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My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of There Will Be Fire: Margaret Thatcher, the IRA, and Two Minutes That Changed History

Joshua Piven Why did I love this book?

I was on somewhat of a “history of the IRA” kick this year (that’s the Irish Republican Army, not the Inflation Reduction Act!). I read a review of There Will Be Fire (ominously titled Killing Thatcher in the UK) in The New Yorker and picked up a copy.

The book is history that reads like a novel. It traces the story of IRA operatives who, in 1984, planted a massive bomb at a UK beach resort that just barely missed killing the UK Prime Minister (and her husband) while killing or injuring many others and destroying most of the historic building.

I had never even heard of this incident—and indeed, that’s part of Carroll’s tale, that much of it has been lost to history.

The book works on many levels: as political history, as a detective story, as an examination of the evolution of the IRA and its tactics, as a time-capsule of Britain as it was bombed repeatedly during the Troubles, and as a counter-factual: how might the UK government been have been different had Thatcher died? And, in fact, how was she (and it) changed after the bombing?

By Rory Carroll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There Will Be Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A race-against-the-clock narrative that finally illuminates a history-changing event: the IRA’s attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and the epic manhunt that followed.

    A bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army exploded at 2:54 a.m. on October 12, 1984. It was the last day of the Conservative Party Conference at the Grand Hotel in the coastal town of Brighton, England. Rooms were obliterated, dozens of people wounded, five killed. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in her suite when the explosion occurred; had she been just a few feet in another direction, flying tiles and masonry would have sliced her to ribbons.…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…


By Nelson DeMille,

Book cover of Cathedral

Joshua Piven Why did I love this book?

This novel sparked my initial interest in learning more about the history of the IRA.

It’s a well-told tale of a group of Irish nationalists (or criminals/terrorists, depending on your point of view) who hatch a complex plot to take over St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City (with hostages, naturally) on St. Patrick’s Day—and the detectives trying to stop them.

While some of the language is a bit dated (it was published in 1981) with the expected stereotypes and so on, the story is well-plotted, the characters are well-drawn and their motivations plausible, and, best of all, the minute detail about the interior of the cathedral is believable.

The infighting among the various branches of law enforcement and local politicians is also very well done and entirely accurate: mostly, they want to avoid blame.


By Nelson DeMille,

What is this book about?

St Patrick's Day, New York City. Everyone is celebrating but everyone is in for the shock of his life. Born into the heat and hatred of the Northern Ireland conflict, IRA man Brian Flynn has masterminded a brilliant terrorist act - the seizure of Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Among his hostages: the woman Brian Flynn once loved, a former terrorist turned peace activist. Among his enemies: an Irish-American police lieutenant fighting against a traitor inside his own ranks and a shadowy British intelligence officer pursuing his own cynical, bloody plan. The cops face a booby-trapped, perfectly laid out killing zone inside…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

The Black Echo

By Michael Connelly,

Book cover of The Black Echo

Joshua Piven Why did I love this book?

As someone who does a lot of research about survival situations, I love a good heist book, and this is one of the best I’ve come across recently.

I’d of course read many of Connelly’s other books, but this is his first and, in my opinion, one of the best.

Starting with the discovery of a body, stuffed in a drainpipe, in a remote corner of Los Angeles, what appears to be a standard whodunit turns into a complexly plotted mystery that connects Vietnam vets, drugs, a gang of professional thieves and, yes, a bank job.

This is the first Harry Bosch book, and if you’re a fan, this origination story is well worth reading: Bosch recognizes the dead man and is drawn in on a personal level, dealing with his own Vietnam demons as he begins to unravel the mystery.

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Black Echo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An LAPD homicide detective must choose between justice and vengeance as he teams up with the FBI in this "thrilling" novel filled with mystery and adventure (New York Times Book Review).

For maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal . . . because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war. Now Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys…

Plus, check out my book…

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Apocalypse

By Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht,

Book cover of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Apocalypse

What is my book about?

Since 1999, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook series has been an essential guide to navigating some of life’s most unexpected situations.

But what about the ultimate worst-case scenario: the apocalypse? Practical survival tips meet hilarious what-if scenarios to provide tools to keep your cool during any situation. Dozens of survival experts provided their know-how so that.

Readers can apocalypse-proof their finances, pack a go-bag in thirty minutes, make an emergency gas mask or air filter, Defeat a robot army, outwit a zombie horde, fend off rival clans, and more!

I read 15 books this year.