We are pleased to announce our selections for the best books of the year (and a couple of classics) — our list of essential reads for 2018 and beyond.
Red Famine, by Anne Applebaum
History should never be forgotten. The latest work from the Pulitzer Prize winner brings light to the oft-forgotten genocidal famine campaign Stalin waged against the Ukrainians. Beautifully written and powerful, a dark but necessary tale in these forgetful times. Read our interview with Anne here.
Deep Thinking, by Garry Kasparov
On the twentieth anniversary of his epic battle against Deep Blue, the greatest chess player in history talks about what it’s like to face off against AI — and why he’s hopeful for our technological future. Filled with fascinating stories from the epic match as well as Garry’s visions for the future, a book for anyone interested in the rise of artificial intelligence. Here’s Garry at the Octavian Forum in October.
Dark at the Crossing, by Elliot Ackerman
Decorated veteran Elliot Ackerman’s second novel tells the story of an Arab-American on his way to fight in Syria. Both a tangled love story and a tale of war underscoring the darkness in the Syrian civil war, Dark at the Crossing is powerfully insightful and was nominated for a National Book Award. Here’s his brilliant essay on Xenophon for the Octavian Report.
False Dawn, by Steven A. Cook
The CFR’s Steven Cook — one of America’s leading Middle East analysts — was literally in Tahrir Square when the Egyptian Revolution erupted around him. Now, after the failure of democratic hopes placed in the Arab Spring, Cook explains what happened — and why — in this brilliant analysis. Steve hosted an amazing panel at the Forum in October. Watch here.
Michelangelo, Divine Draftsman and Designer
This catalog of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s stunning Michelangelo show is the perfect way to capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience which brought together dozens of the Renaissance master’s drawings. A beautiful volume with scholarly context.
The Landmark Julius Caesar, ed. Kurt Rafflaub
This deluxe new annotated edition of all five contemporary accounts of the Roman general’s wars — including his own memoirs of Gaul and of the Civil War — presents some of the greatest works ever of military history. Here’s Cornell professor Barry Strauss on the lessons Caesar can teach modern leaders.
Behaving Badly, by Eden Collinsworth
From Harvey Weinstein to Donald Trump, why have public standards disintegrated? Collinsworth, journalist and manners expert, covers a panorama of the decline of ethics in money, love, and politics delivered with a sense of humor and offering an all too relevant social critique.
Destined for War, Graham Allison
The ancient Greek historian Thucydides offered a lesson from the war between Athens and Sparta (the so-called “Thucydides Trap”): the rise of a new power almost always leads to war. Harvard’s Graham Allison, a proponent of “applied history,” sees the U.S. and China on a collision course — and explains what we should do to avoid a coming war.
Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
Cleopatra was a force to be reckoned with, a brilliant ruler who held her own on the world stage with Caesar, Antony, and, yes, Octavian. Our board member and Pulitzer-Prize winner Stacy Schiff wrote the definitive work on the Egyptian queen, a breathtaking story of her life and times and the magnificence that was ancient Alexandria. A must-read. We spoke to Stacy about Salem and the politics of fear for the magazine.
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
Cervantes’ masterpiece regularly tops the list of greatest books ever written. Funny, powerful, poignant, brilliant — it contains infinitudes and is a gift that keeps on giving. If you’ve never read it, you are in for a treat. Cervantes expert Ilan Stavans wrote a profound appreciation for the book for us that explains why you should join the knight errant on his adventures.
The Road Not Taken, by Max Boot
Technically a 2018 publication, Octavian Report board member and preeminent military historian Max Boot’s forthcoming biography of counterinsurgency expert Edward Lansdale — a true forgotten man — is a compelling life story well told and one with a great impact on U.S. military strategy lasting to this day. Read Max’s Lansdale essay for the Report here.
Mad Enchantment, by Ross King
The twilight years can be enormously productive. Ross King tells the inspiring story of Claude Monet’s late paintings of the water lilies — a project encouraged by Clemenceau to commemorate the Great War — which became an obsession for the partially blind Impressionist master. A great story of a profound artist and of why genius never need fade. Read our interview with King here.
An Odyssey, by Daniel Mendelsohn
A beautiful memoir by a classics professor whose octogenerian father audits his seminar on the Odyssey and then embarks with him on a cruise to retrace the journey from Troy to Ithaca. At once literary criticism, travelogue, and powerful recounting of a father and son’s relationship, Mendelsohn shows with great subtlety why the legendary homeward voyage is part of us all.
Best wishes for a happy holidays and a prosperous 2018! To learn how to keep up with all our great content, click here.