I regularly update my book nerdly doings over here at Goodreads, but just in case that site isn't in your social media mixed cocktail - which I prefer slightly dirty & with at least 3 olives, naturally - here's an abridged recap of my & my wee CEO's recent favorites:
For the "Of Age" Set - I choose that language of cocktails instructively here, because you'll want a glass of wine or six to tackle the weighty subject matter:
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redepmption by Laura Hillenbrand
One of the most engaging books I've read in a long while. I often struggle to read what I call "straight-up history, yo!", but Hillenbrand masterfully weaves an element of humanity into this WW II tale of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian turned Air Force pilot whose plane crashes over the Pacific, and his resultant struggle to survive.
The subject matter is heavy, at times nearly unendurable - the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Japanese POW camps, for example - but the author manages to keep the reader engaged and invested in Zamperini's survival throughout.
The book appears to be meticulously researched, so it satisfies from the academic standpoint as well, though it's the human element of Zamperini & the empathy the author creates for him that kept me reading. A must-read for any interested in the Pacific theater of WWII or human survival stories generally.
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
I wish the words "haunting" and "beautiful" weren't so overused in book reviews, because this one is, um, both haunting and beautiful. No, really.
Though the book is a work of fiction, the WWII horrors described therein, like the Vel d'Hiv, sadly did occur. I don't want to spoil the story by putting too much detail here, but the book describes the plight of a little girl - merely described as "The Girl" for much of the book - whose Jewish family falls victim to the anti-Semitism of WWII France in the worst manner imaginable. A modern-day reporter, Julia Jarmond, stumbles upon the girl's horrific story during her research for a story about the Vel d'Hiv tragedy. The woman & the girl's lives become inexorably intertwined.
The back-and-forth narrative structure of the story - one chapter as told by the girl in 1942, the next by modern-day Julia - moves the plot along nicely and does a terrific job of keeping you engaged in both. In fact, by switching back and forth between the stories, the author makes the girl's story bearable to read, which it might not be if told all from her point of view. At times, getting through the girl's story - which includes unimaginable tragedies, like the treatment of children in internment camps - was an act of will. Without the somewhat lighter Julia interludes, it would have been a tough, if also rewarding, slog through the girl's devastating details.
For the Pre-Cocktails Crowd:
Both of our favorites here are by the acclaimed children's author & artist Eric Carle. I only knew him for "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" until recently, but Master P and I were equally happy to discover these two others thanks to the Toddler Book Swap:
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
The rare toddler read that works on two levels; your wee one will enjoy Carle's imaginative, colorful animal art, while you'll appreciate both that and the overarching message encouraging children to explore their creative potential. This book was written as an homage to early 20th century painter Franz Marc, an artist banned in Nazi Germany where the author/artist was raised.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See (board book version, though you can get the Nook version as narrated by no less than HRH Gwyneth in her continued quest for world omnipresence here)
More vibrant animal art from Carle - a playful review of colors and books, with sliding panels for the tots to enjoy moving while you read.
Any recommendations for the Pretty bookshelf? I speak for both Master P and myself when I say we're going to lay off the harrowing World War II reading for a bit, so perhaps something a bit frillier?