We are pleased to announce our selections for the best books we read this year. The Octavian Report reading list makes great year-end reading wherever you may be — and great gifts, if you are still scrambling.
Here is our list of essential reads for 2019 and beyond.
Agnes Poirer, Left Bank
The resurrection of Paris from the ashes of the war forms the backdrop of this brilliant, learned look at the connected lives of the legendary artists, writers and philosophers living and working in the post-war City of Lights.
Ian Bremmer, Us vs. Them
Leading political analyst and OCTAVIAN REPORT board member Bremmer’s insightful book outlines the hard facts about where our orthodoxies on trade, migration, and other big questions have come up short.
Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time
This slim book from a leading theoretical physicist ponders the physical and metaphysical nature of time as it winds through our lives and our memories, making understandable concepts usually incomprehensible to the layperson.
Lanier helped invent the technologies that power our world. He is also one of the sharpest critics of the world he helped create. In this book, he lucidly explains the dark side of the data rich social media platforms that will make you think twice before your next post. This book is a must read in the age of the digital Panopticon.
John Lewis Gaddis, On Grand Strategy
Yale’s Gaddis has been teaching students the intricacies of grand strategy for four decades. This book, which spans thinkers and doers from Archilochus to Machiavelli to Lincoln, is a culmination of that program and explains how their insights apply to all life from the extraordinary to the quotidian and how you can develop your own grand strategy. (Spoiler alert: Octavian gets high marks as a grand strategist)
Madeline Miller, Circe
In this deeply imaginative take on the Odysseus myth from the viewpoint of the sorceress Circe, Miller creates an unforgettable world and brings a new perspective to well known Greek myths. Her command of classical sources is as sure as her prose.
Frederic Raphael, Antiquity Matters
Raphael is a polymath, at home writing Academy Award winning screenplays as he is among the Greeks. His book takes on, with wit and erudition, the questions of our inheritance from Athens and Rome and why it’s still so relevant.
Elliot Ackerman, Waiting for Eden
National Book Award finalist and Purple Heart winner Ackerman continues his exploration of love and war in this haunting tale of the most injured soldier of the last decade. A powerful and incisive successor to his previous books.
Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking with Destiny
Winston Churchill was perhaps the greatest leader of the twentieth century and a person who never ceases to fascinate and inspire. Widely hailed as the best single volume biography of Churchill ever written, historian Roberts’ magisterial biography captures the unfailing spirit of the man who saved Europe in all his flawed brilliance.
Paul Volcker, Keeping At It
This summing-up, from the greatest central banker in U.S. history, is worth reading not only for the central role the author played in US affairs but because its explanation of the all too ignored dangers of inflation runs counter to today’s thinking.
Christian Davenport, The Space Barons
One of the most important innovations of our times is the commercialization of space, with all its consequences for both the economy and the future of our planet. At the forefront is the potential of private space launch. In this highly readable book, award-winning Washington Post staff writer Davenport explains this new frontier through the stories of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and the other visionaries driving it forward.
Benn Steil, The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War
Seventy years ago, the United States launched the Marshall Plan, perhaps the boldest and most effective soft-power program ever executed and one hailed as a model ever since. As the post-war system comes under attack, Steil’s highly relevant book on this critical historical event lucdily and powerfully narrates the Plan’s origins, consequences and legacy.
Victor Sebestyen, Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, the Master of Terror
A century after the Russian Revolution, Lenin somehow seems suddenly all too relevant again. This brilliant biography analyzes how Lenin became Lenin, and how he laid the foundations for the repressive Soviet state from the beginning of his time in power.
Shore, a Yale professor and eminent Slavicist, takes her readers up close and personal with the rise and fall of the Maidan movement, including an eye-witness account of the epic events of 2013 and 2014 and chronicles is human costs. A must-read for anyone trying to understand the Ukraine crisis.
Rachel Cusk, Kudos
This third book on the novelist’s acclaimed OUTLINE trilogy displays a tremendous imaginative force and a masterful, restrained prose. Cusk has established herself as one of the best writers in English today.
Sarah Weinman, The Real Lolita
A true-crime tale adjacent to the world of great literature. Weinman’s fascinating investigation of the very real case that inspired Nabokov is vastly worth reading in its own right.
Beth Macy, Dopesick
This bleak but necessary book chronicles the terror and afflictions of the opioid crisis, a public health disaster that for all our handwringing still evades solutions.
Dunya Mikhail, The Beekeper
The brutality of ISIS is well known. Mikhail, herself a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, chronicles the efforts of the titular beekeeper to rescue female victims of ISIS in a direct, incredibly powerful way.