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))

 

 

 

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I was humbled to learn I was completely unaware of the history of the Orphan Trains in the US. In 1850, there were 30,000 homeless children in New York City. In an effort to help these children, they were put on trains and taken to live on farms in the midwest. From 1853 to the early 1900’s thousands of children were relocated, this movement is credited with starting the Foster Care System. You can read more about the history here:

Childrens Aid Society

orphan-train

Photo credit to the Childrens Aid Society Website

orphan train book coverOrphan Train, the historical fiction novel set in this time period is outstanding. We meet three characters, Neeve, an orphan in 1929, Molly, aging out of the modern day foster system, and Vivian, a 90 year old woman who Molly is placed to serve community service.  Their stories fit together perfectly, their struggles are different, but also a mirror image of one another. Each womans life is rich with emotion, perseverance, and redemption. A perfect historical fiction novel. The Audiobook was fantastic, I think it added to the book because of the characterization through different voices.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Orphan Train

To Purchase the Audiobook, click here: Orphan Train: A Novel

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

 

the nest 2A father’s small, wise, and calculated investment has grown into a large sum of cash. For the Plumb siblings, this cash is the security blanket to cover up a multitude of mistakes. Bea, Leo, Jack, and Melody Plumb are all in different states of upheaval in their lives. Their fathers nest egg is about to be distributed equally to all four of them, and they are counting on that money to fix their problems. Sadly, money cannot fix all problems. The siblings are all forced to examine their lives and relationships with each other. The Nest makes a fantastic book club choice because the characters are outrageous, frustrating, relatable, and sometimes horrid people. However, some characters transform into better versions of themselves, and the story comes full circle in a satisfying ending. Read it with a friend so you can talk about it, it is book that lends itself to discussion. Our book club agreed we all liked it better after we had talked it through

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Nest

 

 

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brokenbrough

love and death

The Game of Love and Death melds history, philosophy, and love seamlessly. In the forefront are the two main characters, Henry and Flora. They have both known the dulling pain of death in their young lives. Henry copes through hard work, following the rules, and playing beautiful music. Flora copes as she sings her heart out in the jazz clubs. When she is not singing she flies away over Seattle with dreams of following the path of Amelia Earhart. Their lives intersect as children and again as teenagers. In the background, Love and Death are brought to life as people, as opponents in the ultimate game, to shape the destiny of Flora and Henry.

The story envelopes the reader, historical events are paired with the fictional story of Henry and Flora in 1930’s Seattle. The jazz scene is huge, segregation is a harsh reality, and aviation is in its inception.  Life is simple, yet incredibly complicated.  The author captures the 1930’s without flaw, from the clothing, to the jazz clubs; the essence of the era is felt in every turn of the page.

I loved the story, but moreover the deeper questions it asks.  It delves into race relations, social status, the definition of family, and defying one’s chosen path.  It is a beautiful love story, endearing, tender, and dazzling.  Read it with your high school class to exemplify the injustice of segregation, the excitement of early aviation, and the uniqueness of the Seattle jazz scene.  Read it if you love Seattle history, read it if you need a love story to make your heart sing.

You will hear the music, fly with Flora, play bass with Henry, and long to know how it all ends.  I consider it a must read of 2015.

To Order this on Amazon, click here:  The Game of Love and Death

If you liked The Book Thief…

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

echoIf you liked The Book Thief or All the Light We Cannot See, this is your next book, without the sadness.  The value of this novel is two fold; it is a brilliantly written and powerful historical fiction. The story is about three children facing different life circumstances as World War II is unfolding. All the children are musical prodigies, with their own hardships to overcome. The children’s lives follow an invisible magical trail as a harmonica is passed around the world.  Music plays an integral role in the novel; it is the background character orchestrating the life paths of each child.

Their stories seem separate, yet there is a magical and invisible tie that connects their lives. It exemplifies for children the complicated and devastating rise of Adolf Hitler, the irrational and unfair treatment of the Japanese, and the people who never stopped working for good in the face of evil. These hard themes are balanced with the hope of love and family, and the power of music to comfort and create beauty in hard times. The beautiful writing and finely crafted story make this a read for a voracious grade school reader, or any adult.

To Purchase this book from Amazon, click here: Echo

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

the-invention-of-wingsI had been struggling to post this recommendation, I couldn’t figure out why, so I thought about this book for a few weeks.  Then the shooting in Charleston took place. Then I really thought about this story. I finally realized my struggle was shallow, I felt like I should be writing about light hearted beach reads. Beach reads are the cool kids right now. I have not been cool a day in my life, so why start now? In the heat of summer, my reccomendation is a high quality book about slavery and two little known abolistionists.  The Invention of Wings is heavy, yet it is an important book, and relevant to the history of Charleston. I will get to my beach reads later.

Sarah turns 11 and is given a girl named ‘Handful’. ‘Handful’ is hers to own, given like a piece of furniture or doll. Sarah attempts to set her free, but an 11 year old cannot change laws with a handwritten piece of paper. Handful is her slave, and the daughter of the best seamstress in Charleston. Handful and her mother are owned by the Grimke’s and keep the family plantation working and profitable.

The story flips back and forth from Handful to Sarah, telling the stories of Handful’s each girls life from childhood to adult. The injustice and cruelty is hard to stomach, but the story is so rich with character development, historically accurate events, and impeccable story-telling.

Sarah Grimke and her sister, Angelina, grew up to be  abolitionists. Sarah and her sister fought for the rights of slaves and the rights of women in a time when white men truly ruled the world with a tightly closed fist. The Grimke sisters were mocked and called spinsters. They are lesser known heroes in the fight against slavery.

Be sure to read the afterward, the Grimke Sisters were fascinating, and Sue Monk Kidd shares her research and methods of writing the story. A good read.

To Order on Amazon, click here:  The Invention of Wings

The Girl on theTrain

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

the girl on the trainToday I hoped for heavier traffic so I could finish listening The Girl on theTrain.  If you were a fan of Gone Girl, this is your next read.  Rachel rides the same train every day back and forth; she is lonely, tormented, and desperate.  As she rides the train from her small town to London each day, she gazes at the back gardens of all the homes.  She starts to notice the same people each day, she begins to create caricatures in her mind of who they are, what they might be like.  Then one day she sees something; something disturbing and suspicious, and the story gets very interesting.  Three women’s lives intertwine, each one battling their own demons, each one not quite what she seems.  This book is quietly thrilling because no one is easy to figure out, no one is all good or all bad, but some very bad things happen.  Girl on a Train is not a cuddly feel good story, it is dark and gritty, but the suspense at the end is impeccably written.  The tension will grip you to the core, if you need a plane or beach read, pick it up.  If you are fan of intensity, suspense, and thrillers, you will like it.

To Purchase from Amazon, click here: The Girl on the Train