(If you’re interested in tracking my reading list and reviews throughout the year, you can follow me on Goodreads. I’ve got a lofty reading wish list for 2021!)
2020 was clearly a year in which my reading was dominated by history and biography. While I read only 14 books, in my defense…some of them were loooong! Churchill’s, Grant’s, and Washington’s biographies are each about 1,000 pages long; and Herodotus’ and Thucydides’ histories are about 700 pages each. The Idiot and The Overstory are 700 and 600 pages, respectively, but they seem short in comparison.
The book that had the most impact on me this year was Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant. I came away with deep admiration and empathy for a man whose greatness was undermined by the subsequent lies told by the losing South in their “lost cause” narrative. While still a product of his day, Grant was compassionate, thoughtful, and progressive with more integrity than most leaders we read about. I cannot recommend this biography more highly.
It was good to finally read Herodotus and Thucydides, both of which have been so valuable in giving me a much broader perspective of the world we currently live in — a world shaped by battles and politics over 2,400 years ago.
Gates of Fire was the perfect fictional accompaniment to The Peloponnesian War, Man’s Search for Meaning was unforgettable, The Overstory was beautifully written but darker than I needed this year, and Little Women…just a light, fun read to see what all the fuss was about.
While I finished Letters from a Stoic this year, I continue to read passages from it several times a week, along with Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, The Daily Stoic, and the Tao Te Ching — all part of my daily practice.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Grant by Ron Chernow
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
The Histories by Herodotus
The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday
The Lessons of History by Will Durant
Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
Enchiridion by Epictetus
(The links above are for reference if you’re interested in purchasing the editions I read.)
What’s coming in 2021? High on the list:
- America’s Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country
- Plutarch’s Lives
- The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
- The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America by Janet M. Davis
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
- Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
- On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
That’s the start of my plan. We’ll see what happens! What were your favorite books in 2020? What books are you reading in 2021?