One for the Books
Jesse Sublett's Top Reads of 2015
The Theater of War leads a list that reminds us how ancient lessons about war continue to ring true today
Reviewed by Jesse Sublett, Fri., Jan. 1, 2016
1) The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today by Bryan Doerries (Knopf), chronicles the author's work with war veterans, prison workers, and other PTSD victims using Greek tragedies authored by Aeschylus and Sophocles – both war vets who had seen best friends ripped apart on the battlefield.
2) All That You've Seen Here Is God (Vintage) collects four of Doerries' stripped-down translations of the Greek classics. Both are recommended.
3) War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad by Christopher Logue (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is one hell of a book/poem. Reading it now, saying "wow" a lot.
4) H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Grove), a memoir of a daughter's grief and a bird, seems to have swooped down and stolen everyone's heart. Nice work if you can get it.
5) The Berlin series (City of Stones, City of Smoke, and City of Light) by graphic novelist Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly) is set in the waning days of the Weimar Republic, just before Hitler takes over. Chapters 17-19 were issued in comic-book format in 2015; the final compilation volume, Berlin: City of Light, is expected in late 2016. Great, great stuff.
6) A Better Goodbye by John Schulian (Tyrus) is the first crime novel by Schulian, author of some of the best writing about boxing ever. Just got it and expect to be floored.
7) The Roses Underneath by C.F. Yetmen (Ypsilon & Co.) is a novel of Germany just after the end of World War II, told from the survivors' POV. Yetmen, who lives in Austin, draws on her own family history with deft skill and soul. I predict you'll be hearing much more from her.
8) Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown and Company) is something we all expected to be a great read, and hell yeah, it is.
9) Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett knocked me out when I re-read it, in sequence with every other Hammett novel this summer. Hammett's prose still crackles with electricity, action zips along at breakneck pace, and slanguage sings. Hammett rocks!
10) And this was the year I finally published my true-crime chronicle, 1960s Austin Gangsters: Organized Crime That Rocked the Capital (Arcadia Publishing). Does it seem immodest to include it on my Top 10 list? Tough luck, it would be a lie to leave it off. Happy New Year.