Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Review by Snowdrop

With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man—also named Jonathan Safran Foer—sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis.

Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war, an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.

As their adventure unfolds, Jonathan imagines the history of his grandfather’s village, conjuring a magical fable of startling symmetries that unite generations across time. As his search moves back in time, the fantastical history moves forward, until reality collides with fiction in a heart-stopping scene of extraordinary power.

This is a book about a young boy who finds an old, yellowed photo and is determined to find a lady in it who possibly saved his grandfather. It’s a look back upon a time of war and of the Nazis obliterating everything. It leads to many old memories, good, funny, and sad.

Everything is Illuminated has won many awards. It’s praised by the NY Times, Library Journal, the Washington Post, and many more. The author, Jonathan Safran Foer, was only 21 when he wrote it. In that view, it is amazing that such a work was written and published. It was even made into a movie. I found it difficult to read. Not because of its vulgarisms although there are many, but more so due to the broken English spoken by their translator who travels with them to the place where his grandfather lived. There are times it is hard to read because of the Holocaust and the treatment of the Jews, but that is not badly written, only hard to read because of the subject.

The author named the main character after himself. It caused me to wonder if the story was in its own way autobiographical as well as fictitious? There are some very poignant moments in Jonathan Safran’s journey. I wonder if the author has experienced the same feelings, the same sadness? It may be why although somewhat difficult to read, there can be no question the book is well-written. There are moments that come together and make you feel ashamed that you did not have to share the horror the Jews did during the war. Moments so well-written that you feel that you understand and yet know that you can never understand what the Jewish people experienced.

Is this a book you should read? I think it’s an experience many would gain from. It might be a story you shouldn’t pass by.

The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter

The Nixon Tapes:1971-1972 by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Politics
Length: Full Length (797 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

These are the famous—and infamous—Nixon White House tapes that reveal for the first time President Richard Milhous Nixon uncensored, unfiltered, and in his own words.

President Nixon’s voice-activated taping system captured every word spoken in the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, other key locations in the White House, and at Camp David—3,700 hours of recordings between 1971 and 1973. Yet less than five percent of those conversations have ever been transcribed and published. Now, thanks to historian Luke Nichter’s massive effort to digitize and transcribe the tapes, the world can finally read an unprecedented account of one of the most important and controversial presidencies in US history.
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This volume of The Nixon Tapes offers a selection of fascinating scenes from the period in which Nixon opened relations with China, negotiated the SALT I arms agreement with the Soviet Union, and won a landslide reelection victory. All the while, the growing shadow of Watergate and Nixon’s political downfall crept ever closer. The Nixon Tapes provides a never-before-seen glimpse into a flawed president’s hubris, paranoia, and political genius.

The real story of Nixon, from the man himself.

Ever wonder what Nixon thought while he was in the White House? Ever wonder what he talked about? The transcripts are in and they are fascinating.

I’ve done a lot of reading into political events and this book, The Nixon Tapes, certainly tells a vivid story. Nixon isn’t just recalling events. These are his words.

Readers wanting to understand what went on during the turbulent White House years of Nixon’s life will want to read this book. It’s history right in front of the reader and not to be missed. I understood where Nixon was coming from with Watergate, even if I didn’t agree with him. I understood his paranoia, too. He had a plan and wanted the plan executed. The cosmos had other ideas. This book made Nixon more human and relatable.

If you’re looking for a long book (yes, this is long and will take some time to read) that’s gripping and will make you think, then this might be the one for you.

Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien

Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien
How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Mariner Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Length: Full length (382 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. While male pilots were lauded as heroes, the few women who dared to fly were more often ridiculed—until a cadre of women pilots banded together to break through the entrenched prejudice.
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Fly Girls weaves together the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high school dropout from Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcée; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at her blue blood family’s expectations; and Louise Thaden, the young mother of two who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to fly and race airplanes—and in 1936, one of them would triumph, beating the men in the toughest air race of them all.

Five women wanting to own the sky.

I’ve been on a bender reading historical non-fiction books. I’m in awe of the space program, but this book shows where things all began–flight. When I saw the name Amelia Earhart, I thought, okay, this is about her big flight. But it’s really not. It’s about the women who wanted to learn to fly and were part of the twenty-nine who originally got pilots licenses when it wasn’t considered something women should do. I loved the pioneering spirit of these women and the “never give up” attitude.

The writing flowed well, but there were times when I wasn’t sure who I was reading about. The lead-up to the reveal about which woman was being spotlighted in any given chapter was a tad long. At times it read a bit like a textbook, but I wanted to know about these women, so I kept going.

I’ve heard of Earhart, but have you ever heard of Ruth Nichols? Louise Thaden? Ruth Elder? They were giants in airplane racing. Yeah, racing. Never heard of them? You should. If you read Fly Girls, you will. If you’re a fan of flight and pioneers in flight, then this might be the book for you.