CRF Blog

Books of the year

by David De La Torre

In Page turners, The Economist selects the best books of 2014 in various categories. Below are its choices for the history category.


The English and Their History. By Robert Tombs….

A British academic shows how being a historian of France helped him recognise that his fellow Englishmen and women have embraced pluralism and immigration for at least 1,300 years, he concludes, and they should not give it up as it is a characteristic strength.

Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517–1648. By Mark Greengrass….

A magisterial account of the birth of modern Europe, from the Reformation, which broke the dominance of the Roman Catholic church, to the Peace of Westphalia, which entrenched the idea of the nation-state.

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. By Kevin Birmingham….

A gripping account of how a banned masterpiece, James Joyc’s “Ulysses”, was published in instalments in small literary magazines and then in private, limited print runs by dedicated patrons (most of them women) who had to smuggle copies into America and Britain.

Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David. By Lawrence Wright….

The three protagonists saw themselves as “living exemplars of prophetic tradition” and for a fortnight subjected each other to mind-numbing speeches about the rightness of each of their causes. Camp David came to naught, but for a fleeting moment it seemed as if things in the Middle East might turn out for the better.

Why Homer Matters. By Adam Nicolson….

An elegant British writer dusts down Homer for a new generation, examining in detail the character of his two epics, from the gore of “The Iliad” to the blindings of “The Odyssey”. A lesson about honour, violence and masculinity.

The Reckoning: Death and Intrigue in the Promised Land. By Patrick Bishop….

A detailed reconstruction of the hunt for Avraham Stern and his small band of “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”, better known as Lehi. Stern was among the first Zionists to mix religion and nationalism, and Patrick Bishop’s book has important lessons for the modern day. [more]