The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga by Sylvain Tesson translated by Linda Coverdale, is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. Several months on Lake Baikal turned M. Tesson positively lyrical. Uplifting, full of original aphorisms, a pleasure to read.
I’ve found a couple of standouts so far in my trudge through the commemoration of the summer of doom. I liked Charles Emmerson’s survey of the world before upheaval, 1913. Most recently I’ve been enjoying July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin. As the title suggests, it’s a play-by-play of the diplomacy and mobilization for war on all sides after the 28 June, 1914 assassination of the Archduke. If you like your history detailed but not turgid you might give it a try.
Based on its press, The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union by Serhii Plokhy promises the same, blow-by-blow, behind the scenes diplomacy. It’s due in the house tomorrow. I’ll let you know.
If analyses of the end of empires, turgid or not, aren’t your idea of light summer reading, here are four works of fiction I’ve enjoyed this year:
Antoine Laurain’s The President’s Hat. Nice, light, fast, easy. Whimsical.
Harvest by Jim Crace. NOT whimsical. Perfectly crafted and engaging. Sometimes you just stop, awed that anyone can put sentences together the way Crace does.
Red Sky in Morning by Paul Lynch. Lynch is an entirely absorbing, original young Irish writer. Red Sky, his debut, came out last November. His follow-up, the Black Snow is in my stack for later this summer.
Fatherland by Robert Harris. Another one of those “what if Hitler had won” books. Plays to my Berlin bias.
Happy summer reading.