In the summer I wrote a post about what I had been reading. I really liked writing it as it forced me to reflect, plus it proved quite popular on Twitter. As a result I’ve decided to make it a more regular feature. So this September and October I have mostly been reading…
Rory Maclean – Berlin: Imagine A City
I like history to be about people and Maclean uses this technique to tell the story of Berlin from the perspective of 21 of its inhabitants. Some you will know (Marlene Dietrich, Christopher Isherwood), some you won’t, but this makes it more enjoyable. He readily admits at the end that he writes parts of it as a novel so for die hard historians it might not be for you, but if you love a story, you’ll like this and Berlin has a story like no other. A clever, history come historical fiction narrative of the greatest city in Europe.
John Le Carré – The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
As I am sure you can tell, I have an obsession with Berlin. Following Maclean’s book I wanted to stay there, so I decided to read this as Maclean mentions it more than once or twice in his book. I do like a thriller and this is really classic. It has a great ‘sense of period’ and is genuinely gripping from the first page. I intend to read more in this series.
Catherine Johnson – Sawbones
I really like reading kids’ fiction. Often it’s easy when I am tired and it gives me ideas of how to use it in the classroom – although this is something I have never mastered. Each year I attempt to read the winner of the Historical Association’s Young Quills prize and this year was no different, hence I read Sawbones. Johnson’s book is set in late 18th century (my favourite historical period) London and follows a suregon’s apprentice as he tries to solve a crime. It’s got loads about the history of medicine and is a gripping little yarn. I am determined to recommend it to Year 10 when we get to this bit of the SHP GCSE course.
Caroline Moorhead – Village of Secrets – Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
In addition to getting my reading tips from the Young Quills prize I always try to read a few titles from the shortlist of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non Fiction. This book has been nominated this year and as I am doing a bit of research into the Nazis at the moment I thought I should give it a go. This book tells the story of the Chambonais region of France and how they managed to hide over 800 Jews from the Nazis. It’s very well written, if a little dense in places and is a really remarkable story. I am still only 60% of the way through though as it is so dense so I’ll leave a full review til later.
George Monbiot – Feral
As I am sure you may be able to tell from previous posts and my Twitter comments I am a full fledged Leftie Guardian reader. As a result I often read George Monbiot’s column and decided to finally read his book Feral which I have heard others rave about. In it Monbiot argues for the ‘rewilding’ of certain areas of the country – essentially letting regions go back to nature, reforesting and introducing large mammals again, most notably wolves. His argues his case brilliantly and although not necessarily and out and out history book it kind of is. Large parts of this are in essence the ‘Big History’ of the environment and Monbiot cleverly describes this. It’s well worth a read and is clearly going to be my Christmas present to friends this year as I want to talk to others about it.
Tim Garton Ash – The File
One of the Science teachers at school is a massive East Germany nerd like me and talking the other day about Stasiland he asked if I had read ‘The File’. I hadn’t so I did. Garton Ash, a contemporary historian, lived in East Germany for a year in the early 1980s and post fall he returned to East Berlin to see if a file had been made on his by the Stasi. The book follows Garton Ash as he picks through the file, working out who had informed on him and what they had found on. The bits where he interviews former Stasi agents are particularly brilliant and the concluding chapters where he makes comparisons with British Secret Service are expertly handled. A fab book.