Here are ten books that Prospect writers particularly admired this year.
Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present by Brendan Simms (Allen Lane, £30)
“At 690 pages it is big in heft and ambition, sweeping across half a millennium of European history,” wrote Josef Joffe in April. “Aficionados of the craft should cheer the arrival of Simms’s brainchild. There is nothing in the recent literature to match it. Not only has Simms bitten off a huge chunk of history, he has also mastered it with style and an awe-inspiring command of the literature (the footnotes run on for almost 100 pages). He deserves a prize just for this Herculean feat of synthesis. Another one might beckon for breaking the mould of traditional, that is, state-centred, diplomatic history. The narrative weaves together grand strategy and domestic politics, economics and ideology, and the European as well as global strands of a story that is about “us”—the west with its magnificent achievements and untold cruelties.”
The Anatomy of Violence: The biological roots of crime by Adrian Raine (Allen Lane, £25)
“It is hard to think calmly about violence, and nobody knows that better than Adrian Raine, a distinguished neuroscientist who has devoted his career to uncovering the causes of human violence,” wrote Daniel Dennett in May. “He recognises that these are not just scientific questions, like uncovering the causal mechanisms of earthquakes, but also some of the most important ethical questions facing society. The Anatomy of Violence is a most valuable contribution to the current debates on these topics. Raine provides the details, and the evidential backing, for a host of distinctions that need to be drawn by those of us intent on reforming our obscenely unjust system of criminal justice.”
High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain by Simon Heffer (Random House, £30)
“As a journalist, Heffer relishes a stand-up fight. The tone of this book is different,” wrote Dinah Birch in October. “Though he sees the Victorians in the…