1. Kai Bird, The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. Kai Bird is very highly rated, but in my view he remains underrated. I very much like each and every one of his books, and this sympathetic treatment brings to life the Middle East conflicts through the 1980s, and also the life of a CIA officer, as well as a bygone era in U.S. foreign policy.
2. Henry Kissinger, World Order. I liked parts of his China book, but there’s nothing really to this one. Leave it alone.
3. Pascal Bonafoux, Rodin & Eros. Beware of visiting too many Rodin museums, you might end up thinking he just repeated the same themes over and over again. This book, including the color plates, will jolt you into seeing his work fresh once again.
4. Samuel Fromartz, In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey. A fun cross-sectional look at the bread universe, combined with some recipes and reminiscences.
5. Henry R. Nau, Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan. We could use more of this, and I am referring to each of those words “conservative” and “internationalism,” as well as the combination of the two. This book was published about a year ago, and I don’t think the author could have realized how relevant it was going to become. An important book for 2014, it sets out a manifesto for a classical liberal but non-isolationist approach to foreign policy.
6. Jeff Riggenbach, Persuaded by Reason: Joan Kennedy Taylor and the Rebirth of American Individualism. I knew her a bit and was always fond of her. This book is a good look at 1970s libertarianism, and the rebirth of libertarian feminism in the United States. Both Alex and I make cameos in the text, he as an editor, gatekeeper, and theorist of self-ownership and abortion, I as a purchaser of the CD collection from the estate of Roy Childs (Joan was executor of the estate and also Roy’s dear friend).
I’ve spent time with both the new Ian McEwan novel and the new David Mitchell. Both have some virtues but neither appears to be a must-read.