our top ten books for 2014

Here they are -- our favorite books for 2014. As always, it's books we read this year -- not necessarily books that were published this year. They are listed below -- but not in any order of preference. Click the title to read an excerpt:

Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne

A touching and unexpected portrait of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, one the most revered generals of the American Civil War. Prior to the war, he led a life that was without distinction but was nevertheless filled with tragedy and heartbreak. Plain, taciturn, and deeply religious, the war uncovered in Jackson a gift for leadership laced with unmatched fearlessness and daring.

Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, the Soviet Union seemed the epitome of somber dullness, but this book portrays the early life of Josef Stalin as filled with danger, deprivation, promiscuity and adventure, and helps the reader understand the extremes and hardships at the turn of the 20th century that led to the successful rise to communism.

Tune In: The Beatles All These Years by Mark Lewisohn

You think you know a little something about the Beatles? This book takes the story to an unprecedented level of detail, in a fascinating and captivating narrative.

The Bohemians by Ben Taroff

A book about the early years of Mark Twain in San Francisco, where along, with inventive colleagues, he founded a literary magazine and movement. Twain's life was a constant adventure, and so is this book.


Mary Poppins, She Wrote by Valerie Lawson

Disney has long been a guilty pleasure. After I watched the pleasant but saccharine "Saving Mr. Banks," a movie about how Walt Disney wooed P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, into letting him make a film based on her book, I had to learn how much truth it contained. This book was the ticket, and Travers' life is a fascinating and tragic tale worth the exploration. PS: The movie largely misleading.

GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History by Diane Coyle

A well-written book on economics is a rarity. But this is a short, absorbing, and fast-paced account of how the economic statistic Gross Domestic Product (GDP, which is a measure of the size of an economy) first came into being and how it has been used and abused since.

The American West by Anne M. Butler and Michael J. Lansing

The true stories of the American West are buried under myth and thus rarely heard and poorly understood. But these real stories are more compelling than the myths, and the authors do them justice in this panoramic history.


Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix

In the aftermath of World War II, a myth was carefully constructed of Hirohito as a benign Japanese Emperor who not only did not bear much responsibility for that war but instead was instrumental in wisely steering his country to surrender. This carefully documented book concludes the very opposite, and paints a vivid picture of the rapid transformation of Japan in the early 20th century.

Red Fortress, by Catherine Merridale

From Peter and Catherine to Napoleon, Nicholas and Stalin, few cities boast the epic personalities and drama of Moscow. Merridale tells the tale with an eye to the reality underneath the pomp.


Wilson by A. Scott Berg

Our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson was equal parts visionary and prig, a combination that led him to achievements both dubious and exceptional. His tenure as President, 1913 to 1921, was an extraordinary period, witnessing events as epochal as the creation of the Federal Reserve and the onset of World War I. This book is a masterful account of those events.

We hope this list helps — and we thank you as always for your interest in delanceyplace.com!

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