The Octavian 2019 Holiday Book List

We are pleased to announce the Octavian 2019 holiday book List. The list makes great year-end reading wherever you may be — and great gifts, if you are still looking.

Here is our list of essential reads for 2020 and beyond.


The pre-eminent French thinker and Octavian editorial board member’s latest book is a stunning mix of history and geopolitical analysis, all placed in the service of an eloquent plea for America to take up her former role in global affairs before forces hostile to democracy entrench themselves too deeply. Click here to read more..







DON’T LABEL ME, by Irshad Manji

Irshad Manji is no stranger to controversy, and her latest book engages with perhaps the most controversial topic of our era: freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Manji argues for what she calls “honest diversity,” which includes not only cultural, sexual, and ethnic diversity but also diversity of viewpoint. Click here to read more.







This remarkable final book by the great literary critic takes readers on a journey through the books that have been closest to Bloom since his childhood, and in the process reveals his deepest and most personal thoughts about the nature of poetry and spirituality. Click here to read more.







THE NEIGHBORHOOD, by Mario Vargas Llosa

The Nobel laureate’s latest book to appear in English chronicles the interweaving of power, politics, and privilege in Fujimori’s Peru. The book has the trappings of a thriller. But in the hands of one of the world’s greatest living novelists, it becomes far more than that. Click here to read more.







PLACES AND NAMES, by Elliot Ackerman

The National Book Award finalist and decorated veteran’s newest work is a powerful collection of nonfiction chronicling his time in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Turkey. The book deals with war, trauma, memory, and their inextricable intertwining. Click here to read more.








Walter Bagehot’s name is unfairly forgotten, though his spirit lives on in the publication whose genius loci he was for many years: The Economist. James Grant’s biography is a delight to read, as energetic and erudite as its subject and written with the author’s customary elegant verve.  Click here to read more.








The oldest hatred has found, historian Deborah Lipstadt argues in her latest book, a disturbing new life in the contemporary world. She dissects the phenomenon with precision and skill and comes to some surprising and worrying conclusions. Click here to read more.







BECOMING DR. SEUSS, by Brian Jay Jones

The transformation of Theodore Geisel from a Dartmouth undergrad with an interest in cartooning into one of the world’s greatest children’s authors is a fascinating story. Brian Jay Jones, biographer of Jim Henson and George Lucas, delves deep into what made Seuss tick (above all, his talent for improvisation). Click here to read more.







FAKE PHOTOS, by Hany Farid

Hany Farid is perhaps America’s leading expert on digital forensics. This text, meant for a non-specialist readership, explains how to tell fake images from real ones on the internet. Unfortunately, this is an essential skill for the modern media consumer to learn. Click here to read more.







IMPEACHMENT: AN AMERICAN HISTORY, with Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker

This volume features four eminent experts examining the three presidential impeachment cases the U.S. has seen. Octavian contributor Jeffrey A. Engel gives an overview of how and why the Founders defined the standards for impeachment as they did. Click here to read more.







RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, by Stephen Harper

Canada’s former Prime Minister — widely recognized as one of the most effective global leaders of the Oughts — explains what the populists get right and why we are wrong to dismiss them, without ever arguing that we should cater to their dangerous ideas. Click here to read more.







THE AGE OF WALLS, by Tim Marshall

Historian of national politics Marshall has written a compelling book here on a stark reality: however much public sentiment there might be in favor of free movement across borders, more and more walls (physical and otherwise) are in our future. Click here to read more.








What better time to read this much-adapted classic, which was born from Hugo’s desire to impress upon his countrymen the value and beauty of Gothic architecture? It’s taken on an inarguable resonance after the recent fire that partially destroyed the cathedral that gave it its name.







PAGAN LIGHT, by Jamie James

From the Emperor Tiberius to the exiled French novelist Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen, the island of Capri has served as a place for the eccentric and unorthodox to make their homes away from convention. This illuminating work by a veteran journalist chronicles Capri’s history through the unforgettable personalities who perched there.






THE CIRCUIT: A TENNIS ODYSSEY, by Rowan Ricardo Philips

Renowned poet Rowan Ricardo Philips follows the tennis circuit for an entire year in this book, tracking the personalities, psychology, and emotion of the game with a poet’s eye and an expert’s knowledge. THE CIRCUIT is one of the most profound and unusual sports books in recent memory.








The polymathic Shapton, who is as gifted an artist as she is a writer, has produced a volume of ghost stories in the vein of M.R. James and Shirley Jackson. Like James and Jackson, Shapton finds the uncanny in the cracks that gently but surely erode the solidity of quotidian life; unlike them she tells her utterly chilling stories through both words and images.