Monday, January 7, 2019

Best Reads of 2018 - Fiction

 Part 3 of my list best books of 2018 – Fiction books.

Except for one notable exception, I did not read any truly amazing fiction this year, but I did reacquaint myself to a couple of classic, timeless, fantasy characters.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson.  Sanderson has quickly become one of my favorite fiction writers.  This volume is the third in his Stormlight Archive series.  The plot is intricate with lots of twist and turns and an ending that makes you longing for the next book in the series.  Easily the best fiction book I read this year.

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb.  FitzChivalry Farseer has been the topic of two of Robin Hobb’s previous series.  Here in the Fitz and the Fool series, one of the great characters of fantasy fiction returns.  He is older and slower and has a family to protect, all of which makes Fitz’s adventures and troubles all the more interesting.  Volumes 2 and 3 (Fool’s Quest and Assassin’s Fate) are also recommended.

Gauntlgrym by R. A. Salvatore.  This book was published a few years back, but I am just catching up.  Salvatore is the creator of another of the great fantasy characters – Drizzt Do’Urden – a black elf who became disenchanted with life in the evil Underdark.  Together with his good friends, Drizzt has taken me on some wonderful adventures over the years.  While Gauntlgrym is probably not the best Drizzt book, it was a lot of fun.

The Mongrel Mage by L. E. Modesitt.  Mongrel Mage is another of Modesitt’s Recluce series of novels.  It is the story of a new character, Beltur.  It is classic Modesitt – wonderful world building together with a clueless character that gradually discovers his powers.  Some think Modesitt’s books move too slowly, but I enjoy them.

2nd Tier reads, still very good, recommended:

The Heart of What was Lost by Tad Williams
Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb
Hands Like Clouds by Mark Zuehlke
Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington
The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty
Subterranean by James Rollins
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Legion:  The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson
Heroes of Tolkien by David Day

3rd Tier Reads, somewhat disappointing:

The Battles of Tolkien by David Day

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Best Reads of 2018 - Christian Ministry and Living

This continues my series on the best books I read this past year.  In this post, we cover the books relating to Christian living and ministry.

Sexual Sanity for Men:  Recreating your Mind in a Crazy Culture by David White.  Sexual Sanity is workbook designed for men struggling with sexual sin.  The focus is very gospel oriented.  White does a great job, chapter by chapter, of exposing the ugliness of our sexual sin and then applying gospel principles to bring change in that area of life.

Martin Luther:  The Man who Rediscovered God and Changed the World by Eric Metaxas.  Metaxas’ biographies are always well done – I especially recommend the ones of Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce.  Luther is another excellent effort.  Metaxas is quick to lay bare the facts of Luther’s life, even if it means exposing some of what we think we know as myth, to give us a wonderful portrait of this flawed but vital man.

The Glory of Christ:  His Office and Grace by John Owen.  Originally titled Meditations of the Glory of Christ and published in 1684, one year after Owen’s death, this wonderful book is a slightly modernized edition of Owen’s classic work.  Even after all these years, it is still rich in theological truth.  It is a slow read with much to digest, but it is well worth it.

Christ Formed In You:  The Power of the Gospel of Personal Change by Brian G. Hedges.  My associate and I read this book together and both of us were struck by its wisdom and power.  Hedges has written a wonderful handbook for anyone who is serious about applying the gospel to their lives and seeking spiritual transformation as a result.

Out of a Far Country:  A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan.  I had the privilege of hearing the Yuans in person at a conference this past year.  This is their  autobiographical story, a tale of the power of Christ to change lives.  Christopher’s story forms the springboard for his new book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desires and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story, which I am reading currently.

Missions:  How the Local Church goes Global by Andy Johnson.  This little book is part of a series put out by the 9 Marks Ministry.  It was recommended to me by my daughter – thanks Kyla – and is an excellent volume on how a church can begin or re-examine its support for missions.  It was so good, I bought copies for my elder board and we are reading it right now.

2nd Tier Reads, still very good, recommended:

Faith Alone:  The Doctrine of Justification by Thomas Schreiner
Encountering God Through Expository Preaching by Jim Scott Orrick, Brian Payne,  and Ryan Fullerton
The Mingling of Souls:  God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex and Redemption by Matt Chandler
Living Life Backward:  How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson
2000 Years of Christ's Power, vol 2 – The Middle Ages by Nick Needham
The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges
Christ Alone:  The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior by Stephen Wellum
Long Before Luther:  Tracing the Heart of the Gospel from Christ to the Reformation by Nathan Busenitz 
The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero
Conscience:  What it is, How to Train it, and Loving those who Differ by Andrew D. Naselli and J. D. Crowley
A Vine-Ripened Life:  Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ by Stanley D. Gale
The Fruitful Life:  The Overflow of God’s Love through You by Jerry Bridges
The Fruit of the Spirit:  Becoming the Person God wants You to Be by Thomas E. Trask and Wayde I. Goodall
Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit:  Growing in Christlikeness by Christopher J. H. Wright
Parenting:  14 Gospel Principles that can Radically Change your Family by Paul David Tripp
The Imitation of Christ:  Classic Devotions in Today’s Language by Thomas a Kempis and James Watkins
The One True Light:  Daily Reading for Advent from the Gospel of John by Tim Chester
Love Came Down At Christmas:  Daily Readings for Advent by Sinclair B. Ferguson
Grace Alone:  Salvation as a Gift of God by Carl R. Trueman
Benjamin Franklin:  The Religious Life of a Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd

3rd Tier Reads, somewhat disappointing:

Recovering Eden:  The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes by Zack Eswine
Craftsmen:  Christ-Centered Proverbs for Men by John Crotts
Spirit Life: Living, Loving, Learning and Growing in the Lord by Stuart Briscoe

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Best Reads of 2018 - History/Biography

I recently looked at my blog and noticed my last post was in June.  Ouch!  I knew it had been a while, but I did not think it had been that long.  And only 5 posts in all of 2018!  Chalk it up to having a toddler in the house again, I guess.

I may be delinquent in updating my blog, but I don’t want to be too delinquent in getting out my “best of” books list for 2018.  As in past years, I have grouped them into three categories – history/biography, fiction and Christian living/ministry.  I highlight the handful of books I consider the best of the year and then list the others as very good or somewhat disappointing.

First, the best history/biography books I read this year.

Marlborough:  His Life and Times by Winston S. Churchill.  Yes, that Winston Churchill.  At almost 1000 pages, this is an abridged version of his magnificent biography of his ancestor, John Churchill, the Earl of Marlborough. (The original version is 4 volumes!) Once the reader gets past Winston Churchill’s somewhat florid and very English prose, you will find a brilliantly written portrait of the man who very possibly was the greatest general the English have ever produced.

The Bonanza King:  John Mackay and the Battle over the Greatest Riches in the American West by Gregory Crouch.  This was the best history book I read this year.  It combines Western history, the thrill and suspense of mining discovery and the rags to riches story of John Mackay who came to control much of what we now know as the Comstock Lode of silver mines in Nevada.

The Madman and the Butcher:  The Sensational Wars of Sam Hughes and General Arthur Currie by Tim Cook.  Chalk this one up to the Canadian history I did not get in high school in Winnipeg.  Cook’s book is a fascinating dual biography of the relationship between two famous Canadians, Sam Hughes, the intemperate and probably crazy Minister of Defense during World War 1, and Arthur Currie, Canada’s greatest World War 1 general.

Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic.  Indianapolis is the story of one of the great, forgotten tragedies of World War 2.  The cruiser Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese sub during the last months of the war and most of the crew lost their lives.  The tragedy was compounded by the fact that it was completely avoidable and that those truly guilty got off with their reputation and military careers intact.

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I enjoy Goodwin’s writing and try to read everything she releases.  When I first saw this book, I was somewhat skeptical of finding anything new, since Goodwin had written books on all four of the presidents portrayed here.  I was happy to be proven wrong.  The book is a focused portrait of the leadership styles of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lynden Johnson.

On Desperate Ground:  The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle by Hampton Sides.  Sides is another author that writes excellent history and On Desperate Ground does not disappoint.  The grim story of the Marines at Chosin Reservoir is well told here, shedding new light on one of the greatest struggles of the Cold War.

Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-75 by Max Hastings.  Many Vietnam history books are very limited, either in scope or their bias toward one side or the other.  Hastings’ book is comprehensive, starting with the French in Vietnam and ending at the North’s final victory over the South.  It is also balanced – no one comes out of this conflict looking good, and Hastings is not afraid to criticize any and all of the parties involved, including the American media for their bias toward the Communist North.

2nd Tier Reads, still very good, recommended:

No Better Place to Die:  The Battle of Stones River by Peter Cozzens
Mosby’s Rangers by Jeffry D. Wert
American Heiress:  The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin
Our Finest Hour:  Canada Fights the Second World War by David J. Bercuson
Blood on the Hills:  The Canadian army in the Korean War by David J. Bercuson
Blood Moon:  An American Epic of War and Splendor in the Cherokee Nation by John Sedgwick
Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Terrible Victory:  First Canadian Army and the Scheldt Estuary Campaign: September 13-Novermber 6, 1944 by Mark Zuehlke
The Soul of Battle:  From Ancient Times to the Present Day, how Three great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny by Victor Davis Hanson
The King and the Cowboy:  Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh, Secret Partners by David Fromkin
The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon S. Wood
The Day of the Panzer:  A Story of American Heroism and Sacrifice in Southern France by Jeff Danby
Vimy:  The Battle and the Legend by Tim Cook
Rogue Heroes by Ben MacIntyre
Pacific Alamo:  The Battle for Wake Island by John Wukovits
Road to Disaster:  A New History of America’s Descent into Vietnam by Brian VanDeMark
The Battle of Arnhem:  The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War 2 by Anthony Beevor.
Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

3rd Tier Reads, somewhat disappointing:

The Inheritance of Rome:  Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000 by Chris Wickham
Jefferson's Great Gamble: The Remarkable Story of Jefferson, Napoleon and the Men behind the Louisiana Purchase by Charles Cerami

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sherman’s March and our Christian Walk

William Tecumseh Sherman is primarily famous for one thing – his amazing Civil War March to the Sea during the fall of 1864.  After conquering the southern city of Atlanta and essentially insuring President Lincoln’s re-election, on November 16, 1864, Sherman and his Army of the West left Atlanta behind.  Leaving a Confederate Army in his rear and untethering himself from communications and supply, Sherman set out to create a 50 mile wide swath of destruction through Georgia.  He accomplished this journey through the heart of the South, losing less than 1000 soldiers, freeing tens of thousands of slaves and bringing the reality of war to the rich Confederate planter class that pushed the South into the Civil War in the first place.  He arrived at the Atlantic Ocean near Savannah, Georgia with an army stronger and healthier than it was when he left Atlanta.

In his magnificent book, The Soul of Battle:  From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny, Victor Davis Hanson tells the story of William Sherman and his March to the Sea.  Until about a year into the Civil War, William Sherman’s life, by anyone’s reckoning - including his own - was an abject failure.  His time at the West Point Military Academy was relatively unremarkable. His army career was a series of dead end postings all over the United States.  His banking career failed miserably.  He spent years of his life running from one job to another, separated from family, just trying anything and everything to make ends meet.  He contemplated suicide more than once.  His only true success was founding a military academy in Louisiana, an effort that was dramatically aborted by the Civil War.

Even after the Civil War began, after successfully leading a brigade at the battle of Bull Run, Sherman struggled.  Promoted to command of all Union forces in Kentucky, he suffered a mental breakdown and was relieved of command.  Restored to command by his friend, Ulysses Grant, he was vital to the Union victory at Shiloh.  From that point on, his star rose.

In his analysis of Sherman’s life, Hanson makes the point that although Sherman appeared to fail at much, in reality he was gaining the experience and the understanding he would need to lead his army through Georgia to ultimate victory.  All his “failures” had prepared him for that day in November, 1864, when he and his army left Atlanta behind.  Hanson argues that there was no other leader in the armies of either the Union or Confederate states that had the breadth of knowledge and experience - from geography to an understanding of how much forage an army would need – than Sherman.  Sherman’s “failures” had been the very things that brought him to the point of success and victory.

The story of Sherman’s life, failures and success made me think of how his life parallels the life of every Christian.  While we are not William Sherman, like him we too experience failure.  Perhaps some of us might look at our lives and wonder if our whole life consists of one failure after another, one letdown after another.  That might even lead us to think as Sherman did – that this life may not be worth living.  In all that, we forget the God is sovereign.  We forget that He is wise enough and big enough and good enough and gracious enough to use our failures to shape us and mold us and perhaps even, like Sherman, prepare us for something that He has in our future. 

All that makes me see my failures in a completely different light.  While they are still painful to experience, they are not paralyzing.  I have seen God bring good out of failure in my own life.  In the midst of the pain and the embarrassment and the frustration, I need to remind myself that God is not done with me yet, and that if anyone can make something out of my failures and my fumbles, if anyone can use those things to prepare me for something in my future, it is the Sovereign God of the Universe, who is my Savior and my Lord.  I don’t know about you, but for me, there is great comfort and encouragement in that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review - Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas

Apologies in advance for this blog post – it is almost six months too late.  The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses was celebrated on October 31, 2017.  Unfortunately it took me until yesterday to finish Eric Metaxas’ magnificent biography of Martin Luther entitled Martin Luther:  The Man who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.

Metaxas is well known for his biographies of Christian historical figures.  I heartily enjoyed his books on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as well as his collection of short biographies entitled 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness.  He brings the same eye to detail and witty writing style to bear on the life of Martin Luther.

Most people alive today have heard of Martin Luther, although in my experience they are much more likely to confuse him with Martin Luther King than to really know what Luther was about and what he achieved.  Metaxas sets out to paint a portrait of Luther, an honest portrait, one that displays both his fine features and his warts, one the seeks to clarify and rectify Luther legend and one that does not shy away from the difficult issues in Luther’s life.

The book is structured like many other biographies are.  Metaxas sets the scene by describing the world Martin Luther was born into.  It is a world where Catholicism ruled; a Catholicism that was still medieval in nature and had begun to rot from the inside.  He traces Luther’s life journey, how he became a monk, and more importantly how rediscovered the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ through his study of the Word of God.  Many stories are attached to these days, and Metaxas seeks to discern what is true and what is myth.

The events of Luther’s life and the results of his study lead him to post 95 Theses or articles for discussion on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.  Luther had no desire at first to start his own church or split from the Catholic Church.  Rather, he saw some issues in the church, especially with regards to indulgences (the purchasing of forgiveness and freedom from purgatory), that did not line up with his study of the Word of God.  Luther’s simple act of protest against these practices set the Protestant Reformation in motion.

Metaxas does a wonderful job of portraying Luther’s struggle at the beginning of the Reformation.  He gives light to the pressures and troubles that assailed him, both spiritual as well as the very earthy ones.  (It is a rare biography that has a section on the subject’s struggles with constipation….)  His chapters on Luther’s debate in Leipzig, the Diet of Worms and his time ensconced at Wartburg castle were especially well done.  I also thought his discussion of Luther’s view of marriage, how it changed and the joy he found with his wife and family were also excellently researched and written.  Metaxas does not shy away from the difficult – he even discusses Luther’s virulent writing against the Jews in the final years of his life.  While he does not have an answer for this curious and in many ways out of character pamphlet, I give the author credit for not avoiding the topic.

The book ends with a wonderful reminder of the impact Luther still continues to have in our day.   His writings strongly influenced the democracy we enjoy today.  Congregational singing and lay involvement in church, even in the Catholic Church, happened because of Luther.  Most of all, Luther opened the door to plurality – of ideas and even expression of faith.  While in our modern world, plurality has become a god unto itself in some cases, the fact that we can worship in freedom and embrace truth that is not forced upon us is a result of the legacy of the man Martin Luther.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Best Books of 2017 - Fiction

This is part three of my annual survey of the best books I read in the past year.  And yes, as this list is evidence, I do read for reasons other than to expand my knowledge or improve my ministry skills.  This list is typical of other years, lots of good sci-fi/fantasy with a few thrillers and mysteries thrown in.  Of course, the best book I read last year is not on the list, because I have not finished yet.  That will be for next year…

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan. (Legends of the First Empire, vol. 1)  Sullivan had written a number of great books set in the Riyria universe.  This is the first of a new series which is set centuries before his previous books.  Great stuff – I am waiting for my son to read volume 2 so he can lend it to me.

The Aeronauts Windlass by Jim Butcher (Cinder Spires, vol. 1)  I started reading Jim Butcher’s books last year.  The Aeronauts Windlass is the first in a new series featuring an intriguing story, lots of action and cool steam-punk type technology.

The Shadow of What was Lost by James Islington (Licanius Trilogy, vol. 1)  This must be the year for starting new series and then waiting (patiently…) for book number 2 to appear.  Islington is a new author who had created an interesting and unique world.  Volume 1 ends leaving you hanging and waiting for volume 2.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams (Last King of Osten Ard, vol. 1)  Tad Williams’ series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is among my top 5 favorite epic fantasy series of all time.  This new series picks up where the last one left off, but decades later.  The heroes from the previous series have aged or passed and a whole new crop of heroes have emerged.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin.  This is a wonderful historical mystery set in the Middle Ages England.  The author’s writing style is a bit difficult to get into at first, but it is well worth it to those who persevere.  Franklin blends a great historical setting with a unique character – a female, medieval coroner – to build a wonderful story.

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson.  Edgedancer is a novella set in world of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive.  Written to fill a few plot holes and provide a transition from one major novel to the next, it stars Lift, one of Sanderson’s best (and funniest) characters yet.  Recommended for anyone who enjoys Sanderson’s books.

2nd Tier books – good but not quite great:
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, vol. 1)
Blue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, vol. 2)
The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, vol. 2)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, vol. 3)

3rd Tier books – okay, but somewhat lacking:
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (Red Queen’s War, book 1)

Ugh – I cannot believe I finished it.  Not recommended.
Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton (a shell of a book, horrible)
The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston (I kept waiting for it to get better…it never did.)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Best Books of 2017 - History/Biography

This is part 2 of my annual list of the best books that I read in 2017.  As those of you who know me are aware, I love a good history book.  I read a lot of good ones this year, so many it was a bit difficult to choose which ones stood head and shoulders above the rest.  All my favorite topics are here – a good dose of military history, Canadian history and Arctic exploration, among other topics.

Abraham Lincoln:  Redeemer President by Allen C. Guelzo.  I read Guelzo’s book on Gettysburg last year and was so impressed I ordered his biography of Lincoln.  This is a spiritual biography, which focuses in on his intellectual and religious life.  Guelzo makes no claims that Lincoln was an evangelical Christian as we might understand it, but he makes a strong case that Lincoln’s understanding of God developed and flourished and came to affect many of the decision he made as president.
The Darkest Days of the War:  The Battles of Iuka and Corinth by Peter Cozzens.  Cozzens is one of the best American Civil War historians.  This book portrays two relatively unknown battles that were pivotal in the Union’s attempt to occupy northern Mississippi.  Cozzens moves easily between strategic decisions to the average soldier’s experience and back again, giving the reader a powerful picture of these hard fought battles.

Song of Wrath:  The Peloponnesian War Begins by J. E. Lendon.  The Peloponnesian War was fought in between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century B.C.  Analyzing the first 10 years of the war, Lendon gives us a picture of the origins, history and strategy of this violent conflict, a conflict from which we can still learn lessons today.

Race to the Polar Sea:  The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent Kane by Ken McGoogan.  I love Ken McGoogan’s books.  While not as good as Fatal Passage, Race to the Polar Sea is a fascinating account of forgotten American hero Elisha Kent Kane and his will to endure and explore the Canadian Arctic.

The Rise of Germany: 1939-41 by James Holland.  The Rise of Germany is part one of a 3 part series on the story of World War 2 in the west.  (Part 2 is also out, entitled The Allies Strike Back.)  Although I knew much of the history before reading this volume, Holland’s analysis of supply and manufacturing on both sides of the conflict was especially enlightening.

Red Famine:  Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum.  This a chilling book about what happens when a paranoid dictator chooses to exercise unlimited power.  Stalin’s policy of collective farming was the direct cause of a massive famine in the Ukraine in which millions died.  This book was especially personal because my grandparents were exiled from the Ukraine just before the famine hit.

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise:  Muslims, Christians and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Dario Fernandez-Morera.  Just about any modern American history book on the European Middle Ages will argue that Muslim Spain was a bastion of tolerance where Islam, Christianity and Judaism flourished side by side.  Fernandez-Morera’s meticulous scholarship exposes the lie to that assumption, clearly showing that Muslim-ruled Spain was a place of intolerance, slavery and brutal treatment of all who did not bow the knee to Allah.

2nd Tier reads – still very good, highly recommended.
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Hero of the Empire:  The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard
John A. , The Man who Made Us:  The Life and Times of John A. McDonald, vol. 1 by Richard Gwyn
Nationmaker:  Sir John A. MacDonald, His Life, Our Times, vol. 2 by Richard Gwyn
Armies of Heaven:  The First Crusade and the Quest for the Apocalypse by Jay Rubenstein
Fields of Fire:  The Canadians in Normandy by Terry Copp
Emperor of the North:  Sir George Simpson and the Remarkable Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company by James Raffan
Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen
To War with Wellington:  From the Peninsula to Waterloo by Peter Snow
The Burma Road:  The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War 2 by Donovan Webster
The General vs. the President:  MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H. W. Brands
Shackleton:  By Endurance We Conquer by Michael Smith
Clouds of Glory:  The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee by Michael Korda
Frozen in Time:  the Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Geiger
Operation Nemesis:  The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide by Eric Bogosian
Churchill and Orwell:  The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks
Hue 1968:  A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare:  The Mavericks who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat by Giles Milton
Three Days in January:  Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier
Nathaniel’s Nutmeg:  Now One Man’s Courage Changed the Course of History by Giles Milton
Pubic Enemies:  America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough
Italy’s Sorrow:  A Year of War, 1944-1945 by James Holland
Catastrophe 1914:  Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings
The Allies Strike Back, 1941-43 by James Holland
Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
The Templars:  The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones

3rd Tier reads – good, but somewhat disappointing.
Napoleon’s Wars:  An International History by Charles Esdaile
Marco Polo:  From Venice to Xanadu by Laurence Bergreen