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December 2014
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It’s been a long year, with quite a lot of reading, but no posting. This amazing book is what it took to inspire me to write again. I found myself thinking of all the readers I know who would enjoy this book. This true story follows a Czech family from their early beginnings in a free Czechoslovakia, through the tumult of World War II, into the fire of the Communist takeover, and out into the world as they wander in search of a forever home. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys true historical accounts. But far from being a dry recounting of historical facts, Kapra celebrates the importance of peace, family, love, home, courage and freedom.

We recently watched the HBO mini-series The Pacific. It was a fascinating and horrifying look at the American Marines who served in the Pacific theater during World War II.  One of the featured Marines was a private named E. B. Sledge.  Sledge’s journey from his country home in Alabama to the war-torn islands in the Pacific, and his transformation from boy to Marine were powerful stories.  As we completed the series, we discovered that Sledge had written a book about his service with the Marine Corp.  Eager to find out more about his story, I immediately checked out the book from our library.

Sledge’s book is a straightforward account of his beginnings as a Marine, and of the battles that he fought.  Some of the movements of the troops were confusing to me, as were the references to various Marine regiments and divisions.  I’m sure that readers who know more about the military wouldn’t be confused at all.  But Sledge’s account isn’t just a retelling of troop movements.  Rather, it’s his personal story of the sights, sounds, horrors, defeats and triumphs of war.  It’s graphic at time, but matter-of-fact.  As I ended the book, I was overwhelmed with admiration and respect for the thousands and thousands of troops who have served so faithfully in combat for our country.

Many of the things that Sledge experienced were documented in the mini-series.  If you haven’t yet watched the mini-series, I would highly recommend reading With the Old Breed first.

This was one of the best history books I’ve ever read.  I learned so much about a time period that is often reduced by history textbooks to a summary of The New Deal and the beginning of WWII.  American History classes should use this book!  Egan interviewed people who lived through the Dust Bowl, and combined their stories with historical records to recount 40 years of history on the American Plains.

Did you know that during the great dust storms, the skies would rain mud?

Did you know that babies, children and even adults died from lung diseases brought on by dust?

Did you know that the dust storms blew dirt from the plains all the way to Washington DC and out into the Atlantic?

Did you know that the dust storms could have been prevented?

A few weeks ago, I read and briefly reviewed a fictionalized account of Ernest Shackleton’s expedition: Shackleton’s Stowaway.  That book was phenomenal, and made me curious to learn more.

Lansing’s account of the Shackleton expedition did not disappoint.  I rarely read non-fiction, and even more seldom will I read a non-fiction history book.  Lansing’s book was not a dry history book, but a fascinating, fast-paced account of Shackleton and his men.  I had a hard time putting it down, and now I’m hooked on this amazing story.

Next up, I plan to read Endurance : An Epic of Polar Adventure, by F.A. Worsley, Captain of the Endurance, and Shackleton’s Forgotten Men : The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic, by Lennard Bickel, which tells the story of the men who were tasked with dropping off supplies for Shackleton to use as he traveled across Antarctica.

SieUpon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944gal writes powerfully of her experiences as a Jewish child in Hungary as Hitler came to power. The horror of the Nazi regime, and the power of love and family come to life.

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