A Short History of WWI in 3 Books

My knowledge of the first World War was sparse, I knew a ruler was assassinated which sparked conflict, but the rest was fuzzy. When these three books landed in my lap it felt serendipitous. All the history snapped together to and fell into place. War is devastating, but it is necessary to understand our history in order to understand our present. Read these three books and you will have a good picture of what led to the first world war and ultimately the second world war. Happy Reading!

Who Was Winston Churchill by Ellen Labreque

churchillA children’s book? Yes! All adults should read a few pieces of literature written for children. This book will take you less than 2 hours to read and will give you a perfect overview of the major events which took place during both world wars. Additionally, Churchill’s life is highly inspiring, he overcame major career setbacks and some of his best work was accomplished after 50 years of age.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Who Was Winston Churchill?

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

dead wakeUnrest in Europe is simmering as the Lusitania, an enormous, luxury passenger vessel is setting sail from New York to Liverpool. The day before the Lusitania was to leave port in the US, Germany stated in the New York Times they were going to be using submarines to torpedo ships to their hearts desire. The United States was remaining neutral while Europe was on the brink of war. Dead Wake explains the tension in world relations, the physics of ocean liners, submarines, u-boats, and torpedoes, all in a gripping narrative. The story is tragic and fascinating. The events in this book are vital to understanding how World War I unfolded, and the catalyst that moved the United States out of their neutral stance. The sinking of the Lusitania proves minute, mundane decisions matter, history matters, and global relations matter.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

family-romanovThe plight of last reigning Tzar of Russia is a haunting story of privilege, power, and revolution.  All of this history was happening while World War I was happening, yet at this time Russia and the United States had a peace agreement. This book is impeccably researched and incredibly readable. Candace Fleming creates a narrative of life in imperial Russia, and it is captivating. While Nicholas and his family dined on the finest of foods, even by today’s standards, the average person in Russia was starving in a small shack. While they adorned their gowns with jewels and traveled to  monstrous houses, conflict was brewing and it would prove fatal. Before reading this book I knew the basic history of Russia and the Romanov family. However, now I understand all the factors and political powers leading up to their execution. If you get bogged down with non-fiction, try this, it reads effortlessly, and the story is riveting. If you love Non-fiction, or if you read to be informed, rather than entertained, this is a perfect novel.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (Awards))

 

 

 

A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary

a girl from yamhillmy own two feet_Reading both of Beverly Cleary’s biographies made me long to time travel back to the 30’s and 40’s. Although these were very hard times, as Ms. Cleary wrote about, they are fascinating times in history. I was nostalgic for some aspects of life we will never know, like riding on street cars, going to dances in ankle socks, and being picked up for a date in a Model T. Ms. Cleary’s life is fascinating; she came of age in a time where very few opportunities existed for young people. However, her dream of becoming a librarian became a reality, with an interesting journey along the way.  A Girl from Yamhill tells her story of childhood from a farm to graduating high school in Portland. My Own Two Feet continues her story into adulthood, through college during the great depression, becoming a librarian, and even running an army library on a military base.  She finally got the courage to write her first book, and the rest is her better known history. Writing award winning books and becoming one of the most beloved authors for children. I don’t read many autobiographies, but these were superb. 

To purchase from Amazon, click here:

A Girl from Yamhill

My Own Two Feet (An Avon Camelot Book)

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

TheOppositeOfLoneliness Ok, so I am a jerk.  I saw this book on the NYT Bestseller list, requested it from the library, and picked it up one Saturday.  I glanced at it, threw it in the passenger seat of my car, and wondered what this young woman could have to say.  I expected something fluffy or self-indulged.  Then I opened the book and read about the author.  I saw two dates, 1989-2012. I stopped and stood in my hallway, absorbing and reading.  I read about Marian Keegan, a talented, accomplished, intelligent young writer who died 5 days after her college graduation in a car accident.   I felt like a terrible person, forgetting the first rule of reading; don’t judge a book by its cover.  Then I sat and read and read.  Marina had incredible things to say, profound, witty, endearing, humane, hopeful, lovely things to say.

This compilation was published after her death.  It is a compilation of short stories and non-fiction pieces.  They are full of longing to change the world, and joy in the journey of life.  She was a writer that could capture human experience succinctly and make you think, “I have felt that, I have done that, I know exactly what you mean.”   A college girl writing about college boyfriends, those are stories one can pound out from their own recesses of experience.  However, Keegan wrote a story about a middle aged woman adopting a baby.  It was sweet, funny, poignant, and very well done.  I was impressed with her ability to capture life stages far beyond her own.

The essay I connected to the most she wrote about her high school car.  Her coming-of-age experiences in it, and the storage unit her care transformed into. A co-worker once laughed at my random collection of things in my car, a can of diet coke, one shoe, and detachable straps from a bridesmaids dress.  My car was my extra home on wheels for many years; it saw me through a lot of happy and sad.  Keegan encapsulated this feeling, I related so well to her depictions.  I believe this is what great writing does, reassures you there is someone else who has felt and experienced the exact same things.  Marina Keegan is a voice gone way too soon.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here:

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Deep Down Dark

deep down dark book jacketThe story of the trapped Chilean miners is a story I remember hearing about, I knew they were rescued, and their plight sounded bad, but I was ignorant to the details of the story.  Reading Deep Down Dark was humbling to say the least. The daily conditions these men worked in were something I could never endure, however, their entrapment was truly inhumane.  One morning in August the miners left for a normal day of work and did not see the light of day again for 69 days.

While the men were trapped underground they made a pact to keep their story and only tell it to one person who would represent them well.  Hector Tobar was chosen, and he wrote an incredible narrative of their experience. It is known worldwide the men were recsued, but I was on the edge of my seat as I read. As a reader you begin to feel what the men were going through, balancing hope, fear, and helplessness day after day. Tobar wrote this as only a master storyteller could, he layered facts with tender moments from the lives of people. He included the topography of the mountain, technical details about drills and ore, the science of starvation, all pieced together in a heart-wrenching narrative.  The men bonded, fought, and prayed through the endless hours being trapped. It was engrossing from start to finish.  I was grateful for the knowledge I gained about this story and the conditions of modern day mining.  Deep Down Dark is the best book I have read in 2015.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here:

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

This is a photo of the capsule in which they were brought up out of the mine. Photo credit to smithsonian.

fenix-capsule

Here is a photo of the men that were trapped.  This is on the back of the book, but hard to see. Photo credit to Macmillan.

DeepDownDark_miners

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

I have always half seriously said I wanted to be a farmer.  I have maintained a meager garden.  I know the thrill of seeing two small starts produce 40 green cucumbers. I know the frustration of weeds and disappointment of a small or failed yield. However, I never knew the intensity of the time, labor, and grind on one’s body to run a working farm.  After reading this book I knew, and you will too.  Farming is more than kitchy decorations and fresh eggs.

To order this book on amazon click here:  The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love

the dirty lifeI adored this book from the first page to the last.   The author and her boyfriend, Mark pursue their dream to become farmers on a run-down plot of land.  She follows us through their first seasons of restoration, reviving, planting, harvesting, and an unrelentless amount of work.   I fell in love with their first milking cow, Delia, and their first draft horses Sam and Silver. I was amazed at the attatchment I felt for cows and horses.  The science of making cheese, whey, maple syrup, and butchering animals, are all described with the best blend of science and heart.  I learned how to cook liver, strain fresh milk, and kill a pigeon for dinner from reading this book. (Could I do it? No, but I admire Kimball for doing it.)  The farm to table movement has become such a hip and happening trend, but these two people live farm to table from sun up to sun down, and sometimes straight through the night.  Read this book, it is fantastic.

You can see pictures and read more about what they do on her blog and their website.  Here are the links:

http://www.kristinkimball.com/

http://www.essexfarmcsa.com/

Seattle Food Writer- Molly Wizenberg

Molly Wizenberg also deserves her own post, she is a local Seattle Restaurant owner, blogger, writer, and mother.  I highly reccomend reading both of her books, good fall reading, great for food lovers, seattle lovers, paris lovers, or anyone with a heart, soul, or palette.

My sweet friend Kim recently called this blog, my shop around the corner.  I consider that a high compliment, not only because it was Meg Ryan at her peak, but because it represents pursuing the stirrings of your soul.  Molly Wiezenberg’s books are her shop around the corner.  The restaurant Delancy is the shop around the corner their marriage built.  I have loved reading her journey of life through food, love, book writing, and restaurant building.

She captures the essence of following your dreams through the exciting and weary times.  She is honest, but never whiny, humorous, but never snarky.  I read Delancy in one day.  This avid reader has never finished a non-fiction book in that time frame.  These books are delicious slices of life.

A Homemade Life

A Homemade LifeTo finish this book I sat down on a Sunday night with a glass of wine, a plate lined with small rectangles of unusual cheese, and a hunk of bread ripped in half; half to eat with the cheese, half smeared with butter, a dessert of sorts.  A Homemade Life is rich and delightful.  The book reads like a story, but set in a land of delicious eats.  Molly tells the story of her life one recipe at a time.  It never lags, it never feel forced or contrived.  Her love story flows out of her shared love of food with her sweet and charming husband.  You will want to eat, cook, drink, love, and live boldly after you read this book.  I never buy books, I am a strict library patron, but I need this book on my shelf.  I am bringing her Apples Tarte Tatin to our book club this week.  I am thankful she suggests using pastry dough from Trader Joe’s, and I am anxious to try her fennel salad and Ratatouille.  When the author met her husband her friend cheered her on saying, “Don’t stop now.  This is the bread and butter! This is what it is all about.” I smiled as I finished the book and finished my bread and butter in my cozy home on a Sunday night.  This book is bread and butter.  Savor it to the end.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

Delancey

Delancey_coverGetting to experience Delancy was a practice in patience. I saw this book on the Seattle Public Library website and requested it.  I was number 184 in line. I waited from April to October to get my copy.   Then a friend asked me if I wanted to go to dinner at Delancy, she had heard it was good. It is a small pizza place in a tucked away Seattle Neighborhood.    We tried to go on a Saturday night, an hour wait.  We went to a neighborhood pub.  We went back on a Saturday night, prepared for a wait, and we waited 45 minutes.   The pizza was worth it, totally and completely worth it. I wanted a group of my great girlfriend’s to come and experience the pizza with me, we set a date.  I got there an hour early, put our name in, and then read in my car by flashlight for an hour.  We waited another hour for the diners before us to finish their pizza and chit-chat over coffee.  The wonderful hostess that handles the front playfully suggested we stare them down a bit.  I did.  They sipped their coffee.

Delancy, the book and the restaurant, were worth the wait.  I was enchanted by the story of their unrelenting determination to open their own little pizza place.  Many books I have read lately are about the pursuit of deep rooted dreams.  Delancy is the story of the dream to bring impeccably delectable wood fired pizza to Seattle.   I truly respect the people of Seattle with vision that make old things new and restore instead of destruct.  Molly and her husband do exactly that.   I felt a kinship with this book, at first I thought it is because I am Seattle resident; the story takes place in a ten mile radius from my home.  However, it is the story, not the setting that draws you in as a reader.  Regardless of where you live, the story is poignant, and reads like a novel.  It leaves you with a feeling of contentment and inspiration to pursue your relentless desires.   You will cheer for Molly and her husband.  Go to Delancy, you will dream of the White Pie long after it is finished.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

One-Sit-Wonders: 3 Books You Can Finish in a Single Day

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Rosenthal 

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeIf your quirky best friend wrote down all her thoughts on life and gave them to you alphabetized with diagrams and illustrations, it would turn out like this book.  It was such a sweet and pleasant read, not to deep, not too serious, just an enjoyable weekend read.  The author introduces the book by telling in the third person how her book came to be.  She was always out of the box, writing short bits and pieces of thought, but could never find a place for them in the publishing world.  Finally, she found her niche, and it is her Encyclopedia.  The alphabetical entries are in the format of a subject followed by an explanation.  Her life story unfolds to you in random thoughts that work together and make sense.  The ‘B’ section starts: Bad Movie, Bagpipers, Birthday, Birthmark.  Who can resist reading thoughts on Birthmarks and Bagpipers?   A great one-sit-wonder.

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Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun- Mi Hwang

The henIf you are on the hunt for a book that is: told from the view of a hen, translated from Japanese, is short but poignant, and can be read in a day, this is your book.  The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is an unusual gem.  The story is told from the perspective of a hen who wants to hatch an egg, and her quest to battle the weasel who wants her as dinner.  Her journey is sweet and touching.  I have read a few books that have been translated from other languages and I really enjoy them.  When a book is translated it automatically has a different voice and feel than a book written in English first.  It is a characteristic that is hard to describe, however it makes the book all the more enjoyable.  The length of this book makes you feel like the Queen of the Castle, you can read it in a day and feel so accomplished.  I love a good classic tomb of a book that takes dedication and fervor, but there is something nice about a short little read.  If I could compare this book to chocolate, it would be a box of fine, handmade delicacies.  It is small, but exquisite.

To Order this Book on Amazon, click here:

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Lavithan

The Lovers DictionaryI spent one afternoon idling in the road of life and enjoying ‘The Lover’s Dictionary.  It is a perfect procrastination book, if you fail to get something important accomplished, at least you can accomplish reading an entire book.  Now, people like books for different reasons, many are very personal and deeply rooted in convictions, emotions, experiences, etc.  The reason I liked this book is because it was so creative, bold, and short.  Levithan tells the story of his relationship in alphabetical order with selected words from the dictionary, and he does it well.  I did not love some of the events, but I loved the format and the voice of the writing.  I loved learning new words and expanding my vocabulary.  A good one-sit-wonder.

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The Lover’s Dictionary: A Novel