Here are another five recommendations from the list of books that I have read so far this year. Like last time, these are books that I can actively recommend, either because they kept me reading frantically, or because they were really interesting, if not necessarily easy reads. I make no claims that any of these books is ‘beautifully written’ or may have any literary pretensions, simply that I found them good reads.
1. Are we Rome? by Cullen Murphy. This was fascinating. We are all, I think used to the comparisons between modern Western culture and that of ancient Rome. There is, I think, a certain smugness in the feeling that we are Rome’s successors. However, this book provides a thought provoking and worrying analysis of why Rome collapsed that we can compare with our culture. Well worth the read, even if you don’t agree with the conclusions.
2. Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer. I am always going to include Heyer in this sort of list, because I love her books. This is another of her detective novels, and an early one at that, written in 1933. A classic country house novel, it’s an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
3. The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. I’m always a bit suspicious about crime novels that turn non-detective historical people into detectives. It never seems to ring quite true to me. This one is different. Sigmund Freud on a trip to New York working out whodunnit. A great, page-turning read. And the arguments between Freud and Jung are superb.
4. Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor. Another mystery novel, I’m afraid, and historical one at that. This is set in the 1930s, and has at its heart a rather sad story, which I won’t divulge because it would spoil the plot. It has a nicely complicated plot with numerous layers and twists. Kept me reading.
5. The Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones. There seem to have been a lot of books translated from Spanish lately. This is a straight historical novel set in Barcelona in the mid fourteenth century. It’s not just another plague novel, of which there seem to be one or two about at the moment, but much larger in sweep than that. The translation is good too which always helps.