COVID and Reading, Part Two

I hit another reading slump after my frenzy back in August. Part of this might have been because on top of everything else, the Fall semester began. It would be several months before I would read anything other than student papers – but once again, I suddenly became ravenous for it.

I opted to switch between fiction and non-fiction – all of these have bee on my bookshelf patiently waiting to be picked up. I can’t wait for the day I can wander around a bookstore. Until then, I have plenty of lonely books waiting for me here.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn — Back before COVID, my friend Jack and I would meet up when he was in town and wander around bookstores and drink tea and eat chocolatey goodness. Three of these books came from the last time we did this. I do love historical fiction, and Quinn did a great job of putting me into the shoes of a spy in 1915 in enemy-occupied France and into the shoes of a young woman, pregnant and unmarried, in search of her missing cousin in 1947. There’s even a charming Scotsman – so how was I to resist? I will definitely be rereading this sometime.

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt, Ph.D. — This book should be required reading for everyone. Everyone. Eberhardt does an incredible job of explaining bias and bringing the receipts. I’ve done a lot of reading and work in the realm of bias, and still, I was blown away. This was a book I found through Eberhardt’s Armchair Expert interview – if you don’t have time to commit to the full book (though you should find the time), then at the very least give her episode a listen.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris — Ok, so this book, it’s noted, started out as a movie script that Morris wrote after interviewing Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who was imprisoned in Auschwitz in 1942. During his time there, he became the tattooist of the camp, having to permanently scar those imprisoned with him with the telltale numbers on their arms. It was through this position that he met Gita, a woman he would fall in love with. Lale also risks his life, along with the help of some of the women he befriends, by smuggling jewels and money to workers who come and go – trading these for food and other supplies. The story itself is an account of Shoah/Holocaust that I have never experienced before – but I do have to note that the novel still reads very much like a script, which makes sense since that was its first iteration. It’s a lot of telling when I ached for showing.

Becoming Ms. Burton by Susan Burton & Cari Lynn — This was another Armchair Expert interview find, an interview with Susan Burton. Burton tells the story of her journey through sexual abuse at a young age and her subsequent battle with addiction and incarceration – and how one small thing changed the trajectory of her life – something that she has replicated with over 1200 incarcerated women. I gobbled this book up in one day – the entire thing. I couldn’t put it down. It’s heartbreaking and devastating and so full of hope. This is another MUST READ – a true testament to the difference one person can set into motion.

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antono Iturbe (translated by Lilit Žekulin Thwaites) — This book was a thing of beauty. Devastating, as it is also about Shoah/Holocaust – but beautifully written. It’s based on a true story about the family camp set up at Auschwitz and the brave people who created a school right under the Nazi’s noses – risking their own lives to educate the children kept there. Within the school are eight smuggled books – anyone caught with these will be punished by death. Even so, Dita takes on the role of the librarian, taking care of the books, having to fix their covers and sew their pages back into place – risking her life to make sure the children have access to these books and the knowledge and stories contained within their pages. And this book – I lived and died within its pages.

The following excerpt comes from Iturbe’s afterward in the edition that I have:

~ Antonio Iturbe, translated by Lilit Žekulin Thwaites

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