An American Editor

April 15, 2015

On Today’s Bookshelf (XXI)

My acquisition of new titles to read never ends. I keep thinking I need to stop and put the money I spend on books into my retirement account. But books have a special allure and I find nothing is as relaxing as sitting in my recliner reading a well-written and well-edited book (and nothing as frustrating as starting a poorly written or edited book :)).

Here is a list of some of the hardcovers and ebooks that I am reading or acquired and added to my to-be-read pile since the last On Today’s Bookshelf post, including some children’s books:

Nonfiction –

  • The Wandering Who: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics by Gilad Atzmo
  • Blood in the Snow, Blood on the Grass: Treachery, Torture, Murder and Massacre – France 1944 by Douglas Boyd
  • The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman
  • The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV by Anne Somerset
  • Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset
  • Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades by Jonathan Phillips
  • The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople by Jonathan Phillips
  • The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce by Hallie Rubenhold
  • The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71, The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, and To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne (trilogy)
  • Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman
  • Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire by Robin Waterfield
  • The Bolter by Frances Osborne
  • Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn
  • Dickens’s England: Life in Victorian Times by R.E. Pritchard
  • The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley
  • Saint-Exupéry: A Biography by Stacy Schiff
  • The Black Death in London by Barney Sloane
  • The Cradle King: The Life of James VI and I, the First Monarch of a United Great Britain by Alan Stewart
  • Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford
  • A Woman of Courage on the West Virginia Frontier: Phebe Tucker Cunningham by Robert N. Thompson
  • Jamestown Experiment: The Remarkable Story of the Enterprising Colony and the Unexpected Results That Shaped America by Tony Williams
  • American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit by Paula Uruburu
  • Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich
  • 1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies

Fiction –

  • Twist by Dannika Dark
  • The Clockwork Dagger: A Novel by Beth Cato
  • Fatal Enquiry, Some Danger Involved, and The Black Hand by Will Thomas (3 books)
  • The Sword Dancer Series (Sword Dancer, Sword Singer, Sword Maker, Sword Breaker, Sword Born, Sword Sworn, and Sword Bound) by Jennifer Roberson (7 books)
  • Forbidden, Mortal, and Sovereign by Ted Dekker (trilogy)
  • The Legend of Eli Monpress series (The Spirit Eater, The Spirit Rebellion, The Spirit Thief, The Spirit War, and Spirit’s End) by Rachel Aaron (5 books)
  • Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina
  • Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen
  • Dead Like You and Dead Man’s Footsteps by Peter James (2 books)
  • Snow Wolf by Glenn Meade

Children’s Books –

Now that I have grandchildren, I try to keep an eye out for good books for them, both for now and for the future. A series I have been buying for them and that I highly recommend is Brad Meltzer’s “I am …” series. So far the titles are:

  • I am Albert Einstein
  • I am Rosa Parks
  • I am Amelia Earhart
  • I am Abraham Lincoln
  • I am Jackie Robinson
  • I am Lucille Ball
  • I am Helen Keller

Other children’s books that I have bought/preordered include:

  • Find King Henry’s Treasure: Touch the Art by Julie Appel & Amy Guglielmo
  • Crankee Doodle by Tom Angelberger
  • Time for a Bath by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
  • The Princess and the Peas and Carrots by Harriet Ziefert
  • Backstage Cat by Harriet Ziefert
  • Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants by Giles Andreae & Korky Paul
  • The Chandeliers: The World-Famous Giraffe Family Appearing Tonight and Every Night! by Vincent X. Kirsch
  • Look! Seeing the Light in Art by Gillian Wolfe
  • This Book Is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions by Kelli Anderson

It’s never too early to start children on the path to literacy, so building a children’s library makes sense to me. Besides, there is great joy in having a grandchild sit on my lap and “read” along with me. Just as books are an adventure for me, so books are an adventure for children. Certainly much better than staring at a TV or computer screen.

For previous listings of books I’ve acquired, see previous On Today’s Bookshelf essays.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


  1. I’m interested to know what you think of Stacy Schiff’s book. I tried to read her Cleopatra: A Life, but just could not get past her writing style.


    Comment by Mary Tod — April 15, 2015 @ 9:09 am | Reply

    • I haven’t read the book yet. It is buried deep in the pile. I am currently reading The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War by Dick Lehr and The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent in Scandal by Hubert Wolf (Ruth Martin, Translator), both of which are excellent. The Wolf book got mediocre reviews, but I am enjoying it. The Lehr book is particularly well-written and interesting. It is the story of the conflict between D.W. Griffith and Monroe Trotter over the movie “The Birth of a Nation” and its racism. It is also the story of the conflict between Trotter and Booker T. Washington and how to approach civil rights. The Wolf book is interesting to me because of the Inquisition, which was still a going entity in the 19th century. As soon as I finish one of these books, next to be read is Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women by Sarah Helm and KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps by Nikolaus Wachsmann (Ravensbruck I have in my pile, KL is supposed to arrive in the next week or so.) I don’t know when I’ll get to Cleopatra.


      Comment by americaneditor — April 15, 2015 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

      • Actually, your chosen book by this author was Saint-Exupery: A Biography. But recognizing her name as one I wanted to avoid, I thought I’d ask whether you had read any other books by her, or if you were already into this one whether you had formed an opinion about her writing. I had been eager to read her earlier book on Cleopatra, but after putting in the effort to get through 100+ pages, I just could not continue with it. The story of Cleopatra’s life was not told in any logical form and jumped from event to event (and not in chronological order) without much to link them, so that on every page I felt like I was reading tiny nuggets of information that had not been put together into a cohesive thought. I could not find a thread to allow me to follow her life events or reasons for anything that she did, and it has definitely put me off reading anything else by Stacy Schiff.

        I do enjoy perusing your TBR lists for titles that sound interesting, and I regularly share the list with a friend.


        Comment by Mary Tod — April 15, 2015 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

        • I haven’t read either of these two books by Stacy Schiff yet, although I do have both. I have read Stacy Schiff’s A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. I thought the writing was okay but not great, which is one reason why I am not in a rush to read either Cleopatra or Saint-Exupery. Additionally, I have read much better books on Franklin, particularly Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. On Cleopatra, you might try Antony and Cleopatra by Adrian Goldsworthy.


          Comment by americaneditor — April 15, 2015 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  2. Rich, I always enjoy taking a look at your latest book acquisition list, especially the nonfiction titles. I share your interest in books on World War I, and have accumulated several stacks of those myself. I just finished To End All Wars, by Adam Hochschild, a fascinating look at various (primarily British) figures and their activities in opposition to the Great War, and the folly of those promoted it. I recommend that one if you haven’t already got it. I also highly recommend Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? by David Fromkin—probably akin in some ways to the book 1913, which you have on your list. I loved The Heir Apparent on Edward VII, also on your list—the author had access to some newly available sources and this contemporary biography is welcome. And for the grandchildren: my daughter (who just turned 30 and is getting married next week!) adored poetry books by Mary Ann Hoberman, read by me or anyone she could corral, and just delightful, and very memorizable (to coin a word, perhaps). Best to you and yours; hope spring is awakening where you are.


    Comment by Marian Rogers, Ithaca, NY — April 15, 2015 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  3. Rich, I also enjoy your reading lists. Thanks for posting them. The list of children’s books is an added bonus! I was a librarian in different types of libraries and love books. I never had children but am now fortunate to have oodles of great-nieces and great-nephews. Their Christmas presents are always books. The kids know their aunt is sending them a book, and they all seem to appreciate that. At least, the thank you notes that I receive imply they look forward to them! I’ll be perusing your list for recommendations. Thank you.


    Comment by Dee H-W — April 16, 2015 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  4. I also enjoy your reading lists and the sheer diversity in them! Most of the time I haven’t read or even heard of the books you mention, but that just gives me more inspiration for new things to read. However, I have read nearly all of the Sword Dancer series (I haven’t read the last one yet), and it’s one of my favorites.


    Comment by willowtreecopyediting — April 19, 2015 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

    • I finished the Sword Dancer series (except the newest one) a couple of weeks ago. I, too, enjoyed them. It will be interesting to see what happens with to Tiger now that he has taken back the magic and broken the sword that had contained it.


      Comment by americaneditor — April 20, 2015 @ 5:03 am | Reply

  5. Richard, in the last years I’ve benefited a great deal from your “On Today’s Bookshelf” posts. I always visit your blog just to have a look at your book selections and maybe pick something up, with excellent results so far.
    Thanks for sharing your preferences!


    Comment by Pablo Lioi, Rosario, Argentina — April 20, 2015 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

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