Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Top 10+ Books Read in 2016

This was a year of marathons of reading. A few books I read for pleasure, but most as research for my book in-progress on Far West Texas. May you find the works listed here as remarkable and illuminating as I did. 2016 has been a blessed year in the reading department.

By Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal
A flying ax of apocalypse.
> Read my review of this book for Literal magazine.

2. River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West 

By Rebecca Solnit
I grew up walking distance from the Stanford University campus, heart of what is now known as Silicon Valley, so for me this was especially compelling history. But for anyone interested in technology and cultural change the beautifully written and deeply researched River of Shadows is a must read. 

3. The Comanche Empire

By Pekka Hämäläinen
A brilliantly argued and supremely important contribution to the history of North America. This book made me rethink everything I thought I knew about US-Mexico history.
> Read my review of this book here.
> This title also appears on my post, "Reading Mexico".

4. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
By Patricia Nelson Limerick
Magnificently masterful. What a treasure of a book.

5. The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity

By Jill Lepore
Few Americans know anything about this long-ago conflict between the colonists of New England and indigenous peoples that was nonetheless foundational to modern American culture. I found this work spell-binding and, for its verve and elegance, a great pleasure to read.

6. Tie: 

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces 
That Will Shape Our Future
By Kevin Kelly 


What Technology Wants

By Kevin Kelly
Humanity has arrived at a lynchpin of a moment with technology; Kevin Kelly's books explain the whys and wherefores and what to expect. Vitally perceptive and original as these two books are, I am not so optimistic as to assume, as Kelly apparently does, that we will always and everywhere be able to plug into a well-functioning electric grid. We shall see. It is a strange moment in the US and in the world. That said, Kelly's books are tremendous contributions towards grokking this wild, ravenous thing he dubs "the technium." My mind is still doing pretzels.

7. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

By S.C. Gwynne
A real life epic tragedy, and a crucial story for everyone with any interest in North America. An engrossing read, too, by the way.

8. Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place

By Shelley Armitage
This wistful, knowledgable, and lyric memoir may be one of the best books ever to come out of the Texas Panhandle. 
> Read my Q & A with Shelley Armitage for this blog.

9. Tie:

Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio Grande
By Paul Cool
This meticulously researched and expertly told history of the El Paso Salt War of 1877 is essential reading for anyone interested in US-Mexico and Texas history, and indeed, anyone interested in US history per se.
> Read my Q & A with the author for this blog.

De León: A Tejano Family History
By Carolina Castillo Crimm
We often hear about the Tejanos (Mexican Texans or, as you please, Texan Mexicans) in Mexican and Texas history, but who were they? Crimm's De León provides an at once scholarly and intimate glimpse of one of the first and most influential Tejano families though several generations. 
> Read my Q & A with Carolina Castillo Crimm for this blog.

10. Tie:

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest
By David Roberts
> This title also appears on my post, "Reading Mexico."

The Last of the Celts
By Marcus Tanner
How does it end and how has it ended for cultural groups from time immemorial? An at once somber and fascinating glimpse into the case of the Celts.
> See my post Cymru and Comanche

> Archive of all book reviews

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.