End of year book roundup

As is traditional and you’ve already seen this recommendation:

McCrae’s Battalion: The Story of the 16th Royal Scots by Jack Alexander is a labour of love and a very detailed history of one specific battalion in WWI. Built around the core of the Hearts of Midlothian football club, it was one of the Pal’s Battalions which filled the need for recruitment between the first few months of war and the introduction of conscription in 1916. Heart breaking, as all such histories of the time are, and extremely well done.

Strongly recommended on two grounds. For the story itself and also as an example of what the gifted amateur (as far as I’m aware this is the only book by the author) is capable of for this is markedly better than many a book, or history, from so called professionals.

The question is not which book published this year, it’s which book you’ve read this year……

18 thoughts on “End of year book roundup”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    Two books left a big impression on me:

    Progress by Johan Norberg. Great for pointing out to lefties how shit life was and the that good ol’ days are now.

    Voyage For Madmen by Peter Nicols. The story of the first single handed non-stop circumnavigation. Knox-Johnston got all the plaudits but that was only because Bernard Moitissier couldn’t be bothered finishing and went of back round the Cape of Good Hope again. Each of those setting of was an interesting character in their own right.

  2. I really enjoyed Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall which gives a good background to the inevitability of conflicts in the past and future.

  3. Well I have to vote for Jack Alexander too given that I know the author personally – he lives directly opposite my late father’s house in South Edinburgh. Introductions may be possible for a small fee.

  4. Certainly not last year’s publication, but the book I read through twice last year was 1491 – a history of the pre-Columbian Americas by Charles Mann. Turns on its head what you might think you know about a whole hemisphere. And a lot of interesting examples of how the established “experts” in a field will resist evidence that challenges the paradigms they’ve built their careers on.

  5. Runbaiyat of omar khyam fizgerald’s translation, very pleasurable. Bit confusing about all the editions so i just stuck to the 1st.
    the Moving Finger writes, and having writ
    moves on, nor all your Piety nor wit
    shall lure it back to cancel half a line
    nor all your tears wash out a word of it

  6. Well, I can hardly miss this chance at self-promotion, can I:

    ‘The Biscuit Factory Vol. I: Days of Wine and Cheese’, a brilliantly funny campus satire written by a saintly man to whom I bear the relation of numerical identity.


    ‘The Great Terror: A Reassessment’ by Robert Conquest.

    ‘Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime’ by Richard Pipes

    ‘Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A Pelican Introduction’ by Orlando Figes

    All essential reading for me this year, seeing as I was writing a campus novel.

    ‘Girl, 20’ by Kingsley Amis. A good laugh. Not quite at the level of Lucky Jim, but a million times better than ‘Difficulties with Girls’.

  7. The Other Bloke in Italy

    Two suggestions, one fiction and the other nonfiction.

    To take the second first, this year I read The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics, by Anonymous Conservative, now in a revised edition.

    R/K Theory does not seem to work perfectly for naturalists, but it does seem to have predictive value in human affairs. If you suspect SJWs are a different species, this explains why.

    The fiction is A Throne of Bones by Vox Day. The setting is Republican Rome, with Vikings, Elves, Orcs and others thrown in. A tremendous story, the start of a saga; the writing is tight as a drum, and a few minor lacunae are easily overlooked.

  8. The Other Bloke in Italy

    Ah, nearly forgot:

    History of the Byzantine Empire, by Charles Oman. It is hard to read without thinking of the present day.

  9. “Heart of Midlothian” for fuck’s sake. Singular. Heart.

    This year I reread Paul Johnson’s History of Christianity. I had forgotten how funny it is.

  10. Well, The Deluge and Wages of Destruction, both by Adam Tooze, along with Britain’s War Machine by David Edgerton.

    Put onto the Tooze books by a comment left by Greg Tingey, over at Charlie Stross’ place, probably last year or even 2015. Started Wages, then realised that my memory of O-Level history was a bit, er, crap, so got Deluge and read both. Edgerton’s tome just looked interesting on Amazon, and it fitted nicely with Wages.

    Fiction-wise, re-read Tim Powers’ Declare, and Ian Tregillis Milkweed Triptych, Bitter Seeds, Necessary Evil and The Coldest War.

    Declare is just marvellous.

  11. ‘For the story itself and also as an example of what the gifted amateur (as far as I’m aware this is the only book by the author) is capable of for this is markedly better than many a book, or history, from so called professionals.’

    I don’t remember where I got this, but it’s not original to me.

    “A good historian knows many facts. A great historian is a good historian who can tell a story.”

    It seems Mr. Anderson knew the necessary facts, and could tell a good story.

  12. ‘A Short History of Drunkenness’ by Mark Forsyth (2017) is my recommendation. The book is serious, well-written, memorable and at times hilariously funny. What more do you want?

  13. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I’ve read some cracking books this year, including a lot of historical biography. Rebellion by Peter Aykroyd was very good. I just finished Janice Hadlow’s A Royal Experiment about George II which dispelled a lot of previous notions I had. Prior to that was Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset—really tragic and apt to produce a lot of musing on what-ifs. These really served to put in their proper place all the bits of UK royal history c. 1600 – 1820 that previously existed in a sort of rummage box in my head. A little before that period was Dan Jones’s The Wars of the Roses aka The Hollow Crown. I very much enjoyed this. If I spot his Plantagenets I’m definitely getting it.

    At the moment I’m about a fifth of the way through Michael Adams’s Napoleon and Russia. It’s very neutral towards the subject which for someone raised on the myth of Napoleon as a sort of proto-Hitler feels a bit iconoclastic. It’s extremely thorough, which is one of the things I demand in a history, but it also doesn’t get bogged down in superfluous detail.

    By the way, if anyone has a recommendation for a good book covering the Stephen and Maud Anarchy era I’d be grateful.

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