I was going to do a “best of 2004” list, but then I realized I liked all the books I read recently. I have a friend who keeps a list of all the books he reads, and when he finished them. I have never done that before, but I was able to dig back and recreate the list for this year. I am a fast reader and I do not have a television, which allowed me to get through a lot of good books despite being pretty busy. I wish I had time to comment on all of them on the blog. All of them are worth reading. The list follows. I’ll say a few words about each.
I’d be interested in comments on any of these books, or references to related books which our readers have found to be good.
Martin van Creveld, Defending Israel: A Controversial Plan Toward Peace, December 2004 (This is a profound book. I learned a lot from it. Creveld believes that Israel must build and defend the proposed wall to isolate itself from the Palestinians, and that it would be literally suicidal for Israel to try to hang onto the West Bank and Gaza; however, he also believes that Israel’s overall security situation is sound. His discussion of what happens to Western-type armies that try to fight against insurgencies on their own ground has obvious implications for our Iraq effort. A hardnosed and convincing treatment.)
Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, November 2004 (A superior book. Explains how and why Western armies have been losing to insurencies for 50+ years and what they might to prevail in the future. I hope to write about this book at length in the future.)
James C. Bennett, The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century, October 2004 (I wrote about Bennett’s book briefly here. I will have much more to say about the book and Bennett’s newly launched Anglosphere Institute soon (I hope).)
Winston Churchill, A Roving Commission: My Early Life, October 2004 (I mentioned this book here. There is much to be learned here about Churchill, the old-time British Empire and how it worked, low-intensity warfare and much other wisdom. Churchill was a great writer and this is one of his best books.)
Jean Danielou, The Lord of History: A Reflection on the Inner Meaning of History, October 2004 (Demonstrates that God’s revelation of Himself to the Jews and ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ made possible the notion of historical progress, breaking out of a cyclic conception in history, amongst other insights.)
Josiah Bunting, Ulysses S. Grant, October 2004 (A solid short treatment of Grant’s career, stronger on the military record than on the postwar period.)
Robert Citino, From Blitzkreig to Desert Storm: The Evolution of Operational Warfare, September 2004 (An excellent book. There is a good review in the current issue of Parameters (scroll down).)
David E. Nye, Consuming Power : A Social History of American Energies, September 2004 (I wrote a short “review” here)
Joseph Strayer, On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State, August 2004 (Classic discussion of the formation of the state in England and France. Shows the early origins of English exceptionalism. Also shows that a prerequisite for political liberty is a state strong enough to prevent private warfare.)
Charles Homer Haskins, The Normans in European History, August 2004 (An older book, beautifully written, more detail on the Normans in England, as well as in Normandy and in Sicily.)
Alan MacFarlane, The Making of the Modern World: Visions from East and West, August 2004 (One of the most important books I have ever read. I think MacFarlane is as important as Hayek. Yes, that important. It is really the second half of a single book, with its companion, the Riddle of the Modern World. I hope to write at length on MacFarlane at some point.)
Stephen Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle, August 2004 (This is a brilliant book. I discuss it briefly here. Biddle demonstrates that technology cannot substitute for landpower, nor can it lift the fog of war, and there is no substitute for training since force employment is the critical variable in determining who wins battles. Much rationality argued with great clarity and force, to say nothing of the math.)
Martin Wolf, Why Globalization Works, August 2004 (Superb. As good as one can ask for. The best book on the subject. Wolf raises and fairly and systematically rebuts all of the anti-globalization arguments. I would like to write at greater length on this book. I took good notes on it, so I may yet do so.)
Norman Friedman, The Fifty-Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold , July 2004 (An excellent, nuts and bolts treatment of the conflict, with a focus on the military and hardware aspects. The Soviets were playing to win, and Western victory was not inevitable.)
Zara Steiner, Britain and the Origins of the First World War, Second Edition, July 2004 (A superior book about catastrophic failure — Britain ended up entering World War I on the worst possible basis. (I discussed this topic but not the book here). Many lessons in international politics which are still of value.)
Michael Howard, The Continental Commitment: The Dilemma of British Defence Policy in the Era of the Two World Wars, July 2004 (Well done short discussion.)
Russell A. Hart, Clash of Arms: How the Allies Won in Normandy, June 2004 (Possibly the best book of military history about World War II I have read. I learned things on virtually every page. Reviewed in Parameters here (scroll down).)
William Slim, Defeat Into Victory, June 2004 (A gripping, inspiring and instructive memoir of leadership under very difficult circumstances.)
John A. English, Marching Through Chaos: The Descent of Armies in Theory and Practice, May 2004 (Good if not particularly original discussion of the origins of modern armies.)
Michael Barone, Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation’s Future, May 2004 (A meditation on the changes in American life since the ’60s. I posted about the article which gave rise to this book here)
Francis Fukuyama, State Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, May 2004 (This is an excellent short treatment of the subject, which I discussed in part here)
William E. Odom, Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire, May 2004 (A book which does a decent job of identifying America’s strengths, but is less useful on the question of “what next?” I hope to post a critique of this book at some point.)
Walter Russell Mead, Power, Terror, Peace and War, May 2004 (A very good book. Mead’s discussion of American “Millenial Capitalism” and how the Europeans are mystified by it is very good. His discussion of what different countries want from “international law” is also very good. Good review from National Review here. Highly recommended.)
John Lewis Gaddis, Surprise, Security and the American Experience May 2004 (Another example of the re-examination of early American history as a way to understand the present. Good review from Parameters here)
Russell Shorto, Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan, the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America, May 2004 (An engaging study of the founding of Manhattan. Sketchy and outright wrong in parts of his analysis of the long-term influence of the Dutch influence in American history. This topic cries out for a full David Hackett Fischer treatment. I would like to do post about this book, laying out in more detail what Shorto got right and wrong.)
Alan MacFarlane, The Riddle of the Modern World: Of Liberty, Wealth and Equality , April 2004 (As noted above, part 1 of a 2 part book.)
Thomas P.M. Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map, April 2004 (This book was the subject of two monster posts here and here.)
John A. English, On Infantry ( I read the original edition by English, which has more material than the second edition which Bruce Gudmundsson co-wrote. I read both and I like the original one better. Why well-trained, well-equipped, well-motivated infantry is still the ultimate weapon.) April 2004
David Cannadine, In Churchill’s Shadow, March 2004 (Good collection of essays on postwar Britain.)
Dominic Lieven, Empire: The Russian Empire and its Rivals, March 2004 (This is a brilliant but dense book. I learned a lot about the Russian and Soviet empires, as well as the Turkish, Habsburg and British empires. Convinces me yet further that the whatever the United States is, it is not an empire. Highly recommended.)
Reuven Brenner, The Force of Finance: The Triumph of the Capital Markets, March 2004 (Discusses the fundamental importance of access to finance for any economic progress, with good policy proposals. )
Andres Vazquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, Vol. II: God and Daring, February 2004 (Detailed, scholarly study of St. Josemaria Escriva during the period of the Spanish Civil War)
David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing, February 2004 (Superb book about Washington and his army, the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton. Walter Russell Mead’s short review here.)
Belton Y. Cooper, Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II , February 2004 (Cooper was in charge of recovery and repair of shut-up Sherman tanks. His book gives a strong sense of what it was like to fight the Germans — with inadequate equipment. His discussion of affairs beyond his immediate ken has been criticized, but that takes nothing away from the value of this book as a memoir.)
Col. John B. Alexander, Winning the War: Advanced Weapons, Strategies and Concepts for the Post-9/11 World, January 2004 (Some interesting insights particularly on the use of nonlethal weapons)
David H. Hackworth, Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts: The Hopeless to Hardcore Transformation of U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, Vietnam , January 2004 (Hackworth can come off as self-congratulatory, but discounting for that, this book is a page-turning depiction of how to dig out of a bad situation, to lead and motivate, and to innovate under extreme stress. Unfortunately, the Army had too few such battalion commanders in Vietnam and Hackworth’s innovations, and similar efforts by others, were not widely disseminated in the Army. This can be contrasted with the much more dynamic response of the Army in World War II, depiced in Michael Doubler’s excellent book Closing With the Enemy. Comparing the two situations would make a book in itself.)
John Poole, The Tiger’s Way: A U.S. Private’s Best Chance for Survival , January 2004 (Poole is a brilliant man with some idiosyncratic ideas who publishes his own books and really could use an editor. That said, his books are saturated with hard won military wisdom as well as moral decency and you learn a lot from them. Highly recommended.)
Kevin Philips, William McKinley, January 2004 (A good treatment of yet another under-rated GOP President.)
As a postscript, I’ll list the books I am currently reading. “Currently readng” means there is a bookmark in it and I plan to finish it. All are good so far.
Jean Danielou, God and the Ways of Knowing
Christopher Dawson, Dynamics Of World History
David Hackett Fischer, Liberty and Freedom
Henry James, Princess Casamassima
W.F.J. Jenner, The Tyranny of History
Msgr. Lavielle, St. Therese de L’Enfant Jesus
Frederick W. Maitland, The Constitutional History of England
Count de Marenches, The Fourth World War
John Poole, Tactics of the Crescent Moon
Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World
Irwin Rommel, Attacks
Anthony Trollope, Autobiography
8 thoughts on “Lex’s Books Read in 2004”
Thanks for your review of The Pentagon’s New Map. It intrigued me enough to buy and read it. Also, thanks for admitting that you are in one stage or another of a dozen books. I thought I was the only one who did that, although with me it’s usually only 3 or 4 at any given time.
Chris, I always start a bunch, and then sometimes I have a “surge” opportunity and finish a bunch around the same time.
By always reading a bunch at at time you always have one handy which you are in the “mood” for. Pleasure reading should be pleasant. Dense matter should be admixed with more easily chewed and digested material.
The Rommel book is brilliant, for example, but the the ice-cold Teutonic homicidal ruthlessness puts me off after a while. I’m stalled on the Henry James because, even though it is good, I know that now that he has introduced the characters and made you like them, he is now going to destroy them. And I’m flinching.
I have a whole bunch more I started and put aside and am not really looking at. I’ll probably eventually read them all. I started Defeat Into Victory years ago and bogged down after a few pages, then I tried it again, and got a few more pages in. Then this summer I picked it up, and got into it.
Thanks for the list Lex
Do you actually have time for lawyering Lex, or have you retired to the genteel life? You need a businees card like this:
Lexington Green: Esquire, Philosopher
On to the books. You inspired me to read David Hackett Fischer, I’ll have you know. I was going to start with Albion’s Seed, but discovered it’s out of print. I’ve ordered it from a used book seller but it hasn’t arrived yet. So I’m reading Paul Revere’s Ride instead and plan to read Washington’s Crossing when I’m done. I’m enjoying the Paul Revere book immensely.
While browsing the used book site, I saw all three volumes of Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, which were priced at less than two dollars each. I couldn’t resist and ordered them.
The only other thing I can really comment on is Colonel David Hackworth. His book, About Face, stands head and shoulders above any other book I’ve read on Vietnam. I highly recommend it.
“Do you actually have time for lawyering Lex?”
I work and read and do little else. I read while I walk around, while I cook, while I am on the train and while I eat if I am not with my family. I always have one or more books at hand all opportunities are seized. And I read fast.
Well, I’m sure I won’t get much read until summer now that school is starting, but I do think Fischer should give Lex some bonus (or at least put an ad up here); thanks to Lex’s remarks my husband gave me Albion’s Seed for Christmas. (Of course, I have looked at its size and figure even the summer may not do it.)
Ginny, pick around in the book for a while, you’ll get hooked and read the whole thing.
I’ve know Lex for many years, and one of the things that was immediately impressive about him when I first met him was that he was constantly buying and reading serious works of history. By dint of careful and extensive reading over a long period he has become expert in a number of political and historical areas that are highly relevant to current events. He is exceptional in this regard and sets a good example.
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