There are a number of particularly poignant books on the Top 10 Editor’s Picks of 2011 so far. I thought I’d provide a quick synopsis of them. They are all available for the Kindle.
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Just reading the story description and reviews of this book gives me the shivers. Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff is the story of the three remaining survivors of a plane crash that killed 21 members of the United States military. The trio land in the jungles of New Guinea towards the end of World War II and believe it or not, this is a true story. The survivors include a member of the Woman’s Army Corps, a lieutenant, and sergeant. In addition to facing serious injuries and threats from the jungle, they have to constantly be on the alert for cannibalism. It is quite a powerful story of survival and heroism.
Obreht weaves three stories in one in her debut novel. The novel is set in an unidentified country, but is rumored to be somewhere around her native Croatia. The Tiger’s Wife’s main character is Natalia, a doctor, who sets out to unveil secrets from the past. In 1941 during the German bombardment, a tiger escaped from the zoo and befriended a deaf woman. Hence, the title The Tiger’s Wife. This story is intertwined with Natalia’s care for orphans and a family in search of bones from a long dead relative. Then there’s the deathless man…
Quite an impressive novel for such a new and young author!
Continuing the World War II theme, the Garden of Beasts comes from the point of view of the first American ambassador to Berlin during Hitler’s regime. Ambassador Dodd recognizes the dangers that Hitler will bring in his quest for absolute power. You’ll also read about Dodd’s daughter Martha, who seeks out the glamorous life with the elite in Berlin and ends up in close relations with the head of the Gestapo. Quite fascinating and scary to hear such a close account of the rise of Hitler.
Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef-owner of the successful restaurant in New York City, Prune, writes a compelling memoir of her childhood and the twists and turns that finally led to her success. In the beginning, she had a great childhood living on a farm. That all fell apart when her parents divorced. Hamilton lost any direction in life and education, traveled around Europe, worked menial jobs. Through all of this, she gained an appreciation for food and the comfort of being fed. Her experiences add quite a bit of depth to the memoir.
Arthur Phillips wrote an interesting, yet questionable tale of living with a con artist father and twin sister who has a deep love for Shakespeare. Part of the story is written like a memoir while the other part deals with the supposed unpublished play “The Tragedy of Arthur” that Arthur and his sister set out to get published and set on stage. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare, but this book is still a good read regardless, especially with the humor mixed in.
Gotta love Tina Fey. Check out the post I wrote on her memoir, Bossypants.
Another compelling World War II novel. A Polish family of three tries to reestablish themselves in England at the end of the war. Silvana and her son Aurek spent years in the Polish woods. Aurek does not know how to do basic tasks like sleep in a bed, at eight years old. So, forgetting the past proves quite a challenge. The reader finds out what measures this family has to take to become whole again.
This novel reminds me of the movie, 50 First Dates. The main character, Christine, was in an accident that leaves her with strange memory loss. Every day she wakes up and has to be reminded basic details of her life by her husband Ben. After she reads her journal and sees that she wrote “don’t trust Ben”, the novel turns into a thrilling account of trust. Who can you trust, particularly when you don’t have the memory to recall what has happened in the past. Scary thought.
Joshua Foer goes through a year of memory training and acquires amazing memory skills that enable him to enter the US Memory Championship. The key is to find your brain’s niche and ability so that it can naturally remember more. I find this fascinating because I have a really good long term memory, but my short term memory is horrible. So, in order to retain anything, I have to commit it to my long term memory.
Bestselling Korean author Kyung-sook Shin writes a memorable story of a missing mother and her family. It is told from the point of view of two of the children, the husband, and finally the mother herself. There is much regret over neglecting to take better care of the mother. The reader also gets a good glimpse of Korea as well. It is a tale of how one family overcomes great barriers to become unified again.
So, this is a great selection of memoirs and novels on World War Il, tragedy, humor and the importance of family. Quite a diverse collection of books from a unique set of authors. Enjoy!