While I’m trying to read a bit more slowly, I finished 8 books in the shortest month of the year! They were all very interesting books and I learned a lot – about the Holocaust, education, relationships and even some possibilities for our country’s future. Two books were review requests, one was an audiobook, one was from my bookshelf (I’m trying to read more of what I already have in the house or on my Kindle), one was for a book club and the others were from my library hold list. Here is what I read in February:
My Family’s Survival is a true story about the author’s grandmother (Rachel) and her relatives survival during the Holocaust. Aviva grew up knowing her grandmother was a survivor of those times, but her grandmother would not talk about it to anyone. As she got older, she started researching and found recordings and writings that pieced together the family’s story of survival. When they came for the Jews in the Polish city of Butla, the Shwartz family hadn’t believed it could happen. They decided to run and that sole decision saved all their lives. David and Hinda were raising three young children and their niece, Rachel, and enjoying farm life in their Polish village until the Russians and then Germans came. The family fled to Hungary, but peace there was short-lived. The family had to separate at times to survive, yet David was always watching to make sure they didn’t get captured.
What is the best way for a nation to educate its children? Amanda Ripley explores that question in The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. The author looks at education systems in four countries – America, South Korea, Poland and Finland. The book is not just full of facts and statistics; it is full of personal stories from children, parents, educators and school staff on how the different education systems work. The book follows three American high school students who participate in exchange programs with Finland, South Korea and Poland – all countries that score high on the PISA, an assessment used to compare education systems worldwide. It tests 15-year-olds every three years.
Set a mere 19 years in the future, American Omens brings to life an America where Christianity is considered a hateful thing and is slowly being outlawed and made illegal. Books are censored, churches are monitored and people who proselytize disappear. It is also a world where everyone has a SNYAPSYS implanted that connects him or her to each other and information. Yet, some people manage to live off the grid and start an underground revolution to warn people about their lack of freedoms and need for salvation. Cheyenne Burne knows nothing about the revolution until her father, who disappeared for believing, contacts her to ask for her help in their mission.
Most of us deal with people every day from our immediate families to coworkers to people we encounter in stores, restaurants and on the phone. Interacting with people can be easy – sometimes; but it’s often hard, especially when you’re disagreeing or trying to get someone’s attention. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a how-to manual in how to both make friends and influence people to either listen to you or even come around to your point of view. The lessons in the book are applicable to marriages, parent-child relationships, work relationship and friendships.
In Where or When, a simple picture in a newspaper sets a man on a mission to reconnect with his high school camp sweetheart. Charles keeps his letters to Sian a secret from his wife, along with the secret that they are behind on their mortgage and he feels bored with the life they created with their two children. Sian also keeps their correspondence secret on her end from a husband who is more in love with their land than her – or at least that’s the way it seems to her. They decide to meet and a spark is felt. Is the risk of losing everything worth finding love?
In Party Girl, Landon Brinkley is set on becoming one of the best party planners in LA, so she leaves her home and family in Texas to start her own life in California. She has an internship working for the most famous planner – Selah, where she hopes to learn all the tricks of the trade and work her way up the ladder. She quickly finds that Selah is not a nice person and the hours of the internship are very long and thankless. She finds help in two friends – her roommate and a coworker. However, as she spends more time close to Selah, she begins to change and it might not be for the better.
In Educated, Tara Westover lives in the mountains of Idaho and grows up in a family where shame and violence rule. Her father has mood swings and is probably bipolar, but sees himself as a messenger from God who keeps his family in line with the strictest Mormon rules. His children are homeschooled, but mainly spend their days helping him in the junkyard or building sheds and barns. A few of her older siblings try to leave for college and while they move away, the ties that bind this family together are very strong – they are the only ones who understand life as a Westover. Tara learns exactly how strong these bonds are as she prepares to leave and study at Brigham Young University.
In Anthem, a young man finds himself out of place in his world. He cannot stop thinking individual thoughts when he is only supposed to agree with the collective “we.” His name is Equality 7-2521 and everyone in his world has similar names – an ideal word and a number. Children are removed from their mothers right after birth, raised by the government, sent to school and then given jobs by a panel. No one can question anything, but must work for the common good. Yet, when Equality 7-2521 realizes he has a desire for a thinking job and is given a manual job, he can’t stop his ideas from inspiring his free will.