Jim Recommends: Russian Spies and Packing for your Crusade

A Single Spy by William Christie.

This book was inspired by my reading of Legacy of Spies. Set during World War II rather than the Cold War and Russians vs Germans rather than Russians/Germans vs English, it is a very different book from Legacy of Spies but very in enjoyable.

Aleksi Ivanovich Smirnov, an orphan and a thief, has been living by his wits and surviving below the ever-watchful eye of the Soviet system until his luck finally runs out. In 1936, at the age of 16, Aleksi is caught by the NKVD and transported to Moscow. There, in the notorious headquarters of the secret police, he is given a choice: be trained and inserted as a spy into Nazi Germany under the identity of his best friend, the long lost nephew of a high ranking Nazi official, or disappear forever in the basement of the Lubyanka. For Aleksi, it’s no choice at all

How to Plan a Crusade: Religious War in the High Middle Ages by Christopher Tyerman.

My interest in this book was peaked by my reading of God’s Wolf: The Life Of The Most Notorious Of All Crusaders, Scourge of Saladin. I also found the idea of focusing on just the logistics of moving an army from Europe to the Levant in a pre-industrial world fascinating. Sadly this book just came out and we don’t own a copy of this book yet but stay tuned!

The story of the wars and conquests initiated by the First Crusade and its successors is itself so compelling that most accounts move quickly from describing the Pope’s calls to arms to the battlefield. In this highly original and enjoyable new book, Christopher Tyerman focuses on something obvious but overlooked: the massive, all-encompassing and hugely costly business of actually preparing a crusade. The efforts of many thousands of men and women, who left their lands and families in Western Europe, and marched off to a highly uncertain future in the Holy Land and elsewhere have never been sufficiently understood. Their actions raise a host of compelling questions about the nature of medieval society