Read the World & WWII Wrap-Up

It’s been a busy year of reading. I visited many countries (intellectually—the Bahamas in reality); I lived thousands of years of history. I walked with peasants and kings, saints and tyrants. I discovered some things about the world and people over the last 12 months:

  • Regardless of culture, there was some sort of oppression in every country with the common class receiving the brunt of it.
  • There were a few very bad people who did a lot of damage, turning an entire country’s reputation into mud, scarring history (and it wasn’t just a World War II thing: this sort of wickedness has been around from the beginning).
  • The majority of people under any evil regime aren’t to blame for what a few did, but the majority of people have the power. There’s some responsibility there, though how much isn’t for me to say. Sometimes that majority fought and won, and sometimes that turned out well (sometimes not).
  • The history of all countries are interrelated. None of it happened in a bubble. For instance, Poland, Germany, Russia, and Austria all performed an intricate dance around each other for centuries with a few advancing and a few withdrawing over different periods of time.
  • Just like a few awful people made their awful mark on history (such as Hitler and Stalin), a few valiant people changed the course (think Winston Churchill) for good. People can be agents for either good or evil; one person can make a big difference.
  • World War II was one of the darkest moments in human history. Although you’d think reading dozens of books about such horror would be depressing, it actually inspired me because of all the goodness, the sacrifice and love, of the people. So many came together to do good; light destroys darkness, even the darkness that occurred during this dark, dreary time.

I studied 10 countries (though I’m still on number 10) on 3 continents over 12 months. I read 71 books consisting of general histories, classic literature based in each country (or written by a native), fiction, and World War II books. I put a special emphasis on WWII as it was one of my reading goals. I read at least three WWII books based around each country: history, historical fiction, and a children’s book with a memoir thrown in here and there. If you’re looking to either Read the World or learn more about World War II, here’s my book list:

Read the World and WWII Book List:

January: Germany

  1. Floating in My Mother’s Palm
  2. Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
  3. Germany: A New History
  4. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
  5. In the Garden of Beasts

February: India

  1. Midnight’s Children
  2. India: A History
  3. A Passage to India

March: Italy

  1. Eat, Pray, Love
  2. Romeo and Juliet
  3. Italy: A History
  4. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944
  5. The Girl from Venice
  6. Hero on a Bicycle

April: France

  1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  2. Madame Bovary
  3. France: An Illustrated History
  4. France: A History
  5. An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943
  6. All the Light We Cannot See
  7. A Hero of France
  8. For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy
  9. Sarah’s Key

May: Brazil

  1. A Short History of Brazil
  2. The Lost City of Z
  3. The Alchemist

August: Greece

  1. Gates of Fire
  2. The Republic
  3. The Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece
  4. Greece: A History
  5. Spies of the Balkans
  6. Natural Born Heroes

September: Poland

  1. Poland: A Novel
  2. The Doll
  3. Poland: A History
  4. Escape from Warsaw
  5. Auschwitz
  6. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  7. The Zookeeper’s Wife

October: Russia

  1. The Bear and the Nightingale
  2. Doctor Zhivago
  3. A Brief History of Russia
  4. Finding Zasha
  5. Between Shades of Gray
  6. Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944

November: Japan

  1. Kafka on the Shore
  2. The Tale of Genji
  3. A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower
  4. Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greater Rescue Mission
  5. Flags of Our Fathers
  6. Unbroken

December: England

I have yet to finish England, it’ll run into the new year because England’s one of my favorite countries, and I don’t want to short-change it. Plus, with the holidays, everything was super-busy.

  1. A Christmas Carol (yet to blog about)
  2. The English and Their History (yet to finish)
  3. The Hobbit (yet to finish)
  4. Sarum (yet to read)
  5. The War That Saved My Life (yet to read)
  6. Code Name Verity
  7. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven
  8. The Last Goodnight
  9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  10. The Battle of Britain: Five Months that Changed History, May – October 1940

Other World War II Books:

Some of the World War II books I read weren’t associated with one of the countries I was studying (as doing that only became a thing at around month three).

  1. Slaughterhouse-Five
  2. Hidden Figures
  3. Number the Stars
  4. Band of Brothers
  5. D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II
  6. The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerillas, 1939-1945
  7. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
  8. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II
  9. The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of the World War II in Europe
  10. Night
  11. Home and Away: A World War II Christmas Story (not reviewed as of yet)
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