Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings
Published as All Hell Let Loose: The World at War, 1939-1945 in the UK
Inferno is a compelling history of World War II, told from the point of view of regular people, soldiers and civilians, who experienced the war. The author, Max Hastings, is a British journalist and author of many modern history books. Inferno offers a comparative history of the war, giving the reader context about the similarities and differences between geographical areas and time stages of the war.
One of my favorite parts of reading this book was discovering World War II topics that I hadn’t learned about in high school history class. These include the conflict between the Russian and German armies on the Eastern Front, where 90% of the German Army’s losses were received. I also learned a lot about the Pacific Theater, as most of what I learned focused on the island battles. The sections on China and southeast Asian countries under Japan’s rule were very interesting, as was the discussion of Japanese vrs. Western values on warfare and prisoners. Hastings contends that the industrial might of the United States made more of an impact on the war than the US military, which was interesting to think about given the focus on troops in my history lessons.
Inferno is a great book for people who want a more complete or alternate history of World War II. As a history that is focused on the stories of ordinary people and soldiers, it is also has more compelling human stories than history books focused on battles and weapons. Max Hastings won the Pritzker Prize for Military History and Inferno was a New York Times Notable Book.
From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Inferno-World-War-1939-1945-Vintage/dp/0307475530/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405381896&sr=1-1&keywords=inferno%3A+The+World+at+War%2C+1939-1945
From King County Library System in Book, ebook, and Downloadable Audiobook: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&t=smart&search_category=keyword&q=Inferno+Max+Hastings&commit=Search
One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
The perfect non-fiction summer read. This is an engaging book from the king of popular non-fiction about many interesting developments that happened over the summer of 1927. By reading this book, you’ll learn about the early history of flight and why Charles Lindbergh was such a great pilot and why the 1927 Yankees were the best baseball team in history. You’ll also read about a massive natural disaster and the President who went on vacation to the Black Hills during the aftermath. There are also some spectacular crimes detailed in the book, including a horrible murder that gripped the nation, the trial of two anarchists which was very famous at the time but is unremembered now, and you’ll also read about how Al Capone consolidated his power in the criminal underworld of Chicago.
Bryson is adept at making the historical entertaining as well as informative, and you’ll come out of this book with many good cocktail conversation starters. This book is a series of loosely-related topics that were interesting to Bryson, not a linear tale, so if you don’t find one topic that interesting, you can always skip to the next chapter. Bryson also narrates his audiobooks himself, and he has a nice voice, so the audiobook version would be a great choice for a summer road trip as well.
From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/One-Summer-America-Bill-Bryson/dp/0767919408
From King County Library System in Book, Large Print Book, Audiobook CD, Downloadable Audiobook, and ebook: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?t=smart&search_category&q=one%20summer%201927%20bryson&commit=Search&CFID=33673684&CFTOKEN=c512db1bf5f70fde-16D65355-155D-225D-1D6BCD5B976C3CA5
Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis
Dallas 1963 describes the social and political climate in Dallas, Texas in the three years leading up to the Kennedy assassination. It is an eye-opening book on the right-wing extremism in Dallas and the culture of hate and fear it spawned. This book delves into the politics of the leaders of Dallas, showing how they acted and their motivations. Some key figures followed include Ted Dealey, the editor of the very conservative Dallas Morning News, General Walker, an army general who became a poster child for the right after he was fired for forcing his conservative views on his troops, and Stanley Marcus, the liberal owner of the Neiman Marcus department store.
I had learned a little about the Kennedy assassination in history class, but I did not live through the event. Dallas 1963 was a great book to learn about the context of the assassination. It delves into the Dallas Citizens Council, the elite power broker businessmen of Dallas that controlled the city, as well as the progress of the Civil Rights movement and de-segregation in Texas and the South more broadly. This book does not go into any of the conspiracy theories, and instead is a well-researched and gripping book about the climate of hate and fear that permeated Dallas and led up to the assassination. As with many books about history, it can also be read as a warning, showing how this culture grew and reminding us that it can grow again if we aren’t careful. A worthwhile read, especially for younger readers trying to understand the event.
From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dallas-1963-Bill-Minutaglio/dp/1455522090/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393280617&sr=1-1&keywords=dallas+1963
From King County Library System in book, e-book, audiobook cd, preloaded audiobook, and e-audio: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?t=smart&q=%22dallas%201963%22&commit=Search&CFID=11234464&CFTOKEN=5746043fac8b22ca-FC015BFB-155D-225D-FAD6577D69801EB3&author=Minutaglio,%20Bill
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler
This is a nonfiction collection of stories gathered from interviews by women who gave children up for adoption in the 1950’s, 60’s, and early 70’s. The author intersperses the stories with chapters about the culture and social forces at work during the period. The book tells a wide array of stories, but one theme runs throughout the book – the lack of choices and agency of the birth mothers, and the incredibly strong forces from society, social workers, and their own families that led the women to give their children up. I did not know much about adoption before reading this book, but I knew what society said about adoption: that birth mothers wanted to give up their children and could not or would not raise the children themselves. This might be different today, but The Girls Who Went Away shatters that myth for the 50’s-70’s. The women’s stories are shocking and sad, and some made me angry, but it is important for these stories to be told, as that can be the first step in understanding and healing for birth mothers and adopted children.
One problem I had with the book is that the author chose women to interview based on women who were (in the organization?). The group of women were self-selecting, as they joined the organization and volunteered to tell their stories. This makes for a sample that is probably not representative of birth mothers as a whole during this period, but as there are not public records of women who were birth mothers to sample from, and there is so little research into this area, I feel this book goes a long way to filling the need for information about the topic.