An Open Book: What I Read in April

This month at my monthly book group meeting, we discussed We Were the Lucky Ones, which, as you’ll read below, is a book that takes place during the Holocaust.

We had an interesting discussion not specifically about the book, but about the importance of continuing to publish books about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. There wasn’t anything about this book specifically that was new news to any of us when it came to Holocaust literature, but it was published in February of this year, so it’s not a dusty old book about something no one can relate to.

One of the things I most appreciate about my book group is that it is made up of women from all over the world. (In fact, I think I may be the only American.) With a diversity of backgrounds and and home countries, we have rich conversations about culture and history that I’ve never experienced with a group made up strictly of Americans.

A discussion about the importance of Holocaust literature was no different. 

I think it’s fair to say that, as a group, we decided books like We Were the Lucky Ones should continue to be published, whether we like or learn anything from them. It’s important to keep the Holocaust and Nazi Germany in our minds, and new books about this time period grace best seller lists and suggested reading lists, which are published in new media and shared on social sites. They pique people’s interest because they’re new and fresh, relevant and original, even if they’re about something that most everyone is familiar with.

These books remind us of what once was, and what could be again. 

Few Holocaust survivors are still alive to tell their stories, so we need books to do that job.

I read an article about just this topic in Al Jazeera the other day, so I know women in my book group are not the only people discussing the importance of remembering the Holocaust. With the rise of nationalism in the world today, I personally feel it’s more important than ever that we keep revisiting this topic.

What do you think?

book covers april

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: An impressive story based on real events about a large and extended Jewish family that managed to survive the Holocaust against all odds. Because there were so many characters, it felt like a very thin telling of an incredibly rich story, often jumping months between significant events and re-locations, so I never fully felt emotionally attached to any one of the characters. It wasn’t until the end of the book that Hunter reveals this is all based on her actual family history, an important detail I believe should have been shared at the beginning of the narrative.

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: This memoir of a troubled childhood felt washed-up and repetitive, like any other memoir written about a past riddled with neglect and alcohol abuse. Karr repeated specific anecdotes from her childhood throughout the book, and it felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. While I like the author’s voice, there’s nothing special about this particular story that makes it worthy of recommending.

Achieve Anything in Just One Year: Be Inspired Daily to Live Your Dreams and Accomplish Your Goals by Jason Harvey (1/5 stars)

Three-line review (with bonus fourth sentence): I’m sure I must have downloaded this book for free at some point, and there’s no reason why anyone should ever pay for it. After 58 days of attempting to give this book a fair shake, I abandoned it due to its hollow voice, vague suggestions, generic advice and disregard for real-life circumstances without offering any actual guidance on achieving anything. Anyone could have pulled 365 random quotes from a bag and written literal interpretations of what they might mean in an attempt to motivate people to “achieve anything” but everything in this book falls flat. Avoid this one; it’s not worth investing any of your time here.

Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: In theory, this is a touching story about two students with a five-year age difference who develop a friendship (and eventually a romantic love) when they are assigned to sit next to each other on the school bus. In actuality, it ended up being a slow-moving, preachy book about choices made by a greater power and was absolutely slathered in unrealistic dialogue. The author’s note mentions she wanted to educate her readers about certain topics within her story, such as the Navajo code talkers, but in doing so, she dumped encyclopedic entries into the pages, which felt forced and contrived.

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