Jim Reviews: Grant – Ron Chernow

After the success of the Hamilton musical based on Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton, it is not surprising that Grant would be a hit. In fact it was such a hit, the History Book Group here at the library picked it for its September book. We will be discussing it September 19 at 7pm. This like…

Jim Reviews: From A Certain Point Of View

Yeah it’s been 40 years since A New Hope premiered in movie theaters! I can’t believe it, either. But I am digressing from my digression. I discovered this book while listening to a podcast called Pop Culture Happy Hour hosted by Linda Holmes. For those of you who aren’t already fans, this show, as the name…

Today In History Reading List

In our Today In History Reading List feature, we take the events of a particular day in history and try to give you a work of fiction and a work of non-fiction relating to those events. 1327 Edward III Crowned King of England Due to colossal misrule, Edward II was deposed by his wife Isabella…

Jim Reviews: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World – Steven Johnson

You might be surprised to know that throughout much of the 19th century Europe and the United States were overrun by a series of pandemics that killed thousands. The disease was Cholera, which is cause by a bacteria that essentially causes its sufferer to discharge all the fluid in their body over the course of…

Jim Reviews: America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union – Fergus M. Bordewich

I know what you are all thinking, “Why hasn’t anyone written a history of the Compromise of 1850?” Well, your heart’s desire has been granted. Fergus Bordewich’s America’s Great Debate is just such a book. For those of you who are not US history teachers or 19th century political history junkies, the Compromise of 1850…

Jim Reviews: Six Suspects – Vikas Swarup

Swarup’s Six Suspects opens with a murder. Vicky Rai, a disreputable playboy, is having a party to celebrate getting off on a charge of murdering a bartender. In the middle of the party Rai is shot to death and as the title of the book suggests there are six suspects. Mohan Kumar, retired corrupt Chief…

Jim Reviews: Liberty’s Exiles – Maya Jasanoff

What do you think when you think of American’s who remain loyal to England during the American Revolution – aka Tories or Loyalists? If you are like me some common images come to mind: white, wealthy, church of England, maybe arrogant.That is the image we get of Tories before and during the revolution from movies,…

Jim Reviews: Clash of Eagles – Alan Smale

If you read enough history sooner or later someone asks you: “What would happen if a Roman army were to go up against [insert anachronistic warrior culture here]?” I’ve gotten Romans vs Vikings, Romans vs Samurais, and Romans vs Incas. I always hate these because it’s always comparing apples and oranges, but that is exactly…

Jim Reviews: Immortals – Jordanna Max Brodsky

Brodsky’s Immortals is the first book in her Olympus Bound series, a fantasy of Greek gods and goddesses in present day New York City. It’s a great concept. As people gradually stopped believing in the gods of Olympus they started to weaken. Finally, hundreds of years ago, Zeus decided to throw in the towel. The…

Jim Reviews: Trinity Six – Charles Cumming

Trinity Six is a modern spy novel that hangs on the search for the fabled Sixth Man. In the 1930s, the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) recruited five spies at Trinity College, Cambridge. Now known as the Cambridge Five, these individuals– Kim Philby, Donald MacLean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross– went on…

Jim Reviews: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley

I admit I picked up this book because of the cover. I first saw it in the new book display by the circ desk (if you haven’t checked that one out you really should there are a lot of gems there). And everything on the cover of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street has a connection to the story which makes it even cooler. Plus it has really great endpapers. This is Natasha Pulley’s first book and it is a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy.

Jim Reviews: The Edge of the World – Michael Pye

By Jim When I first saw Michael Pye’s The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe I though “huh I don’t really know anything about life around the medieval North Sea.” And that’s kind of Pye’s point. You ask “what is the historical significance of the…

Jim Reviews: Fire and Movement – Peter Hart

By Jim Now that we are through the first year of the hundred year anniversary of World War 1 I thought it would be interesting to read a history of that first year of the war. So I picked up Peter Hart’s Fire and Movement: The British Expeditionary Force and the Campaign of 1914. Hart’s…

Jim Reviews: Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army – Georg Rauch

The obvious hook of Georg Rauch’s memoir Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army is how did a Jew end up in the German army in World War II? Until I read this book I would have thought it was impossible but apparently it was a thing (see Bryan Mark Rigg’s Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers). In Rauch’s case he grew up in a intellectual Austrian family in Vienna. He himself was christian but his Grandmother was Jewish so by Nazi doctrine he and his family were, although not destined for a concentration camp, considered 2nd class citizens.

Jim Reviews: John the Pupil – David Flusfeder

David Flusfeder’s novel John the Pupil has been repeatedly compared to Umberto Eco’s fiction. The similarity is definitely there. The story is about John a young Franciscan monk in 1267 Oxford studying under the English philosopher Roger Bacon (Bacon also gets a couple of mentions in Name of the Rose if I remember rightly). John is tasked with making a pilgrimage to the Viterbo Italy where the Pope is in residence.

Jim Reviews: The Great Arc – John Keay

I read a lot of history; I review a lot of history books; I read a lot of history book reviews; and I read a lot of book catalogs selling history books so not a lot slips by me. However this is a case of that happening, and I am simultaneously embarrassed (for missing it…

Jim Reviews: The Man Who Was George Smiley – Michael Jago

Recently there has been a resurgence in interest in the character of George Smiley with the reboot of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Although Gary Oldman does a credible George Smiley for me he’ll always look like Alec Guinness from the BBC Mini-Series that follows the John le Carre novel very closely. I was thrilled to see Michael Jago’s The Man Who Was George Smiley: The Life of John Bingham

Jim Reviews: Revolutionary Russia 1891-1991 – Orlando Figes

How about a little Russian Revolution on Christmas Eve? Ok maybe not every ones first choice for the night before Christmas but at some point you should really check this one out (briefly tried to do a Russian Revolution themed lyrics to Night Before Christmas but it did not work). Books on the Revolution can be a little dense but if you want to read one that isn’t check out Figes’ Revolutionary Russia.

Jim Reviews: Open Cockpit – Arthur Lee

You might remember this title from my post Jim’s Bedside Table. Well it isn’t on the table any more. I read it over the holiday and really enjoyed it. Open Cockpit by Arthur Gould Lee (Sadly we don’t own a copy of the book. However I’m working to fix that) is the memoir of a World War I pilot.

Jim Reviews: Japanese Destroyer Captain – Tameichi Hara

I picked this book up simply because it was the only time I had seen a history of World War II told from the perspective of the Japanese. What I hadn’t realized is Hara’s Japanese Destroyer Captain was actually a much older book. It was originally published in the 1960s as Hara tried to help a younger generation of Japanese understand the war. The book I picked up was a 2011 reprint.

Jim Reviews: Marbeck and the Double-Dealer – John Pilkington

England has been in a nearly constant state of war with Spain for years, the Queen might be getting a little fuzzy between the ears and her spy service has a mole. Robert Cecil Jr, Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, calls in Marbeck aka John Sand. Cecil does this reluctantly since he considers Marbeck a loose canon and, to use his expression, a coxcomb but he knows Marbeck is loyal at least.

Jim Reviews: A Great and Glorious Adventure – Gordon Corrigan

Like many people, I first read about the Hundred Years War in Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (which I got totally by accident because I mixed the title up with A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America which I was supposed to read for a college class), a hefty tome that takes you through all the four horsemen of the apocalypse as they ride across 14th century Europe.