I read a lot more books in November than in December. Part of the number increase was due to the number of short books (mainly Hourly Histories, which only take about half an hour to read), part was because of having the opportunity to read actual paper books (five of them, in fact), and part was because for the two weeks we were in Scotland, we had no internet in our room so when I should have been in bed, instead of going on-line I read on my Kindle.
We'd arrived in Germany October 26th, stayed two days with our friends Margaret and Phil in Düesseldorf, then stayed the rest of our time in Germany in Hamminkeln at the guest house of our mission agency. On November 1st Jörn flew to England for an art conference, on Friday the 3rd Lukas left to spend the weekend with friends before starting his two-week introduction apprenticeship in gardening and landscaping in Mülheim, and on Saturday the 4th, the three girls and I flew to Scotland (from Dortmund to Luton to Glasgow, all three being new airports to me, and Scotland being a new country to me), where Jörn joined us the next day. We participated in an awesome retreat for long-term missionaries for the next two weeks, where the children also had a great program, and there was lots of free time and some group outings. After that finished, we slowly made our way to Birmingham, visiting friends near Manchester for two days, then staying another two days with friends in Birmingham and getting to visit with four others there. November 23rd, nine weeks to the day after the girls and I had left Cyprus, we flew home. (Lukas had returned home on his own from Germany three days earlier, and Jörn had been gone for 10 weeks and one day, having left Cyprus eight days before we did.)
For some odd reason, I haven't managed to read anywhere near as much since we got home...
Isambard Kindom Brunel, Hourly History I felt like I'd heard of this engineer before, probably in something I'd read out loud to the children, but nothing at all sounded familiar, and it was very interesting. And in the five weeks or so since I finished this, I must have seen his name mentioned at least half a dozen times! I never would have picked up a biography of any length (not even a 30-minute read) on an engineer, but since it was there...I read it. I'm enjoying the Hourly Histories for the opportunity to be introduced to historical figures I wouldn't have looked up on my own.
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah On the Monday that we were in Germany, I got to visit my friend Leigh for six hours. I've probably known her for about 26 years, although the first conversation I remember with her took place only 24 years ago, when her oldest daughter was about six months old. We had never, ever, in those 24 years, spent time together without children around. We used to talk on the phone fairly often, but always with interruptions from her children or mine, or more likely both. I absolutely loved the afternoon/evening with her, both of us finishing whole sentences and even stories. It wasn't quite long enough, though. And she gave me this book, which was fascinating. Trevor Noah was born in South Africa five years before Apartheid ended, to a black mother and white father. Most of his first five years were spent hiding, because if anyone in authority had found out he existed, his parents could have both been arrested and imprisoned. This is biographical, but not chronological, and there are some inconsistencies, such as his constant mention of never having had any friends, except in the many chapters that detail escapades with his friends. He's apparently now a famous comedian in the U.S., but I'd never heard of him. Jacob had, however, and was quite excited to see me unpack this book. Language warning for people who will be offended by that, but otherwise a great book.
So Deeply Scarred, Howard Morgan Friends gave me this book, which is about how the Jewish community has been persecuted throughout their history, all over the world. It could be quite an eye-opener to someone who hasn't read much on the topic, but I have. Much of it consisted of lists and statistics, so not exactly smooth reading, but not long.
Like Grounded Swallows, Gerhard P. Drumm My mother gave me this book in September and I started reading it while in Costa Rica, but most of my reading was done at night on my Kindle, so I didn't get into it until we were in Scotland, when I read it every available moment until I finished it. Gerhard Drumm is, like my mother, a United Methodist pastor (although he is now retired and she is not yet), and he signed this copy of the first part of his biography, covering the time from his birth in Serbia (then part of Yugoslavia) in 1929 until his escape, together with most of his siblings, to Austria in 1947. It was extremely interesting reading this book, about the persecution of ethnic Germans during and after World War II, around the same time as reading So Deeply Scarred, five biographies of important political figures (see below), and two other Hourly Histories about World War II. I've read so much about World War II, but never before had heard about persecution of ethnic Germans in non-German countries. Gerhard Drumm is 88 years old and living in California, and it's strange to think that he was born the same year as my father-in-law, who has now been dead for over 12 years.
Emma & I, Sheila Hocken I actually paid money for this book, I think something like 90 pence, at a second-hand bookshop in West Kilbride, Scotland. It was admittedly the author's name that first caught my eye and made me pull the book off the shelf, but the topic then interested me as well. I enjoy memoirs and biographies in any case, and this was autobiographical. The author had a congenital condition that meant she'd never been able to see well, and eventually lost her sight completely as a teenager. The "Emma" referred to in the title is the guide dog she received when she was 17, and which changed her life completely. There was quite a surprising ending. This isn't the most well-written book in the world, but I did deem it worth bringing back with me to Cyprus, although I finished it while still in Scotland.
World War II Biographies: Adolf Hitler, Erwin Rommel, Benito Mussolini, George Patton, Joseph Stalin, Hourly History These were really five books, each one taking half an hour. I'd never read biographies, even short ones, of any of these people before. I'd started the book quite awhile before finishing it, definitely in October, and probably while still in Costa Rica. These key characters in the Second World War have remarkably different backgrounds, histories, and characters. I was left thinking with Hitler in particular that "if only...." so many things had been different, he wouldn't have turned out as he so infamously did, whereas Rommel's character is so awful from childhood on, that one wonders how he could possibly have become involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. I knew that Mussolini was more of a follower than a leader, who changed sides constantly, but not that that had also been a life-long pattern. George Patton should be seen as a "good guy," being on the Allied side, but he was just plain not a nice person. Joseph Stalin held the fewest surprises for me, probably because I'd read more about him previously.
Ivan the Terrible, Hourly History More of the same, as far as most of the Hourly Histories are concerned: a few bits of new information about someone I had known something about, found it interesting, and don't now remember much.
A Field Full of Butterflies: Memories of a Romany Childhood, Rosemary Penfold I bought this one in Scotland at the second-hand bookstore, as well. It was everything I like in a book: well-written memoirs, memorable characters who were a mix of good and bad, some photos of the real people, and as a bonus, about a topic that I know very little about. I'd only ever read about Romanies, or Gypsies, as side characters in other books. Sometimes "good" and sometimes "bad" and sometimes "neutral," but never as the main characters. I enjoyed also the dropping of various Romany words in the conversation, sometimes explained and sometimes needing to be understood from context (although there was also a glossary in the back), in just the right amount: enough to be interesting, but not so much as to make it stilted or frustrating to read.
World War II D-Day, Hourly History Having just finished the five World War II biographies, much of this information was still fresh in my memory, especially as three of those five were key figures in the Normandy Invasion. Having a picture of the personalities of those people in involved also lead to a much deeper understanding of this event beyond the mere facts.
George Stephenson, Hourly History This started out by dispelling several myths about George Stephenson, listing one thing after another that he did NOT do, to the point where I was starting to wonder why they'd bothered writing a book about him. However, they did finally end up getting to the point, and one thing he certainly had was perseverance. He wasn't, after all, the first person to do many of the things that are credited to him (such as inventing the first steam locomotive), but he WAS the person who made many of these inventions into viable components of modern society. A great idea isn't of much use if it doesn't get put into practice, and putting into practice was George Stephenson's strength.
The Book of Dragons, Edith Nesbit I'm not sure when I started this children's book, but it may have been six or more months ago. I finally finished it in November. I'm not sure what even made me start reading a book by an author I'm not really crazy about, but since the book consisted of unconnected short stories (all about, surprise surprise, dragons), it didn't matter if I went months between stories. I like fantasy just fine, but even fantasy needs to follow rules. None of these stories, as I recall, did. Random things happen with no logical (even fantastically logical) reason behind them, everything has an improbable happy ending, and characters are all completely two-dimensional, if that. (I'm not sure how to make a one-dimensional character, but Edith Nesbit is.)
An Awakened Heart, Jody Hedlund Unbelievable Christian romance, in which one speech makes another person change character completely, and you know in the first couple of pages who is going to marry whom. A free book that was worth what I paid, and worth less than the time spent reading it. Also the last book I finished reading in November of this year.