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
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.