Each January, I depart from my focus on securities law and corporate governance matters to cite my top 10 books of the year gone by – five each in fiction and non-fiction. As always, my top 10 list reflects books that I’ve read, rather than books that were published, during the year.
My reading tastes seem to have changed a tad in 2017. Specifically, two of my fiction favorites were not at all the kind of books that I thought I’d like. In the non-fiction area, if you’d asked me my favorite type of book at the beginning of the year, I doubt that I’d have mentioned biography and memoirs, yet they comprised three of my top non-fiction works. I’ll also note that coming up with a fifth non-fiction favorite was a bit challenging, as only four really blew me away.
With that as prologue, here goes:
- The North Water, by Ian McGuire: This is one of the two that I’d not have expected to be in my top five; it’s a cross between gothic and historical fiction that is superbly written.
- A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles: A simply lovely book about a Russian aristocrat sentenced to stay in a Moscow hotel post-revolution. It’s been on the New York Times best-seller list for nearly a year and deservedly so.
- A Kind of Freedom, by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. A gorgeously written book about three generations of an African-American family in New Orleans, pre- and post-Katrina. It’s the author’s first novel and I can’t wait for more.
- The Force, by Don Winslow: Another unexpected member of my top five because its subjects – police corruption and race in NYC, among other things – are not my usual faves. But it’s gritty and realistic and a terrific read.
- The Confessions of Young Nero, by Margaret George: George is one of the best writers of historical fiction around, and I’m a sucker for practically anything about ancient Rome. I can’t wait to read the second of this two-volume series.
- A Rage for Fame, by Sylvia Jukes Morris: This is the first of a two-part biography of Clare Booth Luce. It’s among the best biographies I’ve ever read; the subject is neither elegized nor damned, and is depicted in all her enigmatic glory.
- An Odyssey, by Daniel Mendelsohn: A wonderful, bittersweet memoir about a classics professor whose 84 year-old scientist father decides to audit his son’s course on Homer’s Odyssey. A great mix of memoir, literary analysis, and the classic themes that run through both.
- Toscanini, Musician of Conscience, by Harvey Sachs: You have to be a music lover to love this 800+-page magnum opus on the great conductor – his music, his politics, and his life and loves. Fortunately for me, I am a music lover and sped through this book allegro.
- Shattered, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes: This book, about the doomed presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, is unputdownable – the political-literary equivalent of watching a train wreck.
- The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones: Despite its length and my unfamiliarity with some of the major themes that run through the period, a very well done history of this dynasty.
See you (at least on this subject) next year!