Because my list of reviewed books has grown so much, every few months I will update this page with some recommendations of my personal favorites. I will try to include a variety of book types here so there will be something for everyone!
|Havana Nocturne||T.J. English||Non-Fiction||***||The story of Lucky Luciano and other gangsters who controlled Havana’s casinos, entertainment, and prostitution industries prior to the revolution which brough Castro to power. Well researched and intersesting, the book provides great insight into the world of many famous mobsters and provides some background on the things going on in Cuba that led to the revolution in 1959.|
|Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity||Katherine Boo||Non-Fiction||****||When I began this book I had no idea it was non-fiction. The Beautiful Forevers is the fence that separates the town of Annawadi from the Mumbai Airport and nearby luxury hotels. The books chronicles a number of characters in this slum, giving an eye-opening glimpse into the Indian underclass. Young boys collect garbage to sell for recycling, families try to co-exist in close quarters with tragic results, local politics play into all aspects of life and it is quite an amazing tale. Superbly written, if it was fiction it would not be believable. Next time you think you have it rough, read this book.|
|One Summer||Bill Bryson||Non-Fiction||****||This book focuses on the events of the summer of 1927, when there was quite a lot to write about! From Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight, to infamous murder trials, prohibition and Al Capone, and Babe Ruth’s home run exploits, and much more, there’s a lot to cover and Bryson does it in his typical light-hearted way, making History fun!|
|The Prime Ministers||Yehuda Avner||Non-Fiction||****||(Bradley) For me this was an outstanding book. It is written by an insider, who worked for each of the Israeli Prime Ministers beginning with David Ben-Gurion and ending with Menachem Begin. Yehuda immigrated from the UK to Israeli prior to its statehood does an outstanding job of presenting the challenges Israeli’s faced in her first 50 years. This was a very personal book for me, as it clearly demonstrates the challenges Israeli faced, continues to face. It also very effectively demonstrates just biased the majority of the worlds press are as they report on the conflict.
Avner does a great job of opening the closed doors of both the Israeli and the US governments negotiations in the quest for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem. This is a very challenging read that revels some of the horrors of WWII on a personal level, the duplicity of world leaders, including our own presidents and what it is like to be an Israeli. Avener also shed light on the challenges Israel continues to face, with over half a billion hostile neighbors sworn to the destruction of the state of Israel. This should be required reading for all high school students the world over. We might eventually reach peace!The amazing story of the girl shot by the Taliban for speaking out for the right of women to be educated. The story includes some excellent background on the Swat Valley in Pakistan where Malala is from and how the Taliban gained a foothold there and what it meant for families that lived there. Malala’s father dreamed of building a school and ultimately succeeded. He also believed strongly in educating girls and it is clear that Malala leared many of her values and skills from her father. Though I was interested in this book, I admit that I was pleasantly suprised by the depth of content and what I learned from it.
|Hellhound on His Trail||Hampton Sides||Non-Fiction||****||This is a very detailed account of the man who assasinated Martin Luther King in 1968. Sides does a great job of presenting the story, including great insight into King’s final months as well as the path taken by his killer. Following the assasination, the FBI embarks on one of the largest manhunts in their history, finally getting their man. As I was quite young when King was assasinated, I really enjoyed reading the details of the time and the events. While there are still many people who believe there was a conspiracy and/or that the killer at least had help, Sides concludes it was primarily one person acting on his own. I found his version very credible.|
|Flight: My Life in Mission Control||Chris Kraft||Non-Fiction||***||The story of Nasa and the space race written by the leader of the ground crew. Gives a great inside look at sending men to the moon.|
|E=MC2||David Bodanus||Non-Fiction||***||(Bradley’s review) David does an excellent job of weaving both history and an explanation of
Albert Einstein’s famous equation and it meaning in to a fascinating story.
Truly worth a read to better understand just how much political events can
|The Aviator’s Wife||Melanie Benjamin||Historical Fiction||****||(Bradley) In the Author’s Note at the end Melanie establishes a key goal for herself when writing Historical Fiction – “The most gratifying thing to hear is that the reader was inspired, after reading my work to research these remarkable people’s lives further. “ She clearly accomplishes this goal in Aviators Wife, a historically accurate fiction of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. This is not normally within my reading genre, as she spends a lot of time on flowery descriptions and emotional speculation, but I found my self unable to put the book down and I plan to read other non-fiction books on Anne Lindbergh. I must admit a very strong disrespect for mr. lindbergh, who was a very outspoken anti-Semite and early supporter of hiltler. This books provides some wonderful insights into the generation of our Grandmothers and to a lessor extent our mothers and the extra challenges they encountered in life. Would like to hear others thoughts on the book.|
|Night Fall||Nelson DeMille||Historical Fiction||***||Fictional novel about the explosion of TWA Flight 800. Much facutal information is woven into this fictional story which calls into question the official findings of the cause of the explosion to be accidental. Though no conclusive evidence exists, many eyewitness accounts lead to speculation that the plane was actually shot down by a missile, a premise that is not totally disproved by the evidence.|
|The Girl You Left Behind||Jojo Moyes||Historical Fiction||****||The focus of the book is on restoration of art taken during wartime. However, rather than focus on the Nazis and WWII, this book is set in France during WWI. A well written fictional account, the book provides some excellent history and really tries to show both sides of the issue and the difficulties involved in determining what is “right” in what can often be ambiguous circumstances.|
|The Birth of Venus||Sara Dunant||Historical Fiction||***||A novel set in 15th century Florence, this is an enjoyable book which tells the tale of two sisters, one blessed with beauty, the other with brains. Though I found the characters less than believable, it is an enjoyable story that gives a real sense of the times – the trubulence and controversy of the Renaissance and those who sought to invoke religious fervor and censorship.|
|The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time||Mark Haddon||Fiction||****||Wonderful book written from the point of view of an autistic 15-year old boy. The boy finds his neighbor’s dog murdered and after at first being suspected, is determined to find the real killer. The story line is really just a forum for allowing us to see into the life of this boy and understand how he sees the world and how the world see him. Entertaing, funny, and sometimes sad all at the same time. ANd of course, he does solve the murder!|
|Old School||Tobias Woldd||Fiction||***||A wonderfully entertaining and well written book set in a boys prep school in the 60’s. Students engage in writing contests with the prize being the chance to meet privately with great authors such as Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. No murders, guns, car chases, or violence, but the best fiction book I’ve read in a while.|
|Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery||Paul Collins||Non-Fiction||***||Before their famous duel, Hamilton and Burr worked together as attorneys to up to defend a client in a murder trial that seized the nation, much like to OJ trial more recently. The murder makes for a great story, but the book also give much insight into the two men, their polotics, and their differences, leading up to the ultimate showdown.|
|The Great Gatsby||F. Scott Fitzgerald||Fiction||***||An American classic, this book is well written and provides a good look at life in American in the 1920’s. The story of a love interrupted and almost recaptured, but not a happy ending.|
|The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society||Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer||Fiction||***||A story told in the form of letters exchanged by friends and associates in the aftermath of WWII. A reporter who covered the war is contacted by a man in Guernsey and his correspondence leads her to research the story of a literary society established there – full of charm, romance, and interesting characters. Highly entertaining.|