Post - Gayla Bassham (@sophronisba)

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Gayla Bassham


Obsessive Reader

Big fan of liberal politics, clean code, Victorian literature, and the Oxford comma.

144 Posts

  1. 91. An Assassin in Utopia: The True Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sex Cult and a President's Murder , by Susan Wels. Read on its own, this is fine, but it's impossible not to compare it to Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic , which is much better. Spoiler: Garfield's assassin
  2. Saturday morning breakfast of champions.
  3. IN MARCH 1912 a strange accident occurred in Naples harbour during the unloading of a large ocean-going liner which was reported at length by the newspapers, although in extremely fanciful terms. -- Stefan Zweig, Amok #FridayReads #FirstLineFriday
  4. 90. The Cradle King: The Life of James VI and I, The First Monarch of a United Great Britain, by Alan Stewart. I found this bio pretty fascinating -- by which I mean I could barely put it down even while trying to meet an aggressive work deadline. James VI and I never knew what i
  5. 89. The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England, 1603-1689, by Jonathan Healey. I wasn't expecting this, but this book was easily one of the best books I've read this year -- lucid, witty, well-written. I learned a ton about revolutionary England and my interest was
  6. I just started a biography of Napoleon and halfway through the intro, the author has already quoted Henry Kissinger approvingly, so it's going to be a wild ride.
  7. 88. Blue Skies, by T. C. Boyle. Extremely bleak domestic drama that explores climate change in near-future Florida. This is not one of the Boyle's great works but it is very much of its time -- I said this earlier but it's easy to imagine a 22nd-century historian assigning it. #2
  8. 87. Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years, by John Guy. Thus concludes my monthslong tour of Elizabeth I's reign. This is well-researched and well-written, but the ground is (contra the title of the book) somewhat well-trod and Guy struggles to hide his fondness for Mary Queen of Scots.
  9. 86. The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, by Jeff Sharlet. Objectively, this is thoroughly reported and sensitively written, but I experienced it as spending an uncomfortable amount of time with the most toxic and unreasonable people I went to high school with. #2023reads
  10. 85. With the Heart of a King: Elizabeth I of England, Philip II of Spain, and the Fight for a Nation's Soul and Crown, by Benton Rain Patterson. Probably more suitable for someone who hasn't been obsessively reading about the Tudors for the last six months. #2023reads
  11. 84. Yellowface, by R. F. Kuang. The premise is gripping -- I could not put this book down -- but the ending felt contrived to me. Still, Kuang is always interesting and the protagonist is one of the more compelling characters I've read this year. #2023reads
  12. 83. The Midnight News, by Jo Baker. Not my favorite Baker novel -- that remains Longbourn -- but well-told and consistently gripping. #2023reads
  13. 82. Trust the Plan: The Rise of QAnon and the Conspiracy That Reshaped America, by William Sommer. Look, it's not the author's fault that I have followed this story obsessively for seven years, but honesty compels me to report that I just didn't see much new in this book. #2023re
  14. 81. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen. Reminiscent of Henry James but more readable. This was my first Elizabeth Bowen and I was impressed with her depiction of Portia and the society that surrounds her. #2023reads
  15. 80. Stone Blind, by Natalie Haynes. This was . . . fine? It just never rose to the heights of Madeline Miller's Circe, and suffered in comparison. #2023reads
  16. 79. Mary Queen of Scots, by Antonia Fraser. I read this in high school and decided to revisit it. You have to really commit to understanding the finer points of Scottish history, but it's hard to be bored when so many moments feel like they were ripped from a modern soap opera. #
  17. 78. Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter. Three brilliantly crafted longish short stories, each dealing with death and memory in some way. Made me long to read more Porter. #2023reads
  18. 77. The House of Dudley: A New History of Tudor England, by Joanne Paul. I did not love this. The writing is lively & engaging and there's certainly plenty to say about the Dudleys; but I was frustrated by the handling of Amy Robsart's death. (I do not think Dudley killed her.) #
  19. 76. Y/N, by Esther Yi. I was interested in a novel about celebrity and fandom in the twenty-first century, and that's what this is -- but I wanted something more grounded and less abstract. Didn't love the way this story was told. #2023reads
  20. 75. Elizabeth I, by Anne Somerset. I have read a shocking number of Elizabeth I bios in my time, and this one is my favorite. Comprehensive but still an absolute pleasure to read. #2023reads

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