Erik Larson is the master of the researched narrative. He can take on the most intricate historical event and craft a compelling book out of it, often following the grisly path of a serial killer or some cataclysmic natural disaster. In his latest book, "In the Garden of Beasts", he has turned his attention to the beginnings of World War II and the rise of the Nazis in Germany.
Larson uses memoirs, personal correspondence, official records, newspaper articles and journal entries to piece together the story of William Edward Dodd, U.S. ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937, and his daughter, Martha. Although closely related, the two have dissimilar views about the changes happening in Germany but realize that Adolf Hitler's leadership will rip apart the world.
Larson's greatest ability is to take readers back to these turbulent times possessing the clear knowledge of what is to come. He makes it possible to see where diplomacy could have changed the future and how America failed to see what was coming. Through the eyes of the Doddses, he allows readers to understand how these mistakes were so easily made.
-- Review by Gena Fisher, Belt Branch reference assistant
In the young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker has something to say to the people who have passed through her life: 13 reasons why they contributed to her death and how they could have helped her if they had only listened. Now, they have to listen because Hannah has recorded her reasons and sent them the tapes.
Clay Jenson isn't sure why he got the tapes; he'd admired Hannah for years but only once worked up the courage to connect with her. So Clay spends the night with Hannah's voice haunting his ears, following the events that led her to do the unforgivable.
I was intriqued by this strange and moving tale by author Jay Asher from the moment I began reading. It might not be suitable for young readers because it deals with suicide, but it is very well written and offers insight into how events can snowball and how some individuals can be crushed under the weight. It is also a good indicator of the warning signs of someone in crisis.
-- review written by Gena Fisher, Belt Branch reference assistant
What's not to love about apocalyptic literature? Granted, it's filled with carnage and the end of the world as we know it, but it also includes a heap of incredible challenges for our inspiring protagonists to tackle.
In Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse, the challenges come in the form of technology that has gone haywire, seeking to obliterate humanity. This tale is set in the not-so-distant future when robots and computers are just slightly more ubiquitous than today.
Science fiction readers aren't the only ones excited about Wilson's latest book. Stephen Speilberg agreed to make a movie of the thing before it was even completed. That's probably because Wilson is not just the author of six novels, but he also has a Ph.D. in robotics. So when he writes about artificial intelligence gone wrong, it's chillingly realistic.
Gary Eclebarger's incisive book about the 1864 Battle of Atlanta provides a comprehensive look at one of the Civil War's most decisive-- but less heralded-- battles. Read this book, then check out the movie "Gone with the Wind" to see another rendition of war-time Atlanta.
The book discusses President Lincoln's multi-faceted dilemma of appointing disastrous generals, thus incurring horrendous numbers of casualties (1,500 per day) yet having few definitive victories to show for it all. This lack of victories put Lincoln's viability as president in question. Atlanta, as the iconic symbol of the South, became the linchpin for his re-election.
On July 22, 1864, opposing commanders McPherson (Union) and Hood (Confederate) managed an eight-hour blood bath that decimated both sides. One out of every five soldiers involved would not answer roll call the next morning. Chief among the Union's shocking losses was the death of McPherson, while the Confederates lost 60 field officers, something from which the South would not recover. The Union was labeled the victor only because the siege held and Atlanta was taken by federal "survivors".