To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission
On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left little time to plan the complex operation.
In Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp. Sides shows how the POWs banded together to survive, defying the Japanese authorities even as they endured starvation, tropical diseases, and torture. Harrowing, poignant, and inspiring, Ghost Soldiers is the mesmerizing story of a remarkable mission. It is also a testament to the human spirit, an account of enormous bravery and self-sacrifice amid the most trying conditions.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Hodder & Stoughton, Oct 11, 2016 - Fiction
When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father. What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not. Small Great Things is about prejudice; it is about that which divides and unites us. It is about opening your eyes.
Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Alfred A. Knopf, 1996 - Non Fiction
Goldhagen's gripping and shocking landmark study transforms our understanding of the Holocaust. Refuting the widespread notion that those who carried out the genocide of Jews were primarily SS men or Nazi party members, he demonstrates that the perpetrators--those who staffed and oversaw the concentration camps, slave labor camps, genocidal army units, police battalions, ghettos, death marches--were, for the most part, ordinary German men and women: merchants, civil servants, academics, farmers, students, managers, skilled and unskilled workers. Rejecting the conventional view that the killers were slavishly carrying out orders under coercion, Goldhagen, assistant professor of government at Harvard, uses hitherto untapped primary sources, including the testimonies of the perpetrators themselves, to show that they killed Jews willingly, approvingly, even zealously. Hitler's genocidal program of a ""Final Solution"" found ready accomplices in these ordinary Germans who, as Goldhagen persuasively argues, had absorbed a virulent, ""eliminationist"" anti-Semitism, prevalent as far back as the 18th century, which demonized the Jews and called for their expulsion or physical annihilation. Furthermore, his research reveals that a large proportion of the killers were told by their commanders that they could disobey orders to kill, without fear of retribution--yet they slaughtered Jews anyway. By his careful estimate, hundreds of thousands of Germans were directly involved in the mass murder, and millions more knew of the ongoing genocide. Among the 30 photographs are snapshots taken by the murderers of themselves and their victims. (Mar.)
Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford by Clint Hill
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
May 2017 - Non Fiction
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Kennedy and Me and Five Days in November reflects on his seventeen years on the Secret Service for presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. The assassination of one president, the resignation of another, and the swearing-in of the two who followed those traumatic events. Clint Hill was there, on duty, through Five Presidents.
After an extraordinary career as a Special Agent on the White House Detail, Clint Hill retired in 1975. His career spanned the administrations of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald R. Ford. A witness to some of the most pivotal moments in the twentieth century, Hill lets you walk in his shoes alongside the most powerful men in the world during tumultuous times in America’s history—the Cold War; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy; the Vietnam War; Watergate; and the resignations of Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Nixon.
It was indeed a turbulent time—and through it all, Clint Hill had a unique insider perspective. His fascinating stories will shed new light on the character and personality of each of these five presidents, as Hill witnesses their human sides in the face of grave decisions.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Dutton Books, 2012 - Young Adult Fiction
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Cold Mountain alternates between two main characters and how their stories intertwine. A wounded Confederate soldier, W. P. Inman, becomes disillusioned with the war and decides to undertake the long trek home on foot. His story is filled with peril and he is hunted down as a deserter. Meanwhile, Ada, the girl he left behind struggles to survive back at Cold Mountain, a rural community in North Carolina. In addition to the day-to-day hardships, Confederate soldiers steal her food and livestock to support the troops. Written in the language of the era, the story is sometimes hard to follow. I enjoyed Inman's tale but found myself skimming over some of the other chapters. All in all, it is beautifully written and paints a vivid picture of a harsh time during the final years of the Civil War.
Joe Steele by Harry Turtledove
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
An alternate history depicting what it would be like had Joseph Stalin been born in the United States. Joe Steele rises in the political world eventually being elected a US Congressman. Through ruthless measures he winds up being elected President instead of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Instead of FDR's New Deal, he devises a Four Year Plan to end unemployment and grow the economy. He nationalizes banks and collectivizes farms and factories. Those who oppose his measures are accused of spying for Germany and arrested. Courts are stacked and military cronies are appointed. Work camps are created to further crush all political opposition.
As Hitler rises to power Joe Steele exceeds the current two term limit for president and leads the US into war against the Axis. Steele remains in power until his death in 1953. Joe Steele is a fascinating story depicting how a government "for the people" can be altered dramatically. It points out how fragile our democratic republic truly is.
Fly Boys by James Bradley
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
May 2017 - Non Fiction
Extraordinary true story of survival. Nine American flyers were shot down over the remote Pacific island of Chichi Jima. One was miraculously rescued by a Navy submarine and eventually became President of the United States. The other eight were captured and disappeared, never to be heard from again. Through the tireless efforts of the author, classified records were uncovered and people were interviewed. Trips were made to Japan and the island of Chichi Jima to uncover the truth. The puzzle was put together and the fate of the eight American flyboys was finally revealed. It is a story of savage cruelty and the warrior mentality dating back hundreds of years. It is also the story of great courage and the brave young men who died in captivity.
Masked Prey by John Sanford
⭐⭐⭐/5
The daughter of a US Senator finds anonymous pictures of herself and other children of powerful politicians on the internet. Along with the pictures are vicious political rants and disturbing comments from radical groups. Worried that the children could be in danger, the FBI looks into into who is involved. When the investigation stalls, Lucas Davenport is called in to work outside their legal bounds. He questions several Congressmen, Senators and their children as well as shady characters with radical connections. He dives into the underbelly of extremist groups and how they operate, pressuring them for help. The fear of a lone wolf intent on targeting the children soon becomes the main focus and the hunt is on. The killer is out there, but can they find him/her before it is too late?
I found the story relevant and full of details on the workings of the FBI as well as fringe radical groups. It is well written and a good, but not excellent, read.
The Reckoning by John Grisham
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Set in rural Mississippi in 1946, Pete Banning, a decorated war hero, is accused of a brutal murder. There is no doubt he did it and he does not deny it. The only question is why. He refuses to explain his actions and the story takes you from the war and his horrific experiences as a POW in the Philippines to the Jim Crow south.
The question remains unanswered until the very end and for me was a bit of a let down after the long build up. But in true Grisham fashion, the events, characters, and location are vividly described. There is also plenty of courtroom drama.
My Raibow To Keep by Michelle Jeffreys
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
A heartfelt story of unimaginable loss and despair. Michelle's personal journey through the sudden death of her daughter, Zoë, drew me in from the beginning. For anyone who has experienced trauma in their life, this will tug at your heartstrings. I felt Michelle's pain and though on a different level, related to many of her experiences. The book was hard to put down and being a shorter read than I am used to, it left me wanting more. I would recommend My Rainbow To Keep to anyone experiencing loss or dealing with a friend struggling with grief.

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