Reading Wrap-Up: January 2018 Part One

Reading Wrap-Up: January 2018 Part One

I’m going to try something new with my book posts this year. I haven’t done a reading wrap-up before, but I always enjoy reading everyone else’s. Plus, even though I keep track of my reading on Goodreads, this may help motivate me towards my 2018 reading goal of 50 books! (Although at the rate I’m going, I won’t need much motivation.)

I don’t pre-designate monthly TBRs because I’m ridiculously spontaneous when it comes to picking which books to read next. I enjoy being able to pick whatever book suits my fancy; otherwise I feel like I’m back in high school. Sometimes it takes me three or four tries to settle on one book versus another. So a monthly wrap-up should be as much of a surprise to my readers as it is to me!

My ratings are on a five-star scale with one being the worst and five being the best.

⭐️: Basically this means I didn’t finish it

⭐️⭐️: I finished it, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others

⭐️⭐️⭐️: It was ok and I would consider recommending it to others under certain circumstances

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to others

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: I loved it and it has become a favorite book, or at least one I think everyone should read, as the book has made a significant contribution to its field. I would consider reading it more than once.

January Wrap-upTitle: Through the Shadowlands

Author: Julie Rehmeyer

Genre: Memoir, medical

Published: 2017

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book surprised me. Even as I was reading it, I didn’t think it warranted 5 stars. But once I was able to step back and think about it as a whole, I realized what a remarkable book this is. After Rehmeyer quite suddenly falls ill with what is likely ME/CFS, more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome, she goes on a quest to determine the cause of her illness. This eventually leads her to the middle of Death Valley, away from everyone except her dog Frances. As a science writer and mathematician, Rehmeyer understands the scientific method and what makes for compelling scientific research. She plays her own devil’s advocate throughout the process, frankly dissecting some of her own ideas as probable scientific hogwash. It is this ability that gives this book an overall perspective that isn’t typically found in medical science; a patient serving as a generally qualified researcher. Not only that, her journey is moving and compelling. Rehmeyer’s efforts have led to positive changes in ME/CFS research.

Title: Killing England

Authors: Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Genre: History, non-fiction

Published: 2017

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book focuses primarily on the roles of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin in achieving American independence. Other historical figures do make an appearance, primarily King George III. Having lately read a great number of sizable historical books on the Revolutionary War, I have high expectations concerning level of detail and accuracy. Being a shorter book and covering the entire eight and a half years of the war, detail had to be sacrificed in some areas, which was acceptable. However, based on multiple other sources, I noted that some of the historical descriptions weren’t consistent with currently accepted interpretations. That being said, for someone who is looking for a fast-paced, occasionally melodramatic but largely accurate telling of the major points of the American Revolution, this would be a good place to start.

Title: The Road to Little Dribbling

Author: Bill Bryson

Genre: Memoir, travel

Published: 2015

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If ever I’m in need of a laugh, I pick up a Bill Bryson book. I find the man hilarious. An American expat in Britain, who finally obtains British citizenship in this book, Bryson has a unique way of telling it like it is in a truthful and chuckle-worthy fashion. He could tell you to go to hell and you’d look forward to the journey. Twenty years after his trek around Britain in Notes From A Small Island, Bryson visits some locations he’s been to previously, but many new ones as well. Loosely following his self-titled “Bryson Line,” he treks around the soggy island from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath in this love story to his adopted country.

Title: American Nightingale

Author: Bob Welch

Genre: History, non-fiction

Published: 2004

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a heartbreaker of a book. It tells the story of Frances Slanger, who as a Jewish child immigrated to America from Poland following the atrocities and pogroms of World War I. Against the odds, and the expectations of society, Frances becomes a nurse. Again against the odds, she joins the U.S. Army in 1943 as part of the Forty-Fifth Field Hospital Second Platoon and finds herself landing at Utah Beach in Normandy on June 10, 1944. Bouncing around France and Belgium dozens of times, Frances and the doctors and nurses of the Forty-Fifth treat 4,950 patients, losing only 223. Unfortunately, Frances earns the distinction of being the first American nurse to be killed in action in Europe. This is her story and the story of those who knew her, a petite 5’1” Jewish woman who would hold hands and dab sweat off the foreheads of American GIs and German POWs alike.

Title: Things We Couldn’t Say

Author: Diet Eman with James Schaap

Genre: History, non-fiction, memoir

Published: 1994

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ever since reading The Hiding Place, I’ve been interested in the role of the Dutch resistance during World War II. This is the story of Diet Eman, a young Dutch woman who joins the resistance with her fiancé, Hein Sietsma, and others. Between hiding Jews and delivering the necessary ration cards to those in hiding, Diet (pronounced “Deet”) travels across most of Holland on foot and bicycle throughout the German occupation of Holland. Imprisoned for a time, Diet continues her heroic duties after being released. The book occasionally jumps around in a slightly discordant manner, but it is no less powerful and heartbreaking.

Title: The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust

Author: Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin

Genre: History, non-fiction, memoir

Published: 1999

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Edith Hahn was an outspoken, educated Austrian Jew when the Nazis came to power. One exam away from becoming a lawyer, she was denied completion of her education and sent to work in various labor camps, harvesting food and stamping cardboard boxes. After being released and returning to Vienna, she went underground and emerged in Munich a German Christian known as Grete Denner. After meeting and falling in love with Nazi Party member Werner Vetter, she lived for the duration of the war as a “U-Boat”: a Jew hiding in plain sight under the noses of the Nazis. Hahn recounts in detail the fear of living such a life in such a place at such a time.

September book haulTitle: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Author: Denise Kiernan

Genre: History, non-fiction

Published: 2013

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Overall, this was an ok book. The subject matter was very interesting, about the secret town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where work was being done to develop the atomic bomb (to the complete ignorance of nearly every worker there.) Many of the people employed were young girls just out of high school or college. However, the narrative was poorly executed. There were far too many people to keep track of, so I felt like I didn’t know any of the characters. The ending was also rushed and completely anticlimactic. If this is a subject that interests you, I’d recommend the book, but it wasn’t as well done as it could have been.

Title: The Truth About Chernobyl

Author: Grigori Medvedev

Genre: History, non-fiction, science, memoir

Published: 1991

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Written within a few years of the April 26, 1986 nuclear disaster in what is now Ukraine, this book was both mind-boggling and heartbreaking. Although a bit technically difficult to understand, the author, a nuclear physicist who understood the nuances of nuclear physics better than most, does his best to explain technical terms and their importance. This narrative covers both the heroes and villains; those who literally sacrificed their own lives and died excruciating deaths to save others and those whose negligence and pride led to the great coverup that followed the disaster. This book is a cautionary tale of what happens when we think we know more about science than we actually do.

Since I read 13 books in January, I’ve broken my wrap-up into two parts. The next part can be found here!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?


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