Here is a list of some of the books that I am reading (or acquired or preordered and added to my to-be-read pile since the last On Today’s Bookshelf post) either in hardcover or in ebook form:
- A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life by Arnold Weinstein
- The Borgias and Their Enemies by Christopher Hibbert
- The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale
- American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott
- Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865 by James B. Conroy
- A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 by G.J. Meyer
- Stalin’s Genocides by Norman M. Naimark
- Plotting Hitler’s Death by Joachim Fest
- An Artist in Treason by Ando Linklater
- Imperial Spain 1469-1716 by J.H. Elliott
- The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century by Jurgen Osterhammel
- The Road to Black Ned’s Forge by Turk McCleskey
- Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language by Steven Pinker
- The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
- Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad by William Craig
- Tears in the Darkness by Elizabeth Norman and Michael Norman
- The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham
- Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson
- The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World by Lincoln Paine
- Blood Libel and Its Derivatives: The Scourge of Anti-Semitism by Raphael Israeli
- Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre by Jonathan Israel
- The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
- Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights 1750-1790 by Jonathan Israel
- Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752 by Jonathan Israel
- Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 by Jonathan Israel
- The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen
- A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming
- Darkfire by C.J. Sansom
- The Innocent by Ian McEwan
- The Oracle Glass by Judith Merkle Riley
- Final Witness by Simon Tolkien
- Red Cell by Mark Henshaw
- Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell
- The Devil’s Elixir by Raymond Khoury
- HHhH by Laurent Binet
- Limits of Power by Elizabeth Moon
- The Street Philosopher by Matthew Plampin
- Beautiful Assassin by Michael White
- The Director: A Novel by David Ignatius
- Eye for an Eye by Ben Coes
- A Journeyman to Grief by Maureen Jennings
As you can see, much of my summer has been spent acquiring (or preordering) and reading nonfiction books.
I am particularly looking forward to reading the last three in the nonfiction list (the trilogy by Jonathan Israel). The books have been favorably commented on several times in the past few months by reviewers in reviews of Israel’s newest book, Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre, which I also purchased. Unfortunately, that book wasn’t so well reviewed and had I read the reviews before purchasing the book, I might have thought twice about buying it. But now that I own it, I will eventually read it and decide for myself.
One of the books on the list that I am currently reading is The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham. Although I have not quite finished reading the book, I can whole-heartedly recommend it. It is a fascinating look at censorship in the United States during and following World War I and how federal and state governments turned over the role of censor to private antivice groups.
Of even greater interest to me is the revelation of how Joyce was perceived by his contemporaries. Ulysses, a book I have never thought much of, was considered by many, including Sylvia Beach, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, to name just a few, to be the greatest written work of all time. And Joyce received patronage to enable him to write. One admirer gave him what would be £1,000,000 today to sustain him as he wrote.
In many ways, Joyce was a tragic figure. Were he writing today, I doubt that he would have had the support he was given then. But it is worth reading how Ulysses was suppressed, was smuggled into the United States, and, ultimately, with the backing of Bennett Cerf, founder of Random House, was found not to be obscene. If you read just one book about books this year, this should be the book.
What are you reading? Do you have any recommendations to share?
Richard Adin, An American Editor