2013 in books, part 4: non-fiction

This wasn’t quite as good a year for non-fiction as last year, but I did find some interesting books along the way.

I’m perpetually fascinated by WWII, and I found that Home Front Girl by Joan Whelan Morrisonwas a lovely example of a memoir from a different angle than is often seen. Joan’s diaries make up the bulk of the book, with some introduction and clarification from her daughter. I loved her mix of thoughtfulness and everyday young girl sensibility.

I read Letters From Berlin by Margarete Dos and Kerstin Lieff at about the same time, and found the similarities and differences between the two books to be striking. All in all, it’s a fascinating glimpse into one young woman’s wartime experience.

One of my favorites posts from this year was “Two biographies: Vera Atkins and Georgette Heyer“, which I wrote after reading biographies of these two very different women, and noticing some interesting similarities between them.

When I first heard about Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman, an account of Nellie Bly, Elizabeth Bisland, and their race around the globe, I knew I had to read it. Goodman did a wonderful job of bringing the two women and their adventures to life, although some of his conclusions seemed a little tenuous.

I had seen Going Clear by Lawrence Wright recommended as a good picture of Scientology and its issues. I found that Wright shows the history and problems of that group very clearly and convincingly. But I was also impressed by the fact that he resists the urge to generalize about alternative religions, or religion in general. A depressing read, but a necessary one.

We’re back to WWII with In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, which I read quite a bit later than everyone else. It’s an engrossing book, and the picture it paints of late 30s Berlin and the Dodd family is stunning and compelling.

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