As I do every December, I present you not with the list of the best books of the year, but rather the best books I've read during that year, and this time there have been some great ones.
I must start with two books I mentioned in an earlier column by local writers, who both happen to be good friends of mine. Luckily, both received universally positive reviews even from those reviewers not lucky enough to know them.
The big Christmas smash hit of 2013 is The Kid: the Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr. Nearly 800 pages, it has been selling out everywhere. So, if you know anyone who loves baseball, don't wait until the last minute to purchase this or you will surely strike out on Christmas day.
The second book I recommended was by the prolific Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose latest book is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism. I recommend this especially for the conservatives and libertarians among us who can read for themselves what a mess the country was in before a strong central government was put in place to protect the rest of us from the wealthiest 1 percent of that day.
Two more books mentioned in my column earlier this year also deserve to be singled out, though both covered the same, sad subject, monster mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.
Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill and Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy are books that deserve to be read to get the full picture of the horror Bulger perpetrated and how and why so many in a position to stop his killing and the corruption turned their heads instead.
Other books with some local flavor or local authorship I read and strongly recommend include Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution by Nantucket's own Nathaniel Philbrick and This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral by Newton's Mark Leibovich and Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence by Joseph J. Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College.
Other terrific reads depending on the subject matters you enjoy include a great book on the Israel-Palestinian conflict titled My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit. Balanced, nuanced, fair and troubling, this book will help outsiders access the current stalemate without the biases that all too often make one side the hero and the other the villain.
JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President by Thurston Clarke makes the case that America lost more than its innocence on that November day 50 years ago, but also lost a president on the verge of greatness.
Bringing Mulligan Home: The Other Side of the Good War by Dale Maharidge and Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse are like bookends of the post-traumatic stress disorder epidemic that continues to plague our Afghanistan and Iraq veterans today just as it did in secret to too many of our veterans in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Fans of the late '60s/early '70s "folk-rock" era of Joni Mitchell, the Mamas and the Papas, Carole King and James Taylor will love Wild Tales: A Rock and & Roll Life by Graham Nash, a key element of the legendary Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Hollies. Maybe I'm crazy, but the late '60s were by far the golden age of great singer/songwriters and Nash was among the best.
Finally, one of the scariest books of 2013 didn't contain a single zombie, vampire or ghost. The Good Nurse: the True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber is the true tale of a soft-spoken male nurse who roamed the hallways of hospitals and nursing homes of two states dispatching patients without any co-worker or hospital supervisor seeming to understand they were in the presence of America's most prolific serial killer.
Thirteen choices. Enjoy them all.
Michael Goldman is a paid political consultant for Democratic candidates and president of Goldman Associates in Boston.