In Ishmael’s House, by Martin Gilbert

Sir Martin Gilbert, an author of many books, has written an argument for one of the silent participants in the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum. He re­counts the story of the Jewish experience under Muslim rulers over the past 14 centuries, an ambitious task that necessitates wide reading among numerous specialties.


After disaster

Rebecca Solnit’s thesis is that paradise can arise from hell. If I am more pessimistic, perhaps that is due to accounts of natural disaster such as Emma Larkin's in her new book.


Nuns Behaving Badly, by Craig A. Monson

Music historian Craig Monson had the rare privilege of doing re­search in the Vatican Archive reading room. That collection isn't indexed, and the archivists apparently are not eager to help with anything besides fetching books from the library, so researchers usually have to pore over lots of material before finding what they're after.