Are you looking for something to read? Here’s the “good” books I read this year. In 2019 I was most heavily interested in 4 main topics: urban America, WW2, Delaware and business/economy.
Maybe The Best Book I’ve Ever Read:
(1) The Caine Mutiny
An astonishingly creative and interesting book. Written by a WW2 naval officer (he was actually there) in 1951, it’s a novel about a minesweeper in the Pacific where some of the crew mutiny against a supposedly incompetent captain. The movie is in my opinion not very good. Doesn’t come close to conveying the nuance of the book.
2 Authors I’ve been Lucky to Get to Know Personally in 2019
World War Two has always a favorite topic tbut until this year I’d never actively attempted to interview WW2 veterans except for informal conversations with relatives who died before I could really engage in depth. As part of a book I am attempting to write in 2019 I interviewed at least 20 from my hometown. Two of them have written their own very good books:
(2) A Sailor’s Diary: In War and Peace
The author was drafted in 1942 and was all over the Pacific on a Destroyer, including at Okinawa. Most WW2 memoirs I’ve seen tend to come from either naval officers or from the infantry, rarely enlisted naval but his book as insightful and reflective as any I’ve read.
(3) Against All Odds: The Ray Firmani Story
The memoir of a B17 pilot who flew 25 missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.
Local Delaware History
(4) The Company State : The Nader Report on Dupont in Delaware
(5) Delaware Eye Witness: Behind the Scenes in the First State.
Great new memoir by a guy that’s been in the thick of DE politics and business for many decades.
(6) I Well Remember: The Memoirs of a Mennonite Schoolmaster.
A very interesting memoir I got from the author of book #3 by an out of stater who came to Wilmington to work for Wilmington High School and then became principal for some 30 years from the 30s through the 60s.
(7) Growing Business in Delaware; The Politics of Job Creation in a Small State.
(8) Everybody Ought to be Rich: The Life and Times of John Raskob, Capitalist.
(9) I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank the “Irishman” Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa
The book is much better than the movie. The part I found the most interesting were the several chapters on the “Irishman’s” astonishing 400+ days in combat with Patton’s Army in Italy During WW2 which must have had a tremendous formative effect on him but was ignored in the movie.
(10) The Great Short Stories of John O’Hara
(12) Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets
(13) The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
(14) The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
(15) Division Street: America
(16) A Drinking Life: A Memoir
A tale of growing up in New York City during WW2 in the 1940s and 1950s. Excellent writing. I personally found it extra interesting because my grandfather went to the same high school – Regis Jesuit class of 1944, eight years ahead of the author.
(17) Ethnic America: A History
(18) Up in the Old Hotel
Excellent, highly detailed short stories from the 1920s and 1930s.
Books Related to the Economy
(19) Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line.
(20) Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant
(21) Home Girl: Building a Dream House on a Lawless Block
(22) Diary of a Real Estate Rookie: My Year of Flipping, Selling and Rebuilding and What I Learned
Second World War
(23) Here is Your War: America’s Favorite Correspondent Tells the Story of Our Soldier’s First Big Campaign.
After reading several of Ernie Pyle’s books this year, it became clear why he was so famous.
(24) Brave Men: Ernie Pyle Covers Sicily to Normandy
(25) War in Val D’Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944
A largely unknown diary kept by an English woman who married a Italian aristocrat and was a large landowner in the heart of the areas that saw battle in Italy during WW2.
(26) The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945
For my own research on the impact of WW2 in my small city, I was shocked at how 80% of the casualties happened in the last 20% of the war calendar wise, possibly the only war in history where this has happened. Because of the ideology of Nazism and Japanese militarism no other outcome was possible. They had to go out with an extreme bang, and the impact on the homefront was enormous.
(27) The Winds of War
Classic two part novel on how WW2 impacted a US family.
(28) War and Remembrance
(29) Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
An excellent writer, Manchester was in the infantry in the Pacific War. As a way to exercise those demons, 30+ years later he attempts to return to most of the battlefields.
(30) The Arms of Krupps : The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Fueled Nazi Germany
Also by Manchester, an excellent history of the German weapons maker.
(31) The Last First Sergeant
Another example of a WW2-related book that slipped through the cracks in terms of publication timing. Layton Black was part of the 101st Airborne Division that parachuted into Normandy France on D-Day and somehow survived all the way to the end of the war. His writing style is incredibly vivid and especially interesting are the scenes of the sudden final collapse of Nazi Germany.
Other Assorted Good Books:
(32) Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris
(33) A Gentleman in Moscow.
And for good measure, here is my 2016 list .