Cushla's 2023 reading

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

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Cushla's 2023 reading

joulukuu 31, 2022, 5:20 pm

Kia ora koutou,

Welcome to my 2023 thread! I've been a member of LT since 2007 and in the 7 Book Challenge from 2009-2021. Last year I moved over here and am back for a second year, and hoping to post more actively than I managed last year. I teach high school maths and during term time school is usually crazy. I'm off for the next three weeks and looking forward to heaps of time reading and being back on here.

I read a whopping 23 books in 2022, far less than many people in this group and well down on what I was reading 10 years ago when I wasn't teaching, but happily most of them were excellent.

My top 5 books for last year were all non-fiction . Real life got in the way of reading in a big way during the middle of the year, so my fiction reading turned into a diet of spy novels and crime series.

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-55 – Harald Jähner
Empire of Pain – Patrick Radden Keefe
Powers and Thrones – Dan Jones
The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke out of Auschwitz to Warn The World – Jonathan Freedland
We Don’t Know Ourselves – Fintan O’Toole

And the next 3 on the list were also wonderful:
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Wilkerson - 4.5 stars
Age of Wonder 4.5 by Richard Holmes - 4.5 stars
The Hitler Years by Frank McDonough (1933-1939, with heaps of detail I didn't know about Hitler's rise to power) - 4 stars

I'm looking forward to keeping up with your threads more this year, at least to start with!

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 16, 3:27 am

Books read in 2023:

1. Believer by David Axelrod - 4 stars (non-fiction)
2. Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre - 5 stars (non-fiction)
3. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear - 3 1/2 stars (fiction - Maisie Dobbs #6?)
4. Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear - 4 stars (fiction - Maisie Dobbs #7)
5. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear - 3 stars (fiction - Maisie Dobbs #8)
6. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear - 3 1/2 stars (fiction - Maisie Dobbs #9)
7. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear - 3 1/2 stars (fiction - Maisie Dobbs #10)
8. A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear - 3 1/2 stars (fiction - Maisie Dobbs #11)
9. Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear - 3 1/2 stars (fiction - Maisie Dobbs #12)
10. Beyond the Wall by Katja Hoyer - 4 1/2 stars (nonfiction)
11. The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard - 3 stars (fiction)
12. The Restless Republic b Anna Kea - 5 stars (nonfiction) - finished 16/09/23

joulukuu 31, 2022, 7:41 pm

Welcome to Club Read 2023, Cushla! I'm so glad you are back for another year. You may not have read many books this year (whatever that means), but they were certainly impressive ones. In 2020, I read 10 books! I just finished one you might like: Agent Sonya about a communist spy from the 1930s to 50s by Ben Macintyre. Fascinating stuff.

Happy New Year!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 8:10 pm

Hi Cushla - I tracked you down and starred your thread. Great that you joined us in the Holocaust Lit Group.
The Escape Artist has been added to my list.

tammikuu 1, 3:45 am

Kia ora and happy 2023. One of the (many) great things about CR is there is no pressure to read a certain number of books, or even to set any goals at all. In fact the only "disadvantage" is that the number of books you *want* to read will increase a lot via BBs!

tammikuu 1, 11:50 am

Hi Cushla. The only one of your top reads that I have read is Empire of Pain, and I thought it was fantastic too!

tammikuu 1, 12:01 pm

>1 cushlareads: I read a whopping 23 books in 2022
Me too; I barely remember when 75 was plausible.
Empire of Pain I have this queued up as an audio book, and my book group has tentatively agreed to it. We got through The Family Roe by stretching it over two months.

tammikuu 1, 12:20 pm

Hello Cushla. I can certainly identify with what you say about real life getting in the way and turning your reading into a diet of spy novels and crime series! Maybe we’ll be able to inspire each other to branch out again. Happy reading!

tammikuu 1, 12:23 pm

>8 rachbxl: ...sneaking onto Cushla's thread to wave hi to Rachel...

tammikuu 1, 12:24 pm

Happy new year, Cushla. I haven't read any of your top reads for 2022, so I've already added some NF to my wishlist! I look forward to following your reading in 2023.

tammikuu 2, 6:16 am

Happy New Year, Cushla. I wish you an amazing reading year. Dropped a star. :-)

tammikuu 2, 4:20 pm

I only read a few non-fiction books a year, so it's nice to see two of my favorites lisyted above. {Empire of Pain was phenomenal and I really enjoyed Age of Wonder as an audio book a while back.

tammikuu 2, 6:26 pm

Happy new year, everyone! I think I've nearly got around all your threads and am keeping up for the third day in a row. Deborah, I've just read yours now but haven't posted yet.

>3 labfs39: Lisa, I have been waiting for about 16 weeks for Agent Sonya and this morning I got the notification that it's come through! Haven't started it yet.

>4 avatiakh: Kerry, I think you'll like it. And Freedland just did an episode on The Rest is History (one of my favourite podcasts) where he talks about the book.

>5 rhian_of_oz: Rhian yep, I have a massive TBR list here on LT from years when I was keeping up with threads. And a lot of unread books in the house too...

>6 arubabookwoman: Deborah - I haven't posted on your thread yet but what you said about your library books is what has happened to me as well. I started using the e-library a lot in 2020 with the COVID outbreak and our first lockdown, and never looked back - but it means I get fewer books from the shelves read.

>7 qebo: Katherine, I hope you like Empire of Pain. It was a really fast read for me, partly because it was so good. I'm sure you'll have some good book club discussion about it!

>8 rachbxl: Rachel I'm glad you've started a thread! Yeah we'll see how long I can sustain momentum with harder books. School is back late looking forward to it but my reading time will plummet.

>10 BLBera: Beth, happy to add to your wishlist!

>11 Ameise1: Barbara, so nice to see you on here! Alles Gute!

I've finished my first book of the year: Believer: My Forty Years in Politics by David Axelrod. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was an accidental read - I was on the e-books catalogue for our library and clicked on Biographies, and there it was. I am a sucker for election campaign memoirs and immediately ditched my harder going non-fiction book (which hopefully will be Book 2...) for this.

I think this won't go onto many wishlists ("thank you thank you" I hear you all say) because if you're into this kind of book and you're in the US you've probably already read it.

Book 1
Believer: My Forty Years in Politics by David Axelrod - 4 stars

David Axelrod was Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist in 2008 and 2012, and spent 2009-2010 as an adviser. He wrote this in 2016, before Trump, before Covid, and before the implosion of the Republican Party's core values. The book has three parts, all really interesting: pre-Obama, the presidential campaign, and the years in the White House and thoughts on what went well and what didn't. There's tons about Chicago politics in the 80s and 90s, and I enjoyed reading about his experiences as a journalist before he switched over to running election campaigns. His daughter has severe epilepsy, and his description of their challenges with her health and the work his wife as done to raise awareness and money for epilepsy research were really moving. All up, one of the best election campaign books I've read in ages.

Who'll like it:
Readers who like podcasts such as Slate Political Gabfest, Pod Save the World, and Axelrod's own 2 podcasts, the Axe Files and Hacks on Tap. (These podcasts are some of the things that have taken me away from LT in the last few years - there just isn't enough time for all the stuff on Spotify that I want to listen to...)

Anyone who's read and enjoyed Game Change, The World as it Is, The Making of the President 1960, Primary Colors and other campaign books.

Who won't like it: Uh, obviously, I suspect if you don't agree with his political views you'll find this hard it was written back in 2016, so if you want a recent take this isn't it. But a lot of his reflections on Obama's goals, then difficulty following through on some of it, especially the desire for more bipartisanship, are still current.

tammikuu 2, 6:30 pm

I'm looking forward to following your reading, and to hear little bits about your family as you share them. Your kids must be big now

tammikuu 2, 6:56 pm

>13 cushlareads: Who'll like it: Readers who like podcasts such as
That'd be me, and if there were infinite time in the world...

tammikuu 3, 12:47 am

So this is where you're hanging out, Cushla. Hope you have a good reading year in 2023.

tammikuu 3, 1:18 am

>12 ELiz_M: I missed your post earlier! Just saw in your bio that you're in Brooklyn. Lucky!! We lived in New York for 2 years from 2000-2002 (in Manhattan but sometimes we would venture beyond it) and loved it. I'm off to find your thread and am hoping for the occasional New York update!

>14 Nickelini: Joyce, I am about to post something on your thread (as soon as I have decided which books are going into a box to go to the op shop...trying and failing to get rid of a few books.). Yes, they're big now. Our oldest is 19 in April and the little one turns 16 in a fortnight!

>15 qebo: Yeah the time thing...still haven't fixed that problem! I'm sure I still have gaps in my days where I can squeeze in more. My main podcast time is while I'm doing the dishes and it means I am frequently standing in the kitchen laughing inanely with my headphones on.

>16 Familyhistorian: Meg! I haven't found your thread yet. Yep. This is where I am. And this year, no vanishing. Well at least not till January 26.

OK back to Agent Sonya and finding the books to chuck out...

tammikuu 3, 7:36 am

Of course you are reading Agent Sonya too! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I still need to write my review, but keeping up with the threads this week is a fulltime occupation.

tammikuu 3, 8:07 am

>13 cushlareads:, >18 labfs39: Agent Sonya sounds right up my street too - I’ve just put a hold on it. Thanks, both!

tammikuu 3, 10:25 pm

I think this won't go onto many wishlists - but you inspired me to put on my wishlist before this line! Before i had read your review. I'm really curious about Axelrod. (But too bad it was written before that 2016 disastrous election. It would be especially interesting to read his take after that.)

And nice to see you back. Happy New Year!

tammikuu 4, 5:06 am

Dropping by to say hello. Look forward to following your reading.

tammikuu 5, 1:04 am

Dan, that's funny about you wanting to read the Axelrod book. I hope you like it too. 15 years yesterday since Obama won the Iowa caucuses - not surprisingly that was the most exciting part of the book. I'm looking forward to hearing the next podcast episode in case Axelrod talks about the last few days... have spent time I could have spent reading watching the clown show on the NYT website and Twitter.

>21 AlisonY: Alison, thanks for stopping by. I'm looking forward to following yours as well.

>18 labfs39: Lisa, I'm enjoying it so much - but it is quite a stressful book! Every second page has a near death experience. I'm also really looking forward to getting to the end to find out how on earth she managed to take so many notes, or write letters without getting caught. I would be a very bad spy. Am halfway through it and hoping to get a few hours to read tonight. Got the house to myself, just me and the dog. Going for a walk (Wellington is having a pretty nice summer, while the rest of the North Island gets blasted by a storm) then back to Agent Sonya. (and I have got to do an introduction in the thread before it is too late!)

tammikuu 5, 11:49 am

>22 cushlareads: She was incredibly lucky, I think, as well as competent. I found it interesting how she balanced being a mother with her career. Taking her young son to Manchuria was so risky, especially as she said that if he had spoken in the wrong language at the wrong time he would have given them away.

tammikuu 6, 4:02 am

Hi there! Just stopping by and dropping my star to follow your thread. Enjoy your three weeks off!

tammikuu 6, 7:47 pm

Book 2
5 stars

I have yet to read a bad book by Ben Macintyre. I just had fun trying to work out which other ones I've read... Agent Zigzag was the first, and it was way back in 2009, when I was first on LT. Then A Spy Among Friends in 2014, then Operation Mincemeat in 2016, and now this one. This is my favourite so far.

Ursual Kuczyinski was born into a well-off Jewish family in Berlin in 1907. This book tells the story of her amazing life, and her family. All of it was completely new to me. She joined the Germany Communist Party in the early 1920s and stuck with communism from then on. She got out of Germany (via a short stint in New York) well before Hitler was fully in power and by 1930 was married to Rudi Hamburger. At that stage Rudi was a Communist sympathiser, but less convinced than Ursula about how involved he wanted to get. Ursula had no such qualms and started spying for the Comintern while pregnant with her first child.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers - but it's not really a spoiler to say that she managed to survive World War Two, despite being a German Jew living in the middle of Europe by then. Before that, she avoided Stalin's purges of GRU/the KGB/ the NKVD or whatever they were at that stage. The period when the USSR entered the war as Hitler's ally must have been excruciating for her, but she had no way out of her commitment to the Soviet government by then (except for death). This was a very unrelaxing book to read, but in a good way. Near the end, she went undetected in England partly because she was a woman with 3 young children and a husband, and due to the tunnel vision of most members of the British intelligence services. Macintyre argues that Roger Hollis was just quite stupid rather than being an incredibly clever Soviet spy.

There's a cast of many, many spies in this book, but Macintyre gave just enough context on each to make it easy to keep up. And there's a great chapter at the end explaining what happened to all of them.

Not sure exactly what I'm reading next... the dog just tried to eat one of the candidates for selection when I left the sofa to make a coffee.

tammikuu 6, 8:05 pm

>25 cushlareads: I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Cushla. One of the things that I found amazing (along with being a mother of three while doing all this) was that none of the other spies gave up her name, even under coercion. They tried to protect her. Out of loyalty? Because she was a woman? Interesting

Funny about the dog. Once my childhood dog ate my French book, and I had to tell my teacher not only that the dog ate my homework, but the entire book.

tammikuu 7, 7:15 pm

Terrific review. My one smart dog (compared to my other dogs and to some humans), who passed on in 2014, devoured two volumes of The Lord of the Rings. I think she really enjoyed them.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 13, 2:59 am

Great review of Believer, Cushla! I enjoy David Axelrod's political commentary on CNN, and it seems that this would be a great companion to Barack Obama's memoir A Promised Land, so I'll add this to my library wish list.

tammikuu 13, 11:09 am

I am another who will add Axelrod’s book to my wishlist. I am always interested in his commentary. I loved Agent Sonya. Macintyre writes great books. Agent Zigzag was my favorite, until I read this one in 2021. I have a couple on my kindle, which I think I’ll get to this year.

I’ll be following your thread to see what other gems you find.

tammikuu 13, 7:01 pm

>15 qebo:, >17 cushlareads: Turns out, now that I've updated my LT library to correspond to my actual books, that I have it.

tammikuu 16, 8:03 pm

Hi everyone. I'm still here but have been on a reading binge of Maisie Dobbs, which I think indicates my brain's need to relax before I get back into school (next week - I am looking forward to it but life will go back to crazy).
It's really nice to have visitors.

>28 kidzdoc: Darryl, I still haven't read A Promised Land or Audacity of Hope but they'd be great together. The other Obama-era books I've read are The World as It is by Ben Rhodes and The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power. Both were really good.

>29 NanaCC: and >30 qebo: I hope you both enjoy it when you get to it.

>27 dchaikin: Dan that's so funny about your dog. Bonnie has wide-ranging taste in books. Last year her favourite was a chunk of Powers and Thrones but luckily I'd read the first bit by the time she ate it.

>26 labfs39: Lisa (and anyone else who has read Agent Sonya already) I am trying to do the spoiler thing... Los Alamos by Joseph Kanon here and feel like I've read it, but can't find it on my old threads. And back when I was a grad student, a friend of a friend had a job as a research assistant for Richard Rhodes on The Making of the Atomic Bomb and I *still* haven't read it 29 years later. The worst part, in a good way, about being back on here properly is all the rabbit holes I'm going down when I'm reading!

I've finished 3 more books but they are all Maisie Dobbs ones - I'm not going to do individual reviews. I started the series years ago and didn't love the first one enough to dive into the second and third, but now I just want to get up to Number 17. I'm also doing really well at avoiding spoilers - at this stage I'm reading the books for the soap opera life of Maisie and her friends and family. Books 6,7 and 8 are all set around 1932-33 and the background is starting to change from looking back at World War 1 and the terrible mental health problems that resulted from it to English attitudes towards Germany and the Nazis. Plus they're perfect books for reading on my phone while I'm moseying around outside with Bonnie, who's still recovering from leg surgery and isn't allowed to run around off-lead for a few more weeks.

I'm also reading Hamnet with Rhian - if anyone else wants to join in she has made a thread on the main Club Read page. I haven't read anything else by Maggie O'Farrell but have heard lots of positive comments about it.

tammikuu 17, 9:19 am

>31 cushlareads: Hmm, did you close your spoiler tag correctly? Because I think some lines are missing, and what is covered by the spoiler tags aren't spoilers, or even about the book.

I reread a Maisie Dobbs book last year, then caught up on the 2 or 3 that I hadn't read yet. I'm still enjoying them when I'm in the mood for something lighter but not mindless.

tammikuu 17, 9:33 pm

>32 labfs39: Yes most of the spoiler message got lost!! I'll try to fix it...

tammikuu 18, 4:18 am

Cushla, I managed to track you down here!

Wishing you a wonderful new year of reading. xx

tammikuu 22, 9:14 pm

>31 cushlareads: Lisa I have fixed it - I had one wrong character around the first spoiler tag.

Paul - thank you for visiting!! So far the reading year is off to a better start than I've managed for years - I'm up to 6 books already.

I've been away at violin camp (for the 11th year) - it is one of my favourite things. The kids have been going since they were 5 and 8, and now F has finished but T still goes. It lasts for 6 days, but on Saturday I tested positive for Covid and came home early. I'd say most teachers in NZ have had Covid by now so I've been lucky to hold out this long. Felt terrible Saturday and yesterday, but I'm feeling a bit better today.

Managed to finish another Maisie Dobbs book - I promise I will read something else soon but they are good at the moment. This one was Elegy for Eddie, the 9th in the series and set in 1933. There are already 76 reviews on LT for this book so I'm not doing another one. I enjoyed this one slightly more than A Lesson In Secrets but at this stage in the series I am reading for the soap opera that is Maisie Dobbs' life as much as for the mysteries. It's pretty clear in this one that Maisie is really uncomfortable with other people's expectations that she and James will get married. I've downloaded the next book already to see what happens - I can't tell if she's going to end up in Canada with him, at least for a while, or if she will eventually find love with the ex-policeman-who-has-switched-to-teaching whose name I have forgotten (I blame Covid). I hope it's the latter but it feels like there is just SO much structure around her life with the Compton family for it all to unravel. Anyway, unless Jacqueline Winspear spins out the breakup even longer, I should find out in
the next book.

I did really like some of the detail around London and Shoreditch and the costermongers in the 1930s, and also liked the story line around Churchill and early warning signs about Hitler. It made a change from the more depressing plot about how popular he was with some of the upperclass Brits in the 30s.

To anyone reading who isn't a Maisie Dobbs fan, I promise I'll read something else one day soon. But school is back next week (once I'm out of isolation for 7 days) and my reading will slow down a bit.

tammikuu 23, 7:45 am

>35 cushlareads: I enjoy the Maisie Dobbs series too, Cushla, as you know. It's the series I follow most closely. That said, most of the books fall within a 3 to 3.5 star range. My favorites, earning 4 stars, were no. 3, 7, 9, 11, and 12; so you have a couple of good ones coming up. Don't give up after the next one, which was not one of my favorites, because it picks up again (hint: Spanish Civil War and WWII).

tammikuu 23, 1:57 pm

Excellent!! Thanks for the rundown.

tammikuu 27, 11:17 am

Sorry to hear you have Covid, hopefully you feel better soon.

After The Consequences of Fear I decided to give up on Maisie because I really didn't like it or the one before it (The American Agent). So what did I bring home from the library?

tammikuu 28, 4:47 am

I am suddenly feeling much better! And about time too - I was starting to wonder when I'd come right - but I am back to being able to concentrate and read properly. 3 of the 4 of us have been hit - our son (nearly 19) bounced back so fast, and Tim is a few days behind me but not too bad.

Rhian, that's funny about you bringing another MD home from the library. I read my first one about 10 years ago and then stopped after the first one or two, and I didn't expect to binge read 6 of them over our summer holidays. I'm in the middle of the one set in 1937 and the Spanish Civil War and I think it's time I read something else now. I have several other series where I am way behind (Donna Leon, Andrea Camilleri, Martin Walker).

My brain feels ready for Hamnet now and I'll try to spend some time reading it tomorrow.

huhtikuu 17, 4:08 pm

Nearly 3 months of thread neglect!!

I'm back - because it's school holidays. Every year I think I'll sustain my LT habit during term time, and every year I get it wrong. And reading dwindled to a trickle during Term 1.

I finished a couple more Maisie Dobbs books in February then spent most of the term reading parts of several dense New Zealand history books on the e-library app - I will eventually finish them but they keep going back to the library unfinished.

Last year my reading slowed because of real life, but this year it's for a much nicer reason - I've started running an extension maths class on Saturday afternoon for kids from other local schools. Decided to try it out, and expected maybe 5-10 students, but there's much more interest than I expected. Around 70 kids turning up most weeks to do extra calculus. It doesn't sound like a huge amount of extra work but my every day teaching load is plenty big enough to use up most of my spare time anyway, so this is kind of eating into real life a bit. The local uni are supporting it by giving me space and the students are so amazingly keen and lovely.

Anyway - now it's holidays and on the first day I bought a brand new book on my Kindle - and I have actually read it!!

It's Beyond the Wall: East Germany 1949-1990 by Katja Hoyer and I've given it 5 stars. If you're interested in Europe, I'd recommend it highly.

Hoyer was born in East Germany (there's a lovely entry from her remembering a big thing that happened) and I've heard her on various podcasts, and have a copy of Blood and Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire sitting on my Kindle.

Every page of this book was interesting, despite some of it covering familiar ground. Hoyer argues that there was a lot more to East Germany than the heavily covered state repression of the Stasi, the building of the wall, and the Cold War. All of these things are also given plenty of coverage, and there's lots of interesting detail about Ulbricht, Pieck, Mielke and Honecker. But she gives a strong sense of most East Germans' attitude of wanting to make their new country work, and of areas where it really did work better for many citizens. The description of Stalin's German paranoia and the killing or detention of many of the German communist leaders during World War 2 was all new to me, and set up the rest of the book well. And as a caffeine addict the chapter about the East German government's desperate quest for coffee beans in the 1970s was fascinating. Unsurprisingly, the chapter on the lead-up to reunification and the aftermath was impossible to put down.

As usual this has made me want to go and read a whole lot more on East Germany and find a biography of Angela Merkel, who features as an East German citizen who broke more rules than I'd expected.

I don't know if this book is out in the US yet but it's on the bestseller list for the Sunday Times in the UK.

Back later - Bonnie is demanding to go for a walk by chewing on my favourite chair!

huhtikuu 17, 4:24 pm

>40 cushlareads: Hi! Glad to hear from you. I'm so glad your extensions maths class is both popular and rewarding. Kudos!

Beyond the Wall sounds very interesting and like something I would enjoy. If only there were more reading hours in my life! Adding it to my ridiculously long wishlist...

kesäkuu 22, 2:28 am

>40 cushlareads: I hear you! It's been the same for me. Work has been been eating up most of my time, but now it's the summer holidays. Which means time to travel, to read, to catch up here. I hope you enjoy your time off!
That maths project sounds interesting. Being a maths teacher myself I would actually doubt that students would be willing to spend Saturdays doing extra work just for the fun of it. I am really glad to hear, though, that this works so well and that there are so many young people who enjoy maths and return every week. I started teaching an extracurricular maths class a couple of years ago and started with three students. But that number has steadily risen and 18 teenagers signed up for next term. I find this course to be well worth the extra amount of work.