Monday, December 06, 2004

Tis the Season for Giving: Books for the Holidays

I do not know how many people really care what books I have to recomend, probably not too many when you consider that few people have ever commented on this blog (though I know it has a steady number of visitors). Anyway, here are some books that I have read in either recent months or over the years that I think would make great holiday reading.

  • The Balkan Wars: Conquest, Revolution, and Retribution from the Ottoman Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond by Andre Gerolymatos. This is just an amazingly enjoyable read. It flows like a novel and is full of murder, betrayal, manipulation, sorrow, and rage. If you ever wanted to learn about the Balkans and do so in a pleasing to read fashion, then this is the book for you.
  • The Middle East by Bernard Lewis. Its an easy and fairly entertaining read. It gives you the history of an entire region in a succint, well-written, easy to understand format.
  • Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman. I have not finished this one yet, but its very enjoyable. It is the best book I have read on terrorism from the liberal perspective. It makes me laugh (alot) and also reconsider alot of different things I had previously taken for granted.
  • From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman. Its an older book, but an excellent one. Friedman is an amazing writer. He teaches through storytelling - a veritable Jewish Jesus when it comes to the use of parables :) If you want to learn about the Lebanese Civil War, the PLO, the Arab-Israeli dilemma, and the part the US has and should play, then this is the book for you. Friedman manages to catch all of these threads in their sadness and horror and turn them into a deep and soulful look into the people and policies of the region.
  • The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. Oliver Stone's Alexander was a marvelous conqueror, erotically conflicted, and boring as all hell. Mary Renault's Alexander is bisexual, interesting, compelling, and at the same time larger than life and oh so human. Just an amazing novel.
  • The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series (The Briar King and the followup The Charnel Prince) by Greg Keyes. Fantasy the way it is meant to be written (and o so rarely is). Interesting storyline, complex characters, and a magical world. One cannot ask for much more in a fantasy series.
I will add a few more over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, all my dissertation reading and writing has really cramped my brain when it comes to recalling non-dissertation reading unless it is right in front of me...