Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books from 2017 (so far)

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish concerns favorite books for the year, and while there's still a chance that some amazing book could pop up in the last two weeks of the year,  I'll go ahead and offer my thoughts. 

1. In the  City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, Pete Jordan.  Rarely does a book give me such joy as this,  a history of Amsterdam's bike culture and the author's experiences getting used to it.  I'll quote my review:

It's simply a story of humans living well --  Jordan, and the people of Amsterdam as a whole.  It is connected but free, rebellious but highly functional for human needs. If you like the city at its best, or like cycling, or simply have a care for human flourishing, this is a wonderful little book. I loved it before I bought it, I was thoroughly enblissed while reading it, and I already know it's one I will keep remembering with the thought: this is how life should be.

2. The Twilight of the Presidency, George E. Reedy.  A former Johnson aide who was fascinated by his boss's isolation during his administration here analyzes how the presidency has become an elective monarchy -- and a bad one, surrounded by hundreds of people who shield their king from criticism, and make the imponderable ship of state even harder to move from its course. Crucially, the problem is now structural: it doesn't matter who is elected, because the same problems have afflicted nearly every man since Hoover. 

3. This Brave New World:  India, China, and the United States; Anja Manuel. This book both reviews the political. cultural, and economic evolution of 21st century India and China, as well as argues for  a prudent American relationship with both (rather than favoring one against the other). 

4. Fear no Evil, Natan Sharansky. A Jewish Russian is picked up for his political activism -- arguing for easier emigration of Jews  from Russia to Israel -- and fights back against the gulag's psychological warfare. An incredible story of a man who kept his integrity in unimaginably difficult circumstances. 

5. How To Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, Anthony Esolen.  This is a tongue in cheek "appraisal" of modern mass culture, and how destructive it is to a humane life and humanistic education.  Esolen abandons the farcial praise in his sequel, Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child

On its face, Redshirts is a fantastic parody of Star Trek,   more serious than Galaxy Quest but definitely fun. Those codas at the end, however, turned it into a moving story.  I listened to the Wil Wheaton  Audible presentation.

7. Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest in Pursuit of Coronado, Douglas Preston. I'd like to think that I would have been thrilled by this book on the basis of its writing alone, its excellent mix of history, travel, and reflections on the Southwest,  even if I didn't have a fascination with the Southwest that visiting it has only increased.

8. Conquest of the Skies: A History of Commercial Aviation, Carl Solberg.  It's everything I could ask for in a history of commercial aviation, covering business, society, and technical advance. 

9. The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China, David Eimer. A tour of the outer rim of China, covering steppes, mountains, jungles, deserts, and tundra, and mixing stories of China's revolutions with those of smaller people carried along in China's wake...from Tibetans to Russians.  Great variety here in terms of the topics discussed -- religion,   narco states, Russian architecture...

10. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. This one is cheating a bit, since I'm not yet done with the third volume, but it would have merited inclusion here just based on the first volume. 

Honorable mentions:

The Circle, Dave Eggers.  Google eats facebook and Apple and goes evil.   Comedy meets..er, 1984. 

The Fellowship, Literary Lives of the Inklings, Philip and Carol Zaleski.  A four-part biography on C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. I still haven't finished a review for this, and frankly -- need to re-read it, because the first time around I largely focused on Lewis and Tolkien. 

Ancestral Shadows, Russell Kirk. This collection of short stories features ghostly characters who often don't know they're caught in the veil between the living and the dead -- and neither does the reader, very often. 


  1. I haven't read any of the books on your list this week. Some of them will be added to my ever growing reading wishlist.

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week:

  2. As Captivated Read, I haven't read any of the books on your list! But I'm happy to broaden my horizon with some new books in different genres. :) Always fun!


  3. The Twilight of the Presidency sounds like quite the thought-provoking read.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday. Thank you!

  4. I have #5 on my wishlist, and I did not know there was a sequel. Will probably add that, too.

    Of course, you have to add #10 even if you are not done b/c you know immediately it should be on this list.

  5. Definitely adding the Amsterdam/Cycling book to my TBR. Holy moly, I have never seen so many bikes in my life. Wandering round the city, I could not believe just how many cyclists there really were, and special lanes and pretty much bikes rule the road. There were parking garages for bikes. It was a little surreal.

    1. I understand Copenhagan is similar, at least in terms of its commitment to biking infrastructure. Seems unlikely that they have as many bikes as the Dutch, though!

  6. Thanks for a great list. I just read CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping, so your choice of The Emperor Far Away sounds interesting. Solzhenitsyn and Scalzi are also writers I admire.

  7. What a cool list! Your review of Fear No Evil has been in the back of my mind since you posted it. I find survival stories of all kinds so interesting and really want to read this one.


Thank you for visiting! Because of some very clever spambots, I've had to start moderating comments more strictly, but they're approved throughout the day.