Notable Books We Read in 2018

Just in time for your holiday shopping, our annual baker's dozen of the best books we read in 2018. As always, it's the year we read them, not the year they were published. This year includes some very juicy oldies. Here they are, in no particular order:

President Carter

by Stuart E. Eizenstat

If you are a student of American history, here is one of the finest biographies of a U.S. presidency we have encountered, and an indispensable volume for understanding the 1970s. Under Carter, the Democrats had their greatest post-war majority in Congress. And squandered it.

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Leonardo and the Last Supper

by Ross King

Leonardo da Vinci often comes off as an almost mysterious and mythical figure. Not here. This book has the blood and sap of his life, culminating in what was viewed at the time as his masterwork: The Last Supper.

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leonardo and the last supper

Villa and Zapata

Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution

by Frank McLynn

Speaking of myth, few suffer from it more than the two great figures of the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. They barely knew each other, only met once, and in large measure the changes they both fought for never came to pass. But the Mexico of today is still rooted in this revolution, and this book provides a deeper understanding.

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The Eagle Has Landed

by Jeffrey K. Smith

Buzz Aldrin lobbied to be the first to set foot on the Moon. The Apollo project became a technical mess that resulted in the launching-pad deaths of three of its finest astronauts. Skepticism of NASA's ability to reach its goal abounded. This is the up close story of the still-unmatched technological feat of putting man on the Moon.

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The Chemistry Between Us

by Larry Young, PhD. and Brian Alexander

What is love? This book delves into the nature and chemistry of love, whether romantic or familial.  It's all here: parent-child bonding, cheating, infatuation, and lust, to mention a few.

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Fortune's Formula

by William Pountstone

One of our all-time favorites. It starts with the birth of the wire service as a means to quickly report the results of racetrack betting. From there it takes on information theory, arbitrage hedge funds, and quant trading. Fascinating and filled with eccentric personalities.

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A Nation of Deadbeats

by Scott Reynolds Nelson

It was railroad interests that weighed in heavily to aid Abraham Lincoln's ascent to the presidency -- and to link together the vast new country. But those same railroads time and time again brought financial crisis. Scott Reynolds Nelson covers the long history of U.S. financial calamities, from William Duer in 1792 to those in our more recent past.

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Liar's Poker and The Predator's Ball

by Michael Lewis and Connie Bruck

Speaking of financial calamities, I spent the year writing a new book on global financial crises (due out next year). To get myself in the proper mood, I read the two indispensable histories of America's great 1980s crisis, Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis's exposé of the mortgage-backed securities business, and The Predator's Ball, Connie Bruck's page-turner on Michael Milken's junk-bond empire. They are both every bit as fresh, instructive, and relevant as they were at the time. Perhaps more so.

Read an Excerpt of Liar's Poker
Read an Excerpt of The Predator's Ball

1966: The Year the Decade Exploded

by Jon Savage

I'm showing my age, but 1966 seemed like a pretty revolutionary year to me at the time, and this book brings it all back. The Monkees as a manufactured substitute for an already world-weary Beatles? Timothy Leary proclaiming a world in which still-legal LSD would be administered to infants once a week? Chock full of surprises.

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Saturday Night

by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad

So I'm showing my age even more -- but Saturday Night Live is still a cultural force, and this book underscores what a radical departure it was -- censors were still squeamish about showing two performers in the same bed! -- and what extraordinary challenges the performers faced. Among the many tales: Bill Murray almost didn't survive as a second-year addition, and the Hell's Angels came to 30 Rock to threaten the writers after a Dan Aykroyd sketch that referenced them.

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Every Frenchman Has One

by Olivia deHavilland

Olivia de Havilland endeared us in Gone With the Wind, and did so again in this short and effortlessly witty book. Her discourse on the Bosom is timeless.

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The Warburgs

by Ron Chernow

An early work of Ron Chernow, since famous for his biographies of Alexander Hamilton and Ulysses S. Grant. The Warburgs were as prominent as the Rothschilds in German banking circles, and often as impactful internationally. They dominated the trading center of Hamburg. Reading about their valiant, painful missteps in the two World Wars is gripping and instructive.

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