The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

The Monuments MenAlthough long, this is a very detailed account about the international cooperation and many of the principal actors in the search to recover thousands of pieces of art that were stolen, then hidden, by the Nazis in the name of honoring Hitler’s wishes and lust for beauty belonging to others. Because of its grand scope, the book unfortunately had to be limited to northern Europe and does not include the work of Monuments Men (including women) saving many Italian priceless treasures and other efforts in southern Europe.

Through the generosity of the families of the soldiers, many who had previous art curator and related experience, personal letters home to loved ones are included verbatim in the text. It hearkens back to both a more innocent and a more horrific time; and as WWII was many Americans’ first overseas experience, the fruit of cooperation between so many citizens of various countries in a race against time to prevent damage and destruction of precious items no doubt brought a wiser and more world-friendly attitude back to “the States.”

Somewhere in the text, someone noted that rescuing the art was important because it represents humanity’s creative urge toward spiritual, artistic, and life-affirming acts. (That is a very rough paraphrase because I couldn’t find the exact quote among 400 pages, but I agree with the sentiment!)

Reviewed by Laura R.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefIf I was told I could read only one other book for the rest of my life, I would choose The Book Thief – and I would hardly be upset. The language is masterful: poignantly beautiful, elegantly simple, and searingly powerful. The premise for the book is unique and tragic and achingly human. Ironic, considering the novel is narrated by Death. The Book Thief chronicles the life of a young girl growing up in Nazi, Germany, from the perspective of Death. This book is one of those everyone of every age, should be sure to read in their lifetime. More than once, if possible. While reading, you will find yourself slowing and even stopping, wanting to savor the perfection of the words, or digest the magnitude of emotion and implication captured in a single, misleadingly simple sentence.

Reviewed by Maddy