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This is sort of a two-for-one thing, and here’s why. I recently read A Vision of Fire, the first book Earthend Saga, primarily written by Gillian Anderson. Yes, that Gillian Anderson. As in the brilliant and beautiful Agent Dana Scully from The X Files. In addition to her many other talents she is also a first rate storyteller. A Vision of Fire had a compelling storyline and was replete with strong, three dimensional female characters. It was a pleasure to read (hopefully I’ll get around to a full review of it sometime soon here) and I am looking forward to digging into the second and third books in the series.
2. Kate Atkinson, Life after Life
I was just rereading Atkinson’s Case Histories the other day. For those of you out there who dig detective fiction I recommend this as something of an overlooked gem. Ok, the BBC did make a series out of it, but Case Histories still doesn’t get the kind of play that other figures in the genre seem to. One of my colleagues described Life after Life to me as “an extremely weird book” which I took as kind of a challenge. If you look at other books that I’ve reviewed here you will correctly deduce that this isn’t the kind of think I normally read, but Atkinson writes absolutely beautiful prose and has a knack for constructing complicated and engaging stories. As I understand it, A God in Ruins is also supposed to be stellar, but we’ll take this one step at a time.
3. Steven S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong, Concrete Economics
http://delong.typepad.com/) is funny, and sometimes it’s kind of wonkish, but it’s generally pretty easy to read and he cuts through a lot of the baloney that you hear in the media about how the economy works. The subtitle of this book is “The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy” which I think means he’s going to talk about Alexander Hamilton. I must be some kind of nerd, because that makes it sound very attractive to me.
4. Jacqueline Riding, The Jacobites: A New History of The ’45 Rebellion
Who doesn’t love a good lost cause? I know I do. The Jacobites were the sort of last gasp of old school English Catholicism. Having been chased out of the country by the rise of English Protestantism, the former Stuart rulers hung out on the continent and nursed plans to recover their power. The rebellion that started in 1745 ended in catastrophe at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 when the power of the Scottish highland clans was decisively crushed on a moor near Inverness. Riding is a former curator of the Palace of Westminster and is about as well informed about his period of British history as it is possible to be. This is a longish book (right around 500 pages) but it is definitely near the top of my stack.
5. Simon Schama, The Face of Britain: A History of Britain through Its Portraits
Schama’s multivolume History of Britain is one of the most entertaining and engaging historical works you’re ever likely to read. Those familiar with Schama’s work will know that he tends to write tomes that are both intellectually and physically weighty. Citizens, the book about the French Revolution that made his name is nearly 1000 pages long, while The Embarrassment of Riches is hardly shorter at just over 700. The Face of Britain is a mere 500, and there are lots and lots of pictures to give your eyes a rest along the way. Schama writes like he talks, in an easy, unaffected style that is easy to follow and pleasant to read. I might not read this one for a while, as it seems like the kind of thing that one might want to spend some time savoring.
6. Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
This is not what you’d call a new title (it was published in 2013) but I’ve sort of come late to Gaiman’s work and I’m playing catch-up. To be honest, I was never a big fan of his Sandman series, much as I love comics and much as everyone says it’s awesome. But a couple of weeks ago I picked up The View from the Cheap Seats, the recently released collection of Gaiman’s nonfiction writings, off the new books rack here. It is absolutely captivating. I then moved on to his 1998 novel Neverwhere, the first of his fictional works that I’d ever read. Well, now I’m hooked. I’m not worrying too much about reading things in the order that they were released. This book has a very odd looking cover, so I decided to read that one next. On the basis of what I’ve seen so far I expect to enjoy this one as well.
7. Patrick Cockburn, The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East
I read Cockburn’s The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution last year and was impressed. It’s short (only 170 pages or so) but it’s one of the most insightful books on the topic that I’ve ever read. Cockburn’s new book is rather more extensive (300+ pages) but looks to continue Cockburn’s penchant for making what is complex into something comprehensible without oversimplifying.
8. Manuel Gonzales, The Regional Office is Under Attack!
I don’t know a great deal about this book, except that it’s a debut novel and it’s about a group of super-powered female assassins who defend the world from destruction. What’s not to love? A friend of mine read it and can’t stop raving about it. So there you go.
9. Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species
I know nothing about this book. Well, I know two things. Meredith told me the plot of this book the other day and it sounds completely bonkers. Also, Meredith told me (and she’s not the only one) that her writing is a lot like Shirley Jackson’s. I just read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and if this book is on anything like the same level of weird I’m pretty much sold.
10. Charles Stross, The Nightmare Stacks
Have you read any of Stross’s The Laundry Files novels? If you haven’t you really owe it to yourself to check them out. The Nightmare Stacks involves a new twist for the series, as the main character is different. But Stross writes really interesting characters, especially when he’s working in first person. He’s funny, and he has a special understanding of the way that working in a stratified bureaucratic system can drive sensible people nuts. So yes, this book is definitely on my “to be read” pile, but you’d be doing yourself a favor by starting at the beginning of the series.