So far this year work, travel, and films--the last item in the list has been involved with the first two--have left me with little other time to wile away. I think I may be seeing a break in my schedule that should permit more room for knitting, reading, you name it. Having worked a long, energy-sapping day yesterday and wanting to enjoy a Sunday free from the clock, I decided to dive into a book.
I elected to go with In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, & an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson, which I purchased in the Kindle edition. This is the first new book--ie., recently published--I've bought for the device. While I prefer the tangible quality of physical media and could have ordered the hardcover for a mere fifty cents more, I thought this might be a way of easing me off the need for the object. I've liked the two Larson books I've read--I loved The Devil in the White City--but unlike my favorite authors, I don't feel compelled to have all of his books on my shelves. (It's why I've not given a second thought to downloading all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, which I'd not read from a physical copy anyway, or free classics I've not read.)
Reading about the rise of the Nazis wasn't at the top of my priorities, but I trust Larson as a writer to make the non-fiction story compelling and fresh. I'm about halfway through, and so far my faith has been rewarded. The book is about a professor who is appointed ambassador to Germany in 1933. His wife and two grown children accompany him on the move to Europe. Much of the book is drawn from the papers and journals kept by the ambassador and his daughter, and what revelations there are to be found.
On this side of history it can be hard to understand how everything took shape, or at least to view it without hindsight judgment. I'm about halfway through, but already Larson has made the period come alive for me in a way that I've not encountered it before. Having recently seen Shoah and The Great Dictator, made and released before the U.S.'s involvement, and now adding this book to the mix, I feel like the pre-World War II period is coming more into focus to me. The ingrained anti-Semitic attitudes in this country at the time, and the role they surely played in the U.S. not intervening right away, have been something of a surprised to read about.
So, it's been a fun day doing a lot of reading, with more to come tonight after I finish this entry. I has also got me thinking about the summer reading programs I was involved with as a kid. I was an an enthusiastic--or an overenthusiastic--participant then, and I'd like to get some of that back. Maybe reading a book a week is setting the bar high, but I'd like to get into the mindset of reading regularly again. Assuming I can keep up with it, I'm write about it here.