Raiders of the Nile by Steven Saylor (4)
Wrath of the Furies by Steven Saylor (5)
One of Saylor's first series, The Venus Throw details the intrigues surrounding an Egyptian delegation to Rome and the growing unrest between the Populares and Optimates factions in Rome. Gordianus spends a good deal of time working for the beautiful but (allegedly) debauched Clodia and hobnobbing with her rejected lover Catullus. The denoument is a trial that demonstrates how Roman courts, even more than American or British courts today, were merely another realm for the exposition of politics.
Raiders of the Nile and Wrath of the Furies are two more of the prequel series about Gordianus's early life, set mostly in and around Egypt when he was a young man. In ROTN, he gets invovled in Egyptian banditry and politics (of course) while trying to rescue his beloved Bethesda from kidnappers. In WOTF, he tries to save his old tutor, Antipater of Sidon, from the court of Mithradates the Great, and witnesses a horrific genocide.
I enjoy Saylor's books. I know I can count on him to do his research and to teach me things I didn't know, and while his characters don't have the depth that, say Dorothy Dunnett's do, the stories are still engaging .
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (6) I have to dole out MWT's novels to myself carefully, as the first reading of oneen is a scarce resource to be treasured. This one was no exception. Takign up a character that has appeared before, but only in a supporting role, this book promotes him to protagonist and weaves his colourful thread into the tapestry of geopolitics in the lands of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia. Another unassuming figure, full of doubt, becomes a strong person in his own right. We see more of the Lymond-like Eugenides and the stark, multilayered, complex Irene. The Magus returns, as does Helen, though we see less of her than I might wish.
The Oath of the Five Lords by Yves Sente and André Juillard (7) A bit of a potboiler cloak and dagger graphic novel, continuing characters created by Edgar P. Jacobs. I picked it because I wanted to try more graphic novels using the ligne claire technique made famous by Hergé. A friend gave me this for my birthday, and I quite enjoyed it; it's on the level of a Tintin novel for depth and complexity.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. (8) Surely one of the great classic spy novels, perhaps the classic of the Cold War era. The book that introduced the word "mole" (in its espionage meaning) to the Western media. Though some of le Carré's books may be more famous (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, perhaps), it is only a matter of degree. I love this book not just for its thriller quality but for the true feeling that it gives all of its many characters. These don't feel like characters in a plot fulfilling their roles in an obedient manner, but real people, unidealized, faulty and (sometimes consciously) broken, reacting in realistic ways.
With Zeal and Bayonets Only by Matthew Spring
The Philadelphia Campaign: Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia by Thomas J. McGuire
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Queen Victoria's Book of Spells Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy
Little, Big by John Crowley
Eastward to Tartary by Robert B. Kaplan
Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid