Book 33, a book at the bottom of your list, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
To summarize, this novel is basically any historian’s daydreams realized. How often have you held a very old object in your hands and wondered about the other people throughout history who have held that same object? What if you could trace the object’s trajectory throughout time and space to learn all of the wonderful and horrible events that particular item endured before making it to this moment in time? I think we have all had this fantasy of trying to picture the lives and the people that we are connected to through physical objects reaching backward into the past. This is particularly true of anyone who has had the unique pleasure of holding a very old or very rare book in their hands. It feels almost magical, this tangible ability to connect with history.
Hanna Heath, our narrator, is a brilliant, intelligent woman from Australia who possesses the rare talent of restoring ancient texts. She is called upon to inspect and repair an ancient Hebrew Haggadah that has been found by a Serbian after the Bosnian war. As she works with the text, Hanna discovers several oddities about it that raise very intriguing questions. Who created this text, which though made for Jewish religious rites is illustrated like a Christian prayer book (abnormal for a book of this nature)? How did it survive the centuries in war-torn countries? What are the intriguing stains and samples she finds hiding within its binding? The text has a story to unveil, if only we look closely enough. As readers, we are privy to the whole story, something Hanna unfortunately can only expostulate upon. As she uses science to uncover the answers of this ancient text, we are treated to the entire story of how this book came to be, and of the people throughout time that shaped it.
I found this novel a refreshing, thrilling way to revisit history and imagine the lives of those who came before us. Brooks’ imaginative and inventive story weaves a fine web demonstrating that we as humans are inexorably tied to one another and our actions have very real consequences on the world in which we live.