RealClearHistory's Summer Reading List
Summertime is here and that means it’s book reading season! RealClearHistory has just the list for you, and it’s peppered with fiction to go along with the (historical) facts. Without further adieu, here are 10 books you need to read this summer:
10. Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America (2017) by Emily Dufton.
I’ve yet to read this one, but I’ve heard nothing but good reviews. Dufton, who holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University, turned her dissertation into one of the most interesting books of the year (it was published in December of 2017). (And, no, I don’t smoke pot, at least not anymore…
9. Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (2018) by Priya Satia.
This one came out in April, just in time for the summer season, and I’ve been deliberately avoiding reviews just so I can experience the book firsthand. What a topic! Dr. Satia, by the way, is a professor of history at Stanford and specialized in British history, so don’t forget that when you google her name.
8. Birds Without Wings (2005) by Louis de Bernières.
The first piece of historical fiction to make the list, it’s also the first re-read of the summer for me. I was assigned this book back in my undergraduate days at UCLA for a class on the history of the Modern Middle East (1500-present), and it’s unforgettable. Birds Without Wings, which is not even de Bernières’ most acclaimed novel, will take you to the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and weave for you a tapestry that shows the 600-year old Empire in all its splendor.
7. Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (2018) by Quinn Slobodian.
I have yet to read this one, and I’m looking forward to it. A history of a school of thought - the postwar “Geneva School” of economics, to be precise - this one is supposed to explain how and why a small group of economists from Switzerland and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted to rebuild the West by keeping international trade agreements out of the hands of democratic majorities. This is right up my alley as a libertarian, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.
6. I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography (2014) by Jacques Delacroix.
This one will be a re-read for me, and it’s easily the breeziest book on the list. Delacroix, a co-blogger of mine, is a retired sociologist who immigrated to America from France a long time ago. I Used to Be French provides a wonderful glimpse into postwar France (Delacroix, who got his PhD from Stanford’s sociology program, specialized in sociological history) and a hilarious, respectful look at American society. Don’t take my word for it, though. Peter Miller, another sociologist (and someone I don’t blog with), has an excellent review of the book here.
5. Bread and Wine (1936) by Ignazio Silone.
I was assigned this book for an Honors course on Western Civilization and I absolutely loved it. It’s a work of historical fiction about fascist Italy, oppressed (and sometimes stupid) peasants, drunken priests, women of all kinds, and idealistic students. It’ll warm your summer nights the same way a glass of wine would.
4. Kingdom of the Wicked (2017) by Helen Dale.
This one, another work of historical fiction, I will be reading solely on the strength of economic historian Mark Koyama’s review link here. The book explores what would have happened if the Roman Empire had undergone an industrial revolution at the time of Jesus and what that means for the Holy Land.
3. The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia (2008) by Orlando Figes.
It’s good to read at least one book on Russia during the summer. These books are always so long, and so intimidating, but also worth the Herculean effort. This summer, go with Figes’ history of Russia’s Stalinist Period. At more than 700 pages, it may seem out of place for a summer reading list, but don’t listen to your inner wimp. This is the perfect “Russian book” for your summer doldrums. Shoot me an email and we’ll read along together.
2. Red Plenty (2012) by Francis Spufford.
This book is weird, wonderful, and all about the Soviet Union. Unlike No. 3 on this list, it’s also a work of fiction. Did you know that the Soviets believed socialism would eventually outperform capitalism? Not replace it. Not smash it. Outperform it. Red Plenty is a favorite among the professoriate, but don’t let that stop you from reading it this summer. It’s a damn good book by a one-of-a-kind author.
1. The Sport of Kings: A Novel (2017) by C.E. Morgan.
This one came close to winning the Pulitzer Prize (for fiction) last year. It’s about horse-racing, Southern culture, and a bunch of other cool stuff. It is so highly lauded that I’m almost forced to read it, despite the fact that it falls way outside my usual interests. I can’t wait to devour it.
There you have it. Five works of historical fiction, four non-fiction books, and an autobiography you have to read to believe.
Have a wonderful summer!