“The Plot Against America”

Philip Roth

In this alternate history Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to Charles A. Lindbergh unleashing a wave of initially subtle but ultimately violent anti-Semitism. The story is told by a young Jewish boy growing up in Newark, NJ.

Roth does an excellent job of portraying both public and family events through the eyes of a child. The political story, as sinister as it is, never overwhelms the personal story of the narrator and the shattering effects history has on his family.

Roth’s skill makes this a far better book than the typical alternate history, though I thought it ended too suddenly.

“I, Claudius”

Robert Graves

In this historical novel Claudius, the man everyone dismissed because his physical infirmities were thought to reflect mental deficiency, tells the story of his life up to the time he became emperor. Claudius’ story is set against the later years of his great-grand-uncle Augustus’ reign and the reigns of his uncle Tiberius and his nephew Caligula. It’s a somewhat dry account of an interesting period.

“The Testament of Theophilus: A Novel of Christ and Caesar”

Leonard Wibberly

This is an excellent historical novel about the early years of Christianity. The story is narrated by Theophilus, the person for whom Luke wrote his gospel “Acts of the Apostles”. Theophilus is a wealthy man, a reluctant almost-Christian who resists the faith despite being pursued by Christ. It’s both a vivid novel and a thought-provoking meditation on faith.

“Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe”

John Julius Norwich

I’m fascinated by the period and the characters that are the subject of this book. It has some value as thin overview of the period and I appreciated the chapters about Suleiman, since I didn’t previously know that much about him, but I was disappointed at the English bias of the book and weakness of the chapters on Charles V.

“Return to Glory”

Matthew DeBord

This is the story of Ford’s effort to mark the 50th anniversary of their epic 1966 victory at LeMans by returning to the famous circuit in 2016. It’s a good book, but DeBord underemphsizes the fact that while Ford was number one overall in 1966 they were only first in their class – and 18th overall – in 2016. That fact doesn’t diminish Ford’s victory, since LeMans is a multi-class race, but Ford in 2016 is just not as good a story as Ford vs. Ferrari in 1966.