A gripping story for readers in search of either drama or historical edification.

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SHOT DOWN

THE TRUE STORY OF PILOT HOWARD SNYDER AND THE CREW OF THE B-17 SUSAN RUTH

An account of one pilot’s experience in World War II that’s part biography and part world history.

Debut author Snyder became an amateur historian following his retirement, inspired by his father Howard’s participation in World War II as the captain and pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Partly based on Howard Snyder’s diaries, this book also includes interviews with his crewmates, weaving a cohesive quilt of perspectives. The story begins with and centers on Howard’s life, starting with his upbringing in Nebraska, and taking readers on a tour of his marriage to Ruth, his enlistment, his time in pilot school, and then a series of dangerous combat missions over German-occupied Europe. However, the book is just as much about the war itself, and its grand historical moment in time, as it is about Howard’s life. The author discusses the horror and consequences of Pearl Harbor, the devastation and tactical importance of D-day, and the Casablanca Conference, for example; he also describes the lives of the soldiers themselves, such as how popular they were with English women and how they used recreation to distract themselves from the danger at hand: “Regardless, most men were able to keep a relatively detached attitude, centered on self-survival and the common belief that it only happened to someone else.” Even the dramatic culmination of the book, when Howard’s plane is shot down over Belgium, is equally concerned with depicting Belgium as it is Howard’s plight. This is a stark, welcome contrast to the current fashion among literary renderings of war, which prefer to focus solipsistically on characters’ interior lives. More than a third of the book is devoted to Howard’s attempt to evade German forces after being shot down, when he was dependent on the good graces of Belgium resistance forces. The author does an impressive job letting the tale speak for itself, giving center stage to the words of the soldiers and eschewing unnecessary dramatic embellishment. Although it breaks no new historical ground, Snyder’s contribution is an excellent one that honors both the personal and global effects of war.

A gripping story for readers in search of either drama or historical edification.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9860760-0-8

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Sea Breeze Publishing LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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