As most of us won’t be able to travel during the holiday season this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, we’ll have a lot more time to read a good book this year. To give you some ideas for your next great read, we present our annual PRI Holiday Book List. Our list includes ideas that span the spectrum. There should be a good recommendation below whatever your taste in books – or for the booklover on your holiday shopping list.
On behalf of everyone at the Pacific Research Institute, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.
- Tim Anaya – Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten
I love to cook and I love to entertain. No one has taught me more about both than Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa. Every time she releases a new cookbook, I literally run to the bookstore to buy my copy. I’m such a fan that I even bought tickets to see her give a lecture in Sacramento a few years back (and buy an autographed cookbook!) Naturally, at the top of my Christmas list this year is the Barefoot Contessa’s latest, which is her take on comfort food. Even though I can’t entertain this year, these sound like just the kind of recipes we all need to get through a socially-distanced holiday season.
- Dana Beigel – Wuhan Diaries by Fang FangWuhan Diaries started as an online diary – often censored hours after being posted – by Chinese novelist Fang Fang, who lives in downtown Wuhan. She writes about the first days of the outbreak, the way it was handled by both civilians and government officials, and the day to day life of living in quarantine.
Total Power by Vince Flynn
If you are a fan of CIA heroes getting the bad guys and need to escape (don’t we all) – then the latest release in the Mitch Rapp series is a great choice. Total Power is a fun book, a perfect read for now, and well, don’t be surprised if you start pricing mini generators online. I did.
- Bartlett Cleland – Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Bringing the full weight of independent thinking to the fore, the premise of Zero to One is that without independent thinking innovation will stagnate. Theil makes the case that we already live in an era of technological stagnation and that we will not move out of that morass by merely making what we already know a little better. Flying a bit faster is not real innovation but the invention of an airplane was for example. He is contrarian, but he also spurs one to think…for themselves…independently…
Shadow Land by Peter Straub
Continuing the Victorian era tradition of a good scary or fantastical story at Christmas I choose one such book to recommend every year. Peter Straub, author of Ghost Story, wrote this dark tinged coming of age story a year later and filled it with illusion and magic tricks. The book mostly reads as if one is being told a story rather than reading it making it a perfect holiday tale for dark late nights.
- Laura Dannerbeck – The Art of Hearing Heartbeats By Jan-Philipp Sendker
This book was recommended by a friend, stating “it will change your life.” It is a unique and fascinating story set in Burma, based on two children with physical disabilities who are cherished, admired and revered by their families. The two help each other navigate the world through their “gifts” and infinite capacity of love. The beauty of this childhood friendship impacts every part of the plot as it unfolds among the characters.
- Evan Harris – To Gettysburg and Beyond by Michael Golay
I’ve been continuing my march through a backlog of military history books this year and I have to recommend an older, but impressive book about the American Civil War. To Gettysburg and Beyond follows the Union’s Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and Confederate’s General Edward Porter Alexander. When much of the Civil War gets chopped into a handful of battles and general, this book tells a story of men who regularly saw combat in the most meaningful battles of the war. Chamberlain is one of the more fascinating characters of the Civil War. A professor from Bowden College in Main turned colonel involved in the most momentous battles of the war including his famous defense and charge on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. He was wounded numerous times including a nearly-fatal pelvic injury during the battle of Petersburg when he was shot in the hip. Chamberlain was also present at the Confederates surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia in 1865 and presided over the march and surrender of the Confederate infantry. Alexander has an equally infamous story – starting from frontier duty in Utah for the U.S. Army after graduating from West Point and ending with his service as head of artillery for Confederate General James Longstreet. The journey of both men – and the fact they survived the Civil War – is an incredible story with reading.
- Rowena Itchon – The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell
This is the saga of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries during the time of Alfred the Great. The story is told from the perspective of Uhtred, a nobleman who was captured as a boy and raised by the Danes. The books have come alive in a Netflix series now in its fourth season – equally as fantastic as the books. If you know anyone who is nostalgic for Game of Thrones – this is the perfect gift. Even better, this is real.
- Lance Izumi – A Kite in a Hurricane No More by Lance Izumi and Mia Giordano
I highly recommend my newest book, co-authored with Mia Giordano and entitled A Kite in a Hurricane No More: The Journey of One Young Woman Who Overcame Learning Disabilities through Science and Educational Choice. The book weaves together three different stories: Mia’s personal story of overcoming her learning disabilities through a non-conventional brain-based education program; a scientific journey into the mysteries of the brain and the latest brain research; and the importance of educational choice options that would give all children the opportunity to succeed that Mia had. A Kite in a Hurricane is inspiring, informative, and enlightening.
- Kerry Jackson – Camino Winds by John Grisham
Fiction can be a welcome diversion from the grind of news, politics and policy that makes up most of our days. While Grisham is known for his legal thrillers, this book shows he can write great fiction that doesn’t take place in courtrooms and law offices. The island comes to life as do the characters. Grisham doesn’t disappoint
- Henry Miller – Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen
A must-read for every dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan — especially for those who have been indoctrinated to believe over the years that the great Ty Cobb was a mean-spirited, vindictive guy.
- Sally Pipes – False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All by Sally Pipes
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Katie Porter, and Pramila Jayapal recently held a strategy session to plot their next moves on health care under a Biden presidency. Their favored approach is a government-run, single-payer health care plan that would outlaw private health insurance. President-Elect Biden said during the campaign that he favors a “public option,” which is a stepping stone to “Medicare for All.” In my latest book, False Premise, False Promise (Encounter), learn what single-payer would mean for your and your family – longer wait times, reduced quality of care, less access to care, fewer doctors and specialists, and higher costs for patients and taxpayers.
- McKenzie Richards – Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (Mansfield translation)
The first time I read Democracy in America, I emerged from the pages a new person. The French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville wrote the book in the 19th century from his observations of the newly born America. Serving as a political prophet, Tocqueville lays bare the American soul, predicting both the good and the bad that what comes forth from our democracy. In the current political climate, we keep hearing that much is at stake. In no few words, Tocqueville not only captures what exactly is in peril but also instructs on what we must do to save ourselves. With all that 2020 brought us, the time is now to delve into Tocqueville’s “bible” on America. A truly indispensable classic, Mansfield’s translation is considered the finest.
- Ben Smithwick – Winning the Water Wars by Steven Greenhut
Winning the Water Wars is not your typical public policy book. In this new release from PRI, Steven Greenhut takes readers on a fascinating journey through California’s water history, tracing policy and political changes from the old days of infrastructure building to new policies of managing scarcity. Beautifully designed by Dana Beigel, the book features the author’s photos of California’s rivers, lakes, streams, and water infrastructure. What’s more, Winning the Water Wars sets forth workable, market-driven solutions for creating water abundance to support a vibrant agricultural sector, healthy environment, and the needs of the state’s population.
- Wayne Winegarden – The Commanding Heights by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw
Yergin and Stanislaw describe how governments across the globe have historically approached the essential question of whether markets or government control should drive an economy. It is a great read on a difficult subject, and provides perspective that is otherwise missing in today’s debates.
False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg
False Alarm, along with Michael Shallenberger’s book Apocalypse Never provide a must-read understanding of the global climate change problem. Lomborg brilliantly argues why the problem of global climate change is manageable. Relying on the climate data from the IPCC, Lomborg demonstrates that the data do not support the growing belief that we should be panicked. Instead, what is needed are thoughtful solutions that promote growth, innovation, and adaptation.