The New York Times

By the Book: Niall Ferguson

THE HISTORIAN, BIOGRAPHER AND AUTHOR, MOST RECENTLY, OF ‘THE SQUARE AND THE TOWER’ OWNS BOOKS BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE INSULTED HIM IN PRINT: ‘I DO RESEARCH BEFORE TAKING VENGEANCE.’

Q: What books are on your nightstand?

A: I am a few pages from the end of Tom Holland’s marvelously readable “Rubicon” and about a quarter of the way through Mary Beard’s somewhat more earnest “SPQR.” Those were part of my challenge to myself this year to get better educated about the fall of the Roman Republic. I’m still dipping into Maya Jasanoff’s beautifully written travels in the footsteps of Conrad, “The Dawn Watch.” Newcomers to the nightstand, which were both recommended to me by friends: “China in Ten Words,” by Yu Hua and “Lives Other Than My Own,” by Emmanuel Carrère.

Q: Tell us about the last great book you read.

A: Great in the sense of “up there with the Columbia Core”? I would nominate “2084,” by the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal. As a vision of Islamic totalitarianism, it is blood-chilling. But it is also a masterly piece of writing.

Q: What’s the

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