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Dark Star by Alan Furst (32) Another excellent story by the master of WWII espionage novels. In this story, a Soviet journalist, already working for Russian intelligence services, gets caught in an internecine struggle between power brokers in Stalin's court. As always, atmospheric, realistic, depressing, but somewhat hopeful.

Wilson by A. Scott Berg (33) So much to say about this. The briefest of reviews for now is that I read (listened to this in order to get a corrective for the negative opinion I'd formed of Wilson by reading books about his progressive rival Theodore Roosevelt. Suffice to say that I got a much clearer, more three-dimensional, more human and sympathetic view of him, and that where I disliked him before I now thoroughly detest him. Wilson was, it seems without dobut, brilliant, charismatic, thoughtful, and a man of deep religious and moral principles who was also an arrogant, selfish, racist egomaniac with a messiah complex.

Master and God by Lindsey Davis (34) One of Davis's historical novels *not* in her M. Didius Falco detective line. This tells the story of two ordinary but extradordinary Romans associated with the Imperial court during the reign of the Emperor Domitian whose lives weave back and forth, closely then far apart, then closer together again. Davis really knows how to write about the relationship of two specific people; whenever she looks at a man and a woman closely, they seem to be the same man and woman. But they're interesting people and well written, so it doesn't bother me much.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett (35) I've been of two minds about Terry Pratchett ever sinve I first read Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, an author whose work is nothing short of brilliant in my opinion. The impression I got from that was of someone whose work resembled that of Tom Holt or Douglas Adams but was a little too pleased with himself to be as dry and funny (IMO) as good as Adams. This was reinforced by what a number of friends who were fans of Pratchett praised about his work. I do adore Richard Coyle, however, so when I saw he had starred in an adaptation of Pratchett's Going Postal, I watched it and loved it. Then I met Melissa Running, who is a huge Pratchett fan but willing to admit that his early work...has a lot of what I had seen and that was putting me off. She suggested that I try Small Gods, and while there is, even here, a bit of the smugness and relentlessly broad humour that I find a bit wearing about Pratchett, I have to say that on the whole I quite enjoyed it. I've also dipped into the copy of Raising Steam that JMR has been reading and look forward to reading it once she is done. So I guess you can count me as a Pratchett fan now. :-)

Deryni Rising, Deryni Checkmate, High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz (36, 37, 38) Sometimes we re-read the books we loved decades ago, and sometimes they reward our loyalty. And, then, sometimes they don't. I don't know how much time I want to spend cataloging the things that I found annoying about Kurtz's first Deryni trilogy when I re-read it this year, but let's just say I won't be going on to re-read any more of her work.

Heaven's Net Is Wide, Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow by Lian Hearn (39, 40, 41) I first saw some of Lian Hern's books when Melissa Kuhnell was happily devouring them, but only recently, when I wnet on a little spree buying feudal-Japanese-y novels secondhand did I pick up what, it turns out, is the final book in this series but also a prequel to it. So, unbeknownst, I started out with both the last book and the first. And I loved it. Where I found the pictures of (historical) feudal Japan that I.J. Parker and Laura Joh Rowland wrote contrived and like a Westerner's fantasy visison of what Japanese characters would do and say, Hearn's (though not even purporting to be a historical tale) convinces the reader (or at least this one) a great deal more of its authenticity. Hearn spent a good teal of time living in and studying Japan, and as a result her characters ring true to a much greater degree than Rowland's or Parker's; they feel as if they had stepped out of one of Kurosawa's chanbara.

One Man Great Enough: Abraham Lincoln's Road to Civil War by John C. Waugh (42) A semi-biography of Lincoln, this book covers his early life and political career up to his election as president. It's a fascinating look, among other things, at life on the frontier, or near-frontier during the decades before the Civil War. It stretches the mind a bit to imagine places that are now settled territory with millions of inhabitants as small, isolated communities with only hundreds or thousands of inhabitants. Reading about the practice of circuit-riding, for instance, where not only the judges and clerks but the entire cadre of local lawyers would travel around the district together, staying in the same lodging houses and eating and socializing together everywhere along the way was fascinating. The author does a good job of suggesting some of the early influences on Lincoln's character while leaving it quite clear how much of his pilosophy of justice, government, and person ethics were the creation of his own powerful, distinctive, and remarkable mind.

War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 by James M. McPherson (43) McPherson is one of the acknowledged masters of American Civil War history, especially military history, so it seemed like a no-brainer to pick the recording of this book for addition to my commute-listening. It was a great choice; he describes not only the events and the broad patterns of the war, but he brings a good many characters to life who served in the navies of both sides, and he does a capable job of exploring some of the complicated non-military topics (like the diplomatic implications of blocakdes) that bear on the naval war as well as doing the same with the military ones. Like most good military history books, it made me reach for my simulation library and see what was available. As a result, I'm hoping that my friend Mr Invisible and I will get a chance to play GMT's Rebel Raiders on the High Seas before too long.

I think that covers it... Were I to finish the other books I have at some point started that I'm still keeping track of, I'd blow through the 50 barrier. I'm not sure I'll finish all of them, but I think I'll hit 50 before the end of the year.

In Progress

Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by Julian Thompson
Queen Victoria's Book of Spells Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
1914: The Days of Hope by Lyn MacDonald
Learn Python the Hard Way by Zed A. Shaw
Think Python: How To Think Like a Computer Scientist by Allen B. Downey
Statistics Topics by Salil Mehta
The Somme by Robin Prior and Trevor Williams
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2015: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
Crisis on the Danube: Napoleon’s Austrian Campaign of 1809 by James R. Arnold
McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales edited by Michael Chabon
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy
Boer Commando by Denneys Reitz
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Other New York: The American Revolution Beyond New York City Ed. by Joseph S. Tiedemann and Eugene R. Fingerhut


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