Holiday book list

Maybe there’s a certain political nerd on your list this year, or you’re just looking for a good read over the holidays. Naturally, The Politics of Crazy should be at the top of your list for them, but here are a few other titles that either caught my attention this year or seem particularly timely.


charlesOur Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South
Christopher Dickey

Assembled from the records of Robert Bunch, Britain’s Consul in Charleston in the Civil War era. Bunch grew fiercely opposed to slavery as his exposure to the practice deepened. Life in Charleston for a slavery opponent was delicate and at times dangerous, even for a representative of the crown. His observations of Southern politics are depressingly timely as some habits of delusion, racism, and propaganda just won’t die.

hamiltAlexander Hamilton
Ron Chernow

While Jefferson ran from combat and slept with his slave, Alexander Hamilton was busy being a badass in every conceivable manner. He learned economics at night while fighting with Washington’s army. He developed economic plans for the new Republic that eliminated a debt crisis and put the Northern states on the path to capitalism. He rescued new nation from a rebellion that nearly tore it apart. And he played the leading role in developing a Constitution that could allow the new country to survive. Chernow’s comprehensive biography of our most important founder is essential reading.

cottonLEmpire of Cotton: A Global History
Sven Beckert

How could a Republic built on the notion that all men are created equal sustain a slave economy for most of its history? Beckert takes a close look at the development stages of capitalism to find an answer. He uses cotton to illustrate how capitalism forces the evolution of the political cultures around it and how the needs of capitalism evolve with rising wealth. He also introduces the idea of “war capitalism” to describe that strange stage of semi-free market capitalism that marketed Southern states up to the end of Jim Crow.

zeroLCountdown to Zero-Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon
Kim Zetter

Across fifteen years of “war on terror” our most profound success remains little known and largely secret. Nevertheless, its impact casts a shadow over the future of our national security and war-fighting efforts, threatening to eliminate completely the boundary between combatants and non-combatants in global conflicts. Zetter manages to make a complex technical subject – the development and proliferation of digital weapons – remarkably accessible while telling a story that’s tough to put down.

secondThe Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee

Few of us seem to be aware of the ways that our technological development is outstripping our political and cultural evolution. The Second Machine helps explain why our world seems so much faster than in the past, why that’s a good thing, and what we need to do to adapt.


coatesBetween the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates

Composed as an answer to James Baldwin’s 1963 work, The Fire Next Time, in many ways it seems more in the tradition of The Autobiography of Malcom X. Coates book has earned attention for its beautiful expressive prose delivered in an unapologetically grim and defiant tone. Beneath the surface sits a message that this blogger desperately wishes conservatives would recognize. Coates, like Malcolm X before him, is defining a black identity that is fundamentally conservative in nature. With its emphasis on independence and economic progress, Coates is quietly revealing an opportunity conservatives could seize if we could move past our deeply embedded racism. This is some of the best writing I read all year, absolutely brilliant.


leftThe Leftovers
Tom Perrota

One day, with no warning, a global event occurs that shatters the credibility of both science and religion. Perrota has devised the perfect metaphor for the human condition in our era, where neither religion nor reason seems capable of providing a reliable basis for meaning. In The Leftovers, a sudden disappearance of a significant portion of the population, with no conceivable relationship to merit, faith, or theology and no scientific explanation leaves a population grieving and disoriented.

Most people muddle on more or less as before, but a creeping insanity lurks beneath the surface. Disruptive and sometimes dangerous cults emerge to fill the void. Tension between those struggling to go as they did before and those desperate to find meaning at any cost fray the social fabric of a small town, hinting at larger and more dangerous tensions in the wider world.

Perrota’s book is the basis of the brilliant and deeply unsettling HBO series which I highly recommend. Season two is particularly powerful and disturbing. And by the way, if you ever wondered why the Romans were so hostile toward early Christians, this book delivers a subtle and convincing answer.

sadSuper Sad True Love Story
Gary Shteyngart

This book becomes more relevant with each passing year. Shteyngart’s relentlessly and purposely vulgar take on the shallowness of Internet culture is darkly hilarious and prescient. It makes a fine counter-point to The Second Machine Age. If you like Vonnegut or Heller you’ll love Shteyngart. It’s as funny as Catch-22 or One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.


fliesLord of the Flies
William Golding

You probably had to read this in the 7th grade. In light of all that’s happened since, it might be a good idea to read it again. For decades George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm defined our worst vision of what we might experience in the world. Turns out we should have paid more attention to Golding. Between Lord of the Flies and The Leftovers, we have everything we need to understand the global strategic threats we face in the world after Communism, from the Middle East to Mississippi.



Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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36 comments on “Holiday book list
    • Rob Ambrose says:

      I’m skeptical of the bias in a book written by a well known climate denier.

      In any case, I’m not sure the relevance, even if Mann’s work is discredited. Mann’s stick was the first of its kind, an attempt to figure out global temps going back hundreds or thousands of years. Its not too surprising if his techniques needed improving.

      Several other scientists, with improved techniques, have since found similar (if not 100% identical) results.

  1. texan5142 says:

    My wife’s relative, cousin , not sure if first or cousins daughter. Not everyday that someone you know winds up on the front of Daily Mail.

    • 1mime says:

      I am so sorry for you and your wife’s family, TX. What a tragedy. As horrid as it must have been to find Linnea, at least her husband and family will have closure….if death in this manner can ever really be “closed” to loved ones.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      I’m so sorry, tex.

    • MassDem says:

      I was very sorry to read that Tex. Especially hard that young children lost a parent. My heart goes out to your family.

    • texan5142 says:

      Thanks for the replies but no need to be sorry for me, only met her once, I just found it odd that my wife was discussing this with me Saturday and then to see the story on national news seems too surreal to have this happen to someone I know or have met.

  2. MassDem says:

    Lifer, here is my Christmas present to you. Please meet our capable and popular (and Republican!) Governor from deep-blue MA.

    • MassDem says:

      I forgot to mention he’s also wicked smaht.

    • 1mime says:

      I’d vote for a Republican like that, in fact, I have, but it’s been a long time ago. Not many of that type run for office down here in TX! But, I’d give ’em a long, hard look if they did.

    • johngalt says:

      In my five long winters in Boston, I did vote for Republicans like that and was happy to do so. I haven’t voted for one since I moved to Texas.

      • easyfortytwo says:

        Similar story here. During my 20 years in CA, I occasionally found a sane Republican to confidently vote for over the Dem. There are so few reasonable Republicans in TX that I have cast only one vote for them since moving back here.

    • 1mime says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Ob, I ordered the Ta-Nehisi Coates book and got the 25% discount.

      • flypusher says:

        Thanks from me too. I ordered Dickey’s book, as well as the paperback of “Politics of Crazy”. But “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is 1st in the Holiday reading queue.

      • 1mime says:

        Ooh, read Henrietta Lacks. From a researcher’s viewpoint, the subject is most interesting, and from a sociological standpoint, the issue is important. IMO, the book’s focus suffered from too much length and repetition… needed a strong editor and didn’t have one. I think the author became very emotionally involved with the family and the subject and simply couldn’t pare her verbiage. The focus of the book, i.e., medical research rights and limitations vs. individual rights could have been more prominent. The “times” certainly played a role in how fast and loose the researchers played with Ms. Lacks rights which thankfully are more protected today. The family was a mess. Still, an important book to read, with patience.

        1Mime’s goodread’s review, no extra charge (-:

      • MassDem says:

        Fly, I’m assuming you’re a biologist and have read about, maybe even worked with HeLa cells. You will love Henrietta Lacks! It is extremely sad but brings a human face to scientific studies plus raises many important ethical questions.

        I enjoyed Catch 22 and most of what Vonnegut has written so I want to try Super Sad True Love Story. I’ve already watched The Leftovers-most depressing TV show ever, but very well done. Not sure if I want to read the book. I subscribe to The Atlantic; Ta-Nehisi Coates is an excellent writer so I want to read his book as well. I probably should read the Alexander Hamilton bio, but I got in a huge argument with my very right-wing parents last summer over plans to take him off the US $10 bill. Maybe we should take Jackson off of the $20 instead for being a genocidal jerk.

        Everything I’ve been reading lately has been old stuff. I recently read two books the seniors at my school read in their Ethics class that are excellent if you haven’t read them before– “In Cold Blood” by Capote and “Night” by Wiesel. They’re both quick reads that will give you lots to think about.

      • 1mime says:

        MassDem, with our respective reviews to chew on, you know this is going to make Fly expedite her start of Lacks. We’ll have to wait for her review and see what she thinks about it…Fly’s style is spare, biting, interesting prose but she does work with those little winged guys so the research angle will appeal to her.

      • 1mime says:

        Hey, here’s a great Christmas idea for your R-W parents: a framed $10 bill with you know who preserved in perpetuity! I ordered the Hamilton bio as well as Coates’….fair and balanced…(-:

      • goplifer says:

        Quick note on The Leftovers – the book is relatively light-hearted and hopeful. Not nearly so intense as the HBO series.

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        Is The Leftover basically a rapture story?

        Left Behind: Heathen version?

      • flypusher says:

        Thanks for the reviews. I haven’t worked with HeLa cells directly, but I have helped people set up time lapse imaging on their cultures. The book had been on my to-get list, and banned books week helped me pull the purchase trigger:

        I have some serious bones to pick with ignoramuses like Jackie Sims. While she is within her rights to have her son not read the book (although she is doing him no favors), she’s trying to dictate to other parents. Fortunately the school gave her demand all the considered it deserved,

      • 1mime says:

        As I have written on this blog, there are some seriously nutty people out there trying to ban books. However, it’s good to have them show up occasionally just to demonstrate to the rest of the world that they really do exist! And, don’t even try to convince them they are wrong!

      • objv says:

        Mime and fly, you’re welcome! It looks like Amazon has extended the deal, so anyone here who didn’t get the discount, still has the opportunity to buy a book.

  3. texan5142 says:

    Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas, PhD

    Good book for those looking to put knowledge to the ground in one’s own backyard.

  4. BigWilly says:

    I have the Chernow book at home, sitting on a Billy bookshelf, gathering dust, awaiting the eventual drowsy Sunday afternoon reading. The books that I really should be reading are all so technical that I’ve developed a bit of a block when it comes to actually reading them.

    Section 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange Issues in 2015 and the even more exciting Tangible Property Repair vs. Capitalization Regulations await review this afternoon, along with laundry. If you’ve ever wondered how Mr. Excitement spends his Sat. its 1/2 at his desk and then the rest.

    Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the crowd over at the Atlantic’s been hewing left lately. I still read Ta-Nehisi on occasion, though I’ve soured on his politics.

    Seems like the Economist’s been getting a little off kilter lately too, but I digress.

    Anyways, cheers.

    • 1mime says:

      And, cheers to you, BW, from the toad (-:

      BTW, Have you ever begun offering those music lessons to the neighborhood kids? That sounded like such a fun and rewarding venture.

      And, btw, when you hit your 70s, you won’t have to worry so much about tax deferrals, instead, you’ll be focused on your RMD! The gov’t will be with us always (-:

    • MassDem says:

      “….the crowd over at the Atlantic’s been hewing left lately.”

      You just noticed?

  5. Rob Ambrose says:

    A historic agreement in Paris, a potentially civilization saving one.

    Naturally, this will be hailed and quickly ratified in every major country in the world, and will be ratified in America too, but not before the GOP demonstrate again tobthe rest of the world the poison of unlimited money in the political system .

    Or, hey, maybe the GOP (and Doug) are right, and its just every other nation, institution, and scientific organization in the world that’s wrong.

      • 1mime says:

        That’s great news, Rob. Now we have to hope for approval by each home government. As you noted, the U.S. will do a lot of foot-dragging, however, with the major oil companies coming out and acknowledging the reality of human involvement in climate change, (Shell, EXXON, Chevron….can’t remember rest of list), that ought to make the medicine go down a little more easily. Or, we can hope……..Surely, if all the countries in the world can agree, we can get our Congress to agree, right!

    • Doug says:

      I like this part the best:

      “Capacity building should be country driven, based on and responsive to national needs, and foster country ownership of Parties, in particular, for developing country Parties, including at the national, subnational and local levels. Capacity building should be guided by lessons learned, including those from capacity building activities under the Convention, and should be an effective, iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting
      and gender-responsive.”

      • 1mime says:

        Ha! I agree Doug. Needed an English major in there, didn’t they (-;

        Guess when you have over 200 nations’ trying to agree on something important, verbage can be difficult…but, it should at least be clear!

  6. 1mime says:

    Most interesting list, Lifer! I’ve forwarded your list to “my” list. I’m going to have to learn how to sleep fewer hours at night…so many good books…so little time, but thanks to the edited list….no wasted time either!

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