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Freiheit! by Andrea Grosso Ciponte

I am not a huge graphic novel reader, but when given the chance to explore an interesting subject or approach to illustration I will pick one up.

Freiheit! by Andrea Grosso Ciponte is a good example.

With an entire nation blindly following an evil leader, where did a handful of students find the courage to resist? The university students who formed the White Rose, an undercover resistance movement in Nazi Germany, knew that doing so could cost them their lives. But some things are worth dying for.

The White Rose printed and distributed leaflets to expose Nazi atrocities and wake up their fellow citizens. The Gestapo caught and executed them. Sophie Scholl was twenty-one; her brother Hans, twenty-four; Christoph Probst, twenty-three; Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf, twenty-five.

But the White Rose was not silenced. Their heroism continues to inspire new generations of resisters. Now, for the first time, this story that has been celebrated in print and film can be experienced as a graphic novel. Italian artist Andrea Grosso Ciponte’s haunting imagery will resonate with today’s students and activists. The challenges they face may vary, but the need for young people to stand up against evil, whatever the cost, will remain.

I was intrigued by the description: “The dramatic true story of a handful of students who resisted the Nazis and paid with their lives, now in a stunning graphic novel.”

I found it an odd yet powerful exploration of the underground resistance to Hitler. The art is dark and almost surreal while the text is formal and driven by literature and philosophy.

Soldiers of a Different Cloth by John Wukovits

Military chaplains—if the person does their job correctly, they are some of the most underappreciated people in the military. John Wukovits brings his superb World War II knowledge to chronicle some of the University of Notre Dame’s clergy who served as chaplains in the U.S. military during World War II in Soldiers of a Different Cloth: Notre Dame Chaplains in World War II.

Wukovits highlights a few of the 35 clergy members from Notre Dame who served during the war. He pays particular attention to Rev. Joseph D. Barry, Rev. John E. Duffy, Rev. Henry Heintskill, and six missionaries caught in the Philippines at the beginning of the war (Sisters Mary Olivette and Mary Caecilius and Brothers Theodore Kapes and Rex Hennel, and Fathers Jerome Lawyer and Robert McKee).

Wukovits’ strength of highlighting the individual is in full display in the book.

Audiobook Review: Countdown 1945 by Chris Wallace

After I heard Chris Wallace on special Dispatch Live event with Jonah Goldberg, I put Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World by Chris Wallace, with Mitch Weiss on my TBR pile.

Not that I am particularly interested in WWI (military history is Jeff’s bailiwick) or the dropping of the atomic bomb, but because I was interested in seeing how Wallace made the subject interesting given we all know what happened and the issues involved have been debated too death.  I was curious to see what an old school, straight shooter journalist made of the history.

It turned out the easiest way to get a copy from the library was to listen to the audiobook narrated by Wallace himself. So when it became available, I grabbed it and started listening.

Not surprisingly, Wallace is a great narrator and the style and focus of the book work well in audio format.  Unlike some more dense and technical history, I found this enjoyable to listen to and easy to pay attention

As to content, I found it to be a compelling and informative look at the events leading up the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in August of 1945. It gives you the perspective not only of President Truman and other larger than life figures but also of a host of minor characters from scientists and military leaders to those who worked at Oak Ridge and Japanese citizens who experienced the destruction of Hiroshima.

Give Me Liberty by Richard Brookhiser

One of the myriad reasons for the near-death of this blog is that I simply don’t have the time, focus or energy to put into serious reviews of serious books. I read a decent amount of non-fiction but review very little of it. I feel caught in a catch-22, if I could write serious reviews of non-fiction I could get paid to do it and yet I rarely get around to posting quick reviews of the same books because I want to do the book justice.

Well, if this whole #StayHomeAndRead thing is going to work I am going to have to post some short blog reviews of non-fiction books. So let’s start with one of my favorite authors, Richard Brookhiser, and his latest book Give Me Liberty.

There are two things happening in this book: one is a simple history of America through the lens of our pursuits of liberty, the second is an argument about American nationalism.

The first thread creates the structure of the book

This book focuses instead on thirteen documents, from 1619 to 1987, that represent shots from the album of our long marriage to liberty. They say what liberty is. They show who asked for it, when, and why. Since no marriage is ever simple, they track its ups and downs. These thirteen liberty documents define America as the country that it is, different from all others

2/100 – Notre Dame by Ken Follett

If you have been following along, in 2020 I am attempting to read 100 books.  I am also going to blog each book.  Hence the 2/100 in the title of this post.  Book #2 was another “hmm, that looks interesting and it has the added benefit of being short” library grab.  And as I often enjoy, and tend to collect, short biographies or histories of people, place and ideas Notre Dame by Ken Follett fit the bill.

But it turned out to basically be a short essay exploring the history of the cathedral in the aftermath of the great fire in 2019 via historical touch points or vignettes. It is a sort of explanation of why the famous cathedral captured our imagination and became such a symbol. It felt, however, too short and insubstantial for anyone with knowledge of the subject. For those new to it, however, may spark interest in further reading. And proceeds from sales are donated to the restoration fund.

Publishers description:

Hardcover Notre Dame by Ken FollettIn this short, spellbinding book, international bestselling author Ken Follett describes the emotions that gripped him when he learned about the fire that threatened to destroy one of the greatest cathedrals in the world–the Notre-Dame de Paris. Follett then tells the story of the cathedral, from its construction to the role it has played across time and history, and he reveals the influence that the Notre-Dame had upon cathedrals around the world and on the writing of one of Follett’s most famous and beloved novels, The Pillars of the Earth.

I suppose we should give marketing a break but “spellbinding” is a bit much.  It is an interesting essay if you have an interest in the famous cathedral and/or the author but if you want to give the restoration fund there are easier ways to do so than buy a book that would be better off as a series of blog posts. The Smithsonian Magazine has a taste.

But on the other hand, if you enjoy this sort of thing, grab a short fast read that illuminates some key historical/literary vignettes that brought us to the that fateful day when the fire started.

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