NTK’s 10 Must-Read Books from 2017 | NTK Network NTK’s 10 Must-Read Books from 2017

NTK’s 10 Must-Read Books from 2017

A true crime murder mystery, a look at why DOJ was ill-equipped to take on Wall Street after the 2008 collapse, and a great beach read by John Grisham top this year’s list.

By NTK Staff | 12.27.2017 @1:00pm
NTK’s 10 Must-Read Books from 2017

In Book Two of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations he writes that “as for your thirst for books, be done with it, so that you may not die with complaints on your lips, but with a truly cheerful mind and grateful to the gods with all your heart.” With all due respect to Marcus, that’s bad advice. Books enlighten and entertain us, and 2017 was a great year for books on both counts.

  • The Fate of Rome by Kyle Harper:  The dominant mode for telling the history of the world is to explain it as a series of events propelled by great men and women. It’s not Apple that gave the world the iPhone, it’s Steve Jobs. White Houses of both parties are fond of saying that the President created jobs, when in all likelihood the president’s policies were fundamentally incidental to the United States’ economic growth. The history of Rome has fallen prey to this phenomenon perhaps more than any other historical subject. Roman history is such an enduring fascination, and the gaps in are knowledge are so large, that historians and the general public cling to what we know best, which is usually the actions of the Emperors, Generals, and other prominent leaders.  Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome is a useful corrective. He posits that climate changes and disease epidemics bear an inordinate share of the responsibility for the fall of the Roman Empire. By taking advantage of new methods of climate and DNA, and Epidemiology scholarship, Harper makes an engaging and convincing case that no human action can explain why the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. This is a must read for anyone with even the slightest interest in Roman history.
  • The Man From The Train by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James: The least we can do for someone who credibly solves a centuries-old string of cold-case murders is put their book on our Top Ten list. Bill James’ The Man From The Train is the most impressive feat of all the books on our list. James and his co-author, Rachel McCarthy James, take the reader through a series of axe murders that terrorized the country 100 years ago, and all these years later, convincingly identify a killer.
  • The Force by Don Winslow:  Don Winslow is one the finest novelists working right now. In lesser hands, The Force, a police novel set in New York City about an Irish cop who’s lost his way, would be clichéd. But Winslow’s book is electric and original. Readers who loved The Power of the Dog and The Cartel have grown to expect an exceptionally high level of research in Winslow’s writings will not be disappointed with this excellent novel.
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan: Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach is historical fiction at its best. Set on the docks in Brooklyn during the 30s and 40s, Manhattan Beach tells the story of three characters: Anna Kerrigan, a trailblazer for women during the war effort, her father Eddie, a bagman who mysteriously disappears, and Dexter Styles, a gangster trying to make good.
  • American War by Omar El Akkad: Dystopian novels were an oversaturated genre this year, but Omar El Akkad’s American War, his debut novel, stands out from the pack. The story of a Second American Civil War, this time triggered not by slavery but over fossil fuels, El Akkad conjures a world that feels realistic.
  • A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré: Revisiting your greatest hits after decades can be a perilous exercise but in A Legacy of Spies John le Carré triumphs. Spies fills in some of the blank spots of le Carré’s first masterpiece, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, in a way that elevates both novels.
  • Ties by Domenico Starnone and translated by Jhumpa Lahiri: Italian fiction is having a prolonged moment in the United States thanks to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitian series. Fans of Ferrante’s work would be well-served to read Domenico Starnone’s Ties. The novel, which has its own Ferrante connections, is the story of Aldo and Vanda and their struggles in marriage. Like Ferrante’s works, it is an intensely personal story, with connections back to Naples.
  • The Chickenshit Club by Jesse Eisinger/Black Edge by Sheelah Kolhatkar: After the financial crisis, one of the great question marks was would the Obama Administration prosecute Wall Street. By and large, they didn’t and Jesse Eisinger’s The Chickenshit Club traces the story, dating back to Enron, for why the Justice Department was ill-equipped to take on Wall Street after the financial crisis. Sheelah Kolhatkar’s Black Edge is the perfect companion read. She takes a look at just one example of the Justice Department’s treatment of Wall Street, the insider trading probe of Steve A. Cohen and SAC Capital, and why the Justice Department was unable to ultimately bring charges against him. If these two books have a flaw it’s that they’re hopelessly in the tank for the increased prosecution of white-collar crime.
  • Camino Island by John Grisham: Sometimes a book should just be enjoyable, nothing more, nothing less. That’s what John Grisham has accomplished with Camino Island, the platonic ideal of a holiday beach read. The story of a crooked book seller and the hunt for missing F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts, Camino Island keeps the reader hooked from the beginning.
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