Empires of the Dead by David Crane


“You should read Empires of the Dead” was the text I got one evening. There was a show on TV for the Samuel Johnson prize shortlist. Not one to turn down a recommendation I grabbed it on Amazon (other booksellers are available, you know, if you want to pay more) and read through it in one night. To say I never knew the story behind the war graves makes it sound like I’d even really considered there was a story behind them. And I think that’s one of the great things about great books – they make you think about things in a new way and look at the way from a different perspective.

The Man on Devil’s Island by Ruth Harris


I’ve been reading a lot about French history recently. And one of the things that kept cropping up in the background was Dreyfus. I knew a little about it from my university course but not much detail. This book details not just the trials and the issues around Dreyfus the man but also all the other people connected to the controversy. Lots of people got involved at some stage or another on both sides of the debate – it really did tear French society apart for years and the aftermath lingered for a long time. A very thorough overview of the whole affair.

The General by Jonathan Fenby


Charles de Gaulle is a figure that looms over twentieth century history. As a proud Englishman I think it’s just genetics that makes me dislike him! He was tall, he was French and he was a bit annoying/aloof. This book didn’t dispel any of those thoughts but it did flesh out some of the other things he got up to. It was an amazing life from a complicated character.

Constellation of Genius by Kevin Jackson


I had no idea so much happened in 1922. Kevin Jackson argues that this was the year that modernism was born. We follow the year, diary format, going through every major event that took place – political, economic, literary, artistic, and more. It was absolutely fascinating. So many incredible talents, So many important events. I learned a lot and it inspired me to go away and learn more about the people and things he spoke about. Perhaps some of them will appear in this blog?

The Watchers by Stephen Alford


So far I’ve read almost 40 books, I’ve liked each and every one of them in one way or another. Some more than others. Some entirely. Some only slightly. I guess I’ve been lucky that it took until now to meet a book I wasn’t that fond of. It’s not that The Watchers is bad. It’s not – although the writing style isn’t for me. It’s mostly that I felt there was something more interesting, more exciting, and more involved lurking behind the stories in this book. I always wanted to know more and instead was left frustrated.