I’ve been pointing to Time’s list of the top 10 non-fiction books of 2017. While conceding I haven’t read any of them, I have noted that any such list on which Hillary Clinton and Ta-Nehisi Coates place in numbers 1 and 2 is some kind of a joke. That’s what Time’s list is.
However, it’s not useless. It has prompted me to think about my own top 10 list. I have named three books that make my 2017 list in the posts “Scalia speaks” (November 22), “The Second World Wars” (November 29), and “The Strange Death of Europe” (December 13).
I thought I would fill out my list with a few other notable books published this year. For a list that ranges far more widely, check out the annual Christmas Reading List posted on Wednesday by our friends at Claremont Review of Books. Here are seven more notable books of 2017 to fill out my list.
Making It, by Norman Podhoretz. Republished by NYRB Classics this year in what is essentially a fiftieth anniversary edition, the book evokes the lost world of the New York Jewish intellectuals. I paid tribute to it in the City Journal column “If Making It can make it there.” I found the book an education and a sheer pleasure.
Patriotism Is Not Enough, by Steven F. Hayward. Steve draws on his relationships with his teacher Harry Jaffa and AEI colleague Walter Berns to combine memoir with political philosophy and statesmanship. As always, Steve wears his learning lightly and entertains while he instructs.
Grant, by Ron Chernow. I think I can speak for my colleagues as well as myself in saying that we greatly respect Grant’s character, his generalship, and his presidency. Chernow brings his narrative gifts and his judgment to the subject.
The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom, by Thomas G. West. Tom has deeply studied the thought of the founders. In a book that reflects a lifetime of thought and learning, he now seeks to reconstruct and explain it.
The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, by KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr. As the sexual harassment panic has spread from the college campus to our public life, Johnson and Taylor’s excellent book assumes a relevance beyond its express subject.
Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, by David J. Garrow. This staggeringly researched book covers 1078 pages of text supported by 300 pages of footnotes — even though Garrow relegates his comments on Obama’s presidency to a 50-page epilogue in which he criticizes Obama from the left. I have not read this book from cover to cover, but I have dipped into it to explore the periods of Obama’s pre-presidential life that most interest me. I have been surprised by the substantial discoveries Garrow has made as well as the level of detail that Garrow has achieved. I have learned from what I have read and intend to return to the book for more. The historian David Greenberg suggests the riches on offer here in “Why so many critics hate the new Obama biography.” Working on the book, Garrow secured a total of eight hours of off the record interviews with Obama. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for those.
The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, by Heather Mac Donald. The paperback edition published in September gives me the excuse to cheat and include this book on my list this year. Here Mac Donald collects her invaluable City Journal essays slaying the left-wing shibboleths that generally control the public discussion of the law enforcement issues to which Mac Donald has devoted so much of her professional life in recent years.