Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum


Did something a little different this week and bought a book from an actual bookshop! The mrs wanted to pick something up so while I was in there with her this caught my eye. Fascinating read. Really enjoyable. And yet at the same time tragic and depressing. Reading through it took me back to our trip a couple of years ago to Berlin and the DDR museum there. This book provided not only an insight in to the world behind the Iron Curtain but more importantly how it came about.

Stephen and Matilda by Jim Bradbury


A little known period of history this time. Perhaps the first civil war in our country’s history this 14 year period known as The Anarchy. Usually it gets overlooked as we leap from William the Conqueror to Henry II but this is the conflict that brought the latter to power. This book provides a good understanding of what 12th century warfare was really like – slow going sieges rather than pitched battles. At times it reads a little bit too much like a phd thesis but that doesn’t make it unreadable.

Thomas Becket by John Guy


Another familiar story – who hasn’t heard about the murdered Archbishop? – but once again a book that helps to flesh out the details. Covers not just Becket’s early life but also gives an assessment of the feud with Henry II and outlines what happened – without descending in to hagiography. In the end it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that this was simply a battle of wills between two incredibly stubborn individuals.

The Scourging Angel by Benedict Gummer


A great overview of the Black Death. Not only does it contain lots of details about the effect it had on Britain and Ireland – sometimes too much detail to be honest – but it also includes some really interesting asides about life in the medieval world. Meticulously researched it really does show the impact the disease had on the country. I also found the argument that it merely accelerated, rather than fundamentally created, the decline of agriculture and feudalism in certain areas really interesting.

Summer of Blood by Dan Jones


An interesting overview of the Peasant’s Revolt. Provided lots of interesting details and outlined what else went on outside of the familiar narrative. For all that though it’s not a book to live long in the memory – a short, quick read which certainly adds to my knowledge of events but didn’t offer anything groundbreaking on the subject. Not that I expected it to.

Inside The Peloton by Nicolas Roche


Following in the footsteps of a famous father can’t be easy. Nicolas Roche has that issue. He confronts it head on and discusses it openly in his autobiography. Mostly it’s formed from a serious of diary entries he wrote as columns for an Irish newspaper. The rest of the chapters help to fill in the blanks and give some context. The newspaper columns are far and away the best bit – they are candid and refreshing to see exactly how Roche thought and felt on those days.

A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes


Took me a while this book. It’s dense. In a good way. So much history and so much detail crammed in to each and every page. Some books you can skim read and still know where you are. This one you had to pay attention constantly or risk missing out on a major point. Fantastically well researched and really is a comprehensive overview of the Russian revolution. At times it was uncomfortable reading – there was nothing pleasant about it at all – but then again the job of the historian is not to sugar coat it.