Becoming Charlemagne by Jeff Sypeck

The farther you go into history, the more interesting things become. I’ve been teaching Medieval world history to seventh graders for nearly two decades now.  So I know a bit about it, but I’m very far from an expert.  Which is one reason why I like to read a book of history now and then….

Nothing to Envy: Love, Life and Death in North Korea by Babara Demick

While I enjoyed Babara Demick’s book, and found the stories in it compelling and enlightening, a picture she features on page one tells so much that it remains the single starkest image I take from reading Nothing to Envy.  I’ve included it towards the bottom of this review.  You might want to scroll down and…

HHhH by Laurent Binet

Is it insulting to turn a real person into a character in a book? The nature of historical fiction and the inherent trustworthiness of it is foregrounded in HHhH by Laurent Binet.  Mr. Binet wants to tell the story of two men, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík,  who carried out an assassination attempt on the life…

My New Favorite Book: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I confess–I thought this books was going to be about Lincoln in France or in a French hotel or neighborhood, maybe in New Orleans. So I wasn’t all that anxious to read it.  Plus, it’s historical fiction which I’m frankly a bit biased against. But it looked like a quick read and since I needed…

My New Favorite Book: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

The story opens with a corpse. A soldier’s body being prepared for burial in the then frontier state of Missouri circa 1855. So I should not have been surprised by how violent the rest of the book was. But I had never really considered just how much violence was involved in the beginning years of…