Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June Reread - Anne Frank: A Portrait in Courage - Ernst Schnabel

Information was much harder to come by in general when I was a kid. Unlike today, when one can generally find out lots of information about most subjects after a few seconds of Googling, when I had devoured Anne's diary and wanted to learn more, I had to do lots of hands-on research to discover more background information. I enjoy research, but it was a bit more tedious and haphazard back then, and I discovered this little paperback, which had to be specially ordered from the bookstore for me, while performing such hit-or-miss research.

This book was originally published in Germany in 1958 and it was a wonderful find. It fills in a lot of information about Anne and her family and friends, and the brave people who helped them hide, including many first-person interviews that were very contemporary with the events of the war. One of the best parts for me was the inclusion of some of Anne's other writing - in addition to keeping her diary, she also wrote short stories and was working on a novel, and it was really gratifying for me to read these writings for the first time. Recommended.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Auschwitz - Laurence Rees

This book has been languishing on my TBR pile for ages, and as with so many of these books, I have no idea why that might have been. It takes the reader through the history of the collection of camps known as Auschwitz, as well as providing background information on the "final solution" and how that impacted the camps. The book is very thorough and well done, and provides details such as how the selection process was designed to reduce anxiety for the prisoners, and thereby make it easier for the perpetrators. If you have any interest in this subject, this is an amazing history and should really be required reading to possibly deter any kind of reoccurrence. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hidden Child of the Holocaust - Stacy Cretzmeyer

This is the true story of Ruth Kapp Hartz, a French woman who survived World War II despite being part of a Jewish family trapped in Vichy France. The writing is very immediate, and you can really get inside the head of a very young girl, and understand the confusion and fear of this time. This edition is evidently a Scholastic books offering, and I would have loved it when I was in school. Apparently it's actually something of an excerpt of a longer book by the same author; I'd like to track down a copy of that and read it too. The only "critique" I can offer is that I would have loved to see some photographs, but this isn't a real issue. Another good book, particularly for young people to learn about the Holocaust.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Anne Frank - A History for Today

I have been able to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam twice, and I got this small book on the second visit. It's a good overview that weaves Anne's story with the history that surrounds it, explaining how the Holocaust came to be as well as providing photographs of Anne's family and friends, and the stories of other survivors. This book would be a good book to read in addition to the diary, particularly in a classroom setting.

Monday, June 1, 2015

June Reading Theme - Anne Frank/the Holocaust

For this June, I decided to have a reading theme, and I chose Anne Frank for many reasons. Most importantly, I have read her diary countless times beginning in childhood, when it had a profound effect on me and led to me reading about and studying the Holocaust. I realized I haven't re-read the diary in the past several years, so it seemed like a good time to revisit it. I chose June in particular because Anne was born in June (June 12, 1929 to be exact), so it seemed like a fitting way to remember her during her birth month.

Another reason I chose her as this month's theme was that it's long been my ambition to read her diary in the original Dutch, ever since I was able to purchase the Dutch version on a trip to Amsterdam during which I was lucky enough to visit the Anne Frank House, the actual "achterhuis" in which Anne and her family and 4 other people hid from the Nazis, many years ago. At the time I knew maybe 2 words in Dutch, but now thanks to a class and some confidence gained through the Language Freak Summer Challenge, I feel like I can muddle through the diary in Dutch. In addition, since I know it fairly well in general, that will help my comprehension. Yet another reason was that I also happen to have a copy of the diary in French (it was a gift that I am still very thankful for), but I never had enough confidence in my ability to read it to actually sit down and do so. Of course I regret my lack of self-discipline and self-confidence thus far, so I want to stop making excuses and realize this goal after having it in mind for a couple decades now (gulp).

So my reading plan is this: I will read an entry in Dutch, then read the same entry in French, and then read the same entry in English. Read-alongs seem to work very well in terms of comprehension. And this time, as I mentioned, I have my past history with this book, which will really help comprehension.

I know that people sometimes criticize those who uses Anne as a symbol of the Holocaust; they claim this takes away from the six million who were systematically murdered by the Nazis, and etc. I understand what these critics are saying, but as I mentioned before, reading about Anne led me to read about the Holocaust in general, and to read many stories of other people who were victims, or who helped the Jews, as well as histories of specific camps, etc. So while I do not claim to be a scholar on the subject, I like to think that I have a reasonable amount of knowledge. My reading list for this month includes books that are about the Holocaust and that don't center on Anne, too. If you know of a book that fits this theme that you would like to recommend to me, please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

May - This Month in Reading

An unfortunate illness in May had the silver lining of giving me more time to read books this month, so overall I managed to read 13 books, which was a good solid number and much better than April's total of 4.25. Another benefit was that with 2 exceptions, the books I read were physical books from my pile - so that was another win. I even read some challenge books, so I got some momentum going for that. And I cleared the last 2 NetGalley books and managed to avoid requesting any new books, so that is a positive thing too. I think I can definitely summit Mount TBR this year!

For June, I have a special reading theme planned, and some books that have been set aside for this theme. I may read some additional, non-theme books, but it will depend on how much time I end up having, since a couple of the planned books are not in English, so they will take a lot longer to read than if they were in English. So my plan is to read the 8 books I have set aside for this theme in June, and more if I have the opportunity. For July I will be back to reading off the TBR pile with no theme in mind, just avoiding the summer heat and humidity and counting down until fall.

How is your summer reading looking? Do you have any themes or challenges planned?

Love Over Scotland - Alexander McCall Smith

Yet another book in the 44 Scotland Street series. This volume showed more of the "writing in serial form" seams in my opinion - there were more red-herring dead end plot elements that seemed to be there on purpose to spin out the plot and elongate the story, that sort of thing. That said, I enjoyed this book, even if I did prove to me beyond any reasonable doubt that Charles Dickens was indeed paid by the word.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Espresso Tales - Alexander McCall Smith

The second book in the 44 Scotland Street series is very much like the first, with further developments happening in the lives of the characters. I think my favorite characters are Cyril and Bertie. This book had a few dead-end plot elements that probably stuck out less when reading the story over time in a serial format, but were more obvious in a book form. Another enjoyable light read.

Friday, May 29, 2015

44 Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith

Picked up several of the books in this series on the Library Sale shelves over the past couple years, and I was in the mood for something light and enjoyable to read, so I picked up the first book. Evidently this book is really like Tales of the City for straight Edinburghians (Edinburgers?) - it was originally published in serial form in a newspaper, and evidently still is, until the overall story gets compiled in book form. I have probably read almost all of the Precious Ramotswe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and enjoyed it, and this book is very much in that vein - it's light and fluffy and filled with mostly kind, good natured characters making their way in the world. I say "mostly kind" because there are definitely a few characters I want to give a good shake or a smart rap on the skull - but all good stories need them, I suppose! If you are a fan of the author's other books you should enjoy this one too.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Decline and Fall - Evelyn Waugh

This was a wickedly funny satire of the British upper classes circa the late 1920s (I seem to have a little mini-theme of that time period going here). I'm sure as an American product of the late 20th century I missed plenty of the humor that would have been more obvious to a reader when it was first published, and/or who had life experience that was more similar to events in the book, but I still found much to laugh at. The darkly dry, humorous tone was very enjoyable. Recommended.