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Peter the Great

One month later . . . I finally finished Peter the Great. This one’s for you, Ash:

Assassins did not frighten Peter, but there were creatures before which he trembled: cockroaches. When he traveled, he never entered a house until he had been assured that no cockroaches were present and his own room had been carefully swept by his own servants. This followed an episode in which Peter, as a guest at dinner in a country house, asked if his hst ever had cockroaches. “Not many,” the host replied, “and to chase them away, I have pinned a living one to the wall.” He pointed to the place where the insect was pinned, still squirming, not far from the Tsar. With a roar, Peter leaped from the table, gave his host a tremedous blow and rushed out of the house.

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More Best of 08

I keep remembering other books I loved last year.

The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. March is still my favorite book of hers (it deserved the Pulitzer it got), but this story of how people of different faiths and cultures preserved a remarkable Jewish manuscript for 600 years is marvelously moving.
Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata. The science of losing weight is surprisingly interesting, at least as related by this NYT columnist.
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard. This historical novel about what may have happened the French Dauphin is simply wonderful. I even said so in print.