March/April books

April 

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Poppet

Author : Mo Hayder
3/5 stars–I like her mysteries a lot. Oddly I tried reading one and couldn’t get through it but have since read four and liked them all. 

 

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A Friend of the Family

Author : Lauren Grodstein
3.5/5 stars–I felt like I had read this before, and also, it wasn’t THAT great. 

 

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Rise and Shine : A Novel

Author : Anna Quindlen
3.5/5 stars

 

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The Never List

Author : Koethi Zan
4/5 SUPER compelling 

 

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The Witness Wore Red : The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice

Author : Rebecca Musser
3.5/5 stars I wouldn’t say the writing was fantastic or anything but still. Fascinating (and terrifying and rage making) stuff. 

 

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The Circle

Author : Dave Eggers
5/5 stars. Some of Eggers I can never get into (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and some I think are fantastic (Zeitoun). The Circle is funny, wry, smart, and scary. And very, very cynical. 

 

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The Smartest Kids in the World : And How They Got That Way

Author : Amanda Ripley
3.5/5 stars. I wish she had been more critical of some pieces of US ed reform, but an interesting look at three countries. 

 

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The Dinner

Author : Herman Koch
4/5 stars. one of the most genuinely mean books I have ever read. I kinda loved it. 

 

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Firestorm

Author : Nevada Barr
3.5/5. Reread. I love me some Anna Pigeon. 

 

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Hunting Season

Author : Nevada Barr
3.5/5 stars. Ditto. 

 

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I Fired God : My Life Inside—and Escape From—the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult

Author : Jocelyn Zichterman
4/5 stars. Clearly this was a month of creepy religious cults. I liked this one more than Witness. 

 

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Gone

Author : Mo Hayder
3.5/5 stars. She’s good!

 

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Skin

Author : Mo Hayder
3/5 stars. 

 

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The Best of Us : A Novel

Author : Sarah Pekkanen
2.5/5 stars. VERY light reading…

 

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Missing You

Author : Harlan Coben
2.5/5 stars. Very compelling but not as funny as the Myron Boltair novels and god I wish Coben would stop trying to make A Point in his books. They are for fun, buddy. 

 

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Destroyer Angel : An Anna Pigeon Novel

Author : Nevada Barr
4/5 stars. A new Anna Pigeon is always cause for success even if this is  not my favorite. 

 

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The Twelfth Department

Author : William Ryan
3.5/5 stars. Very compelling and I love Soviet mysteries.

 

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New England White

Author : Stephen L. Carter
4.5/5 stars . Reread but not for years. So good. 

MARCH 

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Author : Robert Galbraith
4/5 stars. This is, in case you have been living under a rock, JK Rowlings mystery series. I quite liked it. 

 

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Good As Gone

Author : Douglas Corleone
2/5 stars. Eh. 

 

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The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades

Author : Rick Riordan
3/5 stars. Listen I like a little YA fantasy as much as the next person. 

 

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The Baby-Sitters Club #47: Mallory on Strike

Author : Ann M. Martin
2/5 stars. I was housesitting, OK?

 

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The Winter People : A Novel

Author : Jennifer McMahon
2.5/5 decent ghost story.

 

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The Shadow Tracer

Author : Meg Gardiner
3.5/5 stars. Reread. Love her.

 

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After I’m Gone : A Novel

Author : Laura Lippman
4.5/5 stars. It’s not Tess, but I still love Lippman. 

 

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The Good Nurse : A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder

Author : Charles Graeber
5/5 stars. Fascinating and chilling.

 

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In the Blood

Author : Lisa Unger
2.5/5. Eh.

 

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The Ghost Riders of Ordebec : A Commissaire Adamsberg Mystery

Author : Fred Vargas
4/5 stars. Definitely not as good as some Adamsberg mysteries. But still, Adamsberg!

Jan/Feb books–I started using an app to keep track, so the format is weird.

 

February

Five Days at Memorial : Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

Author : Sheri Fink
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 576 pages, book

5/5 stars. a fantastic piece of reporting and a devastating indictment of pre and post Katrina incompetence. It’s mostly about whether or not various medical professionals essentially euthanized patients in the hospital, believing that they could not survive. The bulk of the evidence indicates that they did indeed. The defense is that they did what they thought was right. It brings up a lot of fascinating questions about quality of life (though the circumstances to me indicate that even if there was a situation in which nonconsensual mercy killing is appropriate–and I am certainly not saying that there is–this was not it). 

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MaddAddam : Book 3 of The MaddAddam Trilogy

Author : Margaret Atwood
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 416 pages, book
ISBN : 9780385537834

5/5 stars

I reread, as you will see the below, the first 2 books in this trilogy first and loved them all over again. The conclusion was thrilling and surprisingly funny and deeply disturbing and quite human. 

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The Year of the Flood

Author : Margaret Atwood
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 448 pages, book
ISBN : 0307398927

5/5 stars

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Oryx and Crake

Author : Margaret Atwood
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : book
ISBN : 0307400840

5/5 stars

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Takedown Twenty : A Stephanie Plum Novel

Author : Janet Evanovich
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 320 pages, book
ISBN : 0345542908

2/5 stars

Eh.Diverting enough but once you’ve read one you’ve read them all.

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The Orphan Choir : A Novel

Author : Sophie Hannah
Publisher : Picador
Format : 288 pages, book
ISBN : 1250041031

2/5

I have really liked some of Hannah’s previous work, Little Face in particular, but this just fell totally flat for me. I couldn’t follow the plot and the ending was totally disappointing. 

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The Husband’s Secret

Author : Liane Moriarty
Publisher : Penguin
Format : 416 pages, book
ISBN : 1101636238

3.5/5 stars

Stupid cover, but good book. Compelling.

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Going Clear : Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Author : Lawrence Wright
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 448 pages, book
ISBN : 0385350279

4/5 stars. Fascinating examination of Scientology and the cult of celebrity. The beginning dragged a little for me. 

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What the Dead Know

Author : Laura Lippman
Publisher : HarperCollins
Format : 400 pages, book
ISBN : 9780061796784

3.5/5 stars

Not my favorite Lippman book, and there is no Tess. I reread it because the case it is based on–the Lyon sisters from the DC area–had a big breakthrough this month. Remembering the Big Twist didn’t really spoil the book for me, which was nice.

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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

Author : Stephen Grosz
Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company
Format : 240 pages, book
ISBN : 9780393240412

4/5

A short, easy to read but lovely look at some of the analyst author’s cases and what they told him.

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Night Film : A Novel

Author : Marisha Pessl
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 256 pages, book
ISBN : 9780307368225

3.5/5 stars

Really nicely atmospheric. Too many random italics. 

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The Hive

Author : Gill Hornby
Publisher : Hachette UK
Format : 320 pages, book
ISBN : 9781405521062

3/5 stars

Very funny. 

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Author : Matthew Quick
Publisher : Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format : 208 pages, book
ISBN : 0316221325

3/5 stars

the only book I read at school in January. YA. Good in many places, but overly simplistic. 

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Wild : From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Author : Cheryl Strayed
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 315 pages, book
ISBN : 9780307476074

5/5 stars

I love Cheryl Strayed. This was a reread but I hadn’t read it in awhile. I loved it. 

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The View from Penthouse B

Author : Elinor Lipman
Publisher : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format : 320 pages, book
ISBN : 9780547840628

4.5/5 stars

Lipman is one of my favorite authors ever. This isn’t my favorite, but I loved it. 

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The Castle in the Attic

Author : Elizabeth Winthrop
Publisher : Random House LLC
Format : 179 pages, book
ISBN : 9780440409410

4/5 stars

I hadn’t read this in years because my copy vanished. Was a favorite  book as a kid. Also loved it this time.

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Reconstructing Amelia

Author : Kimberly McCreight
Publisher : Simon and Schuster
Format : 400 pages, book
ISBN : 9781471129445

5/5 stars

Terrific mystery. Very compelling. 

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Drama High : The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater

Author : Michael Sokolove
Publisher : Penguin
Format : 352 pages, book
ISBN : 9781101632109

4/5 stars

really good nonfiction look at a school and the incredible drama program. 

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Black Skies : An Inspector Erlendur Novel

Author : Arnaldur Indridason
Publisher : Macmillan
Format : 336 pages, book
ISBN : 1250036844

2.5/5 stars

I have liked his books in the past, but I was not so fond of this one.

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Do You Believe in Magic? : The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

Author : Paul A. Offit, M.D.
Publisher : HarperCollins
Format : 336 pages, book
ISBN : 9780062223005

5/5 stars

FANTASTIC. 

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Law of Attraction : A Novel

Author : Allison Leotta
Publisher : Simon and Schuster
Format : 288 pages, book
ISBN : 9781439195338

2.5/5 stars

Pretty compelling if not super well written.

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Critical Mass

Author : Sara Paretsky
Publisher : Penguin
Format : 480 pages, book
ISBN : 9781101636503

3.5/5 stars

I really like her

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What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? : A Memoir

Author : David Harris-Gershon
Publisher : Oneworld Publications
Format : 332 pages, book

A really interesting look at a man whose wife was nearly killed by terrorists and his journey to find out more about their motivations, as well as his eventual meeting with the family. 

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Hitler’s Furies : German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

Author : Wendy Lower
Publisher : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format : 270 pages, book
ISBN : 0547863381

3/5 stars 

Turns out women could be just as brutal as men.

What I Read in 2013

I know I forgot some, but hey.

Total: 182, counting YA. Some of these are also rereads (and I read the fault in our stars twice, I see)

I need a better system for keeping track, though! Most of these don’t even list authors and I am way too lazy to go look them up after the fact.

Best fiction: Life After Life, I think. Also loved Mr. P’s 24 hour bookstore and A Week in Winter

best nonfiction: Far From The Tree, Death at Seaworld

best poetry: Against Forgetting

best YA: i don’t know if i read any new YA this year that really stunned me, most were rereads. I did really like Eleanor and Park.

Dec
Sea creatures Susanna Daniel
English girl
Tomorrow
Night is for hunting
Eleanor and park
Other side of dawn
Divergent
Insurgent
Allegiant
The confessor
The very persistent gappers of frip
Death angel
Tangerine
Kill artist
Death in Vienna
Speak of the devil
Discretion

November
As she left it catriona McPherson
Let me go Chelsea Cain
Perfect family Pam Lewis
The beast Faye kellerman
Cartwheel Jennifer Dubois
Claire Dewitt and the bohemian highway
How our lives become stories
Identity and story

Brene Brown

October
Angry management
The interestings
Never go back
Compound fractures
Period 8
Kind of cruel
Storytelling animal
Against forgetting

September
Kisscut
So pretty it hurts
Taken Crais- eh diverting enough
This town
Flora
One of our Tuesdays is missing
The seven basic plots

July
Sisterland- really lovely
Crime of privilege
The storyteller
Guernsey literary and potato peel society
Unseen
The girl in the blue beret- lovely, an ode to resistance
The book borrowers- quiet and unshowy and quite good at friendship- book in book a good touch this time
Far from the tree
Tricksters queen

August
Egypt game
When you reach me- stead
Telling stories
Lokis wolves
The wanderer creech
Found haddix
The gypsy game
The last Olympian
The gift of magic
Island of the aunts
Secret of platform 13
Step on a crack
The fault in our stars
Telling stories
Storytelling for social justice
Always watching Stevens- eh.
The fire witness Kepler compelling
Big trouble
The last word Spellmans- Check-
Loved
Guide to student teaching

June
Broken Wing
Schooled, Gordon Korman- terrific, made the case against context free homeschooling/isolationism; middle schoolers can suck
Bad Little Falls, Doiron
Butchers Hill
Curse of the Spellmans
Secret Asset
Hp dh
Talking to the dead
The day is dark
The fault in our stars
A week in winter- wonderful and didnt want to leave
Here if you need me
Fearless fourteen
Racketeer
Life after life- liked Sylvie til the abortion story – didnt want it to end- small choices, happenstance add up- wanted to know the truth
The innocence game
If you were here
Bad monkey
Shadow tracer

May
Whitey bulgar
The guilty one
Tuesdays gone – called the bad guy
Notorious nineteen
Hunger games trilogy
The woman upstairs
Evil in all it’s disguises
Davidson tide
Tiny beautiful things
Mr penumbras 24 hour bookstore (lovely ode to the mysteries and wonder hidden on the printed page; very funny; very much of its time; interesting use of the real and fantasy)
Chomp
Bright sided
Beasts and monsters
White heat
The boy in the snow
Accelerated
When Captain Flint Was Still a Good man nick dybeck
Chillwater cove

April
Six Years, Harlan Coben
Let the devil sleep, Verdon (liked hero Dave)
People of pineapple place
Making thinking visible
Childism
Dare Me
Death at seaworld
The family man
The burn palace
Running out of time
Insane city
Boy in the water
Silenced (Ohlsson)
The mysterious Benedict society
Perilous prisoner
Monster of the month
Silent to the bone
Don’t go
Twisted
Collages that change lives
Monster (kellerman)
Vengeance
What happened to Sophie wilder
Island of the blue dolphins

March
Dramarama
True diary
Cam post
All of a kind
Running blind
Death and life of great American school system
Lost in school
Shut your eyes tight (verdon)
The nightmare (keplar)
Outrage (indridason)
The Theban mysteries (cross)
Trust me (Abbott)
Lackburg
Next of kin
What’s the matter with white people
Quentins
Detective fiction–PD James
Nights of rain and stars
Mary Oliver–Thousand Moons

February
The Seige (White)
Speaking from among the bones
The one I left behind
How fiction works
China lake
Number the stars
The hours
The playdate
The casual vacancy
Manhunt
When will there be good news
Teaching reading
The betrayal of trust
The hypnotist
The young unicorns
Meet the Austins (car and no seatbelts, ages)

January
Last king of Texas
Devil went down to Austin
No mark upon her
Nicci French land of the living
The way men act
Mean little deaf queer
A kiss gone bad
Cut and run
Size twelve a d ready to rock
Freud for beginners
Charm city
Ariadnes thread
No easy day
The nightmare thief

August books

a bunch of these are ya or middle grade fantasy because i was housesitting for a family with four kids ages 9-16 so i read allllll their books. 

1. Egypt game–obviously a total classic
2. When you reach me, rebecca stead–it was ok
3. Lokis wolves, armstrong/marr–basically a rip off of various current trends in middle grade ya fantasy but nonetheless fun
4. The wanderer, sharon creech –solid
5. Found, margaret haddix–eh. not nearly as good running out of time
6. The gypsy game–a sequel i’m not sure i’d read
7. The last Olympian–the final installment in riordan’s series. i liked it largely because hestia is my favorite goddess. total HP ripoff in parts
8. The gift of magic, lois duncan–hadnt read since i was a kid. i had a very visceral memory of it. love it, especially the surprise ending 
9. Island of the aunts, eva ibbotson–hehe. i loved it!
10. Secret of platform 13, ibbotson–also delightful.
11. Step on a crack, hahn–the mostly middle grade suspense author’s obligatory hitler novel. i hate how it normalizes abuse–the big non hitler villain beats his kids and the totally normal best friends mom hits her daughters with a wooden spoon. sigh. i know i know historical accuracy but i call bullshit. 
12. The fault in our stars–reread before loaning out. i’ve written about this rather a lot.
13. Telling stories–for my thesis. pretty good
14. Storytelling for social justice–for my thesis. excellent. 
15. Always watching, Chevy Stevens- eh.
16. The fire witness, Lars Kepler compelling
17. Big trouble, dave berry–i laughed.
18. The last word, lisa lutz—a spellman novel. i love these.
Loved
Guide to student teaching

July books

I didn’t read much at all in July. I was at school for a week plus, then I came home and cried for four days and did little else. So it’s a very very short list.

 

1. Sisterland- really lovely new book from Curtis Sittenfeld, though never gets close to the highs of Prep and especially American Wife. 
2. Crime of privilege, walter walker–eh. decent novel. not great.
3. The storyteller–Jodi Picoult. wrote about this earlier on the blog. I liked it quite a bit.
4. Guernsey literary and potato peel society–also written about in the Picoult post
5. Unseen, karin slaughter–i always find her books wildly entertaining while i am reading them and then i don’t tend to hang onto them for too much longer afterwards
6. The girl in the blue beret, bobbie ann mason– lovely, an ode to resistance in WWII
7. The book borrower, alice mattison— quiet and unshowy and quite good at friendship. the “book in a book: was  a good touch this time
8. Far from the tree, andrew solomon–masterful. i’m using it for my thesis, and i’ll post that section of the lit review when it’s done. really quite a good piece of non fiction. HUGE. it took me almost a week. it’s very, very dense, and some parts drooped a bit, but overall, quite good.
9. Tricksters queen–tamora pierce–sometimes middle grade feminist fantasy fits the bill.

June Books

1. Broken Wing–welp, i can’t find this on amazon, so i have no idea who wrote it. i liked it ok though, i think.
2. Schooled, Gordon Korman- terrific YA novel;  made the case against context free homeschooling/isolationism; middle schoolers can suck
3. Bad Little Falls, Doiron–compelling mystery.
4. Butchers Hill –Lippman-re-read that I loved
5. Curse of the Spellmans, Lutz–ditto for this
6. Secret Asset , Stella Rimington–not as good as I thought it would be
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–obvs a reread.
8. Talking to the dead, Bingham–I liked this a lot. Nice protag.
9. The day is dark–yet another dark mystery in a cold climate. it was fine.
10. The fault in our stars, john green–wonderful (reread, i did a lot of rereads this month!) i wrote about it here: https://booksarepretty.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/the-fault-in-our-stars/
11. A week in winter, Binchy–her last book.  wonderful and didnt want to leave
12. Here if you need me, braestrup–a lovely, lovely memoir of a UU chaplain for Maine wardens.reread but not for years.
13. Fearless fourteen, Evanovich–reread I think, i needed something after i finished my book and the kid i nanny was still asleep.
14. Racketeer, grisham–compelling enough.
15. Life after life, Atkinson. really fantastic exploration of how  small choices and happenstance add up. i want to write more about this and maybe i will soon!
16. The innocence game, harvey–ok. not great.
17. If you were here, alafair burke–i really like her a lot. this was super compelling, another word i am using too much.
18. Bad monkey, hiassen–not his best but it’s hiassen so obviously it was fun.
19. Shadow tracer, meg gardiner—ever since i read stephen king hyping her years ago i have been addicted. i don’t like her standalones as much as the evan or jo series but i quite liked it despite that. also it was the second cult book i read in as many days. cults, man. always interesting.
20. The woman upstairs, Claire Messud–i really liked this. i know messud gets grief for having an unlikable narrator-but actually, i didn’t find her that unlikable.

Two Holocaust Novels

Recently I picked up the latest Jodi Picoult novel, The Storyteller. I actually am not much of a Picoult fan, but I find her books reasonably compelling–something decent to whip through in a day. the real problem i have is that Picoult always saves One Big Twist, and once you’ve read a couple of her books you can guess the twist.

But anyway, I liked this new book much more than I’ve liked any of her more recent books. (SPOILERS)

i’m going to ignore the parts that felt much more typical–girl meets boy etc, quarterlife crisis, blah blah blah). the part that i felt was an interesting choice on Picoult’s part was to use some of the chapters in a first-world account of being a Nazi. I found this part incredibly compelling. Gut wrenching and rage making and also compelling. There’s also a narrative of a camp survivor, which was exactly as horrifying and depressing and soul-crushing as you expect. Picoult clearly did her research, and there were details in both of these narratives that I certainly was unaware of. So it was certainly not the sort of light reading I associate with Picoult. It was, instead, well….draining. But I want to say that I really respect Picoult for writing such a book. It’s true taht WWII has been written about a lot, but equally true that there are still Holocaust deniers out there, and quite honestly I think it’s a good idea for popular fiction to include descriptions of this atrocity.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a much different book, told entirely through letters–a concept I often dislike–and it is much lighter. Quite honestly it was a relief. Ever since I read the two books I have been super into WWII, and I listened to some podcasts and a book on tape and now I am watching a documentary, and after this this is going to have be it for me for awhile.

I remain fascinated by the complicity of everyday Germans–SS soldiers and citizens–in the wholesale massacre of other human beings. I think this is the part of the Holocaust that we all find fascinating and terrifying, because it gets to the very fundamental question of humanity. As I was reading especially the narrative “by a Nazi” in Picoult’s book I kept thinking that the asshole should just say NO for gods sake, stop being such a horrible person, etc etc. I wish that I could say that I know for sure that I would not have participated. But I can’t know that. I don’t think anyone can. I suppose I am as sure as I could be that I wouldn’t have participated–but I also know that it is impossible to say that completely. You never know, outside of context, what anyone will do. You cannot.  I think that is part of what leaves the Holocaust so full of ongoing mystery. It is so frustrating to listen to the news on any given day and here about the other mass murders still happening; and yet, sometimes it seems as though isolationism vs interventionism will never be resolved. There is a huge part of me that believes firmly that it is totally unethical to just stand by, and for that reason alone Roosevelt will never be a good President to me. And yet we have seen evidence that outside intervention sometimes makes things worse.

Well. I think what we are learning is that I clearly do not have any good, clear answers. Basically, sometimes people are evil, and sometimes people are complicit in atrocities, and sometimes the rest of us have no good options.