Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: An elegant, deft, yet slow – very slow – gavotte through the court and religious intrigues of Henry VIII’s reign, seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, who was sort of a mashup between Henry Kissinger, Rahm Emanuel and Captain Kangaroo.
What the book didn’t explain:
Why all the men in 16th century England were named Thomas, Henry or John and all the women were named Mary, Anne or Jane. Would it have been traitorous to throw in a Tallulah or a Rocky?
What I learned:
How to make baked eel with ginger.
What I’d rather not have learned:
Heretics were not only burned at the stake, they were often dipped in and out of the flames, like marshmallows. -JS
Which reminds me–I just finished reading about ritual torture (toes cut off, one at a time, roasted, then fed to the poor suffering man) in Caleb’s Crossing, by Pulitzer prize winner Geraldine Brooks. But fear not, since this was an atypically horrifying moment in what’s a captivating novel based on the true story of the first Native American to graduate Harvard–in 1665. -AHB
To End All Wars: Adam Hochschild’s latest history, a look at the so-called Great War, told through families on different sides of the divide: conscientious objectors as well as Generals. As Christopher Hitchens wrote about it, “This is a book to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard.” -JFS