Here are the books my book club read in 2016. Check them out. You might find a few to be of interest. At the bottom of the article, you’ll find links to the books we read in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
January – Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. A study of the Comanches in Texas in the 1800s, with a detailed look at Quanah Parker, tribal leader whose mother was white. The tribe kept U.S. military forces at bay by being expert warriors on horseback. The odds evened only when U.S. soldiers also learned how to fight on horseback and started using repeating revolvers that matched the Comanches’ rapid fire bow and arrows.
February – Bridge of Spies by Giles Whittell. If you saw the movie, you were exposed to only a tiny sliver of the book. This is an expansive look at the forces driving the Cold War, and it provides a much more detailed understanding of Khrushchev, Eisenhower and the U2 spying initiative.
March – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This Pulitzer Prize winner explores the lives of young people in Germany and France during World War II. It’s a beautifully written, well-constructed, insightful story about a young German orphan, a blind French girl and the forces that draw them together.
April – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. The author makes a strong case that Genghis Khan introduced many of the foundations upon which modern societies are based. These include currency, international trade, freedom of religion and the idea that civil and military leaders should be chosen on merit.
May – Justine by Laurence Durrell. Justine is one of four interlocking novels that tell various aspects of a complex story of passion and deception from differing points of view. The quartet is set in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in the 1930s and 1940s.
June – How the West Won by Rodney Stark. The author points out that modernity developed only in the West—in Europe and North America. Nowhere else did science and democracy arise; nowhere else was slavery outlawed. Only Westerners invented chimneys, musical scores, telescopes, eyeglasses, pianos, electric lights, aspirin, and soap. The question is, why? Stark provides a number of insightful answers.
July – The Confidence Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville. This was Melville’s final novel, published in 1857. The story takes place on a steamboat traveling the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans. It follows the exploits of a confidence man taking advantage of fellow passengers. The novel explores questions of trust, morality, materialism and cynicism. Be warned: Its convoluted writing style will test your concentration and, at times, your patience.
August – Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. It’s America at the turn of the twentieth century, where the rhythms of ragtime set the beat. Harry Houdini astonishes audiences with magical feats of escape, the mighty J. P. Morgan dominates the financial world and Henry Ford manufactures cars by making men into machines. Emma Goldman preaches free love and feminism, while ex-chorus girl Evelyn Nesbitt inspires a mad millionaire to murder the architect Stanford White. In Doctorow’s novel, such real-life characters intermingle with three remarkable families, one black, one Jewish and one prosperous WASP, to create a dazzling literary mosaic that brings to life an era of dire poverty, fabulous wealth, and incredible change – in short, the era of ragtime.
September – The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. This is a wide-ranging novel, set in the 1940s, that revolves around Australian surgeon and military officer Dorrigo Evans, who early on has an affair with his uncle’s young wife. Soon thereafter, he ends up in a brutal Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, where his life becomes a daily struggle to save the men under his command. The novel explores the many forms of good and evil as Evans comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.
October – The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille. The Gold Coast stretches on the North Shore of Long Island, which once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America. Here two men are destined for an explosive collision: John Sutter, a Wall Street lawyer, holding fast to a fading aristocratic legacy; and Frank Bellarosa, the Mafia don who seizes his piece of the staid and unprepared Gold Coast like a latter-day barbarian chief and draws Sutter and his regally beautiful wife, Susan, into his violent world. DeMille describes the book as The Great Gatsby meets The Godfather.
November – Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard. This is an account of Winston Churchill’s extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War in South Africa. His reputation for heroism in this war became a large part of the foundation that supported a lifelong career in politics and public service.
December – Red Metal by Peter Faur. In 2005, China’s voracious appetite for copper is flooding Red Metal Corporation with cash, and Red Metal CEO Jeff Fowler appears hell-bent on leaving most of it in the bank. After buying up a big chunk of Red Metal stock, hedge-fund Galileo gives Fowler an ultimatum: Make smart investments with the money, or return it to shareholders. If you don’t, you’ll go down as the CEO who let a 130-year-old company fade into oblivion. Will Fowler escape Brown, walk into Brown’s traps, or get spooked into making foolish moves that bring his world crashing down around him?