“Becoming” by Michelle Obama is an excellent book; it is less about politics than about a woman balancing marriage, motherhood, and career, along with a very harsh spotlight. Speaking of politics, everyone should read “Thank You for Voting.” There is also a version for young readers. The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, but a lot of people will be surprised by how much they don’t know about voting.
After reading “The Librarian of Auschwitz,” I read the 2019 autobiography of Dita Kraus, upon whom the novel is based. In “A Delayed Life” one topic leads to a memory, and it becomes very much like a conversation with your grandmother. Kraus chronicles not only her Holocaust experiences, but also her emigration to Israel, her life on a kibbutz, her family, and more. She explains that the title comes from the fact that even as a child she felt that everything in life was a delay, because she was always waiting for the next event, the next party, the next excursion. Imagine having to wait through Nazi occupation, deportation to the ghetto, concentration camps, liberation, illness, reintegration, Communism … At 89, she feels that she no longer has to wait to live her life.
I am particularly interested in stories of the SOE (Special Operations Executive), the British network of saboteurs, subversives, and spies during WWII. This group worked to build Resistance behind enemy lines, especially in France. Sonia Purnell’s “A Woman of No Importance” is the biography of American socialite Virginia Hall who, as an SOE operative, was a pioneer “in a whole new type of warfare.”
To continue the WWII theme, I’ll share a book currently in my to-be-read stack, “The Splendid and The Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz” by Erik Larson. This book chronicles the day-to-day experiences of Winston Churchill and those closest to him against the backdrop of a year of crisis during which Churchill “taught the British people the art of being fearless.” Also in my TBR stack is John Meacham’s biography, “His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope.”
I love books about books - and their impact on readers or their ability to connect people. Despite the seemingly morbid title, Will Schwalbe’s memoir “The End of Your Life Bookclub,” is a beautiful tribute to his mother through the books that were important to her, and to both of them, throughout her life and especially as a part of their “book club” during her treatments for pancreatic cancer. As Schwalbe considers losing his mother, he realizes that what we grieve is not the past with someone, but the future without them. “Yet I had a thought that made me smile. I would remember the books that Mom loved, and when the children were old enough, I would give those books to them and tell them that these were books their grandmother loved.” I know this book will feel very personal for some readers, but I highly recommend it.
What about books about writers? Part true-crime story, part biography of Harper Lee, Casey Cep’s “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” may just prove the adage, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
There are more, but as the saying goes, “So many books; so little column space,” or something like that. Be sure to look for more non-fiction recommendations in the months to come.
by Nancy Carstens