Some books that I read and liked over the last year…
The Future is History, Masha Gessen. Russia during the last days of Communism, during the transitional age, and under Putinism, viewed through the personal stories of numerous individuals.
On Tangled Paths, Theodor Fontane. The author has been called “The Jane Austen of Germany.” In this novel, it is the *male* protagonist who is under pressure to marry into money to save his family from financial disaster. Good character development and a vivid portrayal of Berlin in the 1870s
The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty, Caroline Alexander. The famous mutiny, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath. A much more favorable interpretation of Captain Bligh’s character than the usual view.
Red Star Under the Baltic, Victor Korzh. Memoirs of a Soviet submarine commander who served in a little-known theater of WWII. The author writes largely from an engineering perspective, and in addition to combat episodes he describes the remarkable efforts that were necessary to keep the submarine in operating condition–including such things as repurposing the bow thruster drives, while at sea, to replace the failed stern thruster drive system.
Born Fighting: How the Scotts-Irish shaped America, James Webb. Some interesting history and perspectives. It’s worthwhile to read this book in conjunction with Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals.
A Vagabond Journey Around the World, Harry Franck. In 1904, this recent college graduate decided to travel around the world starting with no money at all. (He modified this plan to carry enough cash to pay for photographic supples.) Very interesting, though long. Franck made and wrote about numerous other trips, including a 1930s visit to the Soviet Union which he documented in A Vagabond in Sovietland.
A World on Edge: The End of the Great War and the Dawn of a New Age, Daniel Schoenpflug. The author paints the environment in the immediate aftermath of the War by telling the stories of individuals ranging from Harry Truman, Ferdinand Foch, Crown Prince Willhelm of Prussia, Arnold Schönberg, Kathe Kollwitz, Walter Gropius, and Ho Chi Min to many lesser-known individuals such as a former sailor of the German Navy and a Cossack woman named Marina Yurlova.
Tragedy & Challenge: An Inside View of UK Engineering’s Decline, Tom Brown. The problems and fate of British manufacturing companies, as seen by an individual with extensive experience as an executive and board member. There’s a review here.
The Tyrant’s Daughter, J C Carleson. Fifteen-year-old Laila lived a privileged life in her unnamed Middle Eastern country, where her father was absolute ruler. Then he was killed in a coup, and she escapes with her mother and brother to a suburb of Washington DC…where she faces both the problems of fitting in at her new school and the haunting question of whether her father was indeed the monster that he is portrayed by the American news media. This is positioned as a YA (teenager) book, but is IMO also good reading for adults. The author is a former CIA agent.
Several more, which I may review individually and/or in a future batch.
I’m currently reading a novel of the American Revolution called Celia Garth, which I learned about from a discussion at Bookworm. It was highly recommended by Sgt Mom, among others. I’m really liking it so far.