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My Favorite Reads of 2022
Last year was a busy reading year, focused primarily on History, Biography, Fiction, and Faith. My reading has been somewhat of an up and down journey over the last five years, but I hit my pace again in 2022. History and Biography genres combined for thirty books, accounting for over half of my total of fifty-seven books. Further, the two genres have close association with each other via the butterfly effect. For example, reading a biography of Edmund Burke led me to investigate the French Revolution. Likewise, a bio of Chester Nimitz led me to The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, a dramatic and compelling unveiling of the brutal WWII naval battle off Samar, and The Admirals, a snapshot bio of the primary admirals who ran the Pacific war. A link to a list of all the books I read last year is included below, but here are my top ten.
Nimitz by E.B. Potter - I expected to learn much about a man whose name and face are familiar from my youth, and I did. His command of the Pacific war during WWII is legendary as he dueled with MacArthur, cajoled and maneuvered Bull Halsey and other big egos, outfoxed Yamamoto, and restored confidence to the American people. Potter does yeoman's work in this volume, peeling back the cover to reveal the depth of the man.
Einstein by Walter Isaacson - You think you know something about someone, then you pick up their life as explained by Walter Isaacson and realize just how little you knew. He covers all the bases here, including the genesis of the genius through Einstein’s early struggles, the science and competitions, the acclaim and adoration, and his love life, which was as complicated as some of his equations. I knew Einstein was a big thing in his day. I had no idea how big.
Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered by Russell Kirk - A deep conservative thinker's take on the man some call the original conservative. Always on the wrong side of the floor against long odds on the biggest issues of his day, Burke was a champion of the common man, common good, and common sense. He was able to see the evil in the French Revolution before it made its appearance, rejected slavery as an immoral assault on both the captive and the captor, and stood his ground with great strength and integrity. Kirk does him justice, indeed.
Radical: My Journey out of Islamic Extremism by Maajid Nawaz - We are all walking a journey as we make our way through this life. Each has moments when we must turn to challenge the unchallengeable, times when we must test and prove; unveiling in the process the combined sadness and exhilaration of truth and the freedom it brings, despite what we must inevitably lose as a result. This is Maajid's story, and it is a powerful one. In it, he illuminates the issues, biases, hatred, and surprising turn that life can take at times when one is held in darkness and desolation.
The Last of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary WWII Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour by James D. Hornfischer - "This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can." With these words, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland sent the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts and its and crew into battle off of the island of Samar. The Roberts was one of several destroyer escorts (DE's), small and out gunned as they were, which held off the massive Japanese fleet when U.S. carriers and landing forces were left exposed and starkly vulnerable. There is a reason this action is called the U.S. Navy's finest hour, and this work by a master historian reveals the many reasons in personal detail.
Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President by Harold Holzer - An excellent exposition of Lincoln's address in Manhattan that set his course as the future president. It is undoubtedly his finest speech, his Second Inaugural Speech and the Gettysburg Address included, although it is hard to put paper between the three. Gettysburg and the second inaugural were perfect for their moment, Cooper Union for its purpose, precision, and power.
The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell - Plainly spoken truth about how the world works and, as we are currently experiencing, how it doesn't. Prescient as proven in today's time. It is clear-headed in its articulation of ideological truths and fallacies, unvarnished in its methodology, and should be required reading in schools across the land. Highly recommended if you are interested in a survey of conservative thought.
A Place to Read by Michael Cohen - Cohen writes from his own life and experiences, its joys and sometime pain, making the book even more compelling despite its late-afternoon-conversation-in-the-corner-of-the-parlor vibe. On the one hand, it felt like I was reading my own life in that there are so many shared interests. On the other hand, it is rare that one reads someone for whom the art of writing seems to come so naturally. I have not read many essay collections; this one will have me coming back for more.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein - I first read the book in 1976 and it has lost none of its appeal in the interim. Heinlein’s classic tale of revolution is really an exposition of his libertarian values with a bit of interplanetary ballistics and economics thrown in. There is not a lot of philosophy or theology in this one (see Stranger In A Strange Land for that), but it is chock full of common sense and the assistance of a willing computer comrade. I’m not in the market at the moment, but if I ever need a primer on starting and leading a revolution this will be on my shortlist.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence - "Our sanctification does not depend upon changing what we do, but in doing for God's sake what we normally do for our own sake." In simple and plain language, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1611-1691) brings us the secret of "... the practice of living always in the conscious presence of God." Themes of simplicity, humility, devotion, service, love, and gratitude fill the book and are signposts for us today away from the hurry, noise, complexity, busyness, and futileness of much of modern life.
The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War by Michael Shaara - A classic novel of the Civil War.
Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963 by Taylor Branch - This first volume of a trilogy covers the early life of the man and the struggle.
The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman - Germany's attempt to co-opt Japan and Mexico in an invasion of the U.S., to keep it out of WWI.
To see all of my reads, check out my Goodreads Year in Books page.
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