The Last Weekend, Mamatas. In the safe enclave of San Francisco, Billy Kostopolos is a driller. When people die and are about to reanimate, they call him, and he carries out the messy job of ensuring they don't rise again via power drill to the skull. I thought I was getting a fun, pulpy novel and instead got a grim work on human life. Kostopolos is a drunk and a writer who has had exactly one story published; the book spends as much time dissecting how people crush themselves with their behaviour as it does on surviving in a city on the edge of a zombie apocalypse. Excellent, deeply upsetting.
I thought I'd cheer myself up with The Triumph of the Dark, by Steiner. A great account of "ideologies which the democratic perceptions could neither penetrate nor arrest." in 1930s Europe. It takes into account Asian conflicts as well, and is one of the clearest works I have ever read on the run-up to WWII and the possibilities along that path. Very well referenced and thorough.
And of course how could I escape WWI? Collision of Empires by Buttar lays out the preconditions necessary for WWI before merrily ploughing straight into the Eastern Front of the conflict, where three would-be empires tear each other apart. The assumptions, traditions, hidebound thinking, inefficiencies, and poor support and co-ordination (the chapter on Tannenberg detailing the complete lack of cohesion between Rennenkampf and Samsonov, both commanding Russian armies, quickly approaches black comedy) that contributed to a war that, while initially seen as inevitable and perhaps even desirable, did not pan out as intended for anyone. A book aimed at redressing the balance between the well-known Western Front and unfairly obscured Eastern. Quality.