Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover

educatedI was riveted and sometimes torn to pieces reading Educated. Westover’s account of her childhood in remote Idaho is captivating. If you read only a few books a year, this should make the list. Tara’s parents are fundamentalist Mormons, prepping for the end of the world. They live with their seven children isolated from civilization and society.  Traditional medicine is strictly forbidden, as well as the public-school system. This book was hard to put down because her experiences were so extreme. It seemed impossible that a young girl could grow into a functional adult after surviving such an odd upbringing. At times I had to take breaks, the account of abuse by one family member was so disturbing. However, I had to know how it ended. I particularly appreciated how she portrayed herself in a brutally honest light.  She recognized her own skewed thinking and habits, as well as her family. Her journey of healing and establishing a healthy mindset is the most inspiring story I have read all year.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Educated: A Memoir

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.


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.