Books of Late Summer

Here is a very quick review of books I have read over the past few months:

1. “Bloodlands” by Timothy Snyder, Yale history professor. Probably the most important book that I have recently read, Snyder tells the story of that swath of central/eastern Europe which saw the most fighting and related tragedies during the past century. The German holocaust, the Russian horrors. 14,000,000 dead. Who were worse, the Germans or the Russians? Tough choice. A book everyone should read for the history, for an understanding as to who the victims were, and how there were more bad things going on than just the Holocaust.

2. “Eva’s Berlin” by Eva Wald Leveton, now a California trauma psychologist. The author was born in Germany to an assimilated Jewish father and a Protestant mother. After a relatively happy childhood, even during the early Nazi years, the family was separated when only her father was allowed to immigrate, and she and her mother spent the war years in Berlin, where her Jewish ethnicity was kept secret, known only to her family and a few others. A unique view of Berlin during this time, and of the Russian victory and occupation. Probably hard to find but worth reading.

3. “Comedy” by recently deceased Dutch Jewish author Hans Kielson. A short Holocaust novelette about the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, and the hiding of a Jew by a young Dutch couple. Unique, perhaps, in that the story is told from the perspective of the rescuers and, for this reason, worthwhile reading. Recently translated and published.

4. “Blackwater” by Joyce Carol Oates. Another short, beautifully crafted book. Generally a retelling of the Teddy Kennedy/Mary Jo Kopechne story (with names and locale changed) told from the perspective of Kopechne. Perhaps not for everyone, but I thought it great. Written about 30 years ago.

5. “Spies Against Armageddon” by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman. An redo of their earlier “Every Spy a Prince”, with a complete description of the organization of Israeli security and intelligence agencies, and their history. To say it is fascinating is to understate. An important read for anyone interested in Israel (and who isn’t?).

6. “A Nation of Nations” by Louis Adamic. Written in 1944, a period piece discussing immigration to America, and the role played by Americans of various ethnic and geographic origins. Still worth reading.

7. “Sights and Secrets of Our Nation’s Capital’ by John Ellis. Written just after the Civil War, this is a real period piece. But a lot of old history . For example, do you know there was a serious plan to replace the White House?

8. “Everything Flows” by Vasily Grossman, Soviet Jewish journalist/author. A remarkable book gives the history of the Gulag, following a prisoner released after 30 years as he confronts, and ruminates about, his new status. Goes well with “Bloodlands”.

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