Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Most Notable Books I Read in 2017

I try to read a lot and on a wide variety of subjects. At last count, I had plowed through 38 books this year which is not a bad pace to be on. I'm hoping to read more in 2018 and expect that my to be read list will be much longer once Christmas is over. Out of all the books I read these stood out for the reasons I will outline below:

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis and How to Build a Culture of Self-Reliance by Ben Sasse.

One would expect a book written by a United States Senator would be focused on public policy solutions. However, Sasse, who has a background in history and as a college president before being elected Senator is more concerned about documenting how we got to where we are in America and the current crisis that exists among young adults. Sasse intends the book to be the starting point for conversations about the challenges we face in America. Those solutions he does propose are ones that do not come from the government. An engaging read and a must for anyone who is concerned for America's youth.

Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend

In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied Forces held a war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg to prosecute Nazis for atrocities committed during the war. One of the first things I discovered in reading the book is that the whole concept of war crimes was completely new. The Allies debating long and hard about whether there was even a legal basis for bringing the cases to begin with. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that the United States Army wanted to make sure that chaplains were available to the prisoners held at Nuremberg. I can't help but wonder if we were faced with a similar scenario today would our military be so concerned about the spiritual warfare of prisoners of war. An interesting account of what took place at Nuremberg from the perspective of one of the chaplains who ministered there.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

I became a fan of Erik Larson's work after reading Thunderstruck last year. I had a vague awareness of the history of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago but didn't really know the details. Nor was I aware that there was a serial killer on the loose during the fair. Larson manages to weave a compelling narrative that reads like a thriller. One of the things I appreciate most about Larson's methodology (which he discusses in the end notes) is that he does not do any research on the internet. All of the information he uncovers is from original source material found at libraries, newspapers, and in books. A thoroughly researched and highly enjoyable volume.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

I read quite a number of mystery novels this year from the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, and Raymond Chandler. But the one that stands out for me that I read this year is The Maltese Falcon. I was familiar with the story having seen the Humphrey Bogart film years ago. But it many ways the original novel was better than the movie. I haven't had a chance to go back and see the movie again but would be willing to bet that Bogart's portrayal of Sam Spade would be very close to Hammett's creation in the novel. It's easy to see why Hammett is often credited as the creator of the hard-boiled detective.

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