Thy Neighbor’s Wife, by Gay Talese
The Age of the Unthinkable, by Joshua Cooper Ramo
City of the Sun, by David Levien
Tears of Autumn, by Charles McCarry. Pretty good Paul Christopher spy novel, this time solving the JFK assassination
Pictures at a Revolution, by Mark Harris
Blood of Victory, by Alan Furst
Columbine, by Dave Cullen
This Is How It Starts, by Grant Ginder
Hitler’s Empire, by Mark Mazower
Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed
1984, by George Orwell
The Paper Butterfly, by Diane Wei Liang
How to Live, by Henry Alford
Rich Like Them, by Ryan D’Agostino

BOOKS 2008 (43)
Nothing to Fear, by Adam Cohen
Family of Secrets, by Russ Baker
The World At Night, by Alan Furst. I liked this one, about a French film producer, very much.
Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely
Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes, by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich
American Lion, by Jon Meacham. Soft, reverent–man, Meachum digs reverence!
Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream, by Steven Watts. Good on the broad strokes, not good on the nitty-gritty.
The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life, by Alice Schroeder
The Pillowman, by Martin McDonagh
The Billion Dollar Game, by Allen St. John
Dark Star, by Alan Furst
The Betsy, by Harold Robbins
The War Within, by Bob Woodward. Not as compelling a read as State of Denial, but a valuable study of the Bush administration churning its way to a policy that finally works. It’s like watching a washing machine agitate–a failing policy persisting in the face of mounting evidence of failure; continued (false) pronouncements that everything is fine; multiple departments conducting reviews. Interesting questions arise: first, should the fact that the surge has (so far) worked out absolve the failures that preceded it? Second, how will history judge Bush? It took Lincoln years to find Grant, and we credit him with fortitude and perseverance. It has taken Bush years to find Petraeus, but I think of him as stubbornly ignorant.
The Dark Side, by Jane Mayer
Night Soldiers, by Alan Furst
The Polish Officer, by Alan Furst
Turkmeniscam, by Ken Silverstein
The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire, by Peter Clarke. Well told, with lots of good stories, but I feel like it took me a thousand days to finish it.
Rome 1960, by David Maraniss
Retribution, by Max Hastings
Severance Package, by Duane Swierczynski
Last One In, by Nicholas Kulish. A rather predictible story of a young reporter’s maturation, though it is informed by details from the author’s own experience in Iraq. But he’s too earnest; there’s funny stuff here, but ultimately he lacks the courage of his satirical convictions.
The Spies of Warsaw, by Alan Furst. Most excellent. Furst is tremendous at setting and maintaining a mood with brief physical descriptions. The set piece where an amateur double agent on a train convinces himself that he’s under observation is a perfect example–Furst coolly and patiently mixes descriptions of setting with the man’s perceptions of the people around him to create an ever-heightening sense of danger, without an overtly threatening act having been performed. The sense of foreboding he creates is palpable. Several times, the Frenchman who is the hero sees the people around him, shopkeepers and such, and wonders what will happen to them when war sweeps down. But what’s interesting is that question occured to me even before the Frenchman posed it. That’s the strength of Furst’s writing. BTW, two interesting things from an interview with Furst by Chip McGrath in the Times: His literary heroes are Anthony Powell, Stendahl, Conrad, Malraux and Greene; and he writes in an unheated guest house on Long Island until temperatures fall to 42 degrees.
Power Play, by Joseph Finder
Living On The Black, by John Feinstein
The 28th Amendment, by Neal Rechtman
The Killer Instinct, by Joseph Finder
The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate, by James Rosen.

Killing Rommel, by Steven Pressfield. Very strong war story set in North Africa in 1943. The hero is a 23 year-old British lieutenant. He feels guilt after he and his men ambush some Italian troops. Ill after operating behind enemy lines, Lt. Chapman has been offered a chance to go to rear, but wants to rejoin his unit. Pressfield expresses Chapman’s thoughts beautifully: “The army is trying to send me to the rear, where I can be with my wife and baby, that union which I desire more than anything in the world, yet here I am hastening, against all common sense and the expectations of my peers, towards the front. Why? Because I feel guilty for killing the enemy, which is exactly what I am supposed to do and what I agree I am supposed to do. When I get to the front, how do I hope to redeem myself? By killing more enemy. . . as if by this further crime I will absolve all previous crimes, which are not crimes at all but actions for which my country will honor me and in which I in later years no doubt will take secret and perhaps not so secret satisfaction. Am I mad?” A thoughtful and thought-provoking book hidden inside a war story.
Dark Horse: A Political Thriller, by Ralph Reed
The Bush Tragedy, by Jacob Weisberg

Body of Lies: A Novel, by David Ignatius

Life Class: A Novel, by Pat Barker

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, by Rick Perlstein. “It is a lesson of the sixties–liberals get in the biggest political trouble–whether instituting open housing, civilian complaint review boards, or sex education programs–when they presume that a reform is an inevitable concomitant of progress. It is then that they are most likely to establish their reforms by top-down bureaucratic means. A blinsiding backlash often ensues.”


Christopher’s Ghosts, by Charles McCarry A moody, uneasy, vivid book. This is the first book I’ve read by the legendary McCarry, and I enjoyed it quite a lot; I want to read others. A few things bothered me–the way some characters disappeared or suddenly showed up, for example–but this reminded me of the novels of Patrick O’Brian, whom I admire for always writing the book he wanted to write, and not the book that would satisfy the desire of every reader to have all loose ends neatly tied up at the book’s end.


President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, by William Lee Miller. I am a big fan of Professor Miller, having really enjoyed his Arguing About Slavery, which taught me quite a lot about John Quincey Adams, and the debate about slavery in the first half of the 19th century. Miller is quite good here explicating Lincoln’s speeches, most especially the second inaugural, and is particularly enlightening when exploring Lincoln’s use of the pardon power.

Flying High, by William Buckley. Slight.

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, by Nicholson Baker. Here’s the review I wrote for The Washington Monthly.


Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning: Churchills First Speech as Prime Minister, by John Lukacs. One always feels that one has larned a great deal after having read one of Professor Lukacs’ books, never moreso than here.

The Scandal Plan, by Bill Folman


The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin. Excellent reporting job by Toobin. Whenever I think of voting for McCain, I think of Toobin’s book, and how essentail I believe it is that the next Supreme Court appointments be made by a Democrat.

Beginner’s Greek, by James Collins (see blog entry)


The War for All the Oceans: From Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo, by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins. A good account of the activities of the British navy during the Napoleonic wars, although I liked Adkins’s 2005 history, Nelson’s Trafalgar, quite a bit more. That book was able to focus on one of history’s great warriors who conveniently managed to balance a heroic public life with an interestng private life, and to cap it off with a great finale. The new book is best when the Adkins get to write about Nelson, Smith and Cochrane, and slows down when the action ebbs or turns to less rousing campaigns.

One Helluva Ride, by Liz Clarke. Here’s the review from The Washington Monthly, posted, oddly, on the Citizens National Bank site.

BOOKS 2007 (24)

What I read:

Sea of Thunder, by Evan Thomas
Homo Politicus, by Dana Milbank (click here for interview with author) (click here for Washington Monthly review)

Strides, by Benjamin Cheever (click here for interview)
Dead Certain, by Robert Draper
The Blonde, by Duane Swierczynski

The Wheel Man, by Duane Swierczynski
War Without Death, by Mark Maske (click here for interview)
Patriot Acts, by Greg Rucka
The GM, by Tom Callahan (click here for interview)

Day of Battle, by Rick Atkinson (click here for interview)
Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President by Stephen F. Hayes (click here for Washington Monthly review)
Masters of the Air, by Donald L. Miller
Trudy Hopedale, by Jeffry Frank

No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Moshin Hamid
Troublesome Young Men, by Lynne Olsen Vividly captures the personalities and behind-the-scenes maneuvering in Parliament (click here for reaction)

I Love You, Beth Cooper, by Larry Doyle (click here for interview) A very funny book, indeed

The War of Wars : The Epic Struggle Between Britain and France: 1789-1815, by Robert Harvey — A well-written, thoroughly engrossing history of the era
Savage Peace : Hope and Fear in America, 1919, by Ann Hagedorn
Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud

Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You: A Memoir by Sean Thomas (click here for interview)
Sunday: A History of the First Day from Babylonia to the Super Bowl by Craig Harline (click here for Washington Monthly review)
A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now by Peter Wood (click here for Washington Monthly review)


Heyday, by Kurt Andersen (click here for interview)The Death of A

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