1. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning
i read this for my holocaust class at school. one of the main questions my professor addressed throughout the semester was, “who is responsible for the holocaust?” it’s easy to point at hitler and high ranking nazi party leaders as the main perpetrators. and it’s true - they are responsible; but are they the only ones? what about the people who just filed paperwork; who just informed on their neighbors; who just worked on the railroad and sent trains full of humans down the line? do they bear any responsibility? what about people who didn’t do anything, didn’t participate, but didn’t resist? this book follows a police battalion (police battalion = civil entity, not a military entity) that ended up taking part in the killing of tens of thousands of jews. it’s an emotionally hard read. as uncomfortable as it is to address these questions of culpability, it’s important that we do in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. (p.s. - we’re kinda failing)
2. The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews by (Father) Patrick Desbois
also read for my holocaust class. while the book above was hard - this book was devastating. i cried every time i read it. i wrote more about it here.
3. And Now My Soul Is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia 1918-1930 by Alan M. Ball
this book was my biggest source for my senior thesis. i found it in the bibliography of a source book for class. (yes - i read bibliographies. that is the level of my geekiness.) when the semester began i didn’t know how i would find anything in modern russian/soviet history that i would be the least bit interested in, let alone be able to research and produce a 20+ page paper on. but i enjoyed the book and loved my subject. it is surprisingly readable for an academic book.
4. Never Look Back: The Jewish Refugee Children in Great Britain, 1938-1945 by Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz
i read this as a source for a project i did on the kindertransport. i don’t have a lot to say about this book except that it was informative. interesting if you’re interested in reading about the kindertransport, but it’s pretty academic.
5. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
this book was fascinating, although it got a little too drawn out at the end. it’s frightening how quick some medical and mental health doctors are to throw medication at a problem without taking the time to really examine what’s going on.
6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling
i read this because i enjoy mindy’s sense of humor on her television show. there were some really amusing part, but otherwise it was just okay. i wouldn’t say i really enjoyed it, but i wouldn’t say i didn’t enjoy it either. i felt the same way about Bossypants (tina fey). i’ll just stick with the tv show.
7. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
a great deal of highlighting went on in this book and there are sections i think should be required weekly reading for the entire human race. great insights. inspiring and encouraging.
8. Written On Our Hearts by Emily Freeman
i bought this book when i realized, with terror, that last year’s curriculum at church was the old testament. the idea of teaching the old testament was daunting but this book helped me to recognise the wealth of personal messages hidden within the language and stories.
9. Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
a glimpse into the horror that is life in north korea. it is absolutely unbelievable and maddening that this is going on anywhere in the world.