It’s been a bit since I have updated on my reading! Unfortunately I just didn’t meet my Goodread’s goal this year. With moving and everything else, I just didn’t have enough time. Did you make your goal? Here is what I read in December.
I really tried to fit a lot in throughout the month. We finished some for school and then I finished a very short book right on New Year’s Eve!
The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman – The Rise & Fall of Great Powers begins in a dusty bookshop. What follows is an abduction, heated political debate, glimpses into strangers’ homes, and travel around the globe. It’s a novel of curious personalities, mystery, and lots of books: volumes that the characters collect, covet, steal.
Tooly Zylberberg, owner of a bookshop in the Welsh countryside, spends most of her life reading. Yet there’s one tale that never made sense: her own life. In childhood, she was spirited away from home, then raised around Asia, Europe and the United States. But who were the people who brought her up? And what ever happened to them?
There was Humphrey, a curmudgeon from Russia; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who hailed from Kenya; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader who transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he vanished.
Years later, she has lost hope of ever knowing what took place. Then, the old mysteries stir again, sending her – and the reader – on a hunt through place and time, from Wales to Bangkok to New York to Italy, from the 1980’s to the Year 2000 to the present, from the end of the Cold War, to the rise and wobbles of U.S. power, to the digital revolution of today.
Gradually, all secrets are revealed…
What I thought: I had a hard time following the story, it jumped all over. I know there are people that like that style, but it just hurts my head. I just never got into it and I put off reading because of it.
The Librarian of Aushwitz by Antonio Iturbe – Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.
Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.
What I thought: This was fantastic. You got involved with more than just the main character. It really was a great story. I found it interesting that it was based on a real story.
The War to End All Wars WWI by Russell Freedman – The nonfiction master Russell Freedman illuminates for young readers the complex and rarely discussed subject of World War I. In this clear and authoritative account, the author shows the ways in which the seeds of a second world war were sown in the first. Numerous archival photographs give the often disturbing subject matter a moving visual counterpart.
What I thought: I thought this was told very well. There were quite a few things that I didn’t know and this book told the story as well as showed photographs that I had never seen before.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – One by one the boys begin to fall…
In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the ‘glorious war’. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young ‘unknown soldier’ experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches.
What I thought: Again, this was another book about the war…but told differently. Definitely a side that you didn’t hear much about. All those young boys. It wasn’t a fantastic book, but I am glad that I read it, if that makes sense.
Night by Elie Wiesel – Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel’s testimony to what happened in the camps and of his unforgettable message that this horror must simply never be allowed to happen again.
What I thought: It was hard reading these stories of this time so close together. Such a sad time. This book was a great book though, coming from someone who experienced it is mind boggling. I can’t even imagine.
Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa – This harrowing story of Hiroshima was one of the original Japanese manga series. New and unabridged, this is an all-new translation of the author’s first-person experiences of Hiroshima and its aftermath, is a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people. Its emotions and experiences speak to children and adults everywhere. Volume one of this ten-part series details the events leading up to and immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
What I thought: I was intrigued at how they were going to tell this story in a cartoon form. They did really well! You got to know the characters. And again, told from a survivor of such an awful occurrence.. Just wow.
The Making of Poem by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland – Explaining beauty is hard work. But distinguished poets Mark Strand and Eavan Boland have produced a clear, super-helpful book that unravels part of the mystery of great poems through an engaging exploration of poetic structure. Strand and Boland begin by promising to “look squarely at some of the headaches” of poetic form: the building blocks of poetry. The Making of a Poem gradually cures many of those headaches.
What I thought: I really enjoyed the different poems. There are little bits about each style of poem, what makes them that style.. Then there are quite a few examples. Some made us laugh, some made us shake our heads.. I am glad that I read this book!
Hiroshima by John Hersey – On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey’s journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day. Told through the memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic “that stirs the conscience of humanity” (The New York Times).
Almost four decades after the original publication of this celebrated book, John Hersey went back to Hiroshima in search of the people whose stories he had told. His account of what he discovered about them is now the eloquent and moving final chapter of Hiroshima .
What I thought: I enjoyed that this book was told from different peoples perspective. What they were doing at the time and how they survived.
Radium Girls by Kate Moore – The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger
The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.
Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.
But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.
What I thought: Wow.. I mean, I had no idea this happened. Kids are missing out on so much in school. Memorizing dates of wars and such. And then you never know that so many things happened. This story got a bit drawn out, but I liked reading it. There were pictures in it too that made it even that more real.
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester – The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary — and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
What I thought: Ok, who knew that this man helped in such a huge way to write this dictionary? There were bits that I wish they didn’t go on about as long, and other bits that I wish were written more on, but all in all, it was pretty interesting!
Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate – From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents–hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.
The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.
Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.
What I thought: After reading Before We Were Yours, I thought I must read this book. I was not disappointed. It wasn’t the book that I thought it was, but I still enjoyed reading the stories of everyone involved.
Born Broken by Kristin Berry – There is no need to struggle alone or in isolation. Other families know what you are going through. Find strength in not only your faith, but in the community of others who understand your heartache and disappointment, and the desperate need to help these children have a future.
[[Provides an account of real-life struggles and solutions from early childhood to young adulthood
[[Opens a window into their life and family in hopes of encouraging others
[[Reveals understanding, compassionate support for families facing these heart-wrenching challenges.
What I thought: Wow.. The book alone was exhausting to read, I can’t imagine the daily struggles. This book should be read by anyone going into foster care or that sort of thing.
I think that is all that I read in December. I didn’t know it was so many! Let me know what you read recently and loved!