Charles Stross, The Bloodline Feud – he’s revising his Merchant Princes novels, and this is the first two books in the series: a clever, if slow-building, take on the alternate universe concept, with emphasis on arbitrage (hence series name). Good fun.
Adrian Goldsworthy, Augustus – the 2000-year anniversary of the emperor’s death is marked by another Goldsworthy volume, this one aiming to rehab Augustus a bit from the wonderful, bitterly Tacitean view established by Syme in The Roman Revolution. Good job done, partly because G. doesn’t whitewash Augustus (a welcome contrast to the John Williams novel). Not necessarily something to run out & buy in hardcover, but worth a look.
Kingsley Amis, Colonel Sun – the first of the continuation novels after Fleming’s death, this one captures 007 well enough, but the plot and the villain are phoned in. A disappointment. OTOH, with China back in the villain’s seat these days, a typically unfaithful adaptation could play well on the screen.
Jean-Patrick Manchette, The Mad and the Bad and The Prone Gunman – Manchette brought Hammett and Chandler into French literature, literally by translation and in spirit with his laconic, ruthless, yet by no means nihilistic little novels. (I mean little as in physically; these damn things should be packaged at least two to a volume.) Of the three I’ve read so far, Fatale was my favorite, but each of these appeals in a different way, TMATB (a weird choice for his crazy French title, O dingoes! O chateaux!) for watching a villain’s plan degenerate into a clusterfuck, TPG for its twist on the “silent guy,” who at one point actually loses his voice and has to write notes. To be acquired secondhand, but do read him.
Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism – I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read a book about slavery, and this one is pitched at ignoramuses like me, while at least professing a controversial thesis: that slavery was not a quaint and archaic abnormality, but the economic engine that drove Northern and Southern economic progress alike. H/t Lindsay Beyerstein for pointing me to it. (This was also the book that gained The Economist some notoriety for its running a review that griped the slavers came off all evil-like.) I’m only in chapter 4 and not competent to judge it as a contribution to the field, but it’s certainly helping me see the centrality of slavery to the developing American republic. Note to self: never set foot in Maspero’s.