The List, Part 3: Books


My favorite books of all time.  Ranking books is especially difficult because there’s such a difference between fiction and non-fiction, between edge of your seat excitement and fascinating knowledge, but I’ve done my best to represent both here.

As always, comments and suggestions are much appreciated.  I’m always looking for a new author to read.

10.  The Rosenberg File (Second Edition) by Professor Ronald Radosh (1997)

Radosh, a former communist, brilliantly lays out the evidence that Julius Rosenberg was indeed guilty of espionage against the United States, and his wife Ethel certainly knew of his activities and may have participated as well.  While criticizing the government’s conduct in the prosecution, he makes it clear that the Rosenbergs brought the death penalty upon themselves by refusing to admit their role and proclaiming total innocence despite the evidence against them.

9. The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy (1991)

Tom Clancy’s crowning achievement, Sum of All Fears is probably the most gripping novel I’ve ever read.  It’s rare that a book will get your heart racing in the way a movie can, but this book was almost impossible to put down.  Clancy isn’t just the master of the techno-thriller, he’s a master of suspense too.

8. Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK by Gerald Posner

The Kennedy assassination is one of the most fascinating incidents in 20th Century American History.  Even more fascinating is the plethora of ridiculous conspiracy theories that have arisen in the nearly 50 years since that fateful day.  Posner’s book works hard to discredit those wild theories and put to rest the argument over whether Oswald committed the crime himself.  No matter what your personal opinion, this book will provide a unique insight you won’t find many places.  Namely, Posner argues that the Warren Commission was massively flawed and almost literally stumbled onto the correct answer in spite of its own glaring incompetence.

7. The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism by Paul Kengor (2007)

A mesmerizing account of how Reagan spent his entire life fighting communism and preparing himself for the day when he would lead the entire free world in the final battle with the Evil Empire.  Despite overwhelming odds and a nation that no longer believed in itself, Reagan used the force of his personality and conviction to drag us all along in his just cause.

6. Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America’s Enemies by M. Stanton Evans

For as long as I can remember, I’d been told by teachers and media and everyone else that Joseph McCarthy was one of the worst human beings to ever live, a vile monster who destroyed innocent people’s lives by accusing them of being communist spies.  And for almost as long I had doubted this story.  I mean, this isn’t the 18th Century witch trials; this was the Cold War, when communists really were trying to bring America down.  Why would McCarthy, or anyone for that matter, falsely accuse people of being communists when there were so many real ones out there?

Well, turns out I was right.  And this book lays the truth out in intricate detail, how everything McCarthy said was true and everyone he accused was a pinko commie bastard.  McCarthy was one of the greatest patriots this country has ever produced, and he was destroyed by the left wing establishment for nothing more than protecting our nation.  He is a true martyr.

5. Treason by Ann Coulter

By far Coulter’s best book, she shows with unflinching detail how Democrats have been on the wrong side of every major national defense issue since the end of World War II.  She devoted much of her book to defending Joseph McCarthy (kind of like a primer course for my #6 book, Blacklisted), and also shows the failures of Democratic presidents from Harry Truman all the way through to Bill Clinton.

4. Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr (1994)

I’m cheating a little bit here by using a compilation of a couple of Kerr’s books, but the Bernie Gunther series is astounding all the way through.  Imagine an old fashioned, hard-boiled detective novel.  But now imagine that detective lives in Nazi Germany, and thinks none too highly of the Nazis.  And that’s the story of Bernie Gunther, a loud mouth detective with a chip on his shoulder, trying to solve cases that the Nazis usually don’t want solved.  Start with this trilogy of books and I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

3. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst (1988)

Alan Furst is my absolute favorite author.  Picking his best novel is tough, but this week at least his first is my favorite.  All of his stories are set in Europe in the days leading up to (or the very early days of) World War II, and usually involve characters trapped between the dual evils of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.  These are more cerebral stories than action spy novels, but there’s still plenty of tension and intrigue as you follow the lives of everyday people just trying to survive while still keep their humanity in a world going to hell.

2. Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick

While this book is supposed to be about the fall of the Soviet Union (the author was working in Moscow when the failed coup led to the collapse of the USSR), to me the most fascinating part of the book is just the stories of the atrocities committed by the KGB and others during the reign of communism.  From Katyn Forest to assassinations of dissidents to the gulag system, this is one of the best works on the monstrosity that was the Soviet Empire.

1. Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull

Set in three different time periods during one man’s life, Losing Julia tells the story of World War I veteran Patrick Delaney and his experiences in the war, 10 years after the war at a soldiers’ reunion, and as he is dying in a nursing home at the age of 81.  A haunting story of the horrors of war and how true love never dies.

Honorable Mention: The Alienist by Caleb Carr; Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming by Terry Frei; The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough; The Main Enemy: The Inisde Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB by Milt Bearden; Clear and Present Dangerby Tom Clancy; Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Will Bagley; I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max; The Myth of the Great War by John Mosier

And anything by Alan Furst: Dark Star; The Polish Officer; The World at Night; Red Gold; Kingdom of Shadows; Blood of Victory; Dark Voyage; The Foreign Correspondent; The Spies of Warsaw; Spies of the Balkans.

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9 Comments

  1. Holy cow…your taste in books is very similar to mine!!

    I have read most of these, with the exception of Philip Kerr, and I will chalk that up to being enbroiled to the gills with Vince Flynn and John Ringo.

    I think where I differ is with the Tucker Max book. He revels in being an asshole too much, if you know what I mean 🙂

    • I’ve never read a Vince Flynn book, they seem too commercialized to me. (I admit I’m kind of a book snob, I figure if too many people are reading them, like Twilight or Harry Potter or Stieg Larrson books, then they can’t be that good.) But since you say so I’ll give one a try! Which do you suggest I start with?

      Tucker Max is clearly a little over the top, and I’ve grown tired of him by his second and now third book. But his first book was so original, so outrageous, I have to admit I laughed my ass off.

      • Hm…I would start at the beginning 😉

        American Assassin!!

  2. A couple of recommendations.
    Book: Word of Honor by Nelson Demille
    Movie: Miller’s Crossing

    • Seen Miller’s Crossing, I give it 4 stars. Very good film, but not quite good enough to make my top list.

      Never read a Demille book. I’ll give him a look when I get my pile a little smaller. Thanks!

  3. A)Totally agree with Tucker Max and the first book. His others have just gotten mean and self indulgent…There’s a difference between being a funny asshole and just an asshole and he might have lost sight of that…

    B) I cannot believe that you are not a fan of John Irving! A Prayer for Owen Meany is my absolute favorite book. The Cider House Rules, The World According to Gar,,,As a personla favor to me, get to a library immediately and read Owen Meany!

    C)No David Sedaris? He’s hysterical and Me talk pretty one Day adn Naked are his best!

  4. Sorry, The World According to Garp and also The Hotel New Hampshire. When they put a dog to sleepbecause it cannot stopfarting – that’s a book you should read!

  5. Thought I would pass along this here link:

    http://historiansfootball.wordpress.com/

    Looks like he’s starting out, and seems interesting 🙂

  6. One must read and the best polemic ever:
    The Great Roob Revolution by Roger Price of Monster Madlib fame. Random House 1970. After that is the collected works of H.L. Mencken. These men saw what we are enduring now decades ago. A century is gone since mencken told us, “Getting a living is too easy in this country. It gives rise to inferior men.” And their kind now rule us.


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