Sunday Salon

About a month ago the first time I took part in The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. So far it’s been a huge success and I’m striving to make it a regular feature. So here’s another post. 

Last week I finished both Yasmina’s Khadra’s The Attack and Karlheinz Deschner’s God and the Fascists: The Vatican Alliance with Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, and Pavelic. Hopefully, I’ll get my reviews up and posted by the end of the week. Since both are translated works I’ll be applying them towards The Introverted Reader’s Books in Translation Reading Challenge

After putting aside Jay David’s anthology Growing Up Jewish I started Lea Ypi 2022 memoir Free: Coming of Age at the End of History.  Ypi’s recollection of life in Albania during the implosion of that country’s oppressive communist regime is shaping up to be a winner. I also went back to reading Frank Blaichman’s Rather Die Fighting as well as Stuart Jeffries’s 2016 Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

Listening. With the The National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex proceedings (AKA the January 6 Commission) serving up a bombshell special session last Tuesday I once again dived into some of my favorite podcasts for helpful insight and commentary. With so much stuff out there it’s hard knowing where to begin but Deep State Radio’s “Showstopper” is a good place along with The Lincoln Project’s “The Emergency Hearing.” The Bulwark never ceases to satisfy so I’d recommend both “A Damning Witness” and “Mea culpa. Really.” Opening Arguments is a recent find of mine and the episode “Surprise Jan. 6 Hearing – Bombshells Within Smoking Guns Within More Bombshell” is definitely worth a listen. The Lawfare Podcast can get a bit dry and wonky but “The Jan. 6 Committee, Day Six” episode is good. During the Trump administration Vanity Fair’s Inside the Hive was my go-to source for place intrigue. I thoroughly enjoyed the recent episode “If You Bite the Head Off of the Snake, the Rest of the Snake Will Die”: Daniel Goldman on Prosecuting Trump.” If you wanna learn more about the assorted far-right militia groups in cahoots with Trump and his crones then check out the Fresh Air episode “Investigating The Far-Right Militia Groups Of Jan. 6.” Lastly, round things out with Talking Feds and “This is (Trump’s) America.”

Watching. Mr. Robot continues to entertain with its plot twists, great writing and superb acting. Last week we were treated to a special session of the January 6 Committee sessions which blew myself, and much of America, away. I look forward to watching more once they resume latter this month. I also caught an episode of Stranger Things. After a bit of a slow start it’s shaping up to be as dark and entertaining as I’d hoped. Like last week I checked out The Lincoln Project’s web series The Breakdown. Hosts Tara Setmayer and Rick Wilson (and special guest Harry Litman) did a fine job breaking down the last Tuesday’s bombshell January 6 hearing. It’s well worth your time. 

Everything else. Even though gas is damn expensive right now I did make a trip to my favorite area winery for some friendly discussion with my professor buddy. Weather-wise, after recently experiencing a mini heat wave temperatures have considerably moderated. 

Sunday Salon

A few weeks ago for the first time I took part in The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. So far it’s been a huge success and I’m striving to make it a regular feature. So here’s another post. 

Last week I finished Ruta Sepetys’s 2022 historical novel I Must Betray You.  While it’s only June I’m betting it makes my year-end list of Favorite Fiction. I put aside  Blaichman’s Rather Die Fighting, Khadra’s The Attack and Margolius Kovály’s Innocence; or, Murder on Steep Street and started two new books. For Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge and Introverted Reader’s Books in Translation Reading Challenge I started Karlheinz Deschner’s God and the Fascists: The Vatican Alliance with Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, and Pavelic.  Originally published in 1966, it’s shaping up to be quite the polemic against both the Vatican and the Catholic Church in general. (Not sure if that’s what I originally bargained for. I’ll just have to see where the book goes.) The other is the 1969 anthology Growing Up Jewish edited by Jay David. One of my original 20 Books of Summer, since a number of the pieces are translated from Yiddish and German I’m hoping to apply this book as well to the Books in Translation Reading Challenge. 

Listening. With the The National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex proceedings (AKA the January 6 Commission) continuing to be televised I once again dived into some of my favorite podcasts for helpful insight and commentary. With so much stuff out there it’s hard knowing where to start but I would begin with The Economist’s Checks and Balance episode “Insurrection Retrospection.” From there it’s pretty wide open. Deep State Radio’s “The Trial of Donald J. Trump” is particularly good as is The New Yorker’s Politics and More episode “What the January 6th Committee Uncovered This Week.” I’d also recommend Angry Planet’s “Proud Boys, January 6, and When a U-Haul Is a Clown Car.” Lastly, round things up with The Lincoln Project’s “The DOJ is Watching” with guest David H. Laufman and from The Bulwark “How the 1/6 Committee Could Succeed” with Denver Riggleman and “Why We Were Alarmed” with Bill Kristol. 

Watching. Mr. Robot continues to entertain, throwing head-spinning plot twists at me right and left. As I mentioned earlier, I’m knee deep into the January 6 Committee sessions and look forward to watching more once they resume next month. At long last I started watching the much-anticipated season 4 of Stranger Things. After a bit of a slow start it’s shaping up to be as dark and entertaining as I’d hoped. Finally, I decided to check out The Lincoln Project’s web series The Breakdown. Hosts Tara Setmayer and Rick Wilson did a fine job breaking down the last January 6 hearing. It’s well worth your time. 

Everything else. Even though gas is damn expensive right now I did make a few trips into town. I returned to my favorite an area winery to for a bit of friendly discussion with a couple of my professor buddies. Yesterday, while out running errands I dropped by one of my favorite watering holes to have a beer and read my Kindle. Weather wise, we’ve been experiencing a mini heat wave but temperatures should drop starting tomorrow. 

Book Beginnings: Growing Up Jewish edited by Jay David

Not only does Gilion host the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 on her Rose City Reader blog but also Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

From the ghettos of eastern Europe westward.toward America, and in the other direction, eastward to Israel, Jewish children share a common heritage. Perhaps it is because Judaism is a way of life rather than solely a religion that certain ·similarities run through a thousand years of Jewish history.

Last week I featured Frank Blaichman’s 2009 Rather Die Fighting: A Memoir of World War II and the week before that it was Yasmina Khadra’s 2006 novel The Attack. This  week it’s the 1969 anthology Growing Up Jewish edited by Jay David.

Earlier in the week, I cracked this open in a feeble attempt to read more books from my original 20 Books of Summer. It’s one of two books I bought a couple of years ago at the Rose City Book Pub in Portland . (The other one, Max Dimont’s 1978 Jews in America: The Roots and Destiny of American Jews was one of last year’s 20 Books of Summer.) Published over 50 years ago it feels not only well-made but also well-cared for, like it sat treasured in someone’s personal library for decades before being divorced from its owner.

Growing Up Jewish, as the title states is a collection of accounts by Jews recalling their respective childhoods and young adulthoods. For this anthology editor Jay David selected pieces spanning hundreds of years, from the 17th century to the 20th. Old World voices are represented by the likes of Solomon Maimon, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Anne Frank. The New World section contains selections from Alfred Kazin and Robert Koltowitz. Lastly, probably it was published in 1969 the section representing Israelis from modern State of Israel contains just two selections: one by Yemenite Zechariah Nissim and the other by Sabra Yael Dayan.

Hopefully, I’ll enjoy Growing Up Jewish and it will serve as great follow-up reading to Adam Kirsch’s excellent 2016 book The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

 

Book Beginnings: Rather Die Fighting by Frank Blaichman

Not only does Gilion host the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 on her Rose City Reader blog but also Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

On the morning of September 1, 1939, the church bells of Kamionka rang as word spread that the mayor would be making an important announcement. We lived two hundred yards or so from the town hall, and my father and I hurried over to join the crowd that was gathering in the square. When the bells stopped ringing, the mayor came out to stand on the steps of the town hall, flanked by the.chief of police and other officials. The Germans.had invaded Poland, he said. They had crossed the border early that morning. We were at war.

Last week I featured Yasmina Khadra’s 2006 novel The Attack and the week before that Kitty Veldis’s 2018 historical novel Not Our Kind. This  week I’m back to nonfiction with Frank Blaichman’s 2009 Rather Die Fighting: A Memoir of World War II.

After spotting this at the public library last weekend I once again decided to deviate from my original 20 Books of Summer  This first hand account of a young Jewish partisan fighting the Nazis and their collaborators in occupied Poland during the Second War War looked like the ideal book for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challengeand thus too hard to pass up. The description on Amazon sets the scene:

Frank Blaichman was sixteen years old when the war broke out. In 1942, the killings began in Poland. With his family and friends decimated by the roundups, Blaichman decided that he would rather die fighting; he set off for the forest to find the underground bunkers of Jews who had already escaped. Together they formed a partisan force dedicated to fighting the Germans.

 

Book Beginnings: The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

Not only does Gilion host the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 on her Rose City Reader blog but also Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

I don’t remember hearing an explosion. A hissing sound, maybe, like tearing fabric, but I’m not certain. My attention was distracted by that quasi-divinity and the host of devoted followers surrounding him as his bodyguards tried to clear a passage to his waiting automobile.

Last week I featured Kitty Veldis’s 2018 historical novel Not Our Kind and this week it’s Yasmina Khadra’s 2006 novel The Attack. Yasmina Khadra is the pen name for Algerian writer Mohammed Moulessehoul. While serving as an officer in the Algerian military he originally adopted the feminine pseudonym in the late 1980s to masquerade his true identity from the military and thus prevent his writing from being censored. Currently living in France, even after his true identity was revealed in 2001 he continues to write under the pen name

Let’s allow publisher Nan A. Talese to tell us more:

Dr. Amin Jaafari, an Arab-Israeli citizen, is a surgeon at a hospital in Tel Aviv. Dedicated to his work, respected and admired by his colleagues and community, he represents integration at its most successful. He has learned to live with the violence and chaos that plague his city, and on the night of a deadly bombing in a local restaurant, he works tirelessly to help the shocked and shattered patients brought to the emergency room. But this night of turmoil and death takes a horrifyingly personal turn. His wife’s body is found among the dead, with massive injuries, the police coldly announce, typical of those found on the bodies of fundamentalist suicide bombers. As evidence mounts that his wife, Sihem, was responsible for the catastrophic bombing, Dr. Jaafari is torn between cherished memories of their years together and the inescapable realization that the beautiful, intelligent, thoroughly modern woman he loved had a life far removed from the comfortable, assimilated existence they shared.

20 Books of Summer: Not Our Kind by Kitty Veldis

There wasn’t one major reason that made me wanna read Kitty Veldis’s 2018 historical novel Not Our Kind when I spotted an available copy on Overdrive. Instead, there were several minor ones. One, Amazon described it as having “echoes of Rules of Civility and The Boston Girl.” A copy of Rules of Civility has sat on my shelf for years and I’ve yet to touch it but know I should. Two, while I haven’t read Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl, I enjoyed her earlier novel Day After Night and essay collection  Pitching My Tent: On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship and Other Leaps of Faith. (I’m embarrassed to say I’ve owned a copy of her mega-bestseller The Red Rent for years but never read it.) Three, seeing it’s set in New York City a couple of years after the conclusion of World War II and features a recent college grad who happens to be Jewish looked like a good lead in to Moses Rischin’s 1977 book The Promised City: New York’s Jews, 1870–1914 from my 20 Books of Summer. But reasons aside, I’m glad I took a chance Not Our Kind because I enjoyed it.

One New York City morning in 1947 recent Vassar grad Eleanor Moskowitz is taking a cab ride to a job interview when another cab rear-ends her. Shaken up and now sporting a bloody lip, she scrambles to find a payphone to cancel the interview. Upon returning to the scene of the accident the passenger in the other cab, Patricia Bellamy, takes pity on Eleanor and invites her back to her elegant Park Avenue apartment to wash up. Over lunch served by the Bellamy family’s Polish cook she hits it off with Margaux, a usually troublesome 13 year old polio survivor. Impressed by Eleanor’s demeanor, intelligence and recent experience as a teacher at an esteemed girls’ school Patricia offers to hire Eleanor as Margaux’s private tutor. Taken aback at first, she’s soon won over by both Margaux’s enthusiasm and the position’s generous rate of pay.

Such an arrangement looks like a win-win, but in 1947 it’s fraught with risk. Eleanor is Jewish, and an undeniable undercurrent of antisemitism permeates America, including its largest and most cosmopolitan city. Either subtly or not so subtly it’s always there, jaundicing relations between Gentile and Jew. Each morning Eleanor must give her last name as “Moss” to the incredulous doorman in order to enter the Bellamy’s “restricted” apartment to teach Margaux Latin, Shakespeare and mathematics. Worst of all, she must contend with Patricia’s husband Wynn and his antisemitic prejudices. But despite these challenges Margaux blossoms under Eleanor’s gentle and talented tutelage.

Before long Eleanor finds herself swept up into the Bellamy’s orbit. Like a non-native species introduced into a fragile ecosystem her presence begins to upset the family’s uneasy balance, exposing dark secrets while  also helping create enriching possibilities. All of this unfolds against the backdrop of a New York City that, in the years following the end of World War II is emerging from Europe’s shadow to become to the new global capital in art, culture and business.

Not Our Kind is great follow-up reading to Dan Fesperman’s novel The Letter Writer (also set in NYC and just a few years earlier), Chaim Potok’s classic American novel The Chosen, and Stephen Birmingham’s excellent “The Rest of Us”: The Rise of America’s Eastern European JewsWith rich attention paid to the era’s fashion, music and sexual mores Not Our Kind beautifully captures the zeitgeist of mid-century big-city America. So far in 2022 I’ve encountered a number of surprisingly good novels. Not Our Kind yet another one.

Sunday Salon

Last week, for the just the second time I took part in The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. This week I’m back with another post. 

 Monday morning I finished up Helen Rappaport’s 2017 Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge. I can easily say Caught in the Revolution will make my year-end list of Favorite Nonfiction. I took a chance on Kitty Veldis’s 2018 historical novel Not Our Kind and it paid off wonderfully.  If it doesn’t make my Favorite Fiction list in December it’s a shoe-in for a future honorable mention. This week I also started Descartes: The Life and Times of a Genius by A.C. Grayling. So far I’ve read around 30 pages so it’s too earlier to tell if I’ll like it. Well, it only took me a few days to deviate from my hastily put together list for this year’s 20 Books of Summer. I dropped by the library just to return a book and walked out a few minutes later with a copy of Scott Stambach’s The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko.  But really I had no choice. How often do you come across a novel set in Belarus? 

Listening. Last week I mentioned former conservative talk show host turned Never Trumper Charlie Sykes’s podcast The Bulwark and his recent interview with Peter Wehner “Christianity’s Generational Catastrophe” on the current state of American evangelical Christianity,  specifically the fallout surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention sex abuse scandal. The recently released independent report of the scandal is a gut-punch detailing decades of horrific abuse, cover-ups and public shaming of victims. Sykes’s follow-up interview “Russell Moore: The Southern Baptist Apocalypse” with the noted evangelical theologian and writer is also a must listen. Last week on the Fresh Air episode “Uncovering Abuse In The Southern Baptist Convention” Terry Gross interviewed Robert Downen, a reporter following the case. Lastly, Hemant and Jessica of The Friendly Atheist podcast recently discussed the findings of the report, as well as a host of other topics. 

Watching. Last week I hardly watched anything other than a few episodes of Mr. Robot Excellent writing combined with a sizable cast of up and coming young talent makes this pleasantly subversive series a winner. Hopefully this week I can resume watching the Canadian sitcom Letterkenny. 

Everything else. On Friday I snuck out early and joined my buddy the semi-retired sociology professor and a few of his cronies for beers at one of the campus watering holes. After having nice weather throughout the week yesterday was a parade of heavy showers. I spent most the day sitting on my porch reading with a large black cat either on my lap or at my feet. 

Book Beginnings: Not Our Kind by Kitty Veldis

One of my favorite book bloggers, Gilion, in addition to hosting the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 reading challenges also hosts on her Rose City Reader blog Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

The yellow-and-black Checker cab nosed its way down Second Avenue in the rain. A newsboy in a sodden cap wove in and out through the slow-moving cars, hawking copies of the New York Sun; a man in a Plymouth exchanged coins for a newspaper as the drivers behind him honked.

Last week I featured Helen Rappaport’s Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge and this week it’s a little fiction with Kitty Veldis’s 2018 historical novel Not Our KindIn my recent Sunday Salon post I guessed I’d either love this novel or hate it. With about two thirds of it under my belt I’m enjoying it. (Although my cat Orion looks like he could care less about what I’m reading and prefers I go back to giving him scritches.)

One New York City morning in 1947 recent Vassar grad Eleanor Moskowitz is in a cab en route to a job interview when another cab rear-ends her. Shaken up and now sporting a bloody lip, she scrambles to find a payphone to cancel the interview. After calling the passenger in the other cab, Patricia Bellamy, takes pity on Eleanor and invites her back to her elegant Park Avenue apartment to wash up. Over lunch served by the Bellamy family’s Polish cook she hits it off with Margaux, a usually troublesome 13 year old polio survivor. Impressed by Eleanor’s demeanor, intelligence and recent experience as a teacher at an esteemed girls’ school Patricia offers to hire Eleanor as Margaux’s private tutor. Taken aback at first, she’s soon won over by both Margaux’s enthusiasm and the position’s rate of pay.

Such an arrangement looks like a win-win, but in 1947 it’s fraught with risk. Eleanor is Jewish, and an undeniable undercurrent of antisemitism permeates America, including its largest and most cosmopolitan city. Either subtly or not so subtly it’s always there, jaundicing relations between Gentile and Jew. Each morning Eleanor must give her last name as “Moss” to the incredulous doorman in order to enter the Bellamy’s “restricted” apartment to teach Margaux Latin, Shakespeare and mathematics. Worst of all, she must contend with Patricia’s husband Wynn and his antisemitic prejudices. But despite these challenges under Eleanor’s gentle and talented tutelage Margaux blossoms. Before long Eleanor finds herself swept up into the Bellamy family’s orbit, leading to both unexpected pleasures and dangers.

The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China by Jonathan Kaufman

Whether it’s Nien Cheng’s 1986 memoir Life and Death in Shanghai or Paul French’s 2018 offering City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai I can’t resist a good book about, or set in Shanghai. It’s no wonder it was hard to resist The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China when I came across a copy during a visit to the public library. Thanks to French’s above-mentioned City of Devils I already knew Shanghai was home to a vibrant Jewish community in the decades preceding the Second World War and was looking forward learning more courtesy of The Last Kings of Shanghai.

Jonathan Kaufman’s 2020 book tells the story of the Sassoon and Kadoorie families and how they were instrumental in transforming Shanghai from a sleepy coastal trading outpost into not just China’s premier city but a city of global significance. Thanks to the two families’ respective contributions by the end of the 1930s it was the fourth largest city in the world. According to Kaufman “Shanghai became China’s New York, the capital of finance, commerce, and industry. It also became China’s Los Angeles, the capital of popular culture.” The Sassoon’s and Kadoorie’s world-class hotels, restaurants, horse racing venues and country clubs drew in the rich and famous from around the world: movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and his wife Mary Pickford; playwright Noel Coward and American socialite Wallis Simpson, “who reportedly learned in Shanghai the sexual techniques that would entice a king to leave his throne a few years later.” Jet-setters in an era before jets, silver-age glitterati flocked to the city in search of luxurious Western indulgence amidst a backdrop of Asian mystique.

The Sassoon and Kadoories families hailed not from Central or Eastern Europe but instead Bagdad. It was here the patriarch of the Sassoon family beginning in the 1700s served as “Nasi,” or “Prince of the Jews” blessing marriages and resolving religious disputes” and also acting as a liaison between the Arab city’s ruling Ottoman officials and Bagdad’s Jewish community. But after falling out of favor with corrupt local rulers the talented and multi-lingual David Sassoon relocated to British India, where his international connections, strong business acumen, and admiration of the British and their imperial ways served him well. Eventually,  the commercial enterprise he founded would establish deep and lucrative roots into China making him and the Sassoon family wealthy.

But as Balzac once wrote, behind every great fortune lies a great crime. Opium was the Sassoon clan’s great moneymaker. After incorporating the latest technological innovations like the telegraph and streamlining business practices before long the Sassoons had vanquished their rivals and controlled 70 per cent of China’s opium trade. Flush with resources, the Sassoons founded a network of schools and internships to educate, train and instill loyalty into legions of young Jewish men throughout the Ottoman Empire. Seizing the opportunity, a young Jewish youth from the Kadoorie family threw in his lost with the Sassoons. Years later, he left his employer and benefactor and struck out on his own, eventually founding his own business dynasty in Shanghai and would go on to rival his former masters.

But all great empires, be they commercial or geopolitical eventually fade with time. World War II brought an end to Western dominance of Shanghai, and the city’s Japanese overlords had no use for the Sassoons and Kadoories. (Although Shanghai became a sanctuary for European Jews fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust.) Although the Japanese were defeated in 1945 before the end of the decade the Communists had taken control of China and with it Shanghai. Seen as Western rapacious capitalists, the Sassoons and Kadoories were driven out and their properties, like all other businesses in China nationalized. Long associated with the Western powers and viewed as an imperialist beachhead Mao and the ruling Communist Party favored Peking (Beijing) as China’s premier city. Only after the death of Mao and the rise of Deng Xiaoping, and revolutionary changes he unleashed transforming the formerly Communist nation into a capitalist dynamo did the city reclaim its former glory. And would do so with a vengeance.

Just like First Principles, The Last Kings of Shanghai is one of the pleasant surprises of 2022. If you’re looking for books on how to understand modern China, it’s a great one to add to your list.

2021 European Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

Well, another year of Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge has come to a close. Each year I try to read as many books as possible set in, or about different European countries, or by different European authors. With one country per book and each book by a different author, I found myself moving from book to book across Europe, like some post-modern armchair version of a Bella Époque grand tour of the Continent.

Last year I read and reviewed 20 books, and for my efforts once again earned the coveted Jet Setter Award. Compared to past years my performance in 2021 was pretty lackluster with just 10 books read and reviewed for the challenge. Just like in past years, there’s a variety of countries represented, ranging from large counties like Russia and Germany, to smaller ones like Switzerland. This year for this first time I’ll be including something by a Norwegian author. 

  1. Becket or the Honor of God by Jean Anouilh (United Kingdom)
  2. Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan by Erika Fatland (Norway)
  3. Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money by Diccon Bewes (Switzerland)
  4. Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer- The True Story of the Man Who Recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames by Victor Cherkashin and Gregory Feifer (Russia)
  5. The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo (Spain)
  6. Not All Bastards Are from Vienna by Andrea Molesini (Italy)
  7. Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie (Germany) 
  8. Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum (Ukraine)
  9. Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury (France)
  10. Family History of Fear by Agata Tuszyńska (Poland)

Much like last year it was a 50-50 mix of fiction and nonfiction with five books apiece. Four are translations from other languages, including Polish. Red Famine easily made my Favorite Nonfiction list for 2021 while Swiss Watching was a runner-up. Both The Invisible Guardian and Empire of Lies made my year’s Favorite Fiction list with Not All Bastards Are from Vienna along with There There as my favorite novels of the year.  

As you can guess, I’m a huge fan of this challenge. I encourage all you book bloggers to sign up and read your way across Europe. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.