1. Russ Banham, The Fight for Fairfax: Private Citizens and Public Policymaking. A well-informed story of the great men and women who built up Fairfax County, Virginia, including Til Hazel, Sid Dewberry, Earle Williams, Jack Herrity, George Johnson, Dwight Schar, and others. WWNN: “We were never NIMBY!” It is striking how much the key builders were not born as elites.
2. Dan Levy, Maxims for Thinking Analytically: The wisdom of legendary Harvard professor Richard Zeckhauser. How many of us will end up getting books such as this in our honor? If you are curious, Zeckhauser’s three maxims for personal life are: “There are some things you just don’t want to know,” “If you focus on people’s shortcomings, you’ll always be disappointed,” and “Practice asynchronous reciprocity.” Zeckhauser, by the way, was on my dissertation committee.
3. Adeeb Khalid, Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present. Could this be the best history of Central Asia? The author takes special care to tie the region to the histories of Russia and China, the author seeming to have a specialization in Russian history, and for me that makes the entire enterprise far more intelligible. Useful for Xinjiang history as well, here is one useful review of the book.
4. Paul Greenhalgh, Ceramic: Art and Civilisation. Picture book! Need I say more? And a big one.
Edward J. Watts, The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome: The History of a Dangerous Idea. How has the decline of Rome been discussed and analyzed throughout the ages, including by the Romans themselves?
Loyd Grossman, The Artist and the Eternal City: Bernini, Pope Alexander VII, and the Making of Rome. Has all the virtues of a picture book, but the price of a regular book. With the common educated public, Bernini is still probably underrated.
Michael S. Malone, The Big Score: The billion dollar story of Silicon Valley is the new Stripe Press reprint.
Seth David Radwell, American Schism: How the Two Enlightenments Hold the Secrets to Healing Our Nation. This is not a book written for me, but it is nonetheless good to see someone putting forward Enlightenment ideals as a solution to our problems.