Mack, Stan. Taxes, the Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels: A History in Comics of the American Revolution.

NY: NBM Publishing, 1994.

I can’t help it, I’m always a little suspicious of books that attempt to impart serious nonfictional material to younger readers in a “cartoon” format. It’s so easy to talk down and to err on the side of froth.


Published in: on 6 October 2018 at 7:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Miller, Madeline. The Song of Achilles.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2011.

This was Miller’s first historical novel set in the ancient world and it made her noteworthy almost overnight. Her subject is the Western world’s oldest piece of fiction — Homer’s Iliad. The tragic hero of the ten-year war between the Greek states and Troy is Achilles, aristos achaion, the best of the Greeks, and his story is told by Patroclus, exiled son of the bitter King Menoitius.


Novik, Naomi. His Majesty’s Dragon.

NY: Ballantine, 2006.

I’d been aware of this fantasy series set during the Napoleonic wars, but to be honest, I had sort of deliberately avoided it. I’m a lifelong fan of naval adventure stories set in that period, having discovered my father’s shelf of Hornblower novels at an early age. I’ve read very literally several hundred novels by several dozen authors about the Royal Navy at the turn of the 18th century, and I’m picky about authenticity of detail. But I recently read Uprooted, a standalone fantasy novel by the same author and greatly enjoyed it, so I decided I ought to give this earlier work a fair chance. And I have to say, it doesn’t disappoint.


Tchaikovsky, Adrian. Children of Time.

NY: Macmijllan, 2015.

Generally, a science fiction author will write a high-concept novel brimming over with speculative science and technical what-ifs, or he will write dramatic, cinematic, headlong space opera, but not usually both at once. Tchaikovsky manages it very nicely and very successfully, which is why this one won the Clarke Award. It’s not only an epic story, it’s two epics in parallel. The result is a story that is exciting, intellectually engrossing, and a galloping adventure, all at once.


Hayward, James. Myths & Legends of the Second World War.

Thrup, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 2003.

The heroic evacuation from Dunkirk, the British stiff upper lip during the dark days of the Blitz, the willingness of British civilians to give shelter to refugees from the Continent — those are all a matter of history, right? Not so much, as it turns out. The BEF was horribly under-trained and ill-equipped to deal with the invading Germans and there were many units who threw down their weapons and sprinted for the beach. What we would now recognize as PTSD was a major problem during the bombing of London and so was the black market, and so was theft from bodies in bombed houses. And most British wanted no part of non-English-speakers fleeing from Hitler — especially if they were Jews.


Published in: on 24 July 2018 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bui, Thi. The Best We Could Do.

NY: Abrams, 2017.

This is one of most affecting graphic novels I’ve read in some time. It’s actually a memoir (the library classifies it in U.S. history), detailing the author/artist’s birth in Vietnam three months before the end of the American war there and her flight with her family as one of the Boat People in 1978.


Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

I was aware that one of Egan’s previous novels had won a Pulitzer, and that the others had all been shortlisted for one major award or another, but somehow, I hadn’t actually gotten around to reading any of them until now. But I’m a sucker for a good historical, and this one is set on the Brooklyn home front during World War II, and it’s extremely well written.


Penny, Louise. The Nature of the Beast.

NY: St. Martin, 2015.

This is number eleven in the series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete, one of the most recognizable cops in Canada (he’s often in the papers) and now retired to the tiny, off-the-map village of Three Pines, down near the Vermont border. And this one includes a large swath of genuine history that most people, even most Canadians, have never heard of before.


Thomsen, Brian M. & Martin H. Greenberg (eds). A Date Which Will Live in Infamy: An Anthology of Pearl Harbor Stories That Might Have Been.

Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2001.

As a working archivist & historian for fifty years, and a science fiction junkie for rather longer than that, I’ve always been a sucker for the alternate history yarn. Change one tiny, believable thing and what are the consequences? (And the tinier and more mundane the change, the better.) The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has long been a popular “point of departure,” if only because what actually happened seems like such a confluence of coincidence and serendipity in retrospect. The Japanese basically caught every good break it was possible to catch.


Hill, Paul. The Anglo-Saxons at War, 800-1066.

Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen & Sword, 2012.

Ever since doing my undergrad history degree in the 1960s, I’ve had a strong and continuing interest in both the early medieval period and in pre-gunpowder military history, so I was pleased to happen upon this well-written work by a noted expert in both subjects. Hill is a well-known lecturer and past curator of the Anglo-Saxon museum at Kingston-upon-Thames, where a number of the Saxon kings were crowned, and he’s produced several previous volumes on closely related topics.


Published in: on 14 February 2018 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment