Book club August 2016 and Friday Finds

Bookshelf4
Picture from my bookshelves
edited with Pixlr
#Fridayfinds

I’m presenting here the books we shared
at our last block Book Club meeting
– it’s a potluck book club,
meaning each member shares about his/her latest good read.
Awesome for diversity in books, lively conversations,
and your TBR getting suddenly taller!
(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)

 

1. Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-69, by Stephen E. Ambrose   (2001)
presented by P.

Nothing Like It in the World gives the account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad—the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks.

The U.S. government pitted two companies—the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads—against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West or lugged across the country to the Plains. In Ambrose’s hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle, and sweat, comes vibrantly to life.

2. A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight, by Maria Toorpakai  (May 20169)
presented by A.

Maria Toorpakai hails from Pakistan’s violently oppressive northwest tribal region, where the idea of women playing sports is considered haram-un-Islamic-forbidden-and girls rarely leave their homes. But she did, passing as a boy in order to play the sports she loved, thus becoming a lightning rod of freedom in her country’s fierce battle over women’s rights.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF DAUGHTER tell of Maria’s harrowing journey to play the sport she knew was her destiny, first living as a boy and roaming the violent back alleys of the frontier city of Peshawar, rising to become the number one female squash player in Pakistan. For Maria, squash was more than liberation-it was salvation. But it was also a death sentence, thrusting her into the national spotlight and the crosshairs of the Taliban, who wanted Maria and her family dead. Maria knew her only chance of survival was to flee the country.

Enter Jonathon Power, the first North American to earn the title of top squash player in the world, and the only person to heed Maria’s plea for help. Recognizing her determination and talent, Jonathon invited Maria to train and compete internationally in Canada. After years of living on the run from the Taliban, Maria packed up and left the only place she had ever known to move halfway across the globe and pursue her dream. Now Maria is well on the way to becoming a world champion as she continues to be a voice for oppressed women everywhere.

3. What Works: Gender Equality by Design, by Iris Bohnet  (March 2016)
also presented by A.

Gender equality is a moral and a business imperative. But unconscious bias holds us back, and de-biasing people s minds has proven to be difficult and expensive. Diversity training programs have had limited success, and individual effort alone often invites backlash. Behavioral design offers a new solution. By de-biasing organizations instead of individuals, we can make smart changes that have big impacts. Presenting research-based solutions, Iris Bohnet hands us the tools we need to move the needle in classrooms and boardrooms, in hiring and promotion, benefiting businesses, governments, and the lives of millions.

“What Works” is built on new insights into the human mind. It draws on data collected by companies, universities, and governments in Australia, India, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, and other countries, often in randomized controlled trials. It points out dozens of evidence-based interventions that could be adopted right now and demonstrates how research is addressing gender bias, improving lives and performance. “What Works” shows what more can be done often at shockingly low cost and surprisingly high speed.

4. 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, by Robert Byrne   (1988)
presented by B.

From Plato to Groucho, this comprehensive edition features some of the most quotable people who ever lived. They are the famous, infamous, the little-known, and the unknown, inspired enough by life to comment on it, and smart enough to be clever about it.

5.  The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson   (2003)
presented by M.

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book’s categorization to be sure that ‘The Devil in the White City’ is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

6. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin  (1960)
presented by J.

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line.  Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man.  His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity-that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

7.  The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec, by Ian Mount  (2012)
presented by W.

For generations, Argentine wine was famously bad—­oxidized, unpalatable, and often mixed with a low-class French grape called Malbec. But then in 2001, a Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend beat all contenders in a blind taste test featuring Napa and Bordeaux’s finest. Today, Argentina and its signature wine are on the tip of every smart traveler’s tongue. How did this happen?

The Vineyard at the End of the World tells the fascinating, four-hundred-year history of how a wine mecca arose in the high Andean desert. Profiling the outlandish figures who fueled the Malbec revolution—including celebrity enologist Michel Rolland, acclaimed American winemaker Paul Hobbs, and the Mondavi-esque Catena family—Ian Mount describes in colorful detail the nefarious scams, brilliant business innovations, and backroom politics that put Malbec on the map.

8. Black Ribbon (A Dog Lover’s Mystery #8), by Susan Conant  (1995)
presented by S.

Holly Winter and her Alaskan Malamute, Rowdy, are spending a week at Waggin’ Tail Camp, but Holly receives a sympathy card for the loss of her pet–is it a sick joke or is Kimi, her other Malamute, in jeopardy?

9. The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller (1992)
presented by M.

If you’ve ever experienced the one true love of your life, a love that for some reason could never be, you will understand why readers all over the world were so moved by this small, unknown first novel that they made it a publishing phenomenon and #1 bestseller. The story of Robert Kincaid, the photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, the farm wife waiting for the fulfillment of a girlhood dream, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY gives voice to the longings of men and women everywhere-and shows us what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again.

10. The Devil’s Cave (Bruno, Chief of Police #5) , by Martin Walker (2013)
presented by C.

Mystery, food, and wine in the French province of Dordogne—the latest offering from Martin Walker, featuring Benoît “Bruno” Courrèges.
It’s spring in St. Denis. The village choir is preparing for its Easter concert, the wildflowers are blooming, and among the lazy whorls of the river a dead woman is found floating in a boat. It’s another case for Bruno, the town’s cherished chief of police. With the discovery of sinister markings and black candles near the body, it seems to him that the occult might be involved. And as questions mount—regarding a troubling real estate proposal in the region; a suspicious, violent death made to look accidental; and the sudden reappearance of a politically controversial elderly countess—Bruno and his colleagues and friends are drawn ever closer to a climactic showdown in the Gouffre de Colombac: the place locals call the Devil’s Cave.
With the enchanting backdrop of France’s pastoral heartland, a cast of local characters as vibrant as their surroundings, enough sumptuous repasts to satisfy any literary gourmand, and a hero winningly capable of balancing the good life with a dogged dedication to solving the crimes that threaten it, The Devil’s Cave invites readers to raise a glass and turn the page.

11. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande  (2009)
presented by N.

NB: this is the author of Being Mortal.
We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies‚neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist.
First introduced decades ago by the U.S. Air Force, checklists have enabled pilots to fly aircraft of mind-boggling sophistication. Now innovative checklists are being adopted in hospitals around the world, helping doctors and nurses respond to everything from flu epidemics to avalanches. Even in the immensely complex world of surgery, a simple ninety-second variant has cut the rate of fatalities by more than a third.

In riveting stories, Gawande takes us from Austria, where an emergency checklist saved a drowning victim who had spent half an hour underwater, to Michigan, where a cleanliness checklist in intensive care units virtually eliminated a type of deadly hospital infection. He explains how checklists actually work to prompt striking and immediate improvements. And he follows the checklist revolution into fields well beyond medicine, from homeland security to investment banking, skyscraper construction, and businesses of all kinds.
An intellectual adventure in which lives are lost and saved and one simple idea makes a tremendous difference, The Checklist Manifesto is essential reading for anyone working to get things right.

12. The Promise, by Danielle Steel  (1977)
presented by J.

Young architect Micheal Hillyard and artist Nancy McAllister are determined to get married despite his wealthy mother’s disapproval. Then minutes before their wedding, a terrifying accident and a cruel deception separate Micheal and Nancy–perhaps forever. Each pursues a new life–Nancy in California, Micheal in New York. But eventually nothing–and no one–can keep them apart as they keep their vow never to say good-bye.

13. My Brilliant Friend (L’amica geniale #1) , by Elena Ferrante, (2012)
presented by B.

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. With this novel, the first in a trilogy, she proves herself to be one of Italy’s great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.

14. The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx  (1992)
presented by E.

NB: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1994), National Book Award for Fiction (1993)

When Quoyle’s two-timing wife meets her just desserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters and family members all play a part in Quoyle’s struggle to reclaim his life. As Quoyle confronts his private demons–and the unpredictable forces of nature and society–he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery. A vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family, The Shipping News shows why Annie Proulx is recognized as one of the most gifted and original writers in America today.

15. The House Between Tides, by Sarah Maine, (Aug 2, 2016)
presented by me

The House Between TidesKate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier in this atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.
Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.
Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.
What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.

If you want to read my enthusiastic review about here, come this way:
https://wordsandpeace.com/2016/08/23/book-review-the-house-between-tides/

 

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 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?

Book Club: 13 titles for our 2015 April meeting

Recap of our Block Book Club April 2015 meeting
Good books for your week-end!

 

Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].

Irene

1) Irène (Verhœven Trilogy #1), by Pierre Lemaitre (2014)
presented by B.

READ MY REVIEW

Alex

2) Alex (Verhœven Trilogy #2), by Pierre Lemaitre (2014)
also presented by B.

READ MY REVIEW

A Paris Apartment cover

3) A Paris Apartment, by Michelle Gable (2014)
presented by M.

READ MY REVIEW

4) La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language, by Dianne Hales (2009)
presented by R.

“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it.  In my case, Italian possesses me.  With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses…”

A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation, told against the backdrop of one woman’s personal quest to speak fluent Italian.

For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Lingua, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the “the world’s most loved and lovable language” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle and food in a true opera amorosa — a labor of her love of Italy.

Throughout  her first excursion in Italy — with  “non parlo Italiano” as her only Italian phrase — Dianne delighted in the beauty of what she saw but craved comprehension of what she heard.  And so she chose to inhabit the language.  Over more than twenty-five years she has studied Italian in every way possible through Berlitz,  books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, large blocks of time in Italy.   In the process she found that Italian became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italy’s storia and its very soul.  She offers charming insights into what it is that makes Italian the most emotionally expressive of languages, from how the “pronto” (“Ready!”) Italians say when they answer the telephone conveys a sense of something coming alive, to how even ordinary things such as a towel (asciugamano) or handkerchief (fazzoletto) sound better in Italian.

She invites readers to join her as she traces the evolution of Italian in the zesty graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, in Dante’s incandescent cantos and in Boccaccio’s bawdy Decameron.  She portrays how social graces remain woven into the fabric of Italian:  even the chipper “ciao,” which does double duty as “hi” and “bye,” reflects centuries of bella figura.  And she exalts the glories of Italy’s food and its rich and often uproarious gastronomic language:  Italians deftly describe someone uptight as a baccala (dried cod), a busybody who noses into everything as a prezzemolo (parsley), a worthless or banal movie as a polpettone (large meatball).

Like Dianne, readers of La Bella Lingua will find themselves innamorata, enchanted, by Italian, fascinated by its saga, tantalized by its adventures, addicted to its sound, and ever eager to spend more time in its company.

5) Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam M. Grant (2013)
presented by P.

An innovative, groundbreaking book that will captivate readers of Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, The Power of Habit, and Quiet

For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Using his own pioneering research as Wharton’s youngest tenured professor, Grant shows that these styles have a surprising impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. Combining cutting-edge evidence with captivating stories, this landmark book shows how one of America’s best networkers developed his connections, why the creative genius behind one of the most popular shows in television history toiled for years in anonymity, how a basketball executive responsible for multiple draft busts transformed his franchise into a winner, and how we could have anticipated Enron’s demise four years before the company collapsed-without ever looking at a single number.

Praised by bestselling authors such as Dan Pink, Tony Hsieh, Dan Ariely, Susan Cain, Dan Gilbert, Gretchen Rubin, Bob Sutton, David Allen, Robert Cialdini, and Seth Godin-as well as senior leaders from Google, McKinsey, Merck, Estee Lauder, Nike, and NASA-Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.

 Mademoiselle Chanel

6) Mademoiselle Chanel, by C.W. Gortner (March 2015)
presented by me

READ MY REVIEW

7) Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson (March 2015)
presented by P.

#1 New York Times Bestseller

From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

8) What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age, by Renee Rosen (2014)
also presented by P.

In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.
The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she can’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night.…

Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie—including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.

But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.

9) A Canticle for Leibowitz , by Walter M. Miller Jr. (1959)
presented by P.

Winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel and widely considered one of the most accomplished, powerful, and enduring classics of modern speculative fiction, Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true landmark of twentieth-century literature–a chilling and still provocative look at a post-apocalyptic future.

In a nightmarish ruined world slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infant rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From here the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, satirical eye the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes. Seriously funny, stunning, and tragic, eternally fresh, imaginative, and altogether remarkable, A Canticle for Leibowitz retains its ability to enthrall and amaze. It is now, as it always has been, a masterpiece.

 Look Who's Back

10) Look Who’s Back, by Timur Vermes (April 2014)
presented by J.

READ MY REVIEW

 

11) I’ve Got You Under My Skin, by Mary Higgins Clark (2014)
presented by J.

When Laurie Moran’s husband was brutally murdered, only three-year-old Timmy saw the face of his father’s killer. Five years later his piercing blue eyes still haunt Timmy’s dreams. Laurie is haunted by more: the killer’s threat to her son as he fled the scene: Tell your mother she’s next, then it’s your turn . . .

Now Laurie is dealing with murder again, this time as the producer of a true-crime, cold-case television show. The series will launch with the twenty-year-old unsolved murder of Betsy Powell. Betsy, a socialite, was found suffocated in her bed after a gala celebrating the graduation of her daughter and three friends. The sensational murder was news nationwide. Reopening the case in its lavish setting and with the cooperation of the surviving guests that night, Laurie is sure to have a hit on her hands. But when the estranged friends begin filming, it becomes clear each is hiding secrets . . . small and large.

And a pair of blue eyes is watching events unfold, too . . .

12) The House We Grew Up In, by Lisa Jewell (2014)
presented by S.

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in — and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family’s desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

13) My Grandfather’s Blessings : Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, by Rachel Naomi Remen (2001)
presented by A.

In My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, a cancer physician and master storyteller, uses her luminous stories to remind us of the power of our kindness and the joy of being alive.

Dr. Remen’s grandfather, an orthodox rabbi and scholar of the Kabbalah, saw life as a web of connection and knew that everyone belonged to him, and that he belonged to everyone. He taught her that blessing one another is what fills our emptiness, heals our loneliness, and connects us more deeply to life.

Life has given us many more blessings than we have allowed ourselves to receive. My Grandfather’s Blessings is about how we can recognize and receive our blessings and bless the life in others. Serving others heals us. Through our service we will discover our own wholeness—and the way to restore hidden wholeness in the world.

***

 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?

(2012) #37 review: In The Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts:
Love, Terror, and an American Family
in Hitler’s Berlin

by

Erik LARSON

Narrated by Stephen HOYE

Published by Random House Audio in 2011

12 :55 hours

THIS BOOK COUNTS FOR THE FOLLOWING READING CHALLENGES

        

   

    

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

A male member of my block book club highly spoke about this book. That’s the advantage of my “trading titles” book club: I hear about books I may not read, and I get all kinds of recommendations, all genres, some more geared to men, some more to women. As I needed a book on Germany for three of my reading challenges, I trusted F. and listened to this book.

It was really good, giving an always astounding picture of what the world at large, and particularly Americans in this book, thought about Hitler on the eve of his hellish endeavors.

The book describes the rise of the Third Reich in daily living in Berlin, with gruesome details of what was progressively happening, when the rest of the world was thinking Hitler was a jerk with no real power who was going to disappear quickly from the political sphere. How wrong…

I liked the presentation of Dodd’s character, who felt progressively stuck in an impossible situation, after having accepted a job he never really looked for nor liked, and who kept dreaming about peaceful days at his farm where he could finish writing his book. He was one of very few American diplomats who could feel what was coming, and as such was not respected, to say the least, by his peers. The tension between them is very well described.

Dodd went to live in Berlin with all his family, and the book focuses as well on his daughter Martha, who had other kinds of relationships (some very close and intimate) with all kinds of key people of the time. It makes history quite interesting when the daughter of the American ambassador in Berlin flirts or falls in love with Nazis or a Russian on the eve of 2nd world war…

The book comprises lots of documents, excerpts of diaries, interviews, that make it really lively.

I thought this was a very cool title, as The Garden of Beasts happens to be a famous park in Berlin where Dodd liked to walk. Of course the title contains more insinuations.

I have to admit this was my first book by Erik Larson, but this will definitely not be the last!

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE AUDIO PRODUCTION

I recognize non-fiction is more difficult to narrate than fiction. Still, I was a bit disappointed by the audio performance of this book. I kept listening because of the quality of the content, and managed to ignore the flatness of Hoye’s voice. I think he could have inserted more variety in his tone of voice, but the whole book is basically read with the same almost boring tone. It sounded too uni-dimensional to me, not dynamic at all. I’m surprised it was nominated for the Audie Awards this year in the History category. I don’t think the narrator added anything to the book at all, and I would suggest you actually read this book instead of listening to it.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming–yet wholly sinister–Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror. [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik Larson, author of the international bestseller Isaac’s Storm, was nominated for a National Book Award for The Devil in the White City. He is a former features writer for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, where he is still a contributing writer. His magazine stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and other publications.

Larson has taught non-fiction writing at San Francisco State, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and the University of Oregon, and has spoken to audiences from coast to coast. He lives in Seattle with his wife, three daughters, a dwarf hamster, a Chinese fighting fish, and a golden retriever named Molly. See his website for extra material: http://www.eriklarsonbooks.com

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