I read most evening; usually from thick books – both fiction and nonfiction. It often depends what Palmira at Annie’s Bookshop (Peregian QLD) recommends. (If you are on the Sunshine Coast that bookshop is so worth visiting and Palmira is always there on Sundays.)
One of the thickest books she has recommended in the last year or so is The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili about life in Georgia through the 20th Century – following the trials and tribulations of several generations of women from the same family. It was such a good read, and, of course, a book about Georgia will include something about Russia. I have a penchant for books by Russians and about Russians.
A few books ago I read Philip Short’s biography of Vladimir Putin (another Palmira recommendation purchased at Annie’s – actual title is His Life and Times Putin). Considered the most comprehensive and up-to-date biography of the Russian leader it also includes a lot about US politics including the invasion of Iraq – from Putin’s perspective. The book is nearly as long as The Eighth Life (900 pages) and by the end of it you are left in no doubt that Putin admires toughness, works hard, is intelligent and is, for the most part, predictable.
At the moment, I’m reading two books at once.
I started Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson about a month ago. I don’t think the book is at all well written, but the subject matter is of course fascinating. And since I started the book, I’m feeling so much better about all the things I am yet to finish – no paintings, but there are manuscripts and films.
Leonardo’s first commission, which he received in 1478, was to paint the altarpiece for a chapel in Florence. His father apparently helped him get the commission from the Signoria, Florence’s Governing Council. He was presumably paid something to get started, but there is apparently no evidence he did get started on the work – beyond some sketches that were inspirations for a painting, the Adoration of the Magi, which is apparently the most influential unfinished painting in the history of art.
I complained to Palmira last time I was at Annie’s Bookshop that I was finding the book a bit tedious, and she recommended I read The Medici at the same time. I’m now about halfway through both books.
The Medici by Mary Hollingsworth is the standard work of reference on the family that dominated Florence for two hundred years and some claim inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance. (Leonardo Da Vinci was of course very much a part of that period). It is such a good read. The political intrigue – including the cult of personality and the power that money can bring to those who network effectively – is masterfully told.
Somehow, I find it reassuring to see that history just repeats itself, over and over. The useful idiots* were the majority amongst the ruling elite back then, and still are.
It is not a good thing, but somehow art and science can emerge – and persist – there are always good men and creatives find ways, usually very much against the odds and despite the imposters.
*In political jargon, a useful idiot is a term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause — particularly a bad cause originating from a devious, ruthless source — without fully comprehending the cause’s goals, and who is cynically used by the cause’s leaders.
Peter McRae says
Love your work Jennifer.
Tracy fair says
That looks like Mondo restaurant in Cairns!
Keep ther pressure on the useful idiots until they realise they are behaving like idiots.
Richard S Bennett says
Reputable scientists can now join the World Climate Declaration to promote the true science about climate because the current climate debate has been hijacked by powerful political and globalist elites who see net-zero as a way to make lots of money from the less well-off in society.
Hi Tracy, Yes. Mondo Restaurant, Cairns. I really like that spot, on the edge of the city yet with a view across water to mountains and jungle. It is a great place for reading … as well as eating.
Fran Manns says
Read the biography of Catherine the Great last winter. Fascinating story of a woman who changed the history of Russia.
Ian Thomson says
Apparently the term “useful idiots” as coined by Lenin and Stalin, to describe idiot sympathisers in the West, etc.
My current bedtime read is ‘Lords of the Rim’, by Sterling Seagrave. Not a huge read, but very concisely covers a lot of history of China and its overseas people. They have had and still do have a big influence, both within China and outside.
It confirms an understanding of the Chinese psyche that is sorely lacking in the West.
Karl Penna says
Hi Jennifer, yes I started reading Jordon Petersen’s latest book, beyond chaos, a bit too heavy for me, I’m reading Die Laughing” autobiography of Bill Leak, quite amusing. Thanks for the tip on Annie book store. I’ll give it a call next time I see my dentist there. Also I now have all but 1 of Oliver Sachs books
Karl Penna, Mapleton
Gerard Cross says
Great reviews and very inspiring and even those commentators who made great referrals.I wish we could get rid of the “useful idiots ” in government promoting renewables and national decay
We now know where you were eating, but we want to know what you ordered. It looks very good!