The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert Edsel

Find in catalogYou might have seen the movie about these men that came out two or three years ago starring George Clooney, Hugh Bonneville, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchette, and others. The book is over 400 pages long and is full of much more detail than the movie, as you would expect. I found the book to be quite interesting and hard to put down. The topic seems particularly timely, given the situation in the Middle East and the various groups there blowing up statues and temples and looting historic treasures. Think of Palmyra. The sad thing is that very people are aware of what the Monuments Men did during WWII, including current members of the Armed Forces. One of the key officers in charge of tracking down the 15,000 looted art treasures from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad following the US-led invasion in 2003 acknowledged that he had never heard of the Monuments Men. Here he is doing basically the same thing as the Monument Men. The book warns that “all countries ignore the Monuments Men’s legacy at their own peril”.

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Priceless Memories, by Bob Barker with Digby Diehl

Find in catalogI found this book while looking for another book with an author’s name that started with “B”. I checked this book out because I used to enjoy watching “The Price is Right”. This book is pretty obviously a vanity project – Bob Barker is his own best friend – but was still fun to read to learn more about the history of television and how game shows were produced in the good old days compared to how they are produced now. One thing I found very interesting was Bob Barker’s belief that the cars offered as prizes on “The Price is Right” should be American-made cars. This belief stemmed from the early 1980’s when Detroit was struggling and he clung to it despite quite a bit of pressure from some of the show’s producers. There is also quite a bit in this book about Bob Barker’s animal rights and anti-fur work. A light-hearted, easy summer read.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Find in catalogBeautifully written and compelling story about a young girl under Taliban rule in Afghanistan who lives as a bacha posh Рdressed and named as a boy in a family of girls Рfollowing her into adulthood as a woman with no rights, subject to arranged marriage at 13, abuse and denial of education or independence. Paralleling her story is the story of her ancestor subject to many of the same abuses and her long struggle to triumph over it all.  In the end our heroine also triumphs, at great cost. A view into an oppressive culture that ultimately fails in its attempt to dehumanize women who defy the odds to remain strong of mind and heart. Highly recommended.

We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome

We Didn't Mean to Go to SeaAn oldie but goodie, first published in 1937, as part of the Swallows and Amazons series. Ransome had won the very first Carnegie medal for a previous book.

Set in the South of England, siblings John, Susan, and Roger – avid sailors aged about 7, 12 and 14 – embark on an unexpected and challenging adventure when their college-age friend is injured, the anchor breaks and they are swept out to sea, on their own. Realistic, humorous, as well as frightening and exciting, this is a treasure for both adults and kids.

Reviewed by Margaret

The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianOne of the best books I’ve read! Don’t let the title of this novel fool you-this is not about little green men, just one very human astronaut and his extraordinary experiences after becoming stranded on Mars. Highly technical engineering and computer information is completely readable in this well-written story, full of humor, suspense, and wonder. Completely satisfying. I hope to see more from this first-time author.

Reviewed by Margaret

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Moloka'iBrennert’s writing style creates a setting that is so lush you are plunged into the heat, scent, and moisture of tropical Hawai’i, into an unbelievable time in history when the victims of leprosy were exiled and imprisoned, losing family, property, and liberty. This is a story about one girl and how she grew, loved, and hoped in the leper colony of Kalaupapa; about the rich culture of Hawai’i’s indigenous people.

Reviewed by Margaret

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

claire of the sea lightWhat could be more different from US culture and family life than the world of Haiti? Poverty and love, class systems and secrets characterize this story of a little girl and her father and the impossible choices they have to make. With French and Haitian Creole woven beautifully into the dialogue and narrative, this is a book for the ages, for the heart and soul and mind.

Reviewed by Margaret