Winter in Vermont is dark, cold, and at times, cozy. Between the sunny days when we bundled up to run outside and the sick days when we comforted the little dude, there were many hours devoted to reading. Which was a good thing, since I managed to keep cabin fever at bay most of the time. Here’s some of the books that took me on journeys.
- Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. A fascinating and in-depth biography of a young woman who was not born to be an empress, but rose to the occasion, with many progressive philosophies and a keen understanding of character.
- The Beggar King by Oliver Pötzsch, translated byLee Chadeayne. This is the third in his “Hangman’s Daughter” series, all of which combine a technicolor view of Germany after the 30 Year’s War with all the action and intrigue of a modern thriller. This time, the past catches up with the Hangman, who is captured, framed, and facing torture, while his daughter finds herself in danger of her own. A fun, fast read.
- Seed to Harvest: Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, and Patternmaster (Patternist Series) by Octavia E. Butler. One of Butler’s earliest collections, these books (I found out after reading) were not written in order, but are collected here in the story’s chronological order, making for an uneven read. By far, Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind were the most compelling, telling the story of a being, Doro, who builds a genetically gifted “family,” many of whom are freed slaves, who find themselves enslaved in a new way as his children.
- In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. Larson collects the shockingly candid letters and journals of the Dodds, a diplomatic family that is first romanced by, and later horrified by the rise of the Third Reich. Daughter Martha Dodd socializes with the architects of the Nazi rise to power, providing a glimpse into the motivations and mechanics of people who glorified an Aryan nationalist vision that many of themselves did not fit. The story builds from one anecdote to the next, supported by extensive research, to expose a complex portrait of the Nazi Party’s rise to power.
- Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran. This may have been may favorite of the bunch. Madam Tussaud worked in a wax museum whose proprietor’s salon hosted famous revolutionaries Marat and Robespierre, among others. Her ability to work for both the revolutionists and the nobility, and survive, was quite an accomplishment at a time when people were arrested for spitting on “liberty trees.”
I seem to have gone through a real Machiavellian spell here, reading about evolution, revolution and palace intrigues almost exclusively. I found it fascinating to read about moments of social upheaval, and how people react to and survive big changes. Some of the individuals could see the writing on the wall, while others didn’t realize what was happening until the army was at their door. We have gone through some big changes here this winter, and reading about seismic revolutions puts our little earthquakes in perspective.
Now that spring is on its way, I feel like reading some books to get me more in touch with nature. Any recommendations?